Mistaken Identity

by Jayne Robertson, Global Seva India Posted on March 5th, 2013

I’ve never had quite the experience as the one I had today.  After our morning ritual of yoga and breakfast, my half of the group headed to a safe house run by Women’s Interlink Foundation (WIF) and housing a Made By Survivors work space.  Before heading to the Nijuloy Shelter Home (run by WIF) we stopped for a wander through a local morning market.  It was bustling with activity…people buying food, newspapers and flowers.  Being an avid photographer my Nikon was kept busy snapping at what seemed like every turn.  This place is so vibrant and we continue to catch the attention of many onlookers.

As we arrived at the shelter home, a few young girls greeted us. One of them saw me and came flying out of the pack, making a bee-line straight toward me and wrapping her arms around my waist with great familiarity.  To my surprise, she was overly happy to see me and began chattering away with great joy and excitement.  She wouldn’t let go of my hand and began to lead me into the grounds of the home, still chattering away.

I asked the translator if she thought I was someone else.  After a few moments of listening to her story, the translator began to tell me that she thought I had been there on January 23 of this year.  He told her that it wasn’t me, but she was insistent and began to realize that I looked like a woman who had been at the home.  This young girl continued on that she doesn’t have any parents and this lady was so kind and compassionate that she wanted to leave with her.  As this young girls story unfolded, tears began to form in her eyes, realizing that I wasn’t the one.  That I wasn’t the one who was going to remove her and take her to another life.

Yet, she still clung to me, or more likely to the idea of me.  She was insistent and attached, leading me along our tour of the home, sitting next to me as we began our yoga class and barely taking her hand away to maintain physical contact.

During our tour, the founder of WIF, Aloka Mitra, the 73-year old I referred to in an earlier post arrived and welcomed us to sit with her for morning tea.  She spoke extensively about her vision of empowering women, of various challenges her organization has faced and amazing moments of well-timed gifts and support.  As we concluded, I hugged Aloka to say thank you for all that she’s done throughout her career, during which my young friend came up to Aloka.  Although I don’t speak Bengali, I could tell the girl was telling Aloka about me, again with tears welling up.  Aloka gently spoke to the girl, who began to loosen her grip on me.

I just couldn’t imagine what was going on in this young persons head and experience.  That she seemed to truly think I (or someone who looked like me) came back for her.  And then her dream was blown apart because of mistaken identity.  You could tell she so wanted the story to be true, like the fairy tale that keeps young girls dreams alive.

Unfortunately, the reality was different from the dream and more than one heart was broken.  I realized that my role in all of this is simply to love.  To hold the space to offer compassion, to open my heart to sorrow, to breathe deeply into the moment and to realize that love is the most powerful tonic of all.

Love is all there is…let it flow.

* Neither myself nor Off The Mat, Into The World have the intention of going into any of these organizations offering a sense of “rescue” to any of the residents.  Our intention is to fully support the organizations that are doing the work of rescuing and rehabilitating such girls through which in turn, expand their opportunities. The opinions expressed in this blog belong to the individual author and are not necessarily shared by Off the Mat, Into the World.

Jayne Robertson is from Palm Springs, CA. She successfully raised more than $20,000 for the 2012 Global Seva Challenge by mobilizing her community and rising up as a leader for a cause she believes in. Funds raised will help support organizations in India that are providing refuge, rehabilitation and economic opportunities to sex trafficking victims, and empower survivors to lead lives with dignity and respect.