A Dance In the Rain

Posted: October 10, 2010 in Uncategorized

GENESIS

 

A change is as good as a rest. We all tend to believe what we have and what we have accomplished so far is the best but not until the cloud is lifted. The haziness goes away and we can see the blue sky more clearly than ever before. It is in moments like these that our dreams are biggest, impossibilities no longer exist and that we are more powerful beyond our own measure becomes a major threat.

I would never let myself be rained on simply because such behavior would lead to serious health complications, well that was a year ago. A while back I discovered this doesn’t happen if it rains while its still warm. Since then I have let myself soak wet a number of times leaving lots of people questioning my actions.

When I joined AIESEC I knew I wanted to develop myself though I could never tell how this would happen. I clung on the hope that I had found the right opportunity for me, the rest only time would tell. Indeed time hasn’t been a disappointment at all so much has happened since then. A DANCE IN THE RAIN is just a piece of it… A record of the most memorable and influential events that surrounded my two month stay in India.

 

 

JITTERS!…

 

My head felt heavy. Quick sharp pains run through my ears. And what was that feeling at the pit of my stomach? This was not good I knew it. As much as I had heard about this sickening sensation it was alien to me I had never experienced it.

I had had my dinner sparingly. Not that I wasn’t hungry, actually my last meal had been close to 5 hours ago. Just like this strange feeling I had at this moment so had the meal served. It was strange, different very different.

One by one I took in the vastness of this mystic land. Surrounded horizon to horizon by the massive blue sea which seemed to stand still from up here. The sun shone through my small window its beauty blinding me for a second. And as we got closer my attention was shifted to a thicket of densely patched shants. Many days later I came to learn that they are close to half a century old. This is the re-known Azadgnagar shantytown.

Tuesday 3.00 Pm : Welcome ladies and gentlemen you are now in Bombay,India. We wish you a great stay.

I was here, I was really here.

 

MY GUARDIAN ANGELS…

My mother has always been tough on us. That is me and my younger brother. All who know her can approve this. She has always been keen to see us develop holistically. And so faith is of importance in our family. We are catholic. She insisted on prayers at least twice a day,and believing in higher powers,miracles,saints and our guardian angels. And so we had no choice but to grow up believing this. Back then this had no much meaning in my life but as I grew older and learnt to view life differently, the experiences I have gone through I have no doubt that guardian angels do exist. Because I have seen them, I came across so many in India all in different forms. In the friends I made,the strangers I met and most importantly in the caressing whispers during the countless nights we spent lying under mosquito nets, our skins all covered with repellants as we watched the stars all night long at the roof top of Gujarat Public school.

 

Four months of intense preparations,anxiety,anticipation,emotions came to an end when I stepped out of the Mumbai International airport. I  wanted to scream, shout, laugh. Too many emotions overwhelmed me at the same time. But before they could be internalized I was gashing for fresh air. It was monsoon here that means and heat so much of it that an awful smell was produced as soon as it hit the ground. This combined with the emissions from the numerous industries In Bombay. This was my first time in country with this kind of climate. Back home its either hot or wet i.e. lots of rain. Humid climates are only in experienced in Mombasa but not to this extreme.

586 km away from Baroda still not yet to my destination. It was almost 4 o’clock I had to figure out how to get there. Train yes my friend who had been here before had advised me it was better and affordable to travel by train within India.

The thought of another flight was out of question ,definitely not a third one.

Excitement was building up slowly by slowly as every minute ticked, I wanted to see the whole of India every bit of it from today to my last day here. Before leaving I had to call my contacts as we had agreed Id do so as soon as I landed. So I headed to the booth , luckily I had a few coins after exchanging my currency. What followed for the next one hour was to my first my first test as to how far I can stretch. How resilient I really am.

First there was communication barrier the 14 year old operating this machine couldn’t speak English. Gestures could do they taught me at the cultural preparation seminar. They were right I dialed the number once dead end, twice dead end, thrice dead end!

