When I studied abroad in India two year ago, my professors gave me an Indian name, Sapnaa, which means, “dream,” because I was always dreaming about India. In Hindi the verb to dream is sapnaa dekhnaa (सपना देखना), which means, “to see dreams.” I hope that as I dream and learn about India this year on the AIF fellowship, I can be challenged to see and understand more of myself, too. Even the parts that are less dreamlike and more of a nightmare!
When I think about returning to India, I think about how conflicting all the different sides of India can be–wildly chaotic, serenely peaceful, mind-gratingly frustrating, incredibly inspirational and humbling. Journaling at the end of my last time in India, I wrote, “I suppose in a place where things are constantly changing and at odds with each other, I began to realize that being consistently and genuinely myself was the best way to open my heart, give back to people around me, and grow in love and purpose. I think that as more of us strive to be true to who we are, we will be better able to see with our hearts and strive to love genuinely and hope beyond ordinary limits. Love is ultimately the most real thing we can truly hope for.”
As I strive to know and love myself and those around me, I know working in India will offer a surprise every day. I will learn so much about daily struggles and joys over cups of chai, walking through the hills, and or working side by side in the fields. Building relationships with my co-workers and community is a priority.
My host site is Jagori Grameen, which means, “awaken women.” It’s a feminist organization that works with women, youth, and farmers collectives in remote villages throughout the mountainous Kangra Valley in Himachal Pradesh. I will be working with the SAFAL (Sustainable Agriculture, Forest, and Land) Team. I am excited about living and working in the awe-inspiring Himalayas, and about being less than 10 km from Dharamsala, the home of the Tibetan government in exile. I hope to share experiences and knowledge with the farmers collectives Jagori works with, and talk about what it means to be a woman farmer, and the strength that both parts of that identity and role requires. I know that when women get together and share ideas, they can move mountains. I am thrilled to have this opportunity to provide energy and an entrepreneurial spirit to the people and projects ahead.
I am looking forward to working on Hindi again. Some wise person said that learning a new language is like gaining a new soul. We gain new lenses through which to see and describe the world, and adopt challenging ways to organize and express our thoughts. I can’t wait to make my brain jump through those hoops again. I feel like it’s like testing a mouse in a labyrinth. The mouse bumps around, takes wrong turns, and runs into walls, but the more it practices the smoother it gets and remembers which way to turn. The more Hindi I learn, the better I will be able to connect and work with my co-workers and community. I am grateful for this opportunity to learn, share, give, and transform.