By: Mary Esten
The second I saw Sarita and Monita sitting on the front porch smiling, I knew with unwavering certainty that these women would change my world; Sarita- a beautifully kind and generous 17 year old, Monita- a wild, funny, curious, and genuine 13 year old and Ma, Davindri, a wise, powerful, lively, strong, and caring mother. The fierce loyalty and love associated with this family is what made my experience in Agora something I would never forget. Something to note about these women, is how quickly they learn to love you, and care for you as if you were their own. They learned our favorite sabji (vegetables) were potatoes, how much cheenee (sugar) we like in our chai, and to be patient when it was time to let us make chapatti. I swear I could make chapatti, that was supposed to be round, the shape of an awkward oval and Ma would say, “Oh Mary, acha, acha!” with the biggest smile on her face.
One of the aspects of this house that made it feel like home, was when we would all file in upstairs in the kitchen by the fire and just enjoy being together in a beautiful and remote village in the Himalayas. Sarita made sure that before our time in Agora was over, I memorized a Garhwali rhyme. It goes like this, “What this? Nol macha pace, ache conta conta ich.” Though we have never successfully figured out what it means, it brought a smile to their faces every time I sang it, even if I didn’t pronounce the words correctly.
The last day in Agora, I dedicated to helping out with daily chores as a way saying thank you. Though really, there is no way of getting these selfless women to understand just how thankful we all really were. Everyday, Sarita walks up a steep mountain path to her family’s plot of land with a 60+ pound basket of leaves and manure strapped to her back. This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and all of the women in Agora do it 3-5 times everyday without hesitation. Something we discussed which I found especially relevant with this family, is the difference between America and India’s connotation of work. American’s have managed to adapt the mindset of live to work, whereas India has adapted the mindset of work to live. The effort that all of the people in Agora put into their work everyday can be seen directly benefiting not only their families, but their village as a whole. I believe whole-heartedly that working for an immediate reward, working to benefit the people you love makes your life more valuable than a miniscule desk job at a major corporation ever would.
Saying goodbye to my host family, and all of Agora, put more strain on my heart than I could imagine before coming on this trip. I knew I would make connections, but I never would have thought they would be as strong as these. Sarita, Monita, and Ma, have left me with a new outlook on life. Agora has left me with immense gratitude toward the little things such as washing the dishes I didn’t have before. They made every day tasks that seem so tedious, mean the world to them, and determine the course of their day. I respect the women of Agora for loving what they do constantly, and never complaining about it once. The knowledge that what they are doing is helping the people they care so deeply about is all they need to keep going everyday. Thank you India for gifting me with a new perception of life, and allowing me to understand how incredibly fortunate I am. You will be missed dearly. Until next time, fri milinge.