Later I and Carona were sent to a poor village called “PEDHAMALI” to make photography of the local primary school children. I and Carona are never afraid to live in poverty so we agreed. But things were a little out of our imagination. I have really to make a brief introduction of our background before I started to talk about our life in “PEDHAMALI” and all the feelings are honest even though it may be a little offense and the changes of our minds are quite complex and emotional. I and Caronacome from a small town of Province Zhejiang which is near Shanghai. My family is middle class and not so rich but my entire life until now I can say is very comfortable, I get the best education and next year I will go to Britain to study as an exchange student. I can buy luxury goods like Channel, Gucci or other famous brands. My house is big, clean and well-furnitured. And although my grandparents live in countryside, their living standard is almost the same as us.I have come to poor villages of other province in China to do volunteer work before and the situation is within my endurance. However the first time we arrived at Jaldipbhai’s house both of us were shocked. We knew villages might be poor but unfortunately our definition of being poor seems a bit different. I don’t want to offend but I have to say the economy of China is much better than India. And that time my mind was stuck in the faith that it was a punishment for me and Carona to be sent here maybe because our work in ESI was regard terrible. At first I was tired of describing the dust and the poor facility of the house which we found later that Jaldipbhai’s house is the best of the whole village. The beginning two days I got sick because I was not used to the simple toilet and sleeping on the floor. My headache was so serious that it prevented me from thinking what I was doing and then I got a tonsillitis which made me can’t talk and eat. Now when I think of these days I still want to laugh at myself with tears. One thing makes me start to like this poor place is the kindness of Jaldipbhai and his wife Snehalban. And then the kindness of Ajay, their adopted son, the kids and the villages make us love this village. The story of Ajay made me cry once. His real mother has passes away and his father is a drunker who never cares about him. Before Jaldipbhai adopted him, he was a beggar and struggled for hunger. He got food from neighbors, and once he got something to eat no matter what it is he ate as much as possible because he knew the next meal was no guaranteed and even now he have a problem of controlling intake. In his left arm there was a horrible scar from a dog. At that time Jaldipbhai himself had no job, no money and lived in the temple, but he decided to adopt Aja because he wanted to take care of him. Now Ajay is so happy with full of love. Although our communication is limited by language I can tell from his bright teeth. And there are so many small things I observed from which I can see that they really love and care Aja when Snehalben teaches Aja homework with her hand fondling his head, she combs his hair softly and even when Jaldipbhai blames him wash clothes too slowly. It is what parents do to their child. We went to the primary schools with Jaldipbhai and Snehalban to see the school life of the kids. Here again we received warm welcome not only by the kids but also by the teachers. The kids poured into us and asked our names again and again, some of them were shy but always smile to us then run away like a wind. The primary school system here is quite different from China since China has only 6 standards but India has 10 and the subjects are not the same as we study English from the first year but here from the 8th standard. Now this school has almost 200 students but 7 years ago when Jaldipbhai first came to this village there were only 80 because at that time people thought going to school was useless compared with doing farm work to earn money. Jaldipbhai as well as the teachers made great effort to persuade parents to send their children to the primary school by going to every family with child of right age and talk to them patiently about the benefit of getting education. The villagers were persuaded and now almost every child in the village goes to school and Jaldipbhai told us the school was supported by the government so there was no charge for textbooks and meals. It’s really nice. In China we have a nine-year-compulsory-education system and government also invested huge sums of money in the education area, but the fees is not free until now and we really hope one day Chinese government can achieve this just like Indian government did. Some days ago there was incidence in this school. Two boys fought with each other and another boy who wanted to stop the fight was hurt. The reason caused this quarrel was that in one class two boys wanted to be the leaders of all the boys, but the rest of the boys did not want to obey their oders and started to isolate the two. Gradually these two boys felt lonely and upset and began to make fun of other boys by gossiping them with the girls which was not true. Finally one boy from the rest group got angry and fought with one of the two boys. Jaldipbhai knew about this incidence and firstly took the injured boy (his nose was hurt) to the hospital and we also companied him to the hospital. The next day Jaldipbhai came to the school and talked with the teachers to figure out more details. That day afternoon Jaldipbhai called all the boys of this class out to sit in the playground and said something to them. I sat beside him and because I didn’t understand the language I just observed the faces of the boys. They were still young and they listened so carefully, it reminded me of my primary school time when I also made some mistake the teacher called me to his office and talked to me as patient as Jaldipbhai, that time I should have the same face. Later Jaldipbhai translated what he said to me. He did not blame the boys who had fight but told a story to all the boys that hundreds years ago Indian people were separated and fought with each other to win the leader position and then British came and easily controlled the whole India. Gandhi realized this problem and called for all Indian people to unit as brothers. Then without any violence British came out their country. At last he said to the boys that there should not be leaders because they were all brothers. It makes me think a lot. I always think deep talk is important and everybody in his whole life needs someone to give them some advice because nobody is perfect and good at everything. In China competition is very strong no matter in high school or in college, sometimes grade is everything so especially in high school teachers put their all energy to teach knowledge and ignored the most important part: that is to teach how to be a good person. I think it’s not an issue only existed in China but a problem all of the world.
