A child’s smile is probably Happiness in it’s truest, purest and most raw form. Go ahead, google it, nothing beats the wide smile that stretches across the face, seeps into the eyes and penetrates the lives of anyone who sees it. It’s pure magic. A moment of breath-taking beauty and sheer simplicity. But what could be better you ask? Being the reason behind the smile. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing you’re the reason behind that look of ecstasy and joy. And the adoring look of worship that is bestowed upon you for bringing about that smile, just relieves you of all your worries and burdens. And today, I have been at the receiving end of so many of these charming smiles that I feel as light as a feather.
Over a year ago, the engineers without borders chapter of Aachen decided to take up the project of helping resolve the energy crisis at St. Anthony’s orphanage in Adoni, India. The idea was to implement a solar thermal system that would pre-heat the water required for cooking, thereby bringing down the energy costs at the orphanage. A major part of the project was to be the knowledge transfer, to enable the people to be independent and be able to implement the solution again by themselves in case a similar situation were to arise in the future. Having been convinced by a very chatty Chris, I joined the team to offer insights being a “local”. We worked on the project for a year, coming up with models and a booklet to help the children understand and appreciate the importance of the project and energy conservation. Chris and David went down to Adoni in October to implement the project. The Mela was to present the system and give the children an opportunity to present all that they had learnt from the visiting Germans.
Since I was home for christmas break, I decided it would be a good idea to see what I was part of for well over a year. Having woken up at 4 in the morning, driven for over 5 hours and made more than our fair share of the wrong turns, we finally arrived at St. Anthony’s orphanage just in time to help out with the set up for the Mela. What followed for the next 6 hours was pure joy. As we helped set up, we had the opportunity to interact with the children who study at the school and live in the orphanage. The children were ever so curious, they were used to the Chris and David not being able to speak their language, having spent the better part of 2 months with them, but for the first time they came across people with the same complexion unable to do so. This coupled with the fact that I was an Indian girl dressed in jeans and t-shirt led to many long interrogation sessions. “Are you German too?” they asked. “No, I’m Indian” I answered with a laugh. Unconvinced, more questions followed – What’s your name? Where are you from? Can you speak Telugu? What’s your mother’s name? What’s your father’s name? What’s your sister’s name? What’s your brother’s name? The questions were unending and so was their curiosity. They drank in my answers with bright eyes, eager to hear more.
My phone’s camera was the pivot of interest. The fact that the tiny X10 mini could take a picture fascinated them no end. They all wanted a picture. Not that they would get the picture, but to see themselves on the screen just seemed to make their day. So much so that every single one of them wanted a solo shot. How are you supposed to say no to such smiling eager faces? So I took picture after picture until my poor phone could take no more. And even then they wanted more. After a lot of explaining and convincing they finally understood and agreed to one last group picture.
Come time to leave and I found myself surrounded by the children on all sides. One holding on to each finger, others clinging onto my arms and legs, beseeching me ever so sweetly to not leave. After numerous promises to return and not forget them ever, I was given the permission to leave. Just before I did though, there were 4 little girls who asked very shyly if they could give me a kiss, a simple yes was enough to win their he, having seen this one little boy boldly walked up to me and asked for a kiss. Having got what he asked for, he sauntered back to his friends who patted his back and pumped his hands no end. Kids these days!
Never before have I seen children take so willingly to a stranger or become so attached so soon. What was more surprising is that through the day I found myself growing fond of these kids. I couldn’t help but be affected by their enthusiasm and share their smiles. To have so little and still be so satisfied and still share the little that you have is something you could only learn from these kids. As far as they knew, they had everything. Their unassuming smiles and free spirit were captured by more than just my camera. I carry their smiles as a burning talisman reminding me of the finer and more important things in life. There truly no rival to the beauty and innocence of a child’s smile.