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Written by Kareena Terry
One of the things that struck me most from my time in India is the warmth and kindness of nearly everyone I met there. While the language barrier does make communication difficult, you can’t mistake the friendliness of a smile or the kindness of a family welcoming you into their home. I’m learning that perhaps words are less important than we think. Although my experience would be easier if I could communicate in a shared language with those I meet, I’ve realised that an emotional connection runs far deeper than an arrangement of letters and the pronunciation of sounds.
On my first day in India, I was taken to a Sewa International Fellowship Camp taking place on the beautiful, green grounds of Keshavshrushti, just outside Mumbai. Whilst I won’t pretend I wasn’t feeling scared, anxious and very lonely at times, the kindness of those I met here absolutely blew me away. I was invited to attend various group sessions where I got to know new and friendly people, many of whom provided their contact details and even invited me to their homes in various parts of the country. This hospitality and warmth I soon found extends to most people in India and is something I feel should be implemented more widely into Western culture.
I witnessed another example of the effortless kindness of strangers when I arrived at Sanvedana in Latur. Here, I met Ashokji who immediately took me under his wing and treated me like family from my very first day. Having grown up in England where such a culture is not impossible to find, but certainly uncommon, I was blown away with gratitude. My first night at Sanvedana was rough to say the least – I felt so far away from home, alone and anxious. I had a tearful talk with Ashokji the next morning who took me to meet Deepatai and Sureshji, the couple who first opened Sanvedana and have a house just next-door. He explained to them that I was struggling and, without any hesitation, the couple agreed that I should be moved to stay with them. I was once again blown away by this act of kindness; to them I was a stranger and yet they welcomed me so openly to their home.
To get from Mumbai to Latur, I had to take an overnight train. This was incredibly daunting to me, since the trains and train stations in India are nothing like those I’m used to back in England. Luckily, my worries were put to rest as soon as I met Vinkatji who works at Sanvedana and accompanied me on the whole journey. He was the kind of friendly person I really needed to ease my anxieties and, once we had arrived in Latur, he too invited me to his home and introduced me to his lovely wife and adorable children, Shlok and Suyash. I visited the family home again on several occasions, where the boys proudly showed me their brilliant homework or invited me to join them in many different games. The family atmosphere was always so warm and welcoming, and I am so thankful for their kindness. This was yet another example of the incredible Indian warmth and hospitality that took me completely by surprise!
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Charity Number 1135425. Company limited by guarantee, registered in England and Wales No. 06976220. © Sewa UK 2023