On February 2th there was a big function held in the school. All the children and teachers prepared for this for a long time. We also accompanied Snehalben to the school to help decoration. Wewove the big leaves into curtains and hanged them on every doors and halls. The most attracting part of the preparation is the rehearsal. I thought I was in a dramatic movie! The boys and girls dressed so beautiful costumes and practiced the dances with so excited songs. I used to hear that Indians were born with good dance and rhythm and now I knew it was true.When they were dancing their bodys were as soft as water, I blink and they flew away. There were so many beautiful girls with big eyes, prominent noses and small lips, they are just like elegant princesses wearing the noble sarees and shining jewelries. They even asked me to put up the orange saree and dance with them. You can imagine how excited but shy as well I was because I never dressed traditional Indian costumes before, not say to dance an Indian dance. To be honest, the saree was too tight for me, or rather, I was too fat for the dramatic cloth designed specially for slimgirls. But fortunately I became brassy and learned the enthusiastic dance from the girls. It was not easy and I always made mistake steps but I thought I was cool because all the people around me were busy at taking photos. The function was excellent. It was a ceremony for appreciating one rich people donating money for the school. Then shows were amazing and what was more amazing was that I and Carona also got an honor to receive flowers o the stages and we even got a chance to say something to all the children and guests. We felt we were respected by them even though we did only a little.
These days we also followed Jaldipbhai to visit the women of the near villages. Once there was an activity for pregnant women to appreciate their delivery. Carona got a chance to deliver a short speech and she did say well. That is her words: “Hello everyone, we are very honored to be here and to speak something to you. We know that in India the status of women were much lower than men and this was a situation happened in China fifty or sixty years ago. Now things are totally different. Women also work outside to support the families. What males do, females also can and even do much better. The status of male and female are equal! You are doing amazing work to deliver your child and feed them, it is for the whole society. Every child should thank your mother! So ladies, please protect yourself well and regard yourself as important as your husband. If he fights you, please do not hesitate to fight him back!”Jaldipbhai translated Carona’s words to all the people presented and they clapped warmly. Later there was a little interlude that in this ceremony every woman got a brunch of flower but one woman was forgotten, so she went home immediately with anger. Jaldipbhai knew this and also went to this woman’s house and comforted her. He told her no one had forgotten her on purpose and everyone loved her so much because she was one of the most amazing women. This little incidence ended with a happy ending and she even treat us a delicious lunch. There were a lot of little things Jaldipbhai had done like this one. I always thought he was an amazing social worker with no pay but help people to live a happy life. I used to think amazing was just a pet phrase of western people until I know him even though he never thinks himself is amazing. There are lots of rich people donating money to the poor areas, they are so nice. But how many people live in a poor villages himself and every day helps deal with the tiny social works? Year after year numerous tiny things make a big difference. There is an old saying in China that “Teach one how to fish rather than give him fish.” The poor can never get out of poor by getting money from the rich, they need somebody to teach them skills. More importantly, they need someone to build them rich spirit. Jaldipbhai is this person as he is so rich in mind. Now he is doing another work for the village. With the help of ESI 50 toilets will be created in this village and Jaldipbhai are investigating the whole villages and pick up 50 suitable families. We followed him to go to the village everyday talked with the situation. He told me that in past people here never use toilets because they think nature is much better and just go for the road side, even now there are not very many families have toilets. And in past they provided toilets to the villagers they just rejected. So he and ESI did a lot of work to spread sanitation knowledge to the whole village and now people started to realize the benefit of using toilets. It is a huge progress. Sometimes Jaldipbhai go inside the village not for specific reasons but just to understand the life of the villagers. For example, if someone is sick he can know it right away and take him to the hospital if necessary. What he was doing impressed us so much. I started to think about what ‘volunteer’ really means. I once said to Jaldipbhai that I was too young and my capacity was so limited, I felt guilty I can do so little thing for the village. He said to me that my presence here helps so much for the village and I bring the faith to the villagers that people from all over the world are caring them. His words mean a lot to me. I always think I am selfish because I love myself much more than others and I can’t be so nice to every stranger, that’s why I choose to do volunteer work in India. Before I came here my parents and friends told me India was dangerous and poor, I said that was exactly what I want to experience, the poorer, the more I could do. When I arrive here for the first 2 weeks I felt I upset because I found myself helped nothing and I think I was a terrible volunteer. Now I realize that it doesn’t matter how much you’ve down to others. Volunteer is not an action, it’s the faith and emotion. People can read your love if you really love them from your heart.
CLEANLINESS, He who is truly clean within, cannot remain unclean without.- Gandhiji
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