Raabta (n.) inexplicable connection with another soul.
Soul can be of a person, but soul can also be of a people, the silent answer to the questions of what, why, how. Soul is of a people, and people of a place, living and creating a unique image that can only be found if looked for.
It is rare to have this sort of connection to another soul, but easy if it presents itself to you. My experience in India has given me a connection to this place that I would never have otherwise, something that I can try to explain but only I can fully understand.
This week was different than the last, filled not only with joyful experiences but also very difficult ones.
The first two days were spent at Sharan, an NGO on the Yamuna River. It’s name meaning ‘shelter,’ it is a place meant to teach methods of harm reduction to injecting drug users. They provide clean needles to the people, and educate them on safe practices, while also providing an opportunity to eliminate their addiction if they are ready. Being in the field here was difficult to see because of the extent of the problem; every corner was filled with IDO’s injecting. The work that Sharan does provides many people a way to change their life, while also providing care to those not motivated enough to stop.
Wednesday we spent at an organization called Mitr, or ‘friend,’ which provides education and an outlet for acceptance to people of the LGBT community. The community of such people here takes a very different route than in the U.S., so it was very interesting to learn about this and also see why it is so important to have an NGO of such topics. The director is a transgender herself, and speaking to her was quite enlightening; the things she had to say were very very important and gave a new perspective on all of the LGBT topics that I had never considered. It is so important as a student of public health to remember interactions like this, because although it isn’t often obvious, bias is prevalent in organizations serving the community. It is important to breach this bias because all people, no matter what makes them different or similar, are equally human and all deserve to be treated as such.
Thursday we visited Janghat, a sanctuary for street children. I would be lying if I said this wasn’t my favorite place of the entire trip – the kids loved to learn and play and laugh with us and it was too wonderful. Whether the kids have parents or are orphaned, this home is a place they can go to be taken care of, giving them opportunities that they would not have otherwise.
We also were able to see a cultural show; there was poetry accompanied with Sitar and a dance festival that told stories of gods and goddesses. Both shows were quite beautiful, and told stories of the country in a way that really proves how deep into history and religion this country is.
Our last rotations were visits with doctors that work with rural communities and children of Delhi, and it is so amazing how in such a short amount of time you can learn so much. Not only can you learn about a place, but you can learn about a perspective that can change your whole idea of something.
Now that I am back home, I know now that going to India was in and of itself one of the greatest opportunities. Not only was I able to visit some of the coolest places, but I was able to meet some of the most influential people and become a part of a different culture for a short time. Learning was never ending; I learned so much about my future and about myself. I have fallen more in love with the path I have chosen, and more in love with the world.
Like I said, this place has soul of its own, and I have only seen the smallest fraction of it. I have seen enough to know that India is yet another place that has stolen my heart!
Saying goodbye was the hardest part as always; right when I start to get used to a place and get close to the people I end up on a plane out. Two weeks was not enough time, but I already know that I will be back soon and that I will always have people and places to go back to.