I'm not sure how my love for India
began, but I do know that I had been wanting to visit India for the past seven years.
Finally, the time to realise this dream came this Summer. I decided to combine voluntary
work there, with some travelling during weekends and after my placements. Via the
internet, I came across Travellers. Emails and phone calls ensued and everything
Nothing I had read, watched or heard could have prepared me enough for the reality
of India. India is another world,
incredible in all ways. I soon accepted the fact that my feet and nails would never
be completely clean, that the hooting is incessant and that I was to be awoken early
everyday by squawking crows, cheerful chipmunks, and noisy sellers and prayers!
This charming city I made my new home in, is a place without road signs or garbage
bins; where men wear ‘skirts’ and women do all the hard labour; where there are
power cuts everyday; where people eat strange food, with their right hands; where
people have time to stand around and stare; where no one grumbles; and where everyone
For one month, I taught conversational English at an underprivileged primary school
every morning; and worked at an
Orphanage every afternoon. At the school I taught 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th standards
everyday. Each lesson was approximately 40 minutes and through a variety of topics,
the children would practise saying different things. I used
to buy materials from the stationer in our road and the supermarket close by. I
especially enjoyed topics that allowed me to introduce different cultures, such
as the lessons on manners and customs; and lifestyles, with 4th and 5th standards;
and those that allowed me to refer to India, such as when using famous Indian people
to talk about different professions.
My placement at the Orphanage was an eye-opener into the different standards of
medical care in the East. As a psychology
graduate and psychotherapist it was very interesting for me to observe the children's
relational and attachment patterns, form of play, and milestones reached. There
were other volunteers at the orphanage, and their company and their teaching me
how to change 'napkins', bottle feed and burp the babies, made all the difference!
It may seem like a cliché, but in India, I forgot myself – my problems and the life
I no longer recognised back home – and found myself. Meaning that I embraced a new
way of being and a new purpose to my life. For me there is nothing more rewarding
than teaching children who are genuinely hungry to learn.
My Indian students’ politeness, respect and eagerness touched my heart everyday.
The orphans taught me how one can have
nothing and be happy, because indeed we don’t actually need anything to be happy.
Happiness is after all, an internal state of being. Furthermore, having the opportunity
to travel both throughout my placement (with my kid sisters, the other three volunteers
who lived with me :), and for two weeks after, on my own, enabled me to truly experience
the awe-inspiring diversity and contrasts India is so known for.
Feeling joyful and peaceful inside, everyday; and being honestly happy with all
that I am and have, was one of my main
personal experiences in India. Returning to Malta was extremely hard for me and
I believe part of me is still there, in South Street, Singarayar Colony - greeting
the barefooted-children, admiring the colourful saris and absorbing every aspect
of fascinating India.
I will never forget my warm host mother and the wonderful volunteers, who became
my new family; the welcoming, friendly
school principal and teachers; all the amazing students and resilient orphans; and
the very helpful Travellers staff. It's these people who made my time in Madurai
so very special.