Thursday, May 26, 2011

some good ol' measuring in love

This post was written on May 25. 

My heart is just so full.

This morning, we had the 'send off' for the graduating class of nursing students. As I will be leaving Mandiram on Tuesday, it was a send off for me, too.

In front of the group of 100+ people, Thomas Samuel Achen, Mandiram's chaplain, addressed the outgoing nursing students. He spoke in Malayalam, but from the little I could catch, he was congratulating them on reaching this milestone and offering some reflections and advice as they move on in their careers.

Then, he addressed me, and spoke about the things I have been doing during my time at Mandiram. One committment that he commented on, in particular, was my tutoring of Monisha and Sunitha, which I touched upon in my last post. Thomas Samuel Achen's office is next to the room where we have our daily lessons, so our chatter interspersed with laughter has probably disrupted his afternoons on more than one occasion.

He mentioned how he just finished reading The Shack, upon my recommendation. I'm fairly certain that no one in the room had ever heard of the book, but he told the crowd how it portrays God and the trinity, not as a heirarchy from Father to Son to Holy Spirit but as a relationship of community, equality, and sharing between three who are equal and one. He went on to espouse the view expressed in the book that that is how God intends creation to function: just like the trinity--as a relationship of community, equality, and sharing, sans heirarchy. Furthermore, he echoed the idea that the notion of heirarchy is something invented by humans in order to impose our own sense of order on the world.

Now, this is a big deal coming from an Achen, in a church that is all about heirarchy and a society that is, too. And as Thomas Samuel Achen commended me (I didn't entirely deserve all of it, I might add!), he said that in overhearing and sometimes looking in on my English lessons with Monisha and Sunitha, he had seen that equality in practice; that I didn't approach them in a teacher-student fashion, but as friends.

There's no other way I would have done it, of course, even though, according to Kerala standards, I am technically Monisha and Sunitha's elder, not to mention a guest, which makes me doubly 'worthy' of respect and deference. So I'm glad that my time with the girls could reflect to them, and others , too, including Thomas Samuel Achen, that the most genuine relationships are based on equality and sharing, not heirarchy and positions of superiority/inferiority. 

I have so treasured my time here. If you've been keeping up with my blogs throughout the past few months, you know that when I first came to Mandiram in March, I wasn't thrilled. I missed Buchanan a lot. But now, three months later, I have come to love and appreciate Mandiram immensely. If I had been here from the beginning of my time in Kerala, I have no doubt that I would have come to love it just as much as Buchanan. I am so excited for next year's volunteer, who will be here from September onwards and get the full 'Mandiram experience.' As for me, I feel so blessed that I got to experience this community and the people here, even if only for a short while.

As I prepare to leave Mandiram in just a few days, I find myself reflecting on the most memorable happenings. I have many good memories of sitting around the dinner table with the wardens, especially during the few weeks Maggie was here, laughing about who-knows-what, and the moment when Jijo would always announce "ok, finished," as a way to signal that everyone was done and we could all get up and wash our plates and hands. Or how Jijo, to this day, persists in calling me 'Madison Aunty,' to which I promptly reply 'Aunty venda!' (meaning, don't call me aunty), after which he grins and continues on with whatever he was saying. I recall all the times that Manna, a 2-year old member of the balika (orphanage) would see me from impossibly far away and yell "Madi chechi!!!!"

I think of many Malayalam lessons with Thomas Samuel Achen (3 times a week for 1.5 hours each time), which more often than not turned into lengthy discussions on life, religion, current events, and more. I remember all the small conversations I've had with the appachens and amachees (residents of the old age home), each one, however simple, a small victory for my Malayalam skills. I think of how everyone from the cooks to the principal of the nursing school would dote on me; the many talks I've had with the first-year nursing students about topics from nurse-patient dialogues in English to who among us has a lover. I think of my favorite residents of the old age home, including RAJU, who knows all. 

Let me tell you about Raju. He has some sort of mental disability, although I don't know what it is. His speech is hardly intelligible even to those who actually speak Malayalam (aka, not me). But he is SO FUNNY. When Maggie was here we had this little ritual with Raju that involved, whenever the three of us encountered each other, pointing at each other and exclaiming each other's names, followed by laughter and more laughter. "Maggie...Raju...Madison....AHAHAHAHAHA!"

Raju is one who most would consider to not be 'all there' (sorry if that's politically incorrect--I'm not trying to be offensive at all, I love Raju!), but Maggie and I have a joke that Raju knows all. He would always seem to catch us when we were doing something that we wanted to go unnoticed (such as, not wanting to be insulting to the person who gave it to us, sneakily throwing a piece of fruit that was too bitter to eat out the window). Oh, Raju. I'm gonna miss you.

On Tuesday, it's off to Buchanan I go. But how lucky am I, to leave one place that I love, for another?

"In African language we say 'a person is a person through other persons.' I would not know how to be a human being at all except I learned this from other human beings. We are made for a delicate network of relationships, of interdependence. We are meant to complement each other. All kinds of things go terribly wrong when we break that fundamental law of our being. Not even the most powerful nation can be completely self-sufficient." -Archbishop Desmond Tutu

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