Monday, September 10, 2007

Sampat visits the Ashram

I was really excited when Sameer confirmed that he would be able to spare a day or so and come visit me at the Ashram. He was just getting off a killer trip in North India touring around with his family. I was looking forward to introducing him to everyone and to talk to him about what I've been up to and get his feedback.

Kapilbhai has been really curious about what NRI kids like me are like in the U.S. and it's been hard for me to describe to him in what ways I am an exception and in what ways I am the norm. But with Maneka first and Sam now coming to meet him, I really feel he's getting a skewed perspective of what kids are like back at home. These are really special people, one in a million. I told Kapilbhai that 1 in 10 NRI kids end up doing meaningful work in India by my age, and about 1 in 6 travel to India regularly (anyone have better numbers?). But after Sam and Maneka passed through, I'm pretty sure he thinks those numbers are way low and I'm totally sandbagging him and that everyone's like these exceptional kids. He, as well as Bharatbhai and everyone at the ashram for that matter, were blown away by Sam and were really happy to get to meet him.

Unfortunately I was feeling sick for a good amount of the time he was here, so we didn't do a whole lot. But we did get a bunch of quality time talking with Kapilbhai and also Jagdishdada, who even broke out his stories about his social work with the Muslim community during the Godra riots, which are totally amazing. But Sam did manage to have an action packed day and a half. We started out with attempting to milk cows at 6am, which was an utter and complete failure. Neither of us could squeeze out any milk! I could not believe how hard it was, but there is a technique to how you squeeze the teat which we were clearly clueless about.

We also got in some good cricket matches with the ashram kids, which was funny because there were all kinds of hidden rules and boundaries like if the ball goes through the garden it's 4, but if it stops short of the fence it's out. Another one was if you hit the ball onto a building roof but it doesn't fall back, it's out, but if it clears the roof it's 6. Also you get out if your ball is caught off a bounce on a building wall. With all these rules games ended up 1-0 or 2-1 which is ridiculous for a cricket game.

Sam also did a good amount of work in the organic farm with Rameshbhai. But like me before him, he was feeling the pain afterwards. He said in the end that he worked at a 3:1 pace slower than Rameshbhai with planting seedlings, which says more about how hard it is to do farming than how slow Sam is. But the labor didn't stop there for Sam. It happened to be the day Kapilbhai's family was celebrating their son Tapas' birthday, and as the treat they were making hand cranked ice cream for everyone at the ashram. We used this rickety little hand-crank-powered machine that was made of wood (I forgot what it's called). Making ice cream as an activity for the kids was such a phenomenal idea. All the kids got involved with helping with the small tasks like breaking the ice and keeping the machine stocked with it, gathering salt, and holding down the machine while someone cranked. It was funny because although you would think there would be nothing that these kids would love more than to eat a lot of ice cream, when Kapilbhai suggested that they have an ice cream making program every weekend, they responded resoundingly with groans of anguish. All the hard work and time to make the ice cream outweighed the benefit. Kapilbhai was a genius for doing this; fat kids in America should all be required to make their own ice cream. Also funny about ice cream parties at the ashram is that you get ice cream overdose because you kept getting fed till your sick. I was actually sick so I escaped with only a few scoops after getting burned during my first ice cream party experience, but Sam got stuck with at least 5 bowels. I told him going in the key was to eat slow.

The cranking itself was done by the big boys because it was no joke to churn. Sam got involved and in the end he helped making like 5 batches, which took well into the night to finish. It was a really good bonding experience though. Sam and I discussed making this an event with friends back in the Bay. I plan on looking on eBay for a machine like the one we used.

Sam and I also got some really good quality time to talk while he was here. He gave me a lot to think about with respect to my state of affairs in life at the moment, particularly with where I am mentally. He really got me restless to challenge myself in a few personality aspects and to push my boundaries in some important ways. I'm looking forward to the opportunity to do so now. I'm really going to miss him these next 8 months while he's out here. Good luck Sam, come home soon!

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