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.