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KHUSHI The

Project

Donella Swan | Lisa Taylor | Tanis Brown


Foreward Sri Ram Ashram, located just outside of the city of Haridwar, India, serves as a home for over 65 orphan children. Inspired by silent monk, Baba Hari Dass — commonly refered to as Babaji — the Sri Ram Ashram provides children with everything they might ever need. That includes shelter, food, healthcare, education, and most prominently, happiness. This is what struck us most on our visit to Sri Ram Ashram, and this book is intended to share a piece of that happiness with all of you.

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Khushi (Happy) adjective Khushi is the Hindi word for “happy.” Happy, meaning:

1. feeling or showing pleasure or contentment “Janet came in feeling happy and excited” synonyms: cheerful, cheery, merry, joyful, jolly, gleeful, carefree, untroubled, delighted, pleased, content, satisfied 2. characterized by or indicative of pleasure, contentment, or joy: a happy mood; a happy frame of mind 3


the

KHUSHI project

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How it all began...

T

he Khushi Project began on an afternoon in May 2013. The three of us were sitting in the newsroom at Mount Royal University. After much thought and discussion, we decided that something was missing from our lives. We didn’t really know what it was then, but we did know we were going to have to get out of our comfort zone in order to find it. That day, the three of us — Tanis, Donella and Lisa — resolved that we would journey to India in search of something we could use to settle that restlessness we felt in our lives.

way back to it as quickly as we would have liked in times of sadness or uncertainty. And with our uncertain futures awaiting upon our return, we felt that we needed the key to happiness to help us through what could possibly be difficult times ahead. We saw happiness as a beacon for our future, a guiding star on an uncertain path. In times of doubt, we hoped, happiness would always be the correct answer. The problem: we weren’t sure what truly made us happy.

As we packed our bags in May 2014, that anxious feeling grew stronger. All three of us were on the brink of graduation, about to be thrust forward into a future that hadn’t begun to take shape for any of us just yet. As we said goodbye to our friends and family, we realized what it was that we all wanted — happiness. It wasn’t that we weren’t already happy, we just didn’t know how to appreciate it, or find our 5


Destined for happiness

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n our first day in India, we India is a place where chaos is the natural were thrust into the throngs of state of being, and we felt that first hand uncertainty as we made our way as we moved through the crowded car through the traffic of New Delhi onto a and nestled our way into our seats. Once second-class sleeper train destined for we sat down, we were joined by a small Agra. Bright yellow Indian family; a “World is brighter with auto-rickshaws father, a mother, a whizzed past us the happiness of children.� grandmother, an as hundreds of uncle and a fivewomen in beautiful - Mehmet Murat ildan year-old girl. With saris gracefully a bright smile on hauled their bags across the busy city her face, the little girl proudly told us that streets. We made our way up the steps of her name was Khushi — the Hindi word the railway station and finally found our for happy. train.

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A sense of calm and purpose found its way to us on that train as we played games with Khushi. We knew then that we had taken the right path. Seeing the pure happiness in that little girl gave us a clue about our journey. We remembered our own childhoods and the happiness that seemed to come so naturally to us then. We realized we didn’t need words of wisdom about happiness from monks or yogis. We just needed time with those who seem to have happiness come to them so freely. We needed some fun-loving kids. Those kids, it turned out, were the children of the Sri Ram Ashram.

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A love beyond blood boundaries

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efore we went behind the bright blue and green gates of the Sri Ram Ashram, we thought it might be a bit of a sad place. These kids, after all, were orphans. Some had been dropped off by their parents in a malnourished state. Others had their entire families die. Some were even found on the side of an Indian highway. In our imagination, those were insurmountable obstacles to the idea of happiness.

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We were wrong. We didn’t realize that what truly lived behind those gates was an indescribable love. It was a love that went beyond blood boundaries and created an environment that allowed happiness to flow through the walls of the ashram as easily as the water of the nearby Ganges River.


The ashram kids were experts in happiness. It seemed to be the central focus of their days. It was their right answer, their guiding light. Happiness was for them what we wanted it to be for us. Luckily, they were more than willing to share their wisdom with us. The answers to our questions came with the click of a shutter. As we quickly learned, the kids had a real passion for photography. We gave them our cameras and set them free, asking them to capture their idea of happiness. Our memory cards were filled by the end of the week with over 2,000 photos that continue to serve as a visual representation of the key to happiness.

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Capturing the key to happiness

“I have happiness here. There’s not anywhere else that I can get this much happiness because I have 67 brothers and sisters — that’s really big!” — Priyanka Sharan (17) 10


“Before the Ashram, I did not know where I was, and then they brought me here, so it’s like a little piece of Heaven. I am very thankful to God that the happiest thing I have recieved as a gift is being here at the Ashram.” — Jaya Sharan (20) 11


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“My brothers and sisters are very loveable. We share everything. We laugh together, we work together, we help each other. This is the most important thing, that we help each other. That leads to happiness at the Ashram.” — Kavita Sharan (20)

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“Life is like ice cream — before it melts, enjoy it.” —

Pinki Sharan (17) 15


“Happiness... it’s like a feeling. It doesn’t have a shape or structure, it is a feeling. It comes from your heart. It doesn’t come from our mind or any organ. It comes from our heart, just heart.” 16

— Punita Sharan (16)


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“Happiness is important because sometimes it’s not always good. You can’t be happy your whole life because life gives you everything, like sadness and happiness, so you have to comprimise with your life.” — Vikash Sharan (18)

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Heading home

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s we packed our bags, we left India with much more than souvenirs. Peace, love, and the key to happiness boarded the plane with us. The kids taught us that happiness comes in many forms, yet exists in no physical shape.

It’s about acceptance of yourself and others. And, finally, it’s about finding family that extends beyond blood boundaries.

For us, that came in the shape of over 60 brothers and sisters that we will cherish It’s about being thankful for the blessings forever and a love that extends half way you’ve received and sharing those blessings around the world. with others whenever you can. It’s about playing with those you love.

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Acknowledgements

A special thank you to Pinki, Vikash, Jaya, Priyanka, Punita and Kavita for donating your time and energy to take part in this project. This would not have been possible without each of your beautiful photographs and thoughtful interviews. The lessons you have taught us will be invaluable to our lives in Canada. To Rashmi Cole and the Sri Ram Ashram staff for opening those blue and green gates to us. We will forever cherish the moments we shared at the ashram. To everyone that makes this magical place possible, we thank you. To the participants of the 2014 Mount Royal University India Field School, this wouldn’t have been as enriching of an experience without your constant support, friendship and ability to make us laugh. And finally, to Yasmin Dean and Terry Field, words can’t express howw much this experience has touched us. It’s all because of your hard work and dedication. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts for introducing us to India and to these children.

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The Khushi Project  

Three Canadian journalism students embark on the trip of a lifetime in pursuit of happiness. They find their answers with help from the chil...

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