A Hug in Nawalgarh


He's scurrying around our hotel room, rifling through and under our unmade beds. He checks the drawers and opens the closet, just to make sure we haven't left anything behind. (God forbid the American girl forgets her phone charger or her hair straightener.) He reaches for my bag of bricks and possibly a dead body giant backpack as I give him a "no, no, I'll carry it, it's too heavy", gesture. He motions his insistence on carrying it. How can I thank him for his kindness? How can I properly acknowledge the impact he's had on us these last three days?  A "Namaste" couldn't ever be enough. And no amount of Rupees can express my gratitude for him and the gift he clearly has for making others feel seen and heard. So I think, 'What's the worst that can happen?' He finally slows down and is facing me, ready to lug my bag to our bus. I need to hug him. 'This isn't allowed', I quickly warn myself. 'Public displays of affection are not proper here. There are rules'.  'Do it anyway', says my intuition. So I open my arms, and hope for the best...


On our third day in India, we arrived in the rural village of Nawalgarh, located in the state of Rajasthan about six hours outside of New Delhi, where our trip had begun. Though located in a poverty-stricken part of India, the hotel we stayed in, The Roop Niwas Palace, was just that...a palace. Green grass, fountains, Marigolds and peacocks...everywhere. Oh, and there was laundry service, Laughing Yoga and loud, echoing chanting that seemed to come from somewhere off in the far distance each morning...at 4am. But the most special part of this place...was this guy:


There was something so special about him; an innate joy, a deep appreciation for the people around him. He had an urgency to show he cares and a contagious habit of smiling. I never heard his voice, as I later found out he is mute, but his language was a series of accommodating gestures, genuine smiles and dance escapades with us, on the terrace. No words needed. I understand this language, loud and clear...


I wrap my arms around him and to my pleasant surprise, he wraps his arms around me.  I can tell he won't let go until I do, which I appreciate. I want these microseconds to last forever. I want to tell him how much I appreciate him, how he's such an important part of this journey I'm on. "Thank You", I whisper, in a raspy, cry-stiffling voice. I couldn't get all the words I wanted to out, but if my hug had words, it would have said: 'Thank you for keeping us comfortable and safe. Thank you for dancing with us. Thank you for bringing us fire pits so we could stay outside well into the night. Thank you for hot tea in the morning and clean sheets at night. Thank you for seeing us. Thank you for seeing me.' We separate and he smiles as he wipes the tear streaming down my cheek. He smiles, cups my face in his hands and kisses my forehead.

In many ways, I'm still reeling from my trip to India. I wanted so badly to learn all the lessons I was "supposed" to learn, if not in India, then certainly in the first few days of being home. But it didn't happen that way. It never does. Things are coming up for me, eight months later, that I couldn't have acknowledged six months or even six days ago. But if there's one thing I've always known for sure, one thing I'm deeply certain of, one thing I've never ignored or overlooked, it is...if you want to hug someone, just do it.

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