Open letter to Tirmasahun

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So it’s time to go!

Nine months just flew by and as I look back I can still see my shocked self looking around the streets of the village that has become my place for the last year. I still have that shocked look, sometimes, I guess India will never stop surprising me.

I think I would do a very poor job trying to squeeze in a few paragraphs all the emotions that are making my heart explode right now, so all I want to do is to give a shout out to my lucky stars, that brought me here, and to the beautiful souls I met: my team, the students of our education projects and, of course, the villagers, hoping this will be enough to give you an idea of my experience.

First things first: thank you to the villagers of Tirmasahun and around. You are my real life heroes, that tackle every day situations that would cause every westerner (including me!) a panic attack, always with a kind smile on your face despite the hardship that life has given you. You are the real hope, you are the rockstars. Thank you for your chai, thank you for our chats, thank you for accepting me in your community and for taking care of me but, more than anything, thank you for your trust. It has been an honour and a joy to work with you.

Thanks one thousand times over to my colleagues and newfound Indian sister and brother – perhaps I should say didi and bahia – Payal and Krishna. Thank you for sharing with me every single moment of this adventure. Thank you guiding me when I was lost, thank you for explaining to me this Indian world when it was too hard for me to understand. Thank you for the hours, days, weeks, months spent laughing to tears and teasing one another. You will forever and always be my dream team and I adore you guys tremendously.

Thank you Gyanvardhan, my senior manager, my partner in crime, my solution man. Words are not enough to express my admiration for you. Thank you for keeping calm when I was stressed out, thank you for our jokes, for the honest laughs and for your generosity. I know this is probably going to feed your ego immeasurably, but it doesn’t matter: you are just amazing.

Thank you Tara and Vikas, the big bosses. Look at what you guys have done! You and I know what we have been through, together, since I joined you in this journey – the shortcomings, the challenges, the sleepless nights working on ambitious projects… but along with the tired eyes of those who have been through a lot, you still carry the smile of those who have overcome all of it. And here’s to you two and to the best for you, that is yet to come.

A standing ovation for the most resourceful construction team ever, that shared my same roof for most of the time I’ve spent here. Thank you guys, for showing me that impossible is possible. That there’s a jugaad for everything (nb. jugaad is my favourite Indian word, meaning “temporary arrangement” – and there’s no better place than India where this fits this well). Thank you for always inviting me to join your chicken dinner when I was alone in the centre. Even though your food was so spicy I could barely swallow it, sharing a meal with you under the stars was priceless. Thank you for our laughs on the roof under construction. Your  wisdom is something I will treasure for the rest of my life.Middle (2)

Thank you Vishal, for bringing me a different flower every morning – my days will not have such a sweet start from now on. Thank you for all the times you sang and danced for me. Your kindness and sense of responsibility at this young age, will never stop amazing me.

Thank you Boglarka, only you and I know what it means to spend an entire summer and an entire monsoon season in this unrelenting heat and humidity as a westerner. Thank you for going through this with me, our gossip nights and your Sunday morning pancakes made everything easier.

Thank you Nandlal, for driving me everywhere and for saving me from that killer buffalo. Your grumpy man sarcasm cracked me up all the time.

Thank you Sudha, for brightening up my days with your non-sense songs, your hip-dance, your daily gossip, your beautiful smile and your courage. I will miss you my dear.

Thank you Sukai, for protecting me from the many terrible beasts attempting on my life over and over again. You are fearless. And, of course, thank you for your delicious egg curry and paneer. You are an incredibly multitalented young man and you don’t even realize it.

Thank you my bright funny kids, that with your sparkly little eyes come here to class, day after day, craving what the other kids, there in the safe world, take so much for granted. Keep your ambitions up. I believe in you, you are perfect.

Thank you my brave beautiful girls, your progress over our women empowerment course fills me with pride. I hope you have absorbed a small knowing that education can change your life, can change your family and can change the world, and a big knowing that, unquestionably, you are wonderful and you are to be valued. I’m with you.

Thank you to the many international visitors, who came from near and far. Everybody added a precious piece (and many fun episodes!) to this story. Sweet memories that I will keep forever.

One day I read that “lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” This is how I like to see this place: my lighthouse, shining with hope, to remind me that heroes exist and they’re out there, watching out for one another.

Wa salaam alaykum Tirmasahun – may peace always be upon you.

Federica for United for HopeBottom

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