Don’t panic Martha maybe you dialed wrongly. Dial again. Five, six, seven dead end. My feet started becoming numb. In temperatures between 36-40 my feet were numb! I approached one man who was also using the booth for assistance he tried dialing the number twice thrice nothing.

I sat on the bench I had to figure something out really fast I couldn’t tell the time yet but I knew it was getting late very late.

I looked around two officers at the exit of the airport,to my left grey old school taxis painted with a thin yellow line packed. So many of them with the drivers waiting eagerly. I stood up staringly at the helpless booth  checked my hand bag, airticket still intact I could go back home right now all I needed was to check the next available flight pay an extra 50 dollars and I would be home. Safe, comfortable happy with my family and friends. Tears welled up in my eyes.

In any other situation I would let them flow caring less to wipe them away. Flow freely and cleanse my soul. Or in other days Id let someone wipe them away. But not today. Today I had no one to wipe my tears away,moreover even if I cried no one here would care. I was alone all alone in a new land a land where I knew no one at least not yet.

I walked towards the taxis still not sure what to do. There I met another man with his son they were tourists but neither he could help me. I just stood there and whispered a short prayer. Actually I had been praying all along for the last one hour that someone would pick the phone up.

Straight face shoulders  high dragging my suitcase I went back to the airport not to book my flight my home but to book my train to Baroda, Vadadora they call it here I had the address so Id go straight there.

But wait Martha wont you need to be picked up at least from the train station ?

I rushed out again. Still hoping the phone would go through. Thats when

I met this man Anul. Or should I say he met me. He came straight to where I was and asked me what was the problem. Probably he had seen me stranded here for the last one hour. I felt relieved someone had  shown concern. I had met my first Indian friend.

Slowly I explained. How the person responsible to pick me up was unreachable, where I was going, where I was from. He asked me for the contacts I gave him the AIESECER and for my boss to be. My boss went through first she was excited to receive my call but we couldn’t communicate well besides she had not been in touch with the person responsible to pick me up. My friend called the other number. It went through with the first dial. I sighed disappointed at him ?yes, but relieved light could be seen at the tunnel. I had to take a late night train so I could be there in the morning he would pick me up.

 

There are people whom you meet in life, people who leave remarkable impact in your life. And Anul was one of them. I could tell he was helping me not because it was his obligation but because he was a kind man. He gave me his contacts just in case I got stranded again I could call him. Thankyou thankyou very much Anul May God bless you I recall telling him shaking his hand. With a smile in my face that would last forever even now I smile as I recall that moment when I heard the word hello from the other end of the phone. Much more its not the hello that made me smile after all I wasn’t there yet, it was the generosity I received that made me smile. That made my heart smile.

 

Even my boss said I was crazy. I wasn’t surprised I had seen it coming way before so I decided to inform her only after my departure. I had to do this, I had wanted to do this for a long time and now I had the opportune moment I wouldn’t let it go no matter how risky others made it seem. Am referring to my long trip to the state of Rajastathan approximately 750 km away. I missed the train tickets so I took the bus and booked a sleeper seat.That way I would lock myself in my cabin and no one would know I exist. But Martha this could be risky do you have to go alone? Why dont you wait for others and travel together? All the time my answer never changed. I arrived safely. See nothing happened to you I said to myself as soon as I landed in Jaipur the city of victory. It was really hot here and less humid as compared to Baroda. The diversity of this country amazed me every day. Every 100 km you travel you will always experience cultural difference in cuisine, language,lifestyle religious beliefs… everything.

My two days in this city were fantastic. After warm reception from AIESECERS in Jaipur and a party at a palace that night I was ready to explore this magnificent city the following day. From the glorious palaces, through the beautiful landscapes, temples, the pink city to the great hilltop forts.

I could go on and on describing every single detail of this city so Il stop there and focus on the 2nd guardian angel. By the second day I hadn’t seen the monkey temple yet it was a must see and the Hawa Mahal too close to where I would do my shopping. I left early in the morning rode all the way in a bicycle. Really! I dont know how to ride but they have these bicycles with two seats behind and covered all round. Like a chariot but riden by man. I could have taken a rickshaw more comfortable and faster but when I saw this I thought Amazing. I saw myself riding back there taking in each scene of this city from all sides. I didn’t think twice.

