When Vinay walks to Bhaja from the train, listening to the birds singing and the trees rustling in the breeze, he feels he is moving from darkness into light.

Vinay Jogdand, aged 23, is a sincere and articulate young man. Yet his eyes betray the suffering he has already experienced in life. This is his third Non Violent Communication (NVC) workshop. It is being held at Bhaja Retreat Centre – also funded by Karuna – which is located in a rural area between Pune and Mumbai. Bhaja is an idyll for people who usually spend their daily lives in the noise and squalor of the city slums.

Vinay’s family had been itinerant for many years. So when they finally settled in Maharashtra, Vinay was behind in speaking Marathi (the local language). Despite his obvious intelligence, his higher-caste schoolteachers waged a merciless campaign of verbal and physical bullying, causing him a series of mental health problems.

Although Vinay is being treated conventionally, he particularly values NVC, meditation and the conditions at Bhaja Retreat Centre to help him. By improving his relationship with his family, he experiences fewer quarrels and more harmony. Vinay has also discovered a gift for performing, and wants to help people to connect through traditional Mahrashtrian songs and dance.

Despite his traumatic past experiences, Vinay tries to feel no ill will towards those who bullied him. He credits NVC with helping him gain a broader perspective on his experience. He feels lighter away from the cramped conditions at home, and describes Bhaja as the place where his heart lives. When he walks here from the train, listening to the birds singing and the trees rustling in the breeze, he feels he is moving from darkness into light.

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