Every morning I load into a car with my driver Sunesh and my translator Mr. Dhami. We start with Hindi lessons—alk, do, teen (1, 2, 3) and ap kasey hai? (how are you?)—as we drive through the mountains to a remote village for first aid clinics. The workshops are off the beaten path, focusing on teaching those who have limited access to medical facilities and are held in a home in the village. It never fails that when we plan for 10 or 12 people and 25 end up coming. And always, Mr. Dhami is a hit. He loves talking, joking, and laughing with the people when they hear me attempt to practice the few words I’ve learned in Hindi. Just as an FYI barf in Hindi means ice, and even I laugh when I say that one.
Overall, the workshops have been a success. Everyone loves the first aid kits we hand out and ask me when I will come back again. I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing with them, learning their time-tested remedies (ground potato paste for burns), and hearing them laugh when we practice the Heimlich maneuver. The people are grateful and generous, always inviting us for chai tea and biscuits and offering anything they have to give. The children are always quite curious about me, but usually too shy to come up to me at first. I’m sure being white and standing at least half a foot taller than all the adults (you can imagine how tall Gardner is to these people!) makes me stand out quite a bit.
On the drive home from the workshop my favorite part of the day transpires. Mr. Dhami tells me about his life in India. Mr. Dhami is a small man with a jolly looking belly, ear hair so long you could probably braid it, and eyes that hold a lifetime of wisdom. He has a kind, cheery face but his stance tells you he is a man who gets things done. He has lived in the Chamba area for all of his life and has worked in various career fields, but always, he has helped people. He shares with me his life philosophies and insights and helps me understand the way of life here in India. He tells me over and over, “Helping the people is good for the soul. When you are down, you can remember the good you have done and it comforts your soul.”
If nothing else, I will remember this about India. That life is always better when you are reaching outside yourself. And wherever you go, if you seek to do good, you will always find yourself in good company. India and its people have seeped deep into my soul and I am better for it.
PS Mom, Dad, Mike, Char, and baby Ryan I miss you all and can’t wait to see you in a few short weeks!