On my return from Rikhia, the students (in prison) asked me to talk about 'the holiday'. I mentioned the chanting of the Brahmins, the fire ceremony, the distribution of gifts to the villagers and I tried to quote Swami Satsangi. Speaking about 480 girls, "the neglected, despised, the rejects of society", I described how these girls used to be sick and dirty, dressed in rags, never looking up at anyone. This year they were running the show, they were in charge of the singing, made the announcements in Hindi and English, and little Sita was leading the Sanskrit prayers for thousands of participants. I described the power of these girls, their pride in the new uniform, in being an active part of a program, the pride of being who they were.
After I had finished talking, there was a long moment of silence. It broke with a sudden burst - all the students shouting at the same time, excited, agitated, gesticulating with their arms and fists, expressing their anger and frustration at so-called budget cuts, expressing their desire to obtain a qualification, to learn a trade, to study, to change.
They were a handful of men from three continents, of different colours, creeds and backgrounds. They felt the pain of contempt and shame; they felt the pain of the outcast. They wanted the new clothes, they wanted the respect and pride, they wanted to be part of society. For one moment they had identified with the girls of Rikhia. They were the village girls.
I had no pictures to show. I did not mention Devi, 'the luminous one', nor Paramahamsaji who had chosen the girls and was their every move and act. But whatever image these men had evoked, whatever idea they had formed, for one short moment, they knew what it was to be free.