It was quite a journey longer than I anticipated. Along the way I got off something had to be fixed. Few minutes later I realised the rider was tired so I got off and walked. As I walked beside this man I wondered how much life had humbled me here. He told me about his family. Two children, and a wife, one child passed away at a young age. He had been sick. He was the only breadwinner. He narrated of his every day struggles to feed his family and provide a comfortable life. His English wasn’t good I didn’t speak Hindi but we communicated effectively. I talked less, he talked more. In my silence I internalized his words one by one and couldn’t help but wonder why he was so open to speak to me all about his life. And in my silence I felt his pain and saw the love for his family all over his face.   As I walked towards the holy monkey temple I gave him one last gaze with a smile shook my head signaling I would be back so he could take me home. Somehow deep inside I longed to hear more to understand more.

Little did I know I wouldn’t be gone for long. As soon as I took the first few steps up the temple greeted by monkeys all along the path, walls I experienced my most terrifying moment in India. There were two guys sited one blowing some music instrument the other waving off a snake! I find them terrifying and they make me tremble. They invited me to view and take photos which I did keeping my distance. As I turned to move on up the hill they demanded  money.

In a flash one was getting up rushing towards me and a few boys along were making strange noises. My heart almost pounded out of my chest as I ran back leaving behind loud traces of laughter. I was looking for my rider. He came towards me with a million questions allover his face why didn’t you go up? You have to go up and see the temple. first no words came out my mouth. He offered to take me up all the way to the top of the hill. Explaining in detail all about the monkey temple and the city below.

Three hours later as I handed him his pay I was deeply convinced that not a single rupee was worth the kindness he had shown me all day. Only God could thank him enough.

There are many other people who ensured my stay in India was great. People to whom my safety and comfortability were a priority. Maam Abhilasha for example director of Gujarat Public School. Ensuring that everyday we felt at home and she never failed to mention this at any one moment. I still remember on of my last few nights in Baroda when she took five of us for a night out. We drove through the new to the old city. It was a warm calm night. Being mid August the Ganesha festival also known as Vinayak Chartuthi was at peak. The discipline observed and the honour given to Ganesha whose statue is made from  clay and beautified with gold and silver with a size range of between ¾ inch to 25 feet is amazing. That night we visited over ten temples each distinctively different from the other I still remember one that had the Micheal Jacksons Look as it had captured the attention of the whole city. We had everything we could accommodate in our stomachs. You could never say no to Abhilasha  every new fruit, cake,tea,coffee, Cuisine we came across we had to try. All in one night. We had our dinner along the street. Another aspect that mesmerized me in India. The clear streets at day turn into eating places at night. Spiced noodles and rice mostly fried in chicken is served alongside other meals. You can buy fresh made soda produced along the streets or take fresh juice from sugarcane with your meal. Families gather around tables and have their dinner some share from one plate a display of just how closely knit they are. You can see it in their faces as couples talk the night out sharing the days events  and as their children play with their friends or enjoy masala ice cream. Until this night I thought I had had enough experiences with masala until Abhilasha suggested we try the Indian masala ice cream.

At around 12.30 am we were heading back home hardly exhausted and yearning for more of this great land. And as we came out of the last restaurant yes we had to try one more type of Ice cream the last one Abhilasha promised I had one wish. Just one wish. Without hesitation I looked at Abhilasha and confessed I wished I was her niece then I would   always get such great treats from my Aunt. Everyone laughed out loud. The laughter was replaced by a thin smile on everyones face that stayed there all the way home.

