Budgets were set - 300 rupees each were doled out to spend at an outdoor market in Bombay, and sixteen kids were soon bustling through the colorful booths full of clothes, shoes, jewelry and more - Their first lesson in buying and spending within a budget had began.
Pause the story for a quick minute, and rewind to about a month prior...One of the slums of Ahmadabad was heartlessly bulldozed by the Government to move forward on a Riverfront project. Unfortunately, Vishal and Vicky, two of the sixteen Ekatva children, had families that resided in those homes before they became rubble overnight. The families got very little notice as to what was coming, and one unfateful morning were barricaded outside their slum neighborhood as they watched their homes and most of their possessions being turned into rock.
If you ever got a chance to meet these two kids, the first thing you would notice is Vishal's vibrant smile and Vicky's endless ability to make anyone around him smile. With a pair or two of underwear and minimal clothing left, Nilamdidi and I took them shopping for some basics before the tour began. After buying some toiletries, they refused to let us get them anymore than one additional shirt and one pair of underwear each - they said it was all they needed.
Now fast forward one month back to the bustling streets of the Bombay market. The kids were excited. I ran to and fro with the girls as Priyanka wanted a dress for her little sister, Nikita wanted a shirt for her elder brother, and Chandani wanted a watch for her mother. Everyone was in full fledged shopping mode and the most amazing part of it all was that every child seemed to be shopping for their families - someone's mother, brother or sister - before they even began to think about anything for themselves. Most were left without any cash by the time family shopping was over - But they did it all with a smile. That is what they wanted.
Often times I think of most of the kids I know and as soon as they have ample cash at their disposal they get the hottest XBox 360 game in the market, and shortly thereafter, they have their eye out for what's coming next. As adults, more than we probably tend to admit, we do the same. The truth is in this cycle of greed for our own needs, we often forget to pay our gratitude for what we are blessed to have in our hands today. If we took note of our fortunate lifestyles more often, I truly feel our greed would also subside and desire to serve others would grow. These kids exemplified selflessness in their lack of greed and that morning was a beautiful example of that very trait.
I jumped on the bus as everyone's shopping had culminated. Bags shuffled and the kids were laughing and sharing stories about what they bought. I caught a glimpse of Vishal sitting in a seat on his own with no bags around him. I took the seat next to him and asked, "What did you buy Vishal?" He looked at me with that heart-wrenching smile and said, "Nothing Didi, I looked but I didn't need anything, so I didn't buy anything." My heart immediately melted and images of his bull-dozed home ran through my head. I remembered how few belongings he had left after the horrific tragedy that had just occurred one month prior. And yet, he still needed nothing?! He had clothes on his back, food on his plate, and a fantastic smile that kept him going - What more could he ask for?
The opportunity to spend that one moment with such a selfless child was well worth my entire Manav Sadhna trip. It is always amazing what a child can teach you in just a moment in time, and Vishal's lack of need for ANYTHING in life touched my heart more than I could have ever imagined or hoped for. Thankyou for the beautiful reminder Vishal!