I Was Wrong A Lot This Past Week

The relief shelter that we work at is called PRS, and the first time we visited I felt incredibly overwhelmed. In hindsight it seems like its darkest features stood out to me the most: black slush pervaded the ground, silence lingered throughout the site, and we received blank stares from many residents who seemed sadly alone without their loved ones. We were told that our team was tasked with coming up with a plan to engage the male residents there, and it would be a new initiative. GVI has already been working with the female residents for some time.

I left as I came in: silent and certain that there would be little to nothing I could do for any of the residents there and that my time there would be difficult. But luckily, I was pretty wrong.

The 2 days we spent at PRS this past week have lead to some of the most enjoyable and meaningful moments in my service work I’ve had thus far. Sometimes it takes a lot of work to interact with a resident and to seem like you’re reaching him or her, but many times just saying “hi” with a smile yields one in return and that can open a door to conversation. Many speak Malayalam, several speak some English, and as I found, some speak Tamil — my parents’ native tongue. Camille was talking to one resident and then called me over when she discovered he knew Tamil best. I was able to speak some broken Tamil to him, either an impressive or embarrassing enough amount for him to smile, and then I was able to get him to write my name and his in Tamil. Some other highlights of my time there thus far include playing cricket with residents (minus being wicket keeper) and seeing how much music from a portable speaker excites some of them. Apparently Michael Jackson is no stranger to those at PRS.

My favorite mural at the shelter.

Friday we planned to see a movie at a local theater. Or rather, my group planned it, and I was ready to attend. But when we were preparing to buy the tickets I was told that we were going to see a Malayalam movie without subtitles. Paying to see a movie in a foreign language that’s longer than 2 hours without subtitles? Really? These were my initial thoughts, and I did express them in a more controlled way, but I didn’t want to derail plans that I put no time or effort into making so I went into the line begrudgingly to get our tickets.

The name of the movie we saw was Godha, and I can now say without a doubt the 1200 rupees we spent on our 12 tickets were well worth it. The movie was easy enough to follow since there was a good amount of English, and even without that, most of the scenes could be understood through the characters’ actions. Overall the soundtrack was on point, the (intentionally and unintentionally) humorous parts were fantastic, and the content was incredibly relevant to one of our service projects (one of the main characters is a strong female lead whose passion is wrestling and defying gender stereotypes). Immediately after the movie I had to admit to my group that it was a great choice.

Peep the natural smiles after seeing Godha.

Earlier before the movie we went to a restaurant called Talk of the Town. With such a bold name I thought their chilli chicken would be absolutely delicious. As it turns out, my assumptions were wrong. The chicken was not what I had hoped for, but luckily Linden’s leftover aloo gobi found its way to my plate.

The art at Talk of the Town is much better than the food.

I was mistaken a lot this week — my initial presumptions and thoughts about PRS, Godha, and Talk of the Town were completely off. And in regards to my negative assumptions, I’m happy I was so wrong. I’m glad Godha was a solid experience, and after reflecting on my time at PRS thus far I look forward to continue working at the shelter. Currently I’m not sure how much I can do for the people there in the long run, but my goal right now is to engage them in a positive way and better their wellbeing for the time that my team is there. I don’t think I’ll go back to Talk of the Town though.

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