Sri Ram Ashram Arrival

Irulan Cockrum

Sri Ram Ashram, the orphanage Mount Madonna School goes to each year, greets us with open arms, overflowing love, and enthusiasm. Anticipation filled me as our teachers, familiar with the ashram, had told us that the children hold so much excitement each year at the senior class’s arrival. Yet, nothing could have prepared me for the love radiating from each child upon our arrival. Their joy was so big that I felt like I was in an aura of pure happiness and connection.

Since we had arrived late at night, our time was short however we were able to greet each other with big hugs and smiles. The following morning, my classmates and I shared breakfast with the children, an experience unlike any other I had known. We sat in rows on the floor, facing one another, where we were served food while the kids eagerly chatted and laughed with us. 

During our stay, I had the privilege of getting to know Seema, the woman who takes care of the girls in the ashram, whose boundless love for the children was evident. Observing her care and compassion filled me with gratitude and joy. Seema took us to the Mansa Devi temple, where I truly felt the depth of her empathetic spirit. She has such a comforting presence while I share conversations with her. It was a true honor to connect with someone so genuinely kind-hearted.

That night at the ashram, we were invited to participate in the tradition of Aarti, a ritual of prayer chants performed at sunrise and sunset. Surrounded by the children, I was welcomed with open arms, handed a book of songs, and guided through the chants with warmth and patience. Seema’s spirited leadership infused the ceremony with even more energy and love

These experiences at the ashram deepened my understanding of human connection and compassion, reminding me of the profound importance of empathy in our lives. I am so grateful to get to know everyone at the ashram. 

Wyatt Adams

Today we had the opportunity to visit the school and students at the Sri Ram Vidya Mandir school that is associated with the Sri Ram Ashram. Our day started off with us walking over to the school and witnessing how the students’ school day starts. The 700 students were all very neatly lined up, almost militaristically, as they recited prayers, sang their national anthem and said their morning announcements. We were also introduced to the school as Mount Madonna students and we sang a song from the Ramayana. After the morning assembly, my classmates and I followed our teacher Shannon into one of the classrooms where we were separated into small groups of our classmates mixed with their students. It was really fun to spend time with kids our age and get to hangout and talk with them and learn about their lives and talk about the differences and similarities in our lives. It was also cool to learn about their curriculum and how it varies from ours. From what I understood, the students have to choose their study paths after 10th grade. In India, there are three different options: Science, Arts, or Commerce. Each one of the options will set you up with many job opportunities, but science gives you the most opportunities. After our group discussions, we broke off into small groups led by the students and were given a tour of their school.

After we said our goodbyes, we gathered our things and walked to a part of the Ganga River. The walk took about 20 minutes, but the scenery on the way made it go by quickly. There were lots of colorful houses, different plants to look at, and the monkeys were running around everywhere. When we arrived at the river, a few of my friends and I started skipping rocks to see who could get the most skips. The river itself was pretty amazing. I’ve been told it is polluted, but to my surprise the water looked clean and I did not see any debris or chunks of trash floating. There were some beautiful birds across the river, and there were so many little pinch clay pots along the riverbank that had been used as offerings at the river. Before we left the river, we were asked to practice singing some songs from The Ramayana, but I didn’t want to sing so I asked our photographer Shmuel if I could take some photos on his professional camera. Shmuel handed over his camera and I got to learn how to take cool photos of the Indian landscape. All and all it was a great day and I am excited to play another game of ultimate Frisbee with the ashram kids tonight.

Isaiah Orozco

The Sri Ram Ashram is a home away from home, filled with big smiles, non-stop fun, and joy-spirited children. From the moment we arrived, both the adults and children welcomed us with nothing but love. Equally welcoming and joyful was the prestigious Sri Ram Vidya Mandir, the neighboring school of the Sri Ram Ashram. The word “vidya” means knowledge, and “mandir” means temple. Today, we visited the school in the morning, and I was pleasantly surprised to see them all in uniform, forming single-file lines by age and focusing so diligently. Then, they completely blew me away when they sang prayer songs and the Indian national anthem.

After sitting down with students our age from the school, introducing ourselves, answering questions, and cracking jokes, a group of four students gave my classmates Bea, Emma, and me a tour of the school. They made sure not to miss a single detail about any classroom or poster on the wall. These students were so proud and joyful when talking about their school, studies, and teachers. Specifically, the oldest boy in our group, who was very passionate about economics and business, reminded me of how much I should truly appreciate the education and opportunities I receive at Mount Madonna School.

Beatrice Miller

Today, I sat with Puja, a young girl who lives at the Sri Ram Ashram, and asked her, “Are you excited for school today?” Cross-legged on the floor, eating our breakfast on shiny silver trays, she looked up at me and smiled. I know kids back home who would say school is horrible and boring. For those children, it is possible they are imagining hours inside a classroom or the infinite anxieties that come from going to school in America. Here the situation is much different, and Puja’s eyes grew wide, and her smile beamed; “Yes!”

Through the blue metal gates, a second’s walk from the Ashram, emerges Sri Ram Vidya Mandir. A school three stories high, built with smooth stones of red and white. I walk in a single file line with my class through the corridor and into the courtyard. Instantly, I was surprised to see, as the sunlight hit my eyes and uncovered the rows and rows of uniform school children. Each row contained a different age and gender. The students were dressed neatly in red coats and collared shirts. Their faces were all awake, strong, and beautiful. I stood in awe.

The next few hours flew by quickly. A typical morning at Vidya Mandir includes prayer and songs. Their voices ring up through the walls of the school. Brilliant and fierce Hindi flows from the crowd and into our English minds. I was struck, I was present, and I had never experienced anything like it. On the loudspeaker, they rolled through the morning announcements, and the word of the day: Linguistics. The study of languages. Language tells a story of culture and the history of a people. Language is a bridge as much as it can be a barrier. So often we are prone to thinking language divides us, but it connects us to our roots and to something much bigger than ourselves.

I understand why Puja loves going to school now. She sings prayers to show gratitude to the gods and her country. She learns languages like English to expand her mind. Then she studies hard for exams to make her loved ones proud. The joy of the school radiates. It touches my heart to see so many people excited to learn. Being among this community gives me pure happiness. There is truly nothing like it back at my home.