For our blog post every Friday, we visit our school children at their homes. Whenever an Ashram guest wants to, we take him or her along, too. I would like to write a bit about the experiences that they have on such a visit and their reactions when they come back.
These guests get to see another side of India, something the normal tourist definitely never gets to see. Not even those who pay to get a ‘village experience’ – because those villages where travel agents can book stays for their guests and a dinner or tea at a traditional home are of course prepared for exactly that. Our guests visit a real family home and see how those children live who come to our school.
Obviously, these families are poor, which is why their children come to our school. Their homes vary from those who have inherited their house, sometimes with enough space even out front for the children to play, up to the little hut that has only three brick walls and a plastic sheet for a cover but for which the family is paying monthly rent! We never know what the situation of the house will be when we reach there – and of course, our accompanying guests cannot imagine that before either! They are surprised, maybe shocked, at how basic life can really be. Often without electricity and the next access to water a hand pump down the road.
Although you brace yourself for what you will see, everything is different when you see it in real life: the dirty, small roads that you have to walk down to reach the house, the fact that there is no toilet nearby and seeing the children, often half-naked, playing in the sand, with little pigs or whatever dirty sticks and stones they find.
You cannot help but feel that any complaint you have ever made is silly. You look at your own life and you feel not only privileged about having everything that you do but also a bit stupid about the many times you were unhappy about running out of your favourite ice-cream or upset that your curtains didn’t exactly match your carpet. You realize that the material insecurity that you are suffering from is a product of your mind.
And all of this you feel in a particularly strong manner when you look at those smiling faces. Into those eyes that are on one hand showing the strain of a life that sometimes lacks basic needs but which on the other hand shine full of joy.
This is the reaction that we usually get: amazement about how simple life can be and how people can yet be so happy in the midst of poverty.
A reason for you to be happier than you usually are? Yes, it sure is!