Anarben’s story- Part 1
“Mami, it’s time for my nap,” I said jokingly as we headed to the talk she was going to give on her life story.
I had no idea what to expect. I’ve been living with Jayeshbhai and Anarben for 5 weeks now. I have a sense of who they are in the present moment, but next to no idea what they have passed through to become who they are. I’ve heard hints that its been a turmultuous ride, but no details. I didn’t know what to expect.
We all sat on the ground in a circle and began the session with two minutes of silence. Then she began. As soon as she started talking, even though she spoke in Hindi and many did not understand her, a calm magic prevaded the atmosphere. Her clear voice was full of a strength that one could only have after going through challenges.
I’ve been asked to share my life story. I’ll tell you about how I got involved in seva work and some powerful experiences on this journey. Growing up, every vacation, we would go to my mama’s house in the village. Where we would pass the days laughing and playing, we would have so much fun. Then 8th standard came to a close and instead of going to our mama’s house, my mother had other plans for us. My mother used to be a teacher. A strict teacher and a strict mother. That summer, we were each to tutor 2 kids. We had to pick who the kids would be. If we didn’t do this, she wouldn’t pay our school fees for the following year.
What kind of mother was she? I couldn’t believe my mother was like this, but I had to oblige. Where would I find students? There was a slum near my home and my ayai lived there. So I decided to teach my ayai’s kids. But the slum was filthy. How could I teach in such an environment? People also doubted the effectiveness of my teaching since I was only in the 8th standard, so the environment was not conducive to my objectives. So I went to a temple nearby and created a space to work in using cow dung and I began my tuition classes.
Every summer after that, even in college, I continued to tutor during vacations.
My mother was well-known in our area because she was a teacher and my father was in politics, so everyone knew who he was. Everywhere I went, I was known as their daughter and not Anar Patel. But in the slums that wasn’t the case. In the slums, everyone knew me as Didi. I was no one’s daughter, but rather an entity of my own and I enjoyed that recognition. So be it out of selfish desires and ego, my interest in seva grew.
I was the youngest child in my family and fit the stereotype of the youngest child. I was spoiled and somewhat of a brat. I had a short-temper- my anger came and went in a matter of seconds- and always got what I wanted. I didn’t have the discpline or dedication to follow through on anything. I was always starting things, but nothing was ever completed. I took a lot of things for granted- it was my parents’ duty to give me things- I didn’t appreciate all that they gave me. If my parents gave me a watch, it was because they were my parents and are supposed to give me a watch. I was spoiled and no one said a whole lot to me. One example is the way I ate. No matter what I was eating, I ALWAYS left the last bite. I could never bring myself to eat the last bite of food in my plate, so every meal, some food was wasted.
I was blessed to be married into a family is doing social work. God brought me and Jayesh together. The first seva activity I did after marriage was to help paint the ashramshala in the Gandhi Ashram. Here we would work all day with the kids and eat with them in the evening. To all the kids, I was Didi. When we sat down to eat, of course out of love, they gave me more food than needed and keeping with my habit, I ate until one bite remained. As that one bite sat on my plate, I looked around to the kids eating with us. The ashramshala has a rule that your plate must be completely cleaned, no morsel of food should be left and indeed all their plates were cleared of food. I was a role model to these children and here I was unable to eat the last bite. I drew inspiration from the children and put the last morsel into my mouth. For the first time in my life, no food was wasted from my plate. After that meal, everytime I sit to each and feel the urge to leave the last bite, I remember their plates and my plate too is cleared.