My Family Across the World By Uma Avasarala
Summer of 2022
by Uma Avasarala is a VTSeva Bay Area volunteer. She reflects on her life-changing Summer Internship interactions with the students of Netra Vidyalaya and the tribal school children of Allampalli.
What is family? When we think of the word “family,” we often immediately think about our parents, siblings, grandparents, and cousins. If you ask me now, “Uma, who’s your family?” In addition to my immediate family, I would say I have a family across the world. Over these two weeks, I have discovered that family is where there is inexplicable joy, unconditional love, and overwhelming gratitude and humility. The children of the small forest village Allampalli and the students at Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji’s Netra Vidyalaya have worked their way into my heart and become my family.
Originally, we had planned to stay in Allampalli for the majority of our internship, but apparently, nature had other plans. Due to heavy rains and flooding, we were only able to stay for two days. Now, how in the world can you find a family in two days? But, that was so. The children and students of Allampalli made it so. We taught them math, english, science, and much more. And, they listened so eagerly, with huge eyes and racing minds. After school, we had some extracurricular activities, such as dance, rocket launching, self-defense, and more. Their curiosity and persistence touched our hearts in ways that cannot be described in words. They would run up and cut each other off saying, “Akka (sister), watch me! Anna (brother), is this right?” Later in the day, we played games, like kabaddi and koko. I don’t think I have ever laughed or played so hard in my life! My heart was full.
Nearing the end of the day, we visited the tandaas or the village where many of the children lived with their families. The moment we got off the bus, little hands grabbed my kurti (a traditional Indian dress) and my fingers. They all wanted to show us their houses and their animals. It was there that I had realized that I had a small family in Allampalli. I was one of theirs and they were all mine.
Before we left Allampalli, the students hosted a performance with dance, music, acrobatics, and self-defense. They dazzled us all with their amazing talents. Dance transcends all barriers. Please check out this video, which shows the true joy of rhythm:
When my partner and I were teaching, the kids asked me to sing a song. I had a better idea. I suggested that we sing India’s National Anthem, “Jana Gana Mana.” As the song reached its crescendo, patriotism filled the air. I was overwhelmed with an immense sense of pride and love for my Indian heritage and these beautiful, innocent souls. The rest of our stay provided me with another unique experience. I met with and became friends with the amazing students of Netra Vidyalaya, the school for the visually challenged. They face everyday challenges from their inability to see with grit and cheer. What I thought to be difficulties in my life thus far, now seemed trivial. I also found a family with my fellow interns. We bonded and became so close in just 12 days. I cannot thank them enough for all the laughter, memories, and love. These experiences are sure to last a lifetime. Thank you so much to VTSEVA for giving me this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! I have come back rejuvenated and a better person.