By Jamie Givens
One of the biggest worries that I had coming into this year abroad in Hyderabad, India was not making connections to the people around me. For one, I couldn’t speak Hindi or Telugu(the state language of Telangana). I stuck out like a sore-thumb due to my big, curly hair. Everything about me screamed “tourist.” Because I was new, I did not understand the community that I had just been privileged enough to be invited into. I was afraid that I would keep myself in a tight, closed off bubble for the entire year. I realize, now, that that worrycouldn’t be farther from the truth.
Recently, during an in-country learning seminar in Meghalaya (located in the North-East of India), I created a list of people who had been kind to me. At first, I couldn’t think of anyone outside of the people closest to me. I was thinking about the big ways I’ve been show kindness instead of the small ones. After writing one name, it was easy to remember more. Here is my list:
the Old Woman I walk by everyday on the way to school who I smile at and wave at even thoughwe’ve never spoken a word to each other
the Local Shop Owner who sent His Son to walk home with me when the road was blocked at night
the Auto Driver, Pandu, who calls me every once in a while to ask how I am
the Naan Shop Owner who helped me hail my first auto
the Kids who wrote me “Get Well Soon” cards when I fell sick
and many more.
After I finished writing my list, I felt overwhelmed by this sense of connection. I have so many people in my life in Hyderabad that I have been connected to through a smile, a drive, an act of kindness and it speaks volumes about how beautiful the community I have been lucky enough to join is.
That feeling of connectedness continued to present itself even after I returned from my seminar. The inspiration from this post comes from a moment I had with one of my students. He came up to me after I came back from the learning seminar and said, “Didi, where were you? I was scaredyou went to America!” all said with a worried expression and his hand on his heart.