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When You Have a Dream, You Cannot Go Wrong
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By J. Richard Romaniuk, PhD

India. I am traveling by car from the Taj Mahal in Agra to the city of Jaipur and, after visiting this beautiful city, back to Delhi. My driver Aryan is a young man who smiles and is just bursting with happiness. He talks, telling me all about his life in India. I asked him how he knows English so well. He said, “You guys taught me.”

I was visiting India as a volunteer teaching English in a school in a suburb of Delhi. I was very skeptical about how such a huge turnover of volunteers from all around the world coming to schools in the poor neighborhoods of India could teach anything. But here he is telling me that this is how he learned English. So I asked him to tell me more about his school. “This was an orphanage,” he says. So I asked him about his family. “My mother hung herself when I was seven years old. My two brothers and I were playing in front of our shack, and she hung herself in the doorframe. At first, we did not understand what had happened, we trusted that our mother knows what she is doing, until our uncle came and we learned what had happened.” Aryan told me more about his father, an alcoholic who beat his mother when he came home. They often did not have anything to eat. However, he remembers his mother preparing flatbread at their shack. A couple of years later, the boys also lost their father. Aryan moved to a hostel. He was lucky. Eventually he got into a well-organized orphanage. His younger brother hid for years in the jungle. All of the brothers tried to stay together. Today, they stay in touch. They have cellphones, and they can call each other anytime.

I was shocked by his story. I told him that I am a social worker and that I work with people whose lives often go wrong after they experience traumatic events in childhood. And now I sit next to a very happy and successful young man whose childhood was a tragedy. “How did that happen?”, I asked.

“I had a dream. When you have a dream, you cannot go wrong. Wherever I was, I always had a dream, that one day I will have my own home, my own place to live”. He told me how much he learned in his orphanage. They had a teacher who always had time for them. The teacher shared with them his own life story, and he helped them to deal with their own problems. Aryan said that he was a very angry child who isolated himself from others. The teacher always talked with him and told him how to deal with anger. Though children can be children, this teacher never punished them. He had a special way of showing them that they did something wrong. Aryan described the daily routine at the ecumenical school he attended, morning prayers and meditations, time for school and time for sport and special activities, like gardening and watching Discovery on TV on the weekends. During vacation they travelled in the mountains. Volunteers in the orphanage were with them during the day. In the evening, the children could spend time talking with their teacher who – yes, I already remember - always had time for them.

Today, Aryan is a very happy man. After leaving the orphanage he worked hard and he bought himself a car. He works as a driver and meets many different people. He likes volunteers who come to India. He can show them Jaipur, “his city”. He grew up in the northern suburbs of Jaipur. His brothers still live there, and, while I was with him, he called them to tell them that he would be passing by and that he could see them. Just a few minutes later, we met them, next to the road from Jaipur to Delphi. I took their picture – three brothers (Aryan, first on the left) and their cousin.

His brothers are helping him to build his house. He works to buy bricks. They put one on the top of the other, day by day, month by month, and his dream comes true. I asked him why, now that he lives in Delhi and drives many places, he wants a house in a poor village next to Jaipur? “This is my place, and now there will be my home. My brothers can live with me as long as they want.” I asked him about his friends, people he knows from the orphanage. He said that he used to stay in touch with them. He definitely meets with his teacher any time he is in Jaipur. However, his contacts with his friends are not so cheery any longer. They got married very young, they are very poor, and they drink. Aryan said that he does not see much of a drug problem in India but there is a problem with alcohol. He has seen it all through his life. This is why he wants to have his home before thinking about getting married. “A person without a home has no place for himself,” Aryan said. On a later occasion, he and I were walking through a display of the different customs and cultures in India. A woman was making flatbread, and he noticed, remembering his own mother. This was the only moment when I sensed some sadness in his voice.

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