The Potluck Post

As of late I’ve wanted to write a themeless post; I’m breakin’ out of my blogging shell – watch out! This post will sound more like an update than a usual post… thought I’d do a little switcheroo for ya. Let’s see… At the beginning of September the government held 2 grievance days for bonded labourers who were released and rehabilitated through the assistance of IJM, cases dated back to 2004. These grievance days were held because of the influence and credibility of IJM garnered over the past decade. They were set in place just for our office – we’re goin’ places folks—can anyone smell structural transformation of the public justice system? The first day we spent 9 hours in a large room with over 250+ people who simply needed assistance filling out forms so they could receive a ration card, a land patta, a NREGA card (govt employment), a caste certificate, and voter’s ID; the second day was easy breezy. These people barely exist without these forms but on this day we helped one-by-one fill out 2-4 forms per family since most can neither read nor write. Office staff who know the written language wrote endlessly for 9 hours straight without food or break – and without even one complain of thirst, heat, or hunger. It looked a lot like a social welfare office that day–babies crying; people crowded around all the tables; expressions of inferiority and gratitude. Some displayed their indebtedness by kissing their hands and touching the feet of IJM staff. Last on the to-do list was to take photos for the applications requiring identification and that is where Alex and I sat from 2-11. What happy little campers we were! For every application we played a short game of charades to find out who was who to center each person against a wall for a photo and then a follow-up game to glue each photo to the correct form, ha! There’s never a dull moment around here. What a joy to serve them in such small ways – small ways that could permanently secure their freedom and prevent further exploitation. I’m overwhelmed as I think about the value of this work. I’m blessed to know and see the labourers and overjoyed at the sight of their joy.

My awesome roommate, whom I adore!, got tickets to a cricket match for all the interns and at the last minute some IJM staff joined us. Excitement surged within me as I knew I was about to see a snapshot of nationalism. After surviving my bouts of frustration with security (Kristin and Rachel can attest), we made our way to our seats with our yellow jerseys and painted faces, pinwheel included on the flag on my cheek. 😉 At last … I reveled in the nationalism by taking on their spirit, dancing, and love for the game. Even though we lost sorely (bummer) we still had a great time and I officially understand cricket. 🙂

I’ve moved. The time has come and it’s bittersweet for a lot of reasons but the pros far outweigh the cons. Rent, transportation, and food will all be cheaper because of our new place, and all of you know I want to be mindful of how I’m using my funds for various reasons. It’s closer to the office, the interns, and other places we frequent. All around it’s a better option for us. I guess the difficult part for me is adjusting to a new area (sigh)… I don’t want to adjust again because I’ve just recently grown comfortable and independent where I am. It’s for the best, I suppose. At least I’ve gotten over the major learning curve of adjusting to living abroad and in a large city. This should be pretty easy for me then, one would hope. It will just be Sharon and me all snuggly in our little place. Pics to come.

Several new interns/fellows have come in this week so our group is growing quickly! Nearly all of us have joined the same gym and the gelling process is in formation.The only thing we’re lacking is a british person, haha. I got used to having british people around and they’ve all returned home.. maybe ‘the brits will come again’. I can’t imagine how heartbroken I’ll be when Alex (the other aftercare felllow) leaves in December, but I’m trying not to think about it.

A close friend of mine said my blog has a negative tone about the city so I think it’s best to remedy that now since it’s not a true reflection of how I feel about this place. To say it clearly, I’m falling in love with the people. Something feels so right about being here, serving in the office, and sharing life with my new friends and I can’t put my finger on why. Maybe it’s because I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at this point in time, maybe it’s because one day I’ll return and stay for an extended amount of time- I don’t know. What I do know is the culture has captivated me. I know part of it has to do with what the culture values. Most of the country doesn’t live lavishly and this has affected how people are interpersonally, what they care about, and their focus. In many ways, life is simpler. IJM staff members didn’t choose a human rights profession after hours and hours of thought – they just chose it with their values in mind. With this choice they gladly accepted a sacrificial lifestyle, and it didn’t take much for them to make the decision. Individualism is not on the prowl here and pride isn’t on display on every face. Simply put, life is not only about self.. and that seems to be the baseline I’ve come up with in my head- of course there are exceptions to this generalization. The more I think about the differences between America and here the more I attribute the major differences to the presence and absence of abundance (materialism) and its influence on culture development. Generally speaking, the people do not feel entitled; they’re not self-absorbed, or on the path to being the most unique person on planet earth (this is one of my greatest pet peeves). Commonality and collective identity is emphasized, not shallow, insignificant differences in style, appearance, and what not. All that to say, I feel more at home here, culturally speaking, than I do in the US — and I love, love the people. 🙂

Today, staff from headquarters in DC visited the office so for the entire day we listened to the department heads present our strategies. Sean Litton presented the 10 year plan and once again I’m reminded that I’m living my dream. You need to be a little mental to believe you can make a difference in systems, much less entire countries, and world-wide, but that’s the far-reaching vision we have here — to impact public justice systems worldwide, not just with the aim of convicting perpetrators, but so that the poor are protected from violent oppression. I had a crazy thought today … that I could be an Aftercare Director for one of their future offices. I’m pretty sure I’d be content doing that for the rest of my life. Austrailia, the UK, India — I’ll take one of those locations. I can dream, right?

I’ve met a lot of people outside of work that I spend time with on the weekends and they’ve shown me a great time. And as most of you would expect, most of them are guys, not because I’m a flirt (never have been and never will be!) but it just sort of happened that way. Don’t worry Nick and Brent, you are irreplaceable. My roommate and I are both this way, lucky for us that we get to live together.

Thanks for following me on this journey. 🙂

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One thought on “The Potluck Post

  1. Neesha,

    I am sooo excited for you. I truly believe in your dream and its possibility to reality and I KNOW U DO TOO!!! God has placed u where u are for such a time as this… Go forward Esther and dream your dream, live your dream. I love you and continue to pray for you and the work you are doing. Be blessed!! You are such a blessing to soooo many:-)


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