Entering the ashram, we greeted each other with Namaste and a smile, and then divided ourselves to aid the girls in the chores around the ashram. I attempted to help out in the kitchen. The girls peeled 3 potatoes in half the time I could peel one, and yet, they were still happy I was there. Circling around me to show the best technique, I felt comfort in their kindness. Although we did not speak the same language, conversation flowed naturally. Politics, family, history, we discussed everything. In the kitchen making delicious poori, the girls asked me to sing for them. I began with God Bless America, and they followed with Hindi songs. We switched every minute or so. It was a time that I would usually feel vulnerable and embarrassed, but I felt shockingly relaxed surrounded by the beaming faces of the girls.
The trend of singing and dancing continued into our performances and the enjoyment increased through our game of down by the banks. After being eliminated, a group of little girls formed a circle around me, one of which became my very best friend, Deepika. Deepika, a sweet 12 year old girl with the most beautiful hazel eyes led me to her room to do my hair. In a dark room void of life besides our presence, she gently combed my hair and then passed me off to the other girls outside to braid it. For the rest of the day we were attached by the hip. She showed me how to play the games she had grown up playing, and I took pictures at her request. We cheated in group games and laughed when our friends slipped playing duck duck goose. She repeated my name whenever possible, and frequently quizzed me on her name. She wanted me to remember her and for her to remember me. When the time came that we had to leave, I watched as Deepika ran up from the fields into her room. As I approached her room, she ran out and gifted me her copy of the Ugly Duckling. This little girl who had so little did not hesitate to share a little bit of it with me. She and the other girls in the ashram were not pushed away by the nerves and shyness that comes with meeting new people. They opened their arms and their hearts to each and every one of us. Holding on to us as they had done with the past group of girls, adding us to their small collection of belongings. We became their didis. Sisters of the world connected through love. Changed by the kindness we brought to one another. Promising to return again.