As I boarded the plane at London Heathrow airport, several different thoughts and questions came running to my mind. I was nostalgic looking back on the beautiful 6 months I had spent studying abroad in London, and as usual excited about going home and being able to see my family in New Delhi. One thing that definitely made me chuckle was the contrast between being back in the scorching Indian heat after about 6 months of dealing with gloomy English weather. Surprisingly, the sky as I flew out of London was actually clearing out and there were beautiful rays of sunshine falling through the clouds on London while upon landing in New Delhi the next morning and heading to work on permits for work, it was in fact raining.
I looked forward to the heat, I looked forward to the summer in New Delhi and most importantly somewhere, looked forward to reuniting with the beautiful girls I had met last summer during the Phase 1 of my Brandeis India Fellowship in the summer of 2014. Since this was a project where I was working with the Indian government at the largest Government girl child shelter home of the country (which was located inside one of the most secure prison facilities of the country in New Delhi), it took a lot to get past the bureaucratic layers of the system in order to obtain permissions and get verified. Definitely, a more harrowing experience than the Summer of 2014 where the rules were relatively more lapse. Due to having established relations with the Residing Officer/Superintendent of the shelter during my first summer there, the process was a little faster but it did not help that she was getting transferred to a different post the month I was about to start. This meant having to convince the new Superintendent about the benefits of the program and working on establishing a fresh and effective relation with her.
After jumping through the many hoops like a circus animal, I finally had all the permissions and verifications in place to see my girls and start my work for the summer. The only unfortunate thing in this situation was, by the time all this came through, they barely had 15 days left for their summer vacation to end which resulted in me having to reschedule and rework my program plan.
I remember standing outside staring at the half broken rusty dusty board that said Nirmal Chhaya – Girl Shelter, Tihar Jail Complex for a couple of minutes. I had all these apprehensions; I was anxious as to whether the girls would remember me, did they want me back, would anyone come to class or will I be able to make a difference this summer given the limited time I had. But I knew I had to go in to find out, so I quickly gave myself a pep talk and entered through the big grilled doors of the home. After doing my entry in the visitor’s log as was routine, going through a physical check and submitting my phone, as soon as I entered the premises I saw almost all of the girls were standing there in anticipation, waiting! It felt like a typical dramatic Bollywood movie where you see characters reuniting after ages. We ran towards each other and they all flooded me together resulting in a big hug. That feeling of meeting the girls after a year can not be described in words. It was such a happy moment for me and them. In that moment, all my apprehensions were gone, I knew this summer would definitely be fruitful. We chatted for a few hours till their lunch time and with a promise to come back the next day, I left with so much hope and happiness in my heart. Seeing the girls so happy to see me definitely boosted my confidence and made me feel like I somewhere did make a difference. I was all charged to return back the next day and begin phase 2 of my project!!