The scope and frequency of hospitality and friendliness in India is, in my experience, unsurpassable. On every single day that I have spent there, I have been flooded with generosity, warmth and openness. There are however two days which stand above all others, the peak of experience on a very high mountain. The first was in the slums of Jaipur on the fourth day of my very first trip where I fell in love with India and the second was when I first came to Tirmasahun and knew I belonged there.
Tirmasahun is a rural village on the Uttar Pradesh/Bihar border (on the UP side), around 35km from the resting place of The Buddha in Kushinagar and 80km from the next city, Gorakphur. This is one of the poorest areas in the whole of India.
It’s around 10km from the nearest main road and the population of around 1500 lives primarily from agriculture and day labour. It’s a combination of huts and concrete houses, there are no commercial enterprises, no sewage system, water, although available with hand pumps is not clean and around 80% of household have no access to a toilet. Around 60% of villagers have no access to electricity and for those who do, its unreliable and prone to outages. The village children attend two (primary) schools. The school for Muslim children is in the centre of the village and has been built using the funds provided by some village inhabitants. It consists of 4 crude rooms and with the exception of a blackboard there are no facilities. The building is unprotected, has no doors, no toilets and no electricity. There is no government funding.
The second school for Hindu children is in a village three kilometers away. It is a government school where books and a midday meal are provided however the facilities are very rudimentary and the level of education very low.
Around 60 children in the village do not attend school at all. Only 10% of children are in secondary education.
I came to this village via Vikas, who is managing the Indian operational side of the NGO. He has family members there and they received me with exceptional warmth and humanity. I believe that it was here that the idea of the NGO was born. As I met the villagers, the teachers, the schoolchildren, I was overcome with an incredible sense of belonging. As the whole village came out to meet the strange foreigner, I was engulfed in their curiosity, their kindness and their laughter. I had had this before of course in India, but this was somehow different, somehow destined.
As I sensed the feeling of community and delved into my perception of belonging, I absorbed the beauty of the place, accepted the strong wind of destiny blowing my way and knew that it had to begin right here. United for Hope, Tara.