I wanted to write about my service trip to Kolkata - for all of you who so kindly supported my charity cause.
I wanted to describe the most beautiful girl dancing, the boy who took my hand and could not stop laughing at my haircut or my funny faces. Or the women from Bangladesh trafficked over the boarder, who told me she missed her baby boy. And the street kids whom so strongly in oversized clothes showed me what a tree pose should look like. All the kids who hugged me and held my hands. Me feeling guilty washing my hands in the evening.
But it was harder than I thought to put some words down. It is so easy to objectify.
I realised that I most of all had to write something down for myself and for my kids. To remember. To forget would be an insult to the people I met and to myself.
I grew up in on of the most gender equal countries in the world. Of that I am proud and I am very lucky having generations before me fight for equal rights. Sure, there are still things to do, for example when it comes to equal wages and gender representation on boards and management teams in Sweden, but we have come far.
In December of last year I went to Kolkata, India. My first ever visit to the homeland of yoga. I had been raising money for street kids shelters in Kolkata through my jewellery collection Karma for 10 months. In a way I wanted to give back to India, where yoga today ironically is practiced by a few. India - where basic human rights are not governed for – in particularly the welfare and rights of women and children. I wanted to do something to empower women and kids, together with other yogis.
At Nilojoy we meet 120 girls and young women between the age 3-18 – survivors of sexual trafficking, child marriage, forced labour, abuse and other social injustice.
Before getting there I had all kinds of ideas in my head of how it would be like. In reality it was different.
How long does it take to heal invisible wounds? Can it ever heal? Those questions became irrelevant.
I meet a bunch of super heroes - survivors of dark things that I in my wildest fantasy cannot even begin to understand.
I was scared, angry and frustrated – how can we allow human rights to be violated in a way that a place like this is needed.
Why don’t we all do more?
And what change can we really accomplish?
The answer is that even small things can bring a change for the better.
I was touched. I felt happiness, love and healing. Life can go on, and even in a place of great trauma there is great hope for the future.
Being there, seeing proud young women demonstration the skills they had learned at the centre,
like sewing, dancing, block printing, jewellery making, spice grinding - things that had empowered them – truly empowered me.
I gave but they gave me more.
Funny how energy works in mysterious ways.
Looking into the eyes of these women and kids, playing with them, watching them in action that is acknowledging that we all have the power to empower each other.
I meet mini super heroes – street kids that thanks to our donation get at change to do their home work in a safe place, with the help of a teacher, when their parents cannot. A chance for them to stay away from the dirty and dangerous streets. A chance, against all odds, to go all the way to university.
I meet women who strive for change and for empowering women and kids in Kolkata. One of them has done it for almost 50 years. Her heart was on the outside of her sari that had the colours of the rainbow. Her name is Aloka but to me she is Mrs Rainbow. She has a great sense of humour.
More smiling rainbows, please.
I meet other yoginis. Super heroines that teach for the sake of sharing, works extra to be able to study yoga and actually practice what they teach.
They reminded me of: the power of community, what a powerful tool yoga is for healing invisible wounds, why I should keep on teaching and why I step on my mat. But most of all they reminded me of myself and that I am well and have the possibility and the power to do what ever I want.
So now what? Be content with what we have achieved so far and move on?
Going there meant no way back. I did not realise it until I was back home again.
The faces of some of the women and kids are imprinted in me forever and I know it could have been you or me.
I have a choice. You have a choice. They did not.
Think about that word for while. Choice. Such a privilege you and I have.
We have a choice to keep empowering women and kids. Promoting education in any way we can, to move away from poverty and social injustice.
May my heart always be open.
Nilojoy is runned by the Womens interlink foundation (WIF). The money Yoga medicine raised 2015 will be use to run WIFs project Nabadisha for one year – a holistic education program for +500 street and working kids in the slum areas of Kolkata. The money raised will also be used for an additional training facility at Nilojoy.