By: Holden

When we first arrived in Agora, I first noticed the local blacksmith sitting by a fire surrounded by tools. Making tools has always been very interesting to me and has been something that I have wanted to learn how to do for a long time; so, I instantly saw the opportunity to learn from a man who has taken time to master the skill. During our first bit of free time, I followed the sound of his hammer slamming against his makeshift anvil. I sat down next to him and he looked at me with a smile. I translated “can I sit and watch?” into Hindi, but unfortunately he only spoke Gharwali. As time went, on he let me attempt to make a grip for a tool and it proved to be much harder than I ever would have guessed. We both laughed at the mess that I had made of the wood that he handed me.

The following day when I went to sit and watch again, he was in the middle of packing up his things. The kind man invited me for chai at his house and I instantly agreed regardless of our extreme language barrier. We sat in his front room with smiles on our faces. I tried to ask him questions and he nodded along as his daughter made chai for us. It is that moment that I feel will be the most memorable for me by far – sitting a stranger’s home in the mountains of India in silence smiling. Lucky for me, his daughter spoke limited English but enough to have a conversation between the three of us. He was 55 years old and had been working as a blacksmith for around 25 years. He had a daughter, son, and very hard working wife. When it started to rain and I had to get back to the lodge, I said my goodbyes and headed out. The whole experience was very surreal.

On our last full day, I spent the entire day with him, and by the end of the day I was using the hammer to help him shape knives for various students on the trip who wanted something to take home to remember their time in Agora. Mine will forever remind me of the old blacksmith who not only taught me how to make tools but who really opened my eyes to what it means to be respectful, kind, and a teacher. Although we could not communicate by speaking, he taught me more than I could ever put into words.

4 responses to “Forging Relationships”

  1. jrhomer Avatar

    Holden, I love this story! I am not surprised that your unique brand of curiosity drew you to this man, his tools, and his craft. Thank you for putting this experience so eloquently into words and sharing it with us!

  2. jbyersccs Avatar

    I can’t wait to see your knife. What a treasure. Love the double-play on “forging” in your title. This is a great example of letting your curiosity guide your discovery and learning, and a tribute to the kindly soul who saw your interest and responded with warmth (and chai). Your talent for “making” covers the range from advanced robotics to handmade iron tools. Holden, that breadth of understanding and knowledge will take you a long way. Keep following your curious instincts.

  3. Betsy Schaefer Avatar
    Betsy Schaefer

    Wow, Holden. What a beautiful image you’ve added to my life (!) by telling *your* story. Thank you. His kindness and your openness has touched those of us who are all the way over here sitting at our computers…i was transported…I got to sit with you and the blacksmith in those pure and simple moments. And you reminded of us of those beautiful lessons. Thank you so much! And well told.

  4. Dave's Mom Avatar
    Dave’s Mom

    Holden – What a wonderful experience this must have been for you! And the memories from it will last a lifetime for you…and probably for this wonderful man and his family. Your storytelling is grand. I felt like a “fly on the wall” watching you and feeling the emotions you shared with your new “forever” friend.

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