Thursday, January 20, 2011

'I Love a DANCE!'

We have been busy busy busy these last few days and they only get better with each one. Tuesday we took a loooooong car ride to a village called Karmagachi outside of Kolkata (I have yet to reference the driving scene here in India because as we've all agreed, you really won't believe what we tell you!) Though long, the drive was well worth it when we met Shelly a woman who runs the vocational school associated with Praroyna school. We saw the work of the girls there which were exquisite hand made cards using dried leaves, paint, fabric and other things as well as hand embroidered saris and handkerchiefs; all gorgeous. Then we had a bit of time before the dance program they had scheduled for us, so we decided to just wander the town a bit. As usual, we caused quite a scene. As we walked down this dirt road people greeted us and then began to follow us. We looked like the Pied Pipers of India! So many children came out to just walk with us. Then we were invited into the home of one woman. Imagine seeing 15 strangers walking down your road and feeling compelled to invite them all in AND find them all chairs(she had everyone in the house bringing out every seat they could find) We realized it would be a bit odd to sit in a circle and not actually be able to converse with these people, so Chelsea suggested we play a game with the children ( in a household compound of probably 20-25 people..we had a gaggle of children there to play with us!) We taught them duck,duck, goose (which they took to VERY well) and even simon says. We had to leave after that to see the dance program (which was scheduled for 2 which in India time means 3:30). We walked to the field, still followed by at this point I'd say a quarter of the village, and were seated in chairs. The dancing and drumming was incredible to see. I've had the opportunity to try a few different types of ethnic dance and was thrilled to be able to get up and try their dance as well; in fact our whole group did(including Willson, who drummed!) I was exhilirated and sweaty and on that amazing adrenaline high you get from dancing in a field feeling so much joy!
Wednesday brought us to Rehabalitation Center For Children. This hospital is for children from other states in India who have orthopedic deformities and need surgery, physical therapy or both. Children over the age of 3 do not have a parent staying with them. I can't imagine being just 4 or 5 years old having major surgery and not having my mom there with me! But as is the norm here, they don't feel sorry for themselves and they are happy to be taken care of and getting the help they need. Their sense of community, of family, is astounding and so amazing to me. The project we did with them is based on the ancient art of patas (painted scrolls) that are stories told through song while unrolling the scrolls. We had one of the few remaining patua's (folk artist) demonstrate this art which is dying out due to television, the internet etc. I was really taken with this; I so enjoyed hearing her sing the stories. I may not have understood, but it was one of those things where the story transcends the language barrier because of the artist. We then were paired up with a child and they were to draw one scene from their life while we decorated the border. Rosalie said the children did so much better this year and really opened up to us. They are just amazing to watch when they are able to do something fun that is totally in their control. My little girls laugh will stay with my forever.
Wednesday night was hotel proprietor, Mrs. Violet Smith's 90th birthday party here at The Fairlawn. It was a TREMENDOUS party, but I'll spare the gory details. Chelsea, Kira and I sang a song for this incredible woman and I was so happy to be part of her legendary story!
Today we visited the slums of Kolkata. Each of us was paired with a student from Praroyna 3. We were sent out to explore their 'neighborhoods' and handed them our own cameras to take any and every picture they wanted of their space. It was such a unique experience to find ourselves in a place that is basically polar opposite of how we in America live our day to day lives. My little girl never stopped moving, and at times got a bit more ahead of my than I liked, especially considering that, yes again, we had quite a following(I could not even guess at the number of hands I shook or times I answered the question "Madam, what is the name??") The pictures will be made into a book for each child to, as Rosalie said "See their homes in a different light." I feel so lucky to be a part of this because it will truly make a difference to these kids, which is Empower the Children's main goal; Help these kids build the self-esteem they need to truly succeed in this world, because if it's lacking they know no better than to beg or find worse ways to feed themselves and their families.
I am very sad that we have just one full day left here in Kolkata. I am not at all sad to return home, but their will be an absence in my heart for some time as I have learned so much about not only these people, but myself, and also about how I want to continue to make change in any way I possibly can.

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