Saturday, 5 April 2008

The Ones Who are Left Behind

Someone said to me recently that it is always more difficult for the left behind than it is for the leaver. I cast my mind back over the different trips I have done over the years and the trips friends and family have done. I recalled the excitement of getting onto planes or trains and waving goodbye to those on the platform and also that sense of emptiness as I turned away from dropping someone off at an airport and retraced my steps, knowing they were the ones full of excitement for the trip and I’d be returning to an empty house…and my thoughts turned again to the women and children I’d met and worked with in my month in Delhi.

For the last visit to the slum I had taken drinks and eats, for the children. I mentioned that the women had painted my nails earlier in the week and I had agreed that I’d put on makeup and wear some jewelery on the Friday. For me “makeup” mostly just means mascara and lipstick and jewelery is a simple chain and some earrings. Having apologized for my lateness in arriving, I saw that everyone was smartly dress and I was asked to sit while I was dressed with more chains, my earring were replaced and my arm filled with bracelets. It all felt a little much, but we all laughed and the women passed around my little camera, taking pictures. Regrettably, most of these shots have tops of heads cut off or half a face displayed, but they’ll still remind me of the great afternoon.

Once they were satisfied that I was appropriately dressed, they set to singing.

Here women and children all got involved, with one of the women beating time on a little drum. Each of the women got up to dance and there was a lot of laughter. Finally we settled the children and they were given food and drinks.

As I mention it was an afternoon of laughter, singing and dancing, but every so often someone would stop and ask why I had to go and why I wouldn’t stay and that next time I should come for three months, with a few suggestions about staying a year.

This does worry me and I did not want the afternoon to end on a sad note, as some seemed to be heading that way. My only response to this is that we have a choice – either we don’t venture out and meet new people and have new experiences, for fear that we will ultimately have to say

goodbye, or we go out and meet new people and make new friends and may be someday, some place, we could meet again and if we don’t, our lives have been the better for the meeting. Certainly this is true for me, I only hope and pray that it is true for them.

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