August 13 , 2013 : Kavya and I are sitting at “My Kind of street Cafe” a recluse , off the road, eating joint in Kailash Colony, New Delhi, frequented by girls (women?) studying at Lady Shri Ram College. We, aren’t any different. Our discussion that day however is. It is not often that you find two 19 year olds conversing about bringing together young people to work in a village. It is common though that in such circumstances all variants of the interrogative inhabit one’s mind; how, what, when, where, who et cetera. From that moment on as naturally as we had supposedly indulged in ‘things LSR girls do,’ we let our minds be consumed by questions that have shaken up the state of any man (woman) housing an idea.
27 May, 2014 (Week 1 with Asmat Team Members in Soda): The children are here, before we’ve even woken up. As I make my way downstairs I am mentally preparing an apology speech. As I apologise profusely for being late and suggest that we fix a punishment of sorts if either party is late, my speech is met with giggles. They perhaps aren’t used to a teacher being apologetic for being late in the slightest.
June 1, 2014 (Volunteer Program officially kicks off as we receive the volunteers in Jaipur): I know we make a minuscule proportion of the 1.2 billion population of this country, but even so. After months of planning, laying bare the realities, facing cynicism and appreciation in one breath, we found ourselves in a bus with 14 young and driven individuals, organizing Asmat’s pilot volunteer program in Soda village. Who knew that what would follow would be the two most incredible weeks of my life – mentally and physically, emotionally and intellectually; individually and collectively.
6 June 2014 : Since the past three days I have been teaching Payal, Ankit and Yuvraj the meaning of alphabets, words and sentences. I have used up every way I could think of to teach them the same. If tomorrow they don’t remember it, I don’t know what I will do!
8 June 2014 : As I am struggling to remain calm in the Rajasthan Roadways bus, on my way back to Soda from our day out to Jaipur, in the heat, in the noise I have an epiphany of sorts- a realisation of how chaotic this country of ours is and how far away our usual lives are from this chaos.
15 June 2014 : A lot has been accomplished, a lot of friends have been made, a lot of connections woven, a lot of memories made.
The peacocks dancing, the stars in the night sky, the intolerable heat of the day followed by the anticipation of rain at night, the genuine love showered upon us by the villagers, the people I met – volunteers and villagers alike, the children I taught, the girls I hoped to have given a sense of self – adjectives to describe all that I experienced during my three weeks in Soda elude me. Only a thought keeps coming back, a phrase rather, stemming from a quote that goes, ”What’ and ‘if’ are two words as non-threatening as words come. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: ‘What if?’”
What if that day at My Kind of Street Cafe we hadn’t taken the leap of faith.
– Lavanya Garg, President and Co-Founder