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 worry couldn’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 scared you went to America!” all said with a worried expression and his hand on his heart.