Arrival at Sri Ram Ashram

Daniel Fust

Looking out the window on the train ride from Delhi to Haridwar, I watched the world transform around us. The landscape fading into a consistent and vivid shade of green; the level terrain giving way to hills, gullies, and wetlands. Trees and flowers became more numerous and showcased the lands’ natural beauty. Villages grew farther apart and seemed to become more hospitable. Though there were still crowds and trash, the brick buildings were more even, better maintained, and spaced out to allow some breathing room. It all seemed cleaner to me than the villages near Pardada Pardadi. About twenty minutes outside of Haridwar, I caught a glimpse of jungle and mountains. My heart raced and excitement rushed through my veins with every hurried beat. I had a feeling of arriving home after a long journey.

At the ashram, the kids welcomed us eagerly. Despite a slight language barrier, we quickly made friends and within an hour, I was already asked when I would return to the ashram. Most of us were grabbed by one to three of the younger children who held our hands and showed us their home. Later, we played soccer and Frisbee with the older kids and spent a good deal of time eating aloo tikkis, drinking chai, and socializing. I have never before met such an outstanding collection of individuals so full of life and love. Each one was kind, cheerful, friendly, and grateful. It was amazing to see a place where such a standard was consistently met. The bonds of friendship and the closeness of the community truly make Sri Ram Ashram a paradise on Earth.

Sanika Lakka
Sanika meeting Sri Ram Ashram girls

There they were. Their smiling faces finally bringing our long journey by train to an end. The ecstatic children of Sri Ram Ashram ran alongside our bus as we pulled into the orphanage. While exiting the bus, we were instantly greeted by the embraces of many little children. There were no barriers between us and the new faces staring up into our eyes. Each of them possessed an air of innocence that made deep connections instantly attainable. One by one we exchanged names and at that point, it was time for play. We were openly accepted into all of their activities such as playing Ultimate Frisbee with the older kids and swinging on swings with the younger ones. These simple games brought much joy to both us and the kids. It is experiences like these that humble a person. It is amazing to be surrounded by people that have the ability to take you from your materialistic, stressful world and pull you toward theirs. These kids were able to aid me in succeeding immediately in something that I have struggled to achieve on my own: they showed me how to live in the present.

Amber Zeise

Today was the first day at the Sri Ram Ashram Orphanage. As we arrived, there were children of all ages waiting to meet us, embracing the ones they knew from previous visits as they stepped out. Quickly, I met a little girl who stole my heart: Preeti. She put her arms out and I reached down to hold her, where she stayed for at least 45 minutes straight. At first she played with my face and my glasses, but quickly became tired and rested with her head nuzzled in my chest. Preeti’s willingness to allow a stranger to be in complete control of her physical well-being astounded me. As I held her tight to me, I felt at home. She welcomed me into her family and somehow instantly made me a part of it.

Amber with Preeti

After playing with Preeti through three rounds of swings, hair combing, and carrying around the ashram, we sat down for food. I looked around the lunch room at the beautiful, spirited, warm children scattered between my friends and wondered how could anyone give them up? Why? At Pardada Pardadi, I learned the innocence and kindness that children can sustain through great suffering and poverty. Here, at the ashram, I am faced with a more difficult realization; people can endure such suffering that they would abandon helpless infants. Yet this place is also a testament to the strength of a child’s spirit. To see what they have become and how they have taken the opportunities given to them gives me faith. Additionally, my view and definition of family has been transformed. These children, each with their unimaginable story of disappointing parents, are the most whole and loving group of people I have ever met. I can only hope that when I have children, we will have an ounce of the kinship that I have experienced here.

6 thoughts on “Arrival at Sri Ram Ashram”

  1. Daniel, from both your beautiful descriptive writings that you’ve written so far, I can tell that you have been impacted the most from the varying landscape of India. Trash and uncleanliness bother you. You yearn for a green landscape and cleanliness. You strike a chord in me and many an Indian who are frustrated by the lack of civic sense in many parts of India – blame it on the Government or the people – I don’t know. This is the source of the biggest frustration I feel when I visit my native country, every year. Visitors are subjected to this sad part of India, as well. But, I hope you can all take the best of India with you – As I can see in your writings, you are all discovering those on your own….

  2. Sahana and all,

    I too have been impressed with Daniel’s sensitive and thoughtful commentary. He is an excellent writer. In response to your remarks, Sahana, I would say that Daniel’s descriptions could be applied to most of the developing world, and reflect the global reality of a small privileged class that lives at the expense of the huge underclass. How can we expect cleanliness and civic pride from those without the infrastructure to support public health? If nothing else, I hope our children gain from this journey, not only an appreciation for all that they have, but more importantly, the desire to work for social and economic justice for all.

  3. Bryan,

    In response to your comment – It wasn’t my intention to undercut the importance of social and economic justice at the expense of civic sense. That tops the immediate and foremost necessity in India – I would also like to add – Being an Indian and keeping regular contact with my country – There is also a segment of the privileged class that does not take advantage of the underclass – I have seen personally the extent they work towards this end. With respect to Daniel’s descriptions – Seeing is believing – This is a lack of civic sense that exists very prevalently in India – I don’t think it is as striking, anywhere else in this world – Sadly, it is the truth. But yes, I agree with you and join with you in saying – If anything, I hope this awakens our kids to join forces and work towards the betterment of social and economic justice for all.

  4. Hello MMS students and faculty!

    Already, your words and videos have fired my imagination in a visceral way. Your experiences, shared so skillfully, help to close the gap of thousands of miles. I wish you continued good travels and discovery of countless wonders.

    OM- Bob

  5. It’s been a week since I’ve had the pleasure of seeing you many of you in class each day… I have to admit, I’ve used my extra time each day well *smile*, and even looked forward to the slower pace. A week has passed since hearing your latest whines and complaints about whatever daily dramas came into the classroom with you. However, being touched by your astute observations and clarity of voice describing your experiences and perspectives has reminded me how enriched my days are with you in them. You have each worked your magic and ensnared me yet again into your lives – from half way around the world! Thank you for reminding me how connected we all are and how fortunate I am to be a part of the world you are exploring. I’m anxious to hear more. Let the adventures continue!
    With love – Nicole

  6. Thank you, seniors and trip leaders, for your work in writing, filming and posting your experiences in India for all of us to share in. Wishing you a magical adventure,
    Love, Debby

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