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Arpan Bhandari

April 27, 2014



I signed up for this class without thinking much of it. This seemed like an interesting
option but I had no idea what I was signing up for. The description interested me so I went with
it. I enjoyed the class more than I expected to and Im glad I signed up for it. Not only was the
public service aspect of the class a very educative experience but the in class discussions were
enlightening as well.
We discussed numerous topics during the in-class discussions and I must say I really
enjoyed them. My favorite discussion and activity is without a doubt Sean Langleys Wheel of
Life activity. It made me really analyze what my priorities in life are and interestingly enough, it
also provided me with an analysis of society. It made me understand that everyone has
different priorities in life. For example, my most important aspect of life is personal growth.
Interestingly enough, I did not think much of personal needs, perhaps because I am provided
for and so making those ends meet does not concern me much. This activity made me question
a lot of values and so when I did have to order my priorities, I had a difficult time. I thoroughly
enjoyed it and I still go back to it sometimes and imagine what my priorities are and what
makes them so important to me. Another discussion that I really enjoyed was about the
poverty analyses.
Ehrenreichs article was something that fascinated me greatly because it was devoid of
the fundamental understanding of poverty and only further emphasized the idea that academia
alone cannot solve poverty. I was even more amused by the fact that her experiment lacked
one of the main problems of poverty. Her experiment was based around her living a life of
poverty but at the same time, as an accomplished academic, she never actually had much to
lose. She could live her life in poverty by doing everything that she did but at the same time,
she had a cushioning; she could fail miserably and still have a financial foundation to fall on.
Someone living in true poverty would never have that kind of a foundation and so her
experiment was extremely superficial and it is still something that I think of.
The volunteer aspect of this class was very interesting. I originally intended to volunteer
at a middle school but was never able to put that plan to action. After that, I tried to volunteer
at a local retirement home and that didnt happen either due to some timing conflicts and the
fact that my paperwork wasnt processed properly. Eventually I decided to volunteer at the
local Hindu Center. I have attended the Hindu Center as a place of worship and for community
activities since I was eight or nine years old. I started working there as often as I could and did
so for roughly 5 hours each time. I helped around the community center and helped maintain
cleanliness.
This experience contributed greatly to my personal growth because I have always been
a member of the community but now I was actively involved in making it happen. Along with
that, I was able to grow spiritually with this experience, like an ascetic, I was able to spend
much time in the confines of a religious center. Personally, I had an extremely stressful
semester and being in that setting was really peaceful for me. I was able to calm myself and I
was able to assist those in need. Another wonderful experience was being able to help out
those who came for worship and helping the children who came with their parents. This was a
very emotional experience for me because it reminded me of my childhood. I was reminded of
visiting the temple with my parents on Sunday mornings while living in Virginia and while living
in Charlotte. I was reminded of listening to the old Hindu myths that would amaze me and
teach me how to be a better person. One instance that changed me for sure was telling a little
child the story of Narsimha. The look in his eyes when I told him the climax of the story was
something that I can never forget. It reminded me of my childhood and I was reminded of how
much I love my faith and my culture. Another great experience was the simple task of being
there. I would spend time alone and because using my phone is not considered respectable, I
had to put it away. I spent a lot of time alone and I used that to calm myself and relax which I
needed because the stress of this semester was really beginning to get under my skin. Being
able to relax and be at peace is what the ascetics crave and you could consider me a modern
ascetic while volunteering. Being there for the prayer sessions when the people would pour in
every evening, I enjoyed taking in the excitement and the commotion. The collective chaos was
always exciting and being able to help pass out the offerings of sweets to everyone after the
prayer was over was always enjoyable. I would often run into my friends and family friends who
I would enjoy talking to. It added a nice social touch to the situation.
Another thing I enjoyed doing was assisting teaching the Sunday classes. Although they
were small and not too exciting, I still enjoyed them because I got to take part in the society
and I was able to teach the things that I had learned. I used to attend those classes as a child
and being able to teach what I had learned was a great feeling. Teaching and telling the stories
that I had learned in my childhood was a great experience. Although teaching these classes was
not my primary focus, I would try to teach as much as I could and even learn from them. I had
forgotten many of these stories and hearing them again definitely brought back some great
memories and wonderful lessons. Interestingly, my class on Indian Ghosts and Demons this
semester tied in with my volunteering. A lot of the stories overlapped and I was nicely
reminded of my childhood.
Although volunteering is supposed to help the community, I like to think that it was also
of great assistance to me. I did help the community and Im sure I touched the lives of those in
my society but I also learned a lot. This volunteering opportunity was an enlightening
experience and great for my mental wellbeing. I am glad that I was able to reach out to my
community and definitely be off some assistance. Another thing that I am grateful for is being
able to reach out to the younger generation and teach them about our culture and religion. This
is something that is extremely important because often times, our culture is pushed aside. In
fact, even I used to run from my heritage because I didnt understand it and didnt think that it
was relevant to my life however, now that I have grown older I have learned that it is
something that must be taught and carried on. Although this wasnt what I wanted to do
originally with my community service, this was the best option and I thoroughly enjoyed it. This
is definitely something that I would love to do more of in the future.