The Fifth Space

As I finished my fellowship with Sauhard exactly 24 hours back (the certificate is yet to be extracted  from my bag), I felt no sense of closure. None. At all.  Unlike other farewell functions that I have attended, the convocation function seemed only another milestone in my journey with the organization. This, I realized, was what was special. No one assumed or expected me to leave. I was still very much a part of the family and I would always be, irrespective of the number of kilometers there were in between. I feel I couldn’t have asked for more .When I first joined the NGO a year ago, I was amazed (and slightly skeptical) by how dedicated people were to stay, or return, year after year, like migratory birds,  as if this little room in the city meant the world to them. Later I realized, it meant more than the world to them-as it does to me now.

We attended several workshops, seminars, campaigns and perhaps most interestingly, theatre-both street plays and stage productions. It seems too trivial a thing, but we lost, or rather cornered our stage frights. We worked with television too, a small project that made us complacent nevertheless. Amidst all this frantic hyperactivity, somehow there was a strange calmness. The ginger chai that we slurped down after enlightening (and sometimes straining) discussions is among the most special memories I associate with the place. All of us were called by endearing nicknames from the first day, as if we did not need to establish affection enough to reach that stage of friendship. Truly, we did not! We could say anything we felt like saying, without the fear of being judged or ridiculed.

Another special memory is the laughter. Heartfelt laughter, fueled by the most insignificant things, and then fueled by itself (we needed no reason to laugh our worries away), was the most genuine experiences I have ever had.  Someone (anyone) bringing or having food at Thikana, would mean a shared group meal, by default (often not by choice, though). Gradually, we began appreciating the different varieties of tastes that we were offered from ‘dabbas’ coming from different mothers, and began demanding favorites, oft and again. Everyone was made to feel welcome, and that is why, no one felt like going away. Unlike other organizations or workplaces, everyone here was greeted with so much enthusiasm and love that one couldn’t help but feel spirited. The loud choruses of a ‘hello’ as I entered late or the “bye” that everyone (together) shouted to me as I left, sparing a minute especially for me, made me feel like an important celebrity. Everyone, with no conscious effort, was made to feel that way-love somehow came naturally then . Now, as a I look back upon the small practice of greeting each member heartily, I realize it to be a special gesture of affection, found at so few places today.

We were a little more than hundred people when we began, but gradually the number was trimmed down to a family of 36 people. Initially, I found most people uninteresting-I would never be able to “mix” with them, I had thought. But as time went by, I I felt I did not need to force myself to “mix” with people, consciously, as if I were a spoonful of granulated sugar. All I needed to do was to be comfortable in my own skin and know that, like me, they too are satisfied with their own lives, however different they might seem to be. I understood that everyone, no matter how different (or shy) they seem to be, has a beautiful story within and felt a deep sense of sonder. I learnt to hunt for these unique stories and treasure them carefully, almost greedily, once I found them. Listening to people, and accepting them as they are, is one quality (among several others) that Sauhard instilled in me. And I shall never let go of it, ever. We, ( I can speak for every individual in my fellowship batch) have been given such love, knowledge, support, care, and perhaps most importantly, faith to believe in ourselves, that we have all become better, kinder persons and now, shall be able to pass on the goodness , that we received, to the world-and beyond.

–Abhignya Sajja (Sauhard Youth Fellow, 2018)


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