Thursday, December 17, 2009

Visit to the Ashram

Our office is organizing a fund raising program – the money will be used to gift toys and clothes to kids living in Ashrams. These ashrams have kids from poor families, some orphans, some abandoned by their parents or relatives. Some kids get to visit their families few times in a year, while others just wait for someone to come visit them.
As part of this program, I along with few colleagues visited few ashrams to collect the names of the kids and their wishes. Wishes varied from stuff toy to clothes to school bags and even umbrellas. Nothing fancy!

It was my first visit to an Ashram for kids. It was just great to see the enthusiasm of the kids and of course the volunteers. Most of the kids were from class 1, 2 and 3. Tiny hands with small fragile body frame but with hopeful eyes full of energy and excitement. Who doesn’t like gifts? Don’t we feel happy when we get a gift? The kids were pleased to see new people visiting them and when they were told that they could choose a gift, their happiness was unbound. The kids could only understand Kannada, the local language. But I was too excited not to talk. I started talking in Konkani hoping at least someone may know the language. And luckily, couple of kids did know and it helped. They followed what I spoke and explained to the rest of the kids in the group. It was a nice and a new experience for me.

After the session the kids were asked to leave and get back to whatever they were doing. We waved bye to them as I followed a few of them. Some of them were washing clothes, some cleaning the floor, some studying; all on a single table while a young 15 yrs old took their lessons, some were carrying big buckets of water, others helping in cooking. It touched me how they quickly geared themselves back to their chores – knowing the gifts and our visit session is just a few moments of fun and may be a little change from their routine life. 

Few days later I got to know that there were couple of Ashrams yet to be visited. I was free and decided to join the few others going there. I was told these ashrams were of HIV infected kids. Oh! I did not know what to expect when I walk into the shelter home. Would the children have some scars? Would they be looking at you as people from different planet or something? Will the place be clean or more like a hospital? How do HIV infected kids look like? Are they weak and fragile expecting death anytime? I did not know what to expect. May be I had some wrong notions about HIV infection or I was just ignorant. But there I was, yet again waiting to see the unexpected.

So, after almost 1-2 hrs drive we reached the Ashram. As we reached the gate, I could hear laughter; I saw a group of kids playing near the Father Superior’s office. Are those kids HIV infected? They looked just like any other kids. They laughed, played and were having a good time. They were very happy to see us and after we told them about the gifts, they were very excited. They were given a list with few items and asked to select one out of those. Only One? Asks one of the kids. J

We did what we had to do and headed back home. On our way back, I could not thank God enough for the great childhood I got. I only could laugh at myself for the petty things I cry about. Those are all too fancy; I thought to myself!

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