We are one day from leaving and the experiences just don’t stop here. A few of us started early with a visit to Pashupati ,a truly extraordinary temple. This is a holy site where only the most pious and well off Hindu’s go to cremate their loved one’s. The wealthier the deceased, the further up the river they go for the ceremony. The are small huts that act as hospice while the families are waiting for death. As soon as one dies there, the family immediately takes the body to the river side and performs many rituals from filling the mouth of the deceased with water and other offerings and then covering them in colorful garb and and garlands while building a pyre for the cremation.
Everything has significance here. As soon as the body is fully cremated, the ashes are spread in the river(which is considered holy)as an offering.While we were there, there were quite a few ceremonies going on. As non Hindu’s, we had to stay on the opposite side of the river where we could watch the proceedings. It was really quite beautiful to see the care taken with the body as it was prepared. Not at all grisly. Just a “cycle” in life being dealt with in a most extraordinary but simple way.
We had all the children today at the HEARTbeats center and spent the time playing for them and asking them to draw what they were hearing. We didn’t give any more instruction than that. What was very interesting is that the majority of the children drew the same thing. A house, with a sun between mountains. Only one child I saw drew something else. She drew flowers, birds and animals. We were told that there is very little space for imagination and usually the children are given exact instruction as to what to draw. “Free” drawing just isn’t in their vocabulary. We hope to change that!
I had the chance to have a home visit with 2 of the little girls in the program. I can hardly articulate what I saw. The tiniest, dirtiest room with one small bed where 3 or 4 people slept,ate and lived. One cannot imagine. These smiles on these two little girls belies the reality in which they live ,although, it’s their reality and since they know no different they have no reason to want something else. It’s so very hard to put myself in that place. The juxtaposition from the morning visit to Pashupati was clear. Life, as death here, has it’s purpose. It is a much more orderly and transparent passage than what we are used to seeing in our culture, and these children seem to embody everything that “life” might offer them at this time in their lives. What lies ahead, none of them are thinking about. Only what they are doing today. On this day. At this moment. It is truly beautiful to watch.
It will be very hard to leave these children. Their daily smiles and shouts of “Namaste!” (hello) as we arrive each day are proof enough for us that what we are doing here is making a difference. Tomorrow, our last day and packing for home.