The Gujarat state has 62 million people. Sixty two million. In one state. A state that's can fit into Texas three and one half times. And the entire state is dry. That's an incredible thing. It's one of four or five states in India where alcohol is illegal. And the people are doing just fine here without it. Honestly, I can't imagine what it would be like if alcohol was sold here.
Alcohol is a distraction. It deters you from focusing on many things. And the focus of this community has turned, in recent years, into uplifting the "untouchables" and spreading love. An untouchable is a person that is seen as somebody who should not be touched. They are the people who live in the slums and dig through trash. They are the people without access to clean or running water. They are the people who lived without toilets for most of their lives. They are the people who likely have never seen outside of their own slum. They are the people who need the most uplifting - and society created a stigma to not go near them. Not to touch them. In fear of disease and bacteria. Manav Sadhna is rewriting the definition of the untouchables. They are redefining their lifestyle and sense of self esteem.
I really believe a large factor as to why Manav Sadhna has been able to get into the heart of these slums communities and change lives in such a vast way is because it does not have the distraction of alcohol. The volunteers here eat sleep and breath serving. The community centers are their homes. It is their pride and joy. The volunteers, teachers, rag pickers, architects, everyone is seen as family. Serving starts very early in the morning. With cleaning, washing, and prepping for the day. Everything at Manav Sadhna is expected to be self sustained. The actual staff employed here outside of volunteers have a very heavy schedule. They are seen as celebrities in the community and their time is always called upon.
India is the most polluted country in the world. Look on the air pollution rankings and India occupies probably 30 of the top 40 most polluted cities. I read that over half a million people die a year from air pollution in India. Nimo made a comment that he knows - he is fully aware that by making the choice to move to Ahmedabad from the U.S. (he was born and raised in California), he is cutting off five years of his life. Most people don't even have the basic understanding of how the city you live in affects your life span. And here is Nimo, with a vast understanding of the world, understanding of life, knowledge of health, and an even deeper understanding of India and the negative affects of long term living here... and he consciously chooses to live and be here. For the sake of uplifting this community.
I digress... the people here don't even have time for alcohol. A casual drink is a luxury. Their entire being is dedicated to uplifting this community. They do not have time to enjoy a casual happy hour after work. Their work is never done. They must wake up everyday feeling their absolute best because they are the strongest influences these children and these people have. Every move they make impacts these children. Their positivity cascades into these communities like a waterfall.
It's such a different life here than in the United States. People are fighting to get by, sustaining off of contaminated waterways and scraps of food. I think it's so important to see not only the beauty of a place, but the hardships as well. In retrospect, I feel I may have failed to do that in the States outside of direct connections I have to the disadvantaged communities. I don't know if anywhere in the US has poverty like the places we've seen in Asia. That is something I will educate myself on when we decide to go back.