My first few days here at Sri Ram Ashram have been wonderful, overwhelming, and exhausting. I’ve spent a great deal of time observing, talking to the children, and learning about the ways of the Ashram. These kiddos have taught me so much in the past few days. I cannot imagine what I will learn in the coming weeks. It has taken a lot for me to come out of my shell in this new place. Gautam Bhai reminded me yesterday that it is important to ask questions and start conversations. He said I was paying too much attention to the “rules” set forth for guests, and to just be myself. This was excellent advice, and I really started to connect with the children after our conversation. Like a big brother, he has been looking out for me since day one. I’m now Aimée Didi, which means sister Aimée. Bhai means brother. I’m becoming part of the family.
A typical day at the Ashram involves morning workout and prayer at 6:00 am followed by breakfast and tea. Lots and lots of chai – which I’m not complaining about. The children get ready for the day and I’ve started to walk them to school now too. Lunch is around noon, and the children get done with school at 3 – more chai. I’ve been helping Narayan Bhai with his social science homework and Veena Didi with her Biology during study hall. At 6:00 pm we have Arati, which are evening prayers to put the Ganga River to sleep. Dinner is at 7:00 pm and then it’s time for bed. This routine continues day after day, but there is never a dull moment.
I don’t think it is possible for me to connect to each and every child here, but I have already begun to form a few close friendships. Veena Didi, has taken me under her wing, and shown me how things go here. All of us girls are going to get ready for the New Years dance party together and then we will all stay up late and sleep in the TV room. Sita Didi has latched on to me and also taught me some of the Arati prayers. She’s quite persistent, and gives me “the eye” when I don’t sing the words. These children are going to teach me more than I can ever offer them.
The New Year celebration began early this morning as I helped Julie Didi get ready for school. Her birthday is tomorrow so today she got to dress up in her favorite clothes, wear makeup, and she even let me do her hair. Fancy, with lots and lots of clips, per her orders. Sita Didi reminds me how children test you. She definitely has a mind of her own, but she is also compassionate and cares for her brothers and sisters.
When thinking about the New Year, I believe mine has already begun. I’ve taken a lot of big steps in my life recently in terms of relationships, family, and travel. Although I am homesick and realizing just how difficult it is to be completely on my own in a foreign country, I am also realizing how important it is to let the children guide me and to be completely open, honest, and ask questions. I’m looking forward to what the rest of the day brings and what the New Year has in store for me.
Happy New Year!