It is hard to believe that 3 months have gone by and now it is time to say goodbye to India, for now. During my visit, I performed well over 50 magic shows for more than 5,000 underprivileged children, patients, and elders. I taught numerous classes in magic, English, and first aid. Our magic students will meet once a week to practice as a group (led by one of our veteran students). Additionally, our amazing magician collaborators, Tarun Durga and Peter Theobald, will each teach one class each month. My other magician friend, Ashish Pandey, will continue performing charity shows for Our Children. The dots have been connected. I feel that we accomplished what I set out to do. I also believe that I am leaving our magic students and the program as a whole in a better place than it was when I arrived. It would not have been possible without your generosity and support and I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Here are some photos from my final weeks in India. At the end of this post, I have written a reflection.
Saying goodbye to the girls was heart-wrenching. On my final day with them, I taught them how to make juggling balls with rice and balloons. Many of them are nearing consistency with 3 balls. As I walked out of Prerana’s doors for the last time, the girls were hanging from every window and balcony in the building shouting, “Bye Ryan Sir, we (will) miss you!” I choked up and struggled to turn as I reluctantly placed one foot in front of the other towards the train station. I have fallen in love with those resilient, awe-inspiring girls.
A surprise photo feature in the Gujarat Samanchar newspaper right before I left. This was taken during a show I performed at Tata Cancer Hospital celebrating 50 young patients’ birthdays. I didn’t even know the newspaper was at the event! The show ended with an all-out dance on the stage with the birthday patients.
As I was preparing for one of my last few shows in Mumbai, I was surprised to see the familiar eager face of Rani in front of me. She stays at the girls institution I was going to perform at. After a little convincing, she agreed to perform a rope routine in the show. I have found that it is always much more intimidating to perform for people I know rather than those I do not know. I admire Rani’s courage for performing in front of the girls she lives with and she amazed her peers with her skill and poise.
Meet my elder sister. After a show with her elderly peers, I was saying goodbyes and this woman kept blessing me by tenderly placing her palm on the crown of my head and referring to me as her brother “bhai.” What a beautiful person.
Our Caring Friends, Nimesh and Preeti. They have become dear friends of mine and are enthusiastic supporters of Magicians Without Borders. And to the rest of my family in Mumbai – Bharati and Mukesh, Ravi and Kalyani, and Dhananjay, Jaya, and Mummy, thank you again for welcoming me into your lives and your wonderful homes. I am going to miss each of you very much!
Gandhi’s room at Mani Bhavan where he always stayed during his frequent visits to Mumbai. We have so much to learn from Gandhi – whose actions consistently demonstrated what he taught with his words.
The caves at Elephanta island (created around 500 AD) with my friends Preeti and Mamta. This cave carving depicts the Hindu trinity of Shiva the creator, preserver, and destroyer. This is the masterpiece of the Elephanta caves and miraculously, it is the only one that has remained completely intact as the others have been destroyed by the Portugese conducting target practice.
Lifting the Taj from its perch – sorry about that Bombay!
Family love on Elephanta Island.
Why are you looking so smug?
Dhobi Ghat – where 5,000 dhobi wallahs soak and scrub thousands of soiled textiles from the far corners of the city. A drastically different world from the high rise looming above.
Excerpt about Bombay from Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts:
“The first thing I noticed about Bombay, on that first day, was the smell of the different air. I could smell it before I saw or heard anything of India, even as I walked along the umbilical corridor that connected the plane to the airport. I was excited and delighted by it, in the first Bombay minute, escaped from prison and new to the wide world, but I didn’t and couldn’t recognize it. I know now that it’s the sweet, sweating smell of hope, which is the opposite of hate; and it’s the sour, stifled smell of greed, which is the opposite of love. It’s the smell of gods, demons, empires, and civilizations in resurrection and decay. It’s the blue skin-smell of the sea, no matter where you are in the Island City, and the blood-metal smell of machines. It smells of the stir and sleep and waste of sixty million animals, more than half of them humans and rats. It smells of heartbreak, and the struggle to live, and of the crucial failures and loves that produce our courage. It smells of ten thousand restaurants, five thousand temples, shrines, churches, and mosques, and of a hundred bazaars devoted exclusively to perfumes, spices, incense, and freshly cut flowers. Karla once called it the worst good smell in the world, and she was right.”
I can tell you that from my own experience Gregory David Roberts captured the essence of this wild island city better than any photo, or compilation of words I have seen. Here is my own take…
Chaotic and dirty, yet
Lively and loving
In my face
In every way
Sometimes to my dismay
Nevertheless, always a lesson to be had
You give beyond your means
Your dedication never falters or despairs
In the land of many Gods
Where guests are treated like God
I am learning to accept your unending generosity
I am inspired by your Seva warriors
I will persevere just as you have
Gandhi has blessed your soil
You have broken free from an oppressive reign
There is still turmoil
May you have peace
Where staying for tea is important enough to become late
Where 1.2 billion humans reside
Where immense needs are unmet
Where corruption bleeds to greed
Where resilience prevails
The quality of your life does not depend
On your external reality
But rather your state of mind
India, I beg you to respect the divinity of our mother earth
Cleanliness is a practice with no cost and boundless rewards
India, I urge you to have an open mind
We are all very different, let’s cherish that
Your horns boom endlessly
Your food evokes a flavorful sensuous experience
Your people tirelessly work 7 days a week
For what? No end to the rat race in sight
But you keep up the fight with all your might
For the glimmering hope of a peaceful night
And a happy and healthy tomorrow
Please remember that all we are guaranteed is the present
The present is a present
A gift that is,
Too easy to miss
Feeling lonely when I arrived
Now there does not seem enough time to say my goodbyes
India you have taught me lessons that will last beyond my life
Many of which I sense better than I can articulate
Do not assume
Confide in your breath
Connect the dots
Have faith in others and the universe as a whole
Gratitude is the greatest
Expect nothing, give everything
In Seva we trust
That is a must
* Seva is selfless service to the greater good.
* Namaste literally means “I bow to the divine in you.”
Thank you again for reading. I will miss writing, but I will be occupied guzzling down the fire hydrant flow of information during medical school. Thank you for your engaged accompaniment during my adventures over these last two years. In the future, I look forward to picking up where we have left off. Be well my friends!