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Those innocent dreams are our motivation to volunteer

When we hear the word love, we think of the purest emotion in the world. Some of the biggest monuments and epic stories are based on love. But over these two weeks, I learned that even within love, there's a selfish and selfless kind. I would say the "selfish" type of love is what we experience daily. When we love our friends and expect them to love us back, conditional love comes from feelings of mutual respect. But the selfless kind? We don't usually find that here. I only learned about selfless love 50 kilometers into the Kawal Forest, far away from urban civilization, in a beautiful village called Allampalli.

While the rains may have shortened our stay in Allampalli, the amount of fun we had was not at all diminished. Our eagerness matched the kids' excitement at the Gurukulam when we stepped into classrooms the first morning with our planned curriculum. But what came as a surprise was how quickly the students absorbed everything. I genuinely have never seen brighter students with such a passion to learn. These kids know how to work hard and play hard. After a day full of classes, we enjoyed extracurricular activities like self-defense, dancing, rocketry, and more. But the most heartwarming part of our stay in Allampalli was our trip to the “thandas" where the students' families lived. We took our bus and a truck full of fruit to disperse amongst the villages. The minute we stepped off the bus, kids came running up to us, grabbing our hands. You could see the dilemma on their faces of whether to grab the fruit or hold our hands. With pockets full of apples, they refused to move until they held on to at least my pinky or thumb. And off they took us, running through the streets, showing us their homes and pet animals. Never mind the fact that I didn’t know their name or they didn’t know mine. When I stepped off that bus, they now considered one of their own.

I thought maybe selfless love thrived in this village because it was hidden away and untainted by our boisterous city life. But I was proven wrong when I also found it in Hyderabad at the Netra Vidyalaya Degree College. We had the opportunity to interact with Intermediate (11th & 12th grade) to Degree (undergraduate) level students and hear about their life stories and what brought them to Netra Vidyalaya. What shocked me was that despite the difficulties and darkness they face, they shine brighter every day with their enthusiasm to succeed and do good in the world. Some had big dreams of becoming I.A.S. officers, and others wanted to support their families and give back to the school that raised them. Talking to each student was like catching up with an old friend, asking about families, and laughing about hobbies. Sangeetha invited me to her village for Diwali, and Praveen Kumar promised to visit me in the U.S. when he got a job here.

So that’s when I learned that the secret to this selfless love didn't rely on the location; it lay in the beauty of that person's soul. Those who have learned to live life with a beautiful smile and eternal gratitude, regardless of their circumstances, are the ones who can experience and spread selfless love. I'm usually not philosophical, but this trip encouraged me to introspect and reanalyze my priorities in life.

This trip highlighted shortcomings in my definition of happiness. Happiness isn't the product of monetary or academic success; it's the product of pure relationships, consistent gratitude, optimism, and humility. And I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to experience this with. The immediate friendships, inside jokes, and adorable moments are memories I'll treasure forever. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

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