Thinking back over my last six and a half months with Manav Sadhna, I wanted to take a few minutes to briefly summarize some feelings that I have about my experiences here. This in no way includes everything, but Shirish asked me to keep it brief . . .
From the moment I entered the gates of Manav Sadhna, I knew I was home. I could feel the energy in the air. For the next six and a half months I lived with no stress, no anxiety, no fear – only the sense of peace, serenity and love that surrounds you here.
My first week was a typical newcomer week with a review of most of the projects Manav Sadhna is involved with. At the Friday volunteer meeting, I sat next to a young girl I hadn't yet met. Her name was Nora and she asked me if I would like to come out and visit her at Naroda. Having no idea what Naroda was, I said sure. By the next Tuesday, she led me through the streets of Ahmedabad via first one rickshaw, then another. We kept leaving town for almost an hour through the sea of humanity and traffic. We finally arrived at an area full of chickens, goats, camels, and of course the ever present cows. This place was foreign, the India that I had imagined it would be – I knew at that moment I was going to like this place. We walked the remainder of the way to Naroda Ashramshala; actually a brick wall with a big hole in it that led to a gate. This was nothing like the community centers in the slums I had visited the previous week. Entering the gate, we were immediately greeted by the sounds of what seemed like hundreds of children rushing at us yelling “Nora Didi, Nora Didi”. You couldn't help but sense the love that was in these children for Nora. From that moment on, this then nineteen year old girl continued to inspire me for the next five and a half months.
Over this time, Naroda became my source of energy, my reason for being. The unconditional love these children have for you is staggering. At times you feel that you owe them more than you can possibly give them, but in the end it’s a mutual give and take.
It doesn’t take long before you realize that Manav Sadhna becomes a part of you. It will never leave you. It is spiritual, though there are those volunteers who would disagree with me on that point. Just open your mind, let it fill you. Look into the eyes of every child you encounter and feel every emotion they have to offer. Perhaps it will be feelings of sadness and pain; accept it willingly. Take it all inside of you and feel their pain. Then do whatever you must to turn it around.
Sooo, what have I learned from my time with Manav Sadhna . . . hmmm,
• peace and calmness
• personal satisfaction
• live your life on Indian time; it's a little slower, yet much less stressful
• the importance of observing everything before rushing to judge anything
• true happiness
My advice for newcomers (especially those coming for over two months), in no particular order:
• leave your "outside life" at the gate
• enjoy the laughter of the children that will surround you no matter where you go
• never turn down the chance to share chai with newly found friends
• Indians are the friendliest people on earth, make friends with as many of them as you can
• If you are ever feeling sad or home-sick, visit one of the anganwadis for a sure pick-me-up; actually, just visit one of the anganwadis anytime, the kids love it
• people that find their way to Manav Sadhna tend to be of a like mind; you will make life-long friends while you are here
All I have to do now is get ready to return in March