 

FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE UNTIL DEATH DO US PART: FOR THE LOVE OF AIESEC…

My experience had to be all round I had promise my self so when the plane took off from Dubai. Yeah before that reality hadn’t sank in  completely. Not until it dawned on me I was three hours away from my   destination. I wanted to experience the culture, gain professional experience, learn and understand the business environment,and most important learn as much as I could about AIESEC in India.  So when an opportunity came up for me to be involved in the recruitment process of AIESEC Baroda I gladly welcomed it. Interacting with the young students from among the best Universities in the world was quite interesting. As I shared my experience with them, encouraged them to join this wonderful organisation my passion was growing every second. Martin Luther once said if one hasn’t discovered a thing he can die for then he is not fit to live. That other thing is none other than passion.I hadfound mine.There are great lessons I learnt from this country. Among them is the importance of valuing friendship. I met many people though not all would qualify to be true friends. Its the experiences we went through and the times we shared that strengthened our bond.There is this one night we had organised to go for coffee at my friends  house as we helped them organise some AIESEC materials for the recruitment. It wasnt the best days of my stay here. Someone had crossed my path and I was really mad. The only day I was angry for two months. My friends insisted we go over despite the fact that all I wanted was to go back home and sleep. They said it would cheer me up rather than go die in misery by myself. Of course it was true. So I agreed. We were like six of us. The night was warm and calm, clear skies with countless stars. Perfect night. There was a strong connection that transpired between us as we lay at the veranda outside my friends house talking about AIESEC, life, our different countries and cultures,danced rollcalls, worked on the recruitment packages,shared a meal of spaghetti about eight of us from one plate. At 1 oclock we were still working.However I was asked not to do much after all I needed to relax I had had a long day. Loads of thoughts went through my mind as I lay on my back watching the sky listening an  contributing to the conversations that were taking place. By 2 o’clock we were almost all asleep so when someone suggested we go for a ride no one was expected to jump with a start but well we did. Soon we were driving  through Baroda at 3 am in morning. The guys went round putting posters at all student hangout joints in town. As for us the ladies it was time to breath in the fresh air and enjoy being looked after. We shouted across the streets just to hear our echos of course in absence of the police. This was crazy I thought to myself, if my mom ever knew I was up at 3 am in the streets that would be the end of AIESEC s for me. But Baroda is safe very safe indeed. We were out till 5 am in the morning.

 

THE LONG TRIP TO NOWHERE…

 

So Martha where are we going? That was one of my friends from Egypt. Nowhere! I replied. Literally I had no idea whatsoever where we were going all I knew was one of our friends from Poland had suggested we accompany her for a Sunday day in the outskirts of Baroda. My friend laughed at my response actually he still makes fun of it to this day and more so the trip to Pavedagh was named the trip to no where. It turned out to be a great day. Despite all of us being wrongly dressed and with definitely a lot of things we should never have carried in the first place all went well. So Pavedagh was a hill with beautiful waterfalls and temples. In sandals we trudged on to the top but due to our unpreparedness we didn’t make it to the top. But well we got to the waterfalls. I wasn’t amazed when one of us reached to his bag and removed his laptop the next thing I know we were playing all kinds of Music somewhere in the wilderness. Others dancing on top of the big rocks. As we climbed down the hill we came across another of Indias amazing religious people. They lived in one of the caves all their lives. Praying and offering sacrifices. One of our friends from India explained we were yet to see more amazing religions. Apparently were lucky to have gotten near the cave. Sighting the example of one community that is extremely religious to the extent that no one can ever draw near to them as their grounds are considered highly holy. These people believe that at a particular time  life comes to an end and one is buried alive.

How I would sit next to anyone in the jeep was a puzzle . I was all wet thanks to the beautiful waterfalls.

With about 6 motorbikes leading we followed and headed back home.

 

FRIENDSHIPS TO LAST A LONG TIME…

 

