Being at Sari Bari means practicing the art of hospitable interruption. Ten, twenty or thirty times a day, a woman will come to door of the Sari Bari office and call “didi, oh didi, ekta katha ache.” (which means Sister, can i have a word). Most the time, the answer is of course. Sometimes I want to say no, because mostly these entrances come with conflict, family problem or heart breaking story, but love stretches far in listening ears.
so on monday, one of the Sari Bari women, a daughter, came in and immediately began crying, she was broken and hearing her story, i was broken. She has struggled and work very hard to keep herself out of the trade. Her mother worked in the trade and does even still but this woman, a mere 23, is a mother of 2 children and her husband left yet again for another woman. The most painful and tragic part is that he, her husband, said he would come back to her if she started working in the trade. She was and is devastated. I am devastated for her. She cried (i waited till later for my tears) and I held her.
I have a few responses: first, if i see her husband on the street, my urge would be to do physical violence (i won’t) but that’s my first human response to a man who has deeply, hurt my friend.
second, i am in awe of this woman and her strength, her desire and ability to maintain her resolve in the face of a future where the sole responsibility for raising her children will be hers. I celebrate her strength and a God who has given her the ability to stand in the midst of such a painful adversity.
Finally, something she said struck me deeply (I have heard it before many, many times) , more deeply that ever before. I woke up this morning thinking about it. She said, “I am never going to leave Sari Bari, i am going to stay here forever and raise my children and make a good life. Where my family is broken i will find family here…this will be the place i build my life.”
hearing this and continuing to reflect, i am overwhelmed. Because when i think of India and Sari Bari i would probably not use the word forever. I am committed, yes. i have no leave date in mind. I am here to embrace and be embraced by these women in this time and place. But forever? Sari Bari for many of the women is their future–it is their vocation–the creation of beauty (beautiful things and the blossoming beauty of who they are), to walk in freedom, to embrace hope and be fed by the hope they experience in the lives of others. For many of them it is forever.
so where is my forever? to be in Kolkata forever feels limiting, scary and impossible but maybe it is this place and among these people that i too might find the same possibility, hope and freedom that so many women at Sari Bari have found. I hope that i will have the courage to continue to let them lead me.