I feel at home in India when I am seated in the middle of a slum with children in my lap.
Or when I come and they run up with glowing faces, barely wrapping their small arms around my waist and squeezing for all their worth. “Teacher, teacher,” they say.
These moments remind me that it was worth it come. They carry me through hours of loneliness, waves of culture shock, my frustrations, irritations, doubts. They anchor my heart.
My month anniversary of being in this place and came and went sometime last week. In the slums, I’ve worked my way into being a regular part of their world. There’s a familiarity to the huts, the muddy spots in the road, the garbage heaps, the clotheslines of dripping saris, the bumps in the stone floor, the grandmother who greets me with covered head, folded hands, and a gentle nod. Welcome, she says in a language I can hear in my head but do not know how to spell.
It feels a bit like coming home. I can call the children by name. They ask for me when I am gone.
I knew the next time I went overseas I wanted to be able to stay a long time. Four months is not really a long time, but it’s longer than two weeks. I’m so glad I waited. A short-term team came with us this morning. They had a great program for the kids. They enjoyed themselves; I could see it in their faces. They were a blessing to all of us. But I’m glad I wasn’t leaving with them, that I was the one left standing still after the waves of goodbye faded from view.
India is gifting me moments and feelings I’m not sure I can describe. They are moments that only come with time, with being known, of sensing this is my place. They are cavernous ruts worn in the road. They are children’s eyes that sparkle with recognition, women that care enough at my coming to continually express their concern regarding my unwedded state, being present to notice when there is change.