My name is Mahika Patlola and I am a sophomore at Round Rock Highschool, Austin TX. I attended the session 2 summer 2022 VTSeva internship in India this past summer and representing the Austin chapter, I wanted to share my remarkable experience with everyone. The knowledge and memories I gained from the internship taught me many things that I will keep with me for the rest of my life.
There were 12 other students attending with me, all from various VT branches all over the US. The internship took place in India, in a village gurukulam school in the middle of an extremely dense forest, known as the Kawal Tiger Reserve. The gurukulam school where we visited is in an extremely serene, and beautiful location, with mountains, fields and a dense forest surrounding it. The forest is so dense and isolated that the villages (thandaas) within have their own distinct language and culture. Despite this extremely remote location, the children of the thandaas have an opportunity for an impactful education. The gurukulam supported by VT SEVA gives the children in the remote and extremely underdeveloped thandaas, a fully fledged education, where students that attend are able to speak fluent English by the time they graduate. This would not be possible if it wasn’t for the efforts of dedicated VT SEVA volunteers. Our fundraising we do in VT SEVA has a direct impact on children that live across the world from us. These pure, innocent kids deserve every ounce of education that is being provided to them.
The essential premise of this internship was that the students from the US would hopefully learn something from the students in the gurukulam, and the students in the gurukulam would learn something from us. All the interns prepared an educational topic that they wanted to teach (along with English) . Some taught robotics, some rocketry, or scratch programming, martial arts, and more. I chose to teach dance along with one other intern. During the school day, I also taught math, English, grammar, environmental sciences, and more. One day after lunch, my dance partner and I went around to some classrooms and made an announcement that if anyone was interested in dance, they could come to the roof of the hostel at 2:30-3:30 to learn a dance. We were only expecting about 15-20 students to come, but to our surprise about 60 girls showed up, all eager to learn our dance. We taught a Bollywood/classical folk dance to the song Laahe Laahe. All the girls were extremely eager to learn, and while I was teaching, there was always someone pulling on my dress, adorably asking me to watch them. “Sister! Sister! Watch me!” After finishing teaching the dance, my voice was gone and I was exhausted, but the screams, laughs, and smiles from all the girls after we finished learning it made me inexplicably happy. It’s important to highlight that we only taught the dance in 1 hour, and everyone who learned it performed the dance perfectly at our intern farewell ceremony. This illustrates how intelligent the gurukulam kids are since they didn't forget the dance.
The kids that I met are the happiest and purest kids on earth. During the internship we visited all the thandaas in the area, and distributed fruits to everyone. While we were there, all the kids were grabbing onto my kurta, holding my hand, and asking me to come to their house. I went to some of their houses, and it was a remarkable experience to see how different their lives are compared to mine.
As I mentioned earlier, an important point of this internship is that the interns and the gurukulam students learn something from each other, so what did I learn from them? I learned that happiness is a result of making the best of what is provided to you. The kids are so pure, content with their lives. They are always smiling, laughing, having fun, and consistently staying happy no matter what their circumstances look like, and it’s a really inspirational experience. It taught my fellow interns about the true meaning of pure happiness and that anyone can be content by making the best of their situation. If I’m ever feeling down or overwhelmed, I just try and think about my internship, and how purely happy these kids are, it really helps me get back on my feet.
This internship was something that I will never forget. I learned so much about myself, my culture, and how diverse the world is. This internship also made me realize how lucky I am to have running water, electricity, and even food, since there are many, many people who don’t have the same luxuries. Additionally, I had so much fun with my fellow interns for the 12 days I spent with them, and I made really great friends and memories that bring a smile to face when I think about them. There was much more to my experience that I didn’t bring up in this short summary. If you want to hear more, please contact me, I would love to talk about it. Thank you so much everyone who made this internship possible. Thank you to all VT SEVA volunteers for helping these kids get the education that they deserve.