(Highlight of my day) Today was Samadhi Day. It is a yearly event where all the local villagers wait for hours in the hot sun to come to the compound in which we live and visit the shrine of the german doctor that founded our charity. Normally it is not accessible to the public, but once a year, we open it up so the villagers can pay their respects, receive a gift and blessing, and leave with a hot meal.
I woke up at 4 am to start my first task of cutting hundreds of flowers that would be used to decorate the Samadhi. After that, I was put on food duty, serving some kind of curried rice out of giant cauldrons. This was definitely the highlight of my day. The simplicity of the action of giving really affected me, and it's something I won't forget.
After I was relieved of duty, I took some pictures of various other activities happening simultaneously-there was a water station, a gift station, the food of course, the blessing at the Samadhi, and the entrance. That was where it got scary.
There were so many people waiting outside the gate to get in (over 5000 people showed up--that's over a thousand more than we expected), and I got to witness the mob mentality first-hand. The crowd all wanted to be first, and those that couldn't were scared they would't have their chance to get inside. Panic set in, and they started getting destructive--they ripped down the tent we had set up to shade them, including all the decorations we had worked hard on.
We were letting people in in waves. Problem was, once we opened the gates it became nearly impossible to close them again. People rushed through in such a fast current that it was really difficult to control. Kids were getting trampled, women were falling, the ropes set up to guide people on the path were rendered useless, allowing people to trample all over the gardens--it was a nightmare. This sense of entitlement was really what angered me most, though. Many of the people, once inside, skipped paying respect and simply went to collect their free gift and food. I know they all really need those things, but the least you could do is say thanks when you're already there.
Luckily, I had already done my food service in the morning, before I saw all of this, so I had a really beautiful moment. I think it would have been hard to have the same experience after having witnessed the behaviour I did later in the day. Overall, it was a beautiful day, and I got the chance to really see how many people our work affects in the surrounding area, which was really incredible.