In the last week of October, something extraordinary happened in Koppal. I have been thinking about it for the past few weeks trying to understand what raised the whole experience to the sublime.
People came from 4 continents , strangers to each other mostly, and definitely to the communities in Koppal, and to most of us in Bangalore. They came to stimulate, appreciate and learn from communities and also to share their own special experiences. People have visited us and our communities before. I am sure the visitors too have been elsewhere; Usually, there are good experiences and even great experiences, inspirational experiences, which stay with one. This time, the experiences went beyond that; they are transferring and triggering off newer and newer experiences. There is a sense of joy and wonder that does not seem to cease.
What was it that happened? What made the communities open their hearts and share with us things which touched us so deeply? Every experience led to another and yet another; affected communities, vulnerable communities, all so driven, all wishing to give us that insight. Simple experiences, like that of the young teacher in Sanganal, talking about the deep sense of satisfaction he feels when he sees his classmate, healed, working and smiling. Some years ago, the same classmate had been walking around traumatised, lost, excluded by all, with no interest in living after his HIV diagnosis. The teacher had with the help of his friends pooled in money and reached him to a counsellor at Asha Jyoti, where he could talk, share and heal. A simple thing to do, and he had done it and in time.
Another story: An accident near the same village and several people were injured. No one waited, The whole village set out providing food, medicines, doctors, transport, whatever they could lay their hands on. They did not wait for the relief to arrive or the government to act. Life is precious, they said, and we have to do what we can to save it.
Or another story of a child, fasting till the mother forced herself to eat something, as she needed her mother to live.
Perhaps, the answer lies in this: community members and visitors alike believed that life is precious and valuable beyond all else. Rozina from South Africa said that once we realised this, everything would follow. This realisation makes people act, reach out and connect. All of us, communities of Koppal and Bangalore could deeply connect with the stories of Joao from Mozambique, JP from South Africa, Sue from Zimbabwe, Lawan from Thailand...I could go on....
I realise that the connector was this recognition of the value of life. It connected souls and made the experience of strangers resonate with us. We were no longer strangers, we became family.
As team members of Samraksha are walking around retelling the stories from the SALT visit, that of the music teacher, that of Joao, that of children caring for parents, husbands for wives, neighbours for neighbours, it is resonating with people everywhere we go, and recreating the magical experience again and again.
This time, the experiences are not just some learnings to take and store away. They are rare and precious gifts that communities and the visitors have left for us, and I know I need to keep passing it on.