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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Daily posts from Odanadi

I apologize for not posting earlier, as things were hectic with the wedding in my family (which went beautifully!) . Here's what I had a chance to jot down while I was there, a more coherent reflection overall will come soon as well.

Day 1:

I arrived to Mysore in the early afternoon. Upon entering Parashu’s home, I was flooded with smiles and the warmest welcome I have ever received from people who didn’t know who I was or anything about me. All they knew was that I was a volunteer. They sat me down and chatted with me, both attentively listening to me. They were excited to find I was Indian.

Parashu always has a smile on his face, and his wife as well. Their two daughters are bubbly and talkative, and welcomed me with lots of love too.

Day 4 (3rd day with the girls):

I was a bit overwhelmed the first two days. The girls of Odanadi are so sweet and call me sister with love. Especially the younger ones, they want your attention, your affection. The older ones are sweet as well, but face many behavioral problems – such as aggression or anxiety.

I sat in on some cases today, which were all in Kannada – Parashu translated for me occasionally. There was a middle-aged woman with her elderly mother. Both had been involved in prostitution for many years. The elderly woman’s mother had started the cycle…and it continued on down. The middle-aged woman has a daughter who is now married to a trafficker who beats her and her brother all the time. What really hit home is when Parashu told me that the brother found clients for his sister and his mother. I have no words to describe what I feel about this – it’s almost confusing.

The family is now trying to sell a property they own so that they can move away, as the middle-aged woman is now HIV-positive, a result of being in the sex trade. But it’s a lot more difficult than they thought. The woman’s daughter’s ‘husband’ is abusing them and not allowing them to sell the property and move away (at least that’s what I gleaned from the rough translation). Both women were teary eyed, distraught, and obviously exhausted from a life which didn’t seem to be there own. Parashu had them file complaints with the Odanadi office and offered them some other resources.

Though I did not understand their language, I read their body language and could tell that there was a deepset pain. When I saw the woman’s eyes, it seemed like the innocence had been lost.

Days in between...

Spent at Odanadi chatting & playing Guess Who & Connect Four with the girls, playing with the younger ones. Drinking coffee and eating muffins at Café Coffee Day, seeing the Mysore palace. Chatting with Aude. Bartering with rickshaw drivers. Eating Rani's delicious South Indian cuisine.

Day 9

I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow. Today was Dharma’s first full day with everyone. We spent the day wrapping gifts for all the Odanadi kids, coloring with the younger kids, chatting with the girls. I finally got one of the quiet girls, Hemalatha, to be open with me -- we played soccer today which she really enjoyed.

I finally feel like Mysore is a home for me. I didn’t know if I’d be able to adjust but now I can’t believe I’m leaving. I’ll definitely be back.

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