Every day I look back I wonder what to attach most value to and all the time I have this one answer in my mind : the friendships made the  people I met, the experiences we shared. It took 8 hours from Bombay to Baroda on my first day here basically forever, but on this day of my departure it all happened in a flash even before I could wink I was at Bombay. After a whole day shopping my everything was ready for Bombay where I would stay for one day before leaving for home. There were so many of us at the station that day. Friends who had come to see me off. Zombie that was our summer theme song. We sang for the last time as other travelers watched in amazement wondering how it was possible to have so many young people from different nationalities all in one place. Soon the train was here. It was real now more real than it ever seemed to be before. I was leaving Baroda, I was leaving my friends, I was Leaving India in a days time. All the events, moments we had shared would on be the past. Would I ever meet these people again? I wondered as I  hugged each of them goodbye. No tears no tears Martha, somehow we would meet again. So we had promised each other and on this promise we all hang our hope on. There were three people who weren’t here yet I had to see them. God let them get here soon I prayed. I couldn’t leave without seeing them. They had played a great role in my stay here and it would hurt not to see them. They did come  just 2 minutes before the train took off and as they handed me my gift the train started to take off. I clinged to the glass of Lassi my favorite drink in India alongside Mirinda and Fanta and as I took one sip tears started to flow. I am a chlorelic. We chlorelics detach ourselves from extreme emotions. But at this moment nothing could stop these tears. Feelings of joy, sorrow overwhelmed me. I let the tears flow all the way as I packaged every moment and stored it in my heart to last there for the rest of my life. By the time I lifted my hand to wipe the last tear I was in Bombay. I would miss India I would miss my friends I would miss every single moment.

 

WORK:

Now to the formal things why I came to India. Being a cultural ambassador for my country was really fun and challenging as well. All over sudden there was so much I did not know whats the traditional dance in Kenya? What do you call xyz in Swahili( xyz standing for all words you could think of), What is Kenya known for?how are the Kenyan People? So for two months I taught about my Country’s Culture to children at Gujarat Public School one of the biggest schools under BRG group of companies. Everyday coming up with something new about my wonderful homeland. The whole Gujarat state was also eager to learn. We made friends with local media personalities. Participated in numerous interviews. A smile and a pause were very important accessories basically because I was a celebrity! Interacting with young high school youth was very eye awakening. Got to discuss crucial matters that face them like arranged marriages among the girls. Besides this being a role model to them involved mentoring them on education, life and careers. I always had keen interest in the Indian system of education. My curiosity was fulfilled through interacting with my boss Ma am Abhilasha as well as partly acting as an assistant teacher in the school.

Project Foot Prints was a remarkable project that gave me insight into children’s issues as well as giving me a chance to sensitize the Indian Society through involvement with local bodies. I will forever treasure this one family that lived close to one of the centers we worked. My friends   introduced me to them. A very humble family it was yet that did not  hinder these amazing girls from living a happy life. Sometimes I think I learnt more from them than they learnt from me. Always welcoming us to their home and teaching us several things from Hindi ,preparing local dishes, the value of family and the meaning of true happiness.

Their English wasn’t good infact all they knew they had learnt from us or previous interns but we still communicated so much actually that the bond between us grew every single day. Their smiles everyday as we waved each other goodbye, the tears I saw well up in their eyes as we said final goodbyes, the gifts I got when I was heading home were all a sign that somewhere in their hearts I had left a mark.MISSION ACCOMPLISHED I had made impact. It was time to go home.

 

LOOKING BACK:)…

It’s now been close to a year as I write this paragraph on the 31st of July 2010. Its funny how such a long time can seem to have passed by so fast. Time flies when you have a lot to look forward to. This April Kasia and Marlena visited me and Brown. It was one great fun filled month. When Kasia arrived I could hardly believe she was here even  before reality could sink Marlena was here. All over sudden the world seemed so small. Nothing seems impossible anymore. I have come to believe that I shall achieve every single dream thats in my heart.

Looking back one year ago I have grown a lot. This Martha D right here is nothing compared to what she was one year ago. She is a new Brand. The change is immense even I cannot Measure it but I feel it in my heart and in my mind. I feel it as I speak, as I work, as I pray,as I eat,in the decisions I make, in the arguments am involved. I feel it every single moment of my life.

Am grateful for this journey I took. All the good things I did I keep them treasured in my heart,as for the tough times which were many as well I learnt from each one of them and I have learnt to use the lessons every single day. Given another chance I would dance in the rain   all over again…

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Comments
  1. Sugy says:

    Heyy Martha,
    It’s such a great blog and you wrote every nice things in India when we were there. I love you and miss you all! Am waiting for your next comment. 🙂 Wish you all the best dear~

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