Although my two weeks in the south came to an end rather quickly, the party continued even after my arrival home. As we entered the last week of Lachlan’s stay with us in the Gajner house, plans for a community celebration came about, including an invite to those in the migrant community, Indra Colony, and families and friends we work and play with in Gajner.
My arrival at the train station on the Monday night, after just about 50 hours cooped up inside the S9 sleeper cart of the Bikaner Super Fast Express train, which I boarded in Ernakulam Town, Kerala, I was greeted by a lovely surprise. Mathilde, Lea, Manoj and Manoj’s friend Faroq, a local shopkeeper in the community, jumped out from behind a barrier to tackle me in hugs as a welcome. Mathilde and Lea had even made signs reading “Welcome home, Jazzmine” and “We missed you”. My heart melted. The ride from Bikaner Junction to our home in Gajner, which is about 45 minutes, included lots of giggles, story telling and updates on what’s been happening in the cluster since I left.
Tuesday was spent getting back into the routine of “Gajner” and getting caught up on all project work but Wednesday was like getting thrown into the deep end of a swimming pool with no water wings on. With the arrival of our newest intern,family member, Laure from France (yes, ANOTHER from France!) and a 2-day visit from Michelle from human resources, a presentation from Lachlan regarding his project status, a vicious dog bite that I encountered in Indra Colony (which was followed by rabies shots – I am fine now) and Manoj preparing a meal in our kitchen for about 40 people to accommodate all Lachlan’s party guests, the day was just pure chaos. Actually, the day was the definition of chaos.
Lachlan was determined to get as many kids and families from Indra Colony to the party, which was held in the vacant space behind Manoj’s shop, but had no plan or idea of how it could be done. In the late afternoon, while Mathilde and Lea stayed back to help Manoj cook, myself, Lachlan, Laure and Michelle, along with some of the boys from our boys club, made our way to the migrant community with soccer balls, cricket bats and Frisbees. We went around reminding everyone to meet us near Manoj’s shop at six o’clock, while gathering the children to come and play for the afternoon’s after-school program. After an hour or so of cricket, tickling kids in order to get the Frisbees back and of course a lot of dancing, I started a massive game of ‘Simon Says’, which turned into a game of ‘listen and follow everything Jazzmine says’, and the invention of the game is exactly how we managed to get 30 kids to run and dance the two kilometers to our house in Gajner.
As we made our way down the main road of the bazaar, I started to think of how thirsty I was. Temperatures in Gajner are rising everyday now. As I write this, it is about 42 degrees Celsius in our main room and there are two fans going. Hydration is the most important part of our days here and just as I thought of my need for pani, I looked around at the 30 children tagging along with us all the way home. Uh oh. After running into the house to fill a jug with water, I lined up the kids and poured water into their cupped hands as they raised them up to their lips and sucked the water spilling into their palms before it all dripped through the cracks of their fingers and onto the dusty ground. After an hour or so of distracting them with dance, puzzles and cricket (an extremely exhausting hour or so), food was finally served. With a few tables from the inside of Manoj’s shop and our plastic dining table, as well as a huge sheet spread out on the ground, we grouped the children in circles of four or five then placed huge platters of food in front of them. They went nuts! Manoj is an incredible Chef so I think anyone would have went a little crazy and inhaled everything almost instantly but this feast, for these kids, was something else. Most of the kids that joined us for dinner that evening probably haven’t had a meal like that in a very long time. Maybe never. We’ve seen the food cooked in Indra Colony; some of us have even eaten there. Meals don’t consist of much sustenance or nutrients. The chapatti is usually tasteless as well. And here they were, eating HUGE plates of dal, chawal, paneer, chana masala, and delicious chapatti and papadum, followed by a dessert of gulab jamuns. It was chaos trying to cater to all the kids every time they asked for another chapatti or more rice, but with out an ounce of stress, we happily ran around with plates full of goodies, buckets full of water and our arms spread wide for hugs at the end of the evening before the children made their way home.
After a couple of hours of continuous hosting of other guests and families from the community, finally the air in the house was still and silent and we could all collapse in the main room. Hydrating ourselves with smiles on our faces while reminiscing about the day, we couldn’t help but feel this overwhelming sensation of happiness, love and family. That’s why it is so hard to see another intern go. They become part of our family here. Not just in the house but in the community.
Lachlan and I sat across from each other at the checkerboard table in the common room of the Moustache Hostel, in Delhi on the Saturday evening, letting all the good times from the past four months flash before our eyes. Here I was, another goodbye to another incredible person I’ve experienced so much with. Goodbyes are never easy and the connection that we share is so unlike any other I will ever experience elsewhere. How do you express to anyone how it feels to live in a rural village in Rajasthan, India with only three other international people, constantly trying to integrate into a foreign culture that we work everyday at to understand? It is impossible. We are all so fortunate to have been given the opportunity to experience such a lifestyle with one another.
I recently learned a new saying, maktub, an Arabic expression meaning "it is written", and it just seems to make so much sense in regards to everything I believe about fate. It is written, everything about us; what we are meant to experience in life, every person we come face-to-face with, every accomplishment we achieve, every challenge we face, every coincidence, every deja-vu, and every wish that comes true, was meant to find us at some point or another.
My near future includes me leaving Gajner in about four weeks time when my visa is up. I can’t even fathom the idea of leaving and find tears rolling down my cheeks often now that a goodbye is on my mind. The other day we witnessed a HUGE sandstorm. It was so intense that the amount of sand in the air blocked out the sun for about 20 minutes, making 1pm in the afternoon look like 10pm at night! It was thrilling and remarkable and as a family, we all sat in the doorway while watching the madness happen outside. These are the moments I’ll never forget and I will never experience again.These moments are the ones that make tears flow and as another minute passes, it becomes harder and harder to indulge in the moment as each is an inch closer to my departure.
There is a feeling in my gut though that I know indicates my return, my return to this village. My family. And I trust that if it is written, it will happen and another stage of my life will unfold.