As we embraced each other to part ways, Nimesh grabbed my hand and looked me straight on with his gleaming eyes as he said “Thank you for coming to my country. Thank you for bringing smiles and laughter to children who normally don’t experience such joy.” They do not know my secret – I get as much, if not more joy, from those children, than they get from me. That’s how this world works – it’s about energy. The more love, passion, and energy we put out, the more we receive in return. That return is exponential. It is hard to describe what it feels like to have a crowd of children who come from situations of despair giggling at my silly antics and googling at the magic they see unfolding in my hands. For those sacred moments, we are one – we understand each other at a profound level as we come together and share something extraordinary despite our differences.
This is a picture of me attempting to breakdance with some boys after a show at a deaf school. Most of these students live in Mumbai’s numerous slums. Since they could not express their excitement with words, we shared that excitement with the expression of dance. Unlike myself, they jumped and flipped with monkey-like control. That was one of the many sacred moments I have been fortunate to share.
I cannot believe it’s only been two weeks since my arrival in India. Since my last post, I have performed 12 shows, taught 3 English classes, and one magic class. I also got my first dose of food poisoning, met with my good friend, Vikas, on his Mumbai layover (we played tennis nearly every day during my summer at Clemson doing research with the NSF), and I have met many new friends as well.
The girls I teach English and magic to at Prerana are AMAZING. It is a dream come true to finally be with them. They are sweet, dedicated, and eager to learn. I am so proud of the wonderful young women they are becoming. I am confident that they will not follow their mothers’ footsteps. I hope to share some photos soon, but am challenged by strict photo limitations set by Prerana for their security. Let me assure you, their charm will win you over at first sight.
The shows are going great. Yesterday, I was accompanied by a wonderful magician, Ashish, whom I met at the magic shop last week. He has a wonderful heart and is a talented magician and is eager about sharing his time and expertise with Magicians Without Borders. He will be joining me for a few more shows this week. On Saturday, Kunal, a professional percussionist will accompany me for two of my shows. I’m making great connections with truly inspiring people and I am touched by the generosity and talent of the people I meet.
Since my arrival in India, I have been thoroughly impressed with the level of intellect and emotional intelligence within the Indian people. Even those who hold the most basic jobs seem to possess a gifted and depthful understanding of how the world works. This observation has left me wondering.
Last Wednesday, I spent a full day performing and touring Sion Hospital, which is the first trauma and cancer center accessible when entering the city. Thus, they receive patients from all over the country and region who cannot receive treatment elsewhere. I am impressed by the expertise of the physicians and the quality of care that is offered despite the severe lack of resources. That lack of resources is severe and it exists throughout the country. Patients sleeping on the dirty floor because there are no hospital beds. Banana leaves being used to treat burn wounds. A family of 10 sleeping shoulder to shoulder in a 10ft x 10ft tin or plastic shack. Home of the largest slum in Southeast Asia. How can it be that in a country where impressive education, intelligence, and wealth exists, there is also such extreme poverty? Why are there so many needs that are not and cannot be met?
My host mom, Bharati answered my questions without hesitation. It is the result of overpopulation and a corrupt government. There are too many people – to put it in perspective: India has 1/3 the landmass of the United States, but it’s population is about 4 times that of the United States at just over 1.2 billion people. Additionally, those in power strive to maintain that power and keep the bulk of the resources to themselves. Citizens do their part: many individuals make it their life’s work to overcome, or at least minimize these disparities. There are a plethora of NGO’s, free schools, and free hospitals. I am inspired by these people – they give endlessly to a flawed system knowing that although they cannot change it, they have the potential to change the lives of those they work with. Still, so many needs are not met. The resources too scarce. The population too large. The power to concentrated. The need too immense. It’s overwhelming and often paralyzing. It’s hard to accept and it’s in my face every single day. Despite this, I feel grateful to be doing what I’m doing because the seeds of hope I am planting have the potential of flourishing into vibrant flowers.
My friend, Nimesh, and I were parting after spending two hours together excitedly planning my upcoming trip to northern India. Before my 2 week Annapurna Circuit trek in Nepal with my adventuring college friends, I will spend 10 days in Agra (Taj Mahal), New Delhi, and the Kashmir region. While part of the motive is sightseeing, the driving force is magic. I will be performing for communities connected with the various NGO’s I met at the conference put on by Caring Friends. Nimesh is one of the directors of Caring Friends. He is a busy man in high demand. Without solicitation, he has offered to not only sponsor but to also organize the logistics of my trip. Wow! Like I said, I am touched by the generosity of spirit here in India.
Nimesh is grateful I’m here in his country. I’m grateful to be here. There is nothing I would rather be doing with my time right now. Yes, Nimesh, I’m here for “your people,” who are really Our People. We share this planet; let’s take care of each other.