This was our last day in India. We started our day by gathering to pray and offer words of appreciation for an amazing time together. The van was waiting to take us to Old Delhi, a section of the city that is mostly Muslim. It was a market day and we found crowds of people on the streets getting produce, carpets, shoes, and many other things. The crowded market streets took us to the entrance of the oldest mosque in India, the Jama Masjid. This mosque had an open concept and it was impressive. The females from the group had to wear robes to cover ourselves in order to enter.
Later, we visited Mahatma Gandhi’s burial site. He was cremated there and some of his ashes remain on site. The grounds were clean, peaceful, and beautifully kept, and the colors of the flowers were very intense. It was a sharp contrast from the noise and the slums just outside of it. We also visited and took photos of the India Gate, a war memorial to 82,000 soldiers of the Indian Army who died in the First World War. The gate has been compared to the arch outside the Coliseum in Rome, the Arch of Triumph in Paris and the Gateway of India in Mumbai.
Before heading to our last sightseeing of the day, we said goodbye to Sarah Williams, Kahala Cannon and Ben Lyvers. Sarah and Kahala were going back to Christian Hospital Mungeli and Ben was heading back to the Evangelical Hospital Tilda, both in the state of Chhattisgarh. We were very sad to part our ways, but deeply appreciative of their time with us. We promised to keep them in our prayers for the remainder of their time in India.
Our last stop was the Qutb Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world, and the impressive Lotus Temple. This temple, like all other Baha’í houses of worship is open to all, regardless of religion, or any other distinction. Soon after, we made a quick stop to do some last minute shopping and headed to our hotel to rest before our flight home at 3:30am!
I found myself with mixed feelings as I packed my suitcase and reflected on my experience in this magical place. On one hand, I am ready to go home to my family, but on the other hand, I am sad to leave behind all the beautiful people that we met along the way. You see, India is a country of extremes, of contrasts and contradictions. In many ways, India can be an assault on your senses, from the vibrant and intense colors, smells of spices, flowers and sewage, to the street noise and incessant honking. However, you cannot help but fall in love with its people. The people of India are extremely welcoming and hospitable. They do not know what personal space is! Honestly, they know how to make you right at home with their delicious food, coconut water, spellbinding music, and colorful traditions.
This was a hard pilgrimage in many ways as we encountered a lot of poverty, pain, and suffering. However, in our encounter with the people of the margins, the abused and oppressed, the Dalits, we experienced the most honest and pure joy, inspiring hope, and incredible resilience. We experienced God’s love and hospitality from the margins, a love that surrounded us as we shared a meal, danced and worshiped together.
Our partners in mission in India are doing very important and difficult work through initiatives and collectives of people trying to make a difference. We will be forever grateful for their hospitality and gifts, and for arranging opportunities for learning wherever we visited. It is up to us now, to tell these stories of hope in our own communities at home, and most importantly, to have the capacity to see our communities with a different lens.