A Dream Called AVANI

Hal Edwards poem for AVANI Kolhapur India Gandhi Children Hal Edwards has traveled to India and Egypt where he became personally involved with Arun and his family. In addition to being a pastoral psychotherapist and spiritual director, he is involved with Contemplative Outreach, Ltd, a worldwide movement that teaches the ancient meditation method of centering prayer. He has four children and ten grandkids. Gardening, photography, writing and fishing are Hal’s delight.  Previously Hal served as Chair of the Gandhi Worldwide Education Institute.                   –Read more of Hal’s poems at PersistentPathways.com

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A DREAM CALLED AVANI

Last month
I had a dream.
I feel I must
share it with you now.

teysha avani dream of gandhi children india

I dreamt
that I was
a naïve passenger
on a rickety old train
traveling overnight
through the heart
of India.

It was dark
and I rocked
back and forth
in my sleeping berth.

The morning sun
startled me as it
burst through my open window.
I peeked out
half asleep
whizzing past
vast and luscious
sugarcane fields
with young children
driving horse-drawn carts
piled high
with fresh cut
canes of green sugar.

avani bricks dream of gandhi children

In my dream
we passed by
several huge brickyards
with women and children
carrying unbelievably
hefty loads of brick
balanced on their heads.

With astonishing agility
they climbed on top of
immense stockpiles
of freshly
kilned brick and
added their next
delivery.

Through the day
I sat mesmerized
by my open window,
transfixed, absorbed
and observing
many brickyards,
always women,
a few adult men,
and young boys and girls
noticeably intertwined
in a beehive of
arduous human labor.

I could barely hear
the train whistle
as we approached
Kolhapur,
my destination.

Evidently,
I was to meet
someone
waiting
to pick me up.
With suitcase in hand
I walk through the
massive maze of
passengers
to the Information Desk.

A total stranger
comes to me.
“I have come to
greet you and
show you the way,”
he said.

I could not help
but notice.
He was not Indian;
he was an American.

“My name is Scott
and I will be your
guide,”
the stranger said.
Not knowing what
to do
or where I was,
I followed Scott
to his car.

“You have been sent to us,”
Scott said.
“You will come and see
as those who
have come before you,
and what you see
you must share
with your people.”

My curiosity and
imagination
connected with
Scott’s rare
and genuine
authenticity.

His calm, happy
face intrigued me.
Wherever he
was taking me
felt safe and
even
inviting.

I could not help
but notice how close
we were to
more sugar cane fields
and
more stockpiles
of bricks.
The surreal faces of
children and women
and tired old men
haunted me.

“Tell me,” I said
to my guide Scott,
“tell me about these children
and old men and women.”

“Why they are Harijans,
‘children of God.’ They were born
poor, they have been maligned
and harassed and exploited
beyond human imagination.”

In the dream
I felt Scott’s gentle words
searing into my flesh.
I felt intrigued
and uncomfortable.

“’Children of God?!!’ Their
tortured, strained faces belie
your title,” I said.

”You are correct,” Scott replied,
“In forced labor since childhood,
raised in domestic violence,
illiterate and uneducated,
abandoned by government and society,
sexually exploited, HIV,
thrown out into the streets,
homeless beggars,
they are victims
of being the lowest caste
in society.”

I am puzzled, “Why then, ‘children of God?’”

“Come, let me show you Avani.
You will meet
the children of God
at Avani,”
Scott responds in his usual
contagious calmness.

(Oh, I must say to you now,
my dream was filled with
vivid color and ardent emotion.
As I report it to you now
I am amazed at
the clarity and detail
retained after a month.
Back to the dream.)

We arrive at the entrance.
We see a woman waving,
She folds her hands and bows.
“My name is Anuradha.
Namaste, Welcome to Avani.”
Her face, radiant
and glad and tired,
she escorts me
through her beloved Avani.

Hidden away in a
sub-culture of so much cruelty
and calamity
I observe a precious jewel
of a woman
shining in broad sunlight.

I see in her face
a lifetime of compassion
and sacrifice and
total commitment to
the children of God.

I observe her legacy
and

I see
children in classrooms,
boys and girls interacting;
I hear the laughter
of youngsters
expressing themselves
with enthusiasm
and energy.

I see children,
the same children
I saw in the brickyards
and sugar cane fields,
engaged and confident,
laughing and engrossed in
planting and conservation
and building
and working together,
filling the campus
with indescribable
innocence, creativity,
eagerness and joy.

Relaxed cows
chew their cud
contentedly meandering
in the open field behind
the eco-dome buildings
made from local soil.

We greet local neighbors
who visit the Avani infirmary;
we hear the sounds of wood
and metal workshops.

I see fifty boys and girls
growing and healing,
‘children of God,’
no longer victims of violence
nor imprisoned in child labor,
now instilled with proper values,
now developing self reliance,
now safe,
open in mind and heart.

Suddenly I am awakened
by the alarm next to my bed.
So absorbed in my dream
I could not immediately determine
if I dreamed this dream,
or if the dream dreamed me.

-Hal Edwards
June 19, 2013

www.persistentpathways.com

 

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