"Do You Believe In Angels?"
Posted by Ani Devlia on Apr 13, 2016
Before saying bye she places a heavy object clad tightly in a brown cotton rag into my hand and says, "Jayesh Sir had given this to my Dadi (grandmother). My Dadi passed on recently, and left this for me. I want you to give this to Jasmin didi (older sister) and ask her to look after it for me."
Now, I know both her parents had died when she was young, her Dadi who had raised her was her closest of kin. I know the hostel where we are standing, nurtures and educates underprivileged girls from the most challenged and poorest families in and around Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad, India. I also know when Jayesh Bhai, a Saviour to the girls, comes to visit, the girls wallow in an ocean of his compassion and love. There cannot be many possessions in their lockers which they treasure more than a gift from Jayesh Bhai. I know too, how she had met Jasmin, who is from the UK, briefly on only one occasion more than 3 years ago. What i do not know however, is how this act of kindness from Khushbu to Jasmin, "to give away something you treasure"... the last of a 2 week Acts of Kindness intention, would sow a seed of hope and transformation.
Khushbu cups her young hands over the gift in my palms. Her eyes are silent but the teary glaze speaks of an emptiness Dadi has left behind. Her lips are silent but the gentle upturned curve speaks of joyful memories. Memories she is now entrusting on to Jasmin, as a keeper. My spontaneous response is to ask to record a video message of her explaining the journey of the gift, what it means for her and why she would like Jasmin to keep it. I would show Jasmin this message on my return to London, I assure her.
In fact I didn't wait to return to London to send that message. I sensed a deep connection between the two girls. During the 6 weeks I'd been at Vinay Mandir, Khushbu had often asked me about Jasmin DIdi. This had somewhat surprised me as they'd met only once, 3 years ago, when Khushbu was 12 and Jasmin was 16. We were at the Gandhi Ashram on a 2 week long summer volunteering programme with 15 young people from the UK. We had been sitting outside Manav Sadhna on the verandah. Like many of the young people joining the insightful but challenging programme, Jasmin had been missing home and was crying. Khushbu had taken off an elasticated bracelet on her wrist and put it on Jasmin's wrist, comforting her with kind words. Being kind is easy and natural to the girls... they are conditioned to put others first, to be selfless... For many of them, their only dream and wish is to make their parents happy. Not truly aware of their own will, of their freedom of choice. The hearts of many of the girls like Khushbu are full with alternative wealth of compassion and kindness. Their joy arises not from the material objects externally, but from the heart-centred acts of sharing and giving of themselves. Nipun in a recent TedTalk said, “There are multiple forms of poverty. And there are also multiple forms of wealth.”
The encounter with Jasmin from 2013 had imprinted deeply in Khushbu's heart. The gift in my hand, was an affirmation of that profound connection made. I was humbled and intuitively felt a silent urgency to send this message immediately.
Participant's phone numbers are usually deleted on return from the volunteering programme. As it happened, I had forgotten to delete Jasmin's mother's number from my contacts. A gracious slip of fate.
A few hours after sending the message to Jasmin's mother, I receive this reply from Jasmin...
"Dear Ani Aunty, I just watched the video that you sent me and I could not stop crying. Even now I'm finding it difficult to hold back tears. I'm currently finding university really hard and seeing that message has given me so much strength and purpose. I will send you a video tomorrow once I have pulled myself together but pls let her know, if you are with her now, how much I care for her and appreciate her message."
A month later, Jasmin and I are sharing stories whilst the April shower rains beat against the window of a London diner. She unwraps the marble Shivlingha ornament and a letter written in Gujarati. I learn that on the morning of the Saturday she had received Khushbu's video, Jasmin had made a desperate call from her room at university to her parents asking them to collect her as soon as possible. I learn she had just recovered from a serious illness after contracting meningitis. This meant a lot of time away from study. Having fallen behind study work was proving challenging to accept for someone who usually excels as an A star pupil. Her ill health had set her back and she was struggling to catch up, was even contemplating quitting study, hence the desperate telephone call to her parents. Her confidence had been knocked hard and she'd started questioning her sense of purpose. Seeing Khushbu's smile in the video, hearing her words explaining why she was passing this gift on, had sowed a seed of hope and courage to remain strong. Had reinstated a meaningful purpose to keep ploughing onwards with study. Letting go of a treasured possession, a tangible link between Jayesh Sir, Dadi and herself could not have been easy. Yet, Khushbu had chosen her to be the trustee of this valued gift. It was a ray of sunlight through the dark clouds of despair.
Over lunch, we reminisced about our time together in India in 2013, recalling the bracelet and the incident with Khushbu. We both smiled. Twice. Twice now, the compassion of Khushbu had shone light into Jasmin's darkest moments.
"Do you believe in angels?" I asked.
"That's what my mum said" Jasmin smiled. :)