What a trip it’s been. To look back at this year and all that Mother India has taught me is unexpressably enormous. I’ve changed so much. I feel so confident and poised to handle anything or anywhere in the world. Yes, every place you go to is different but there is definitely something to be said for going to a developing country and deal with everything it can throw at you.
The things that were so overwhelming, intimidating and downright terrifying are now so commonplace in my life here. Crossing the street, getting rickshaws, RIDING IN RICKSHAWS, interacting with beggars, seeing a slum dwelling next to a 5-star hotel, altering my speech to a more basic English so people understand me, getting things tailored, wearing churidar everyday to school, wrapping a saree, buying groceries in markets, using Indian toilets, shopping in the utter madness of Commercial Street, taking sleeper buses every weekend, traveling without plans – all of these were unthinkable when I arrived and now I can’t imagine life any other way.
The idea of going home to a world I used to know so well is surreal. I won’t feel the continual madness of the traffic, the thrill of our daily rickshaw rides, even the silly little habits we’ve developed from living here – always taking a certain side street to walk past the park on the way to school where schoolchildren play cricket every afternoon, going to a certain vendor for mangoes, and a different one for pomegranates, cooking grilled cheese in our apartments when we need a little taste of home – we’ve created such an intricate home life and now to try and leave it all behind seems unfathomable.
I can’t believe how much I will miss these people, who I’ve known for little more than 4 months, but who’ve become this beautiful extended family, all of us bonding so wholly over being here together, learning, experiencing, adapting. It’s powerful and a little bit terrifying to know they aren’t ever going to be in my life like this again. One girl, R, who I talked about a little in a previous post, is married to an Indian man from Nashik, in Maharashtra. He’s lived in the States for four years, but they’ll be coming back in two for their marriage. All of us are planning to come to attend their wedding and to have a glorious reunion, but even that is like trying to hold water in your hands – some of us will slip through and not make it here for it. This dynamic is totally unique, just as last semester was.
I’m amazed though at how vivid all the memories here are though. I remember the exact moments of everything, painted in my memory so permanently now. The brilliance of the colors, the atrocities we’ve seen, the way I’ve been treated – so graciously and generously and wonderfully, but also so awfully at times, that feeling of comfort when I came back from Nepal and Pondicherry and Bangalore had suddenly become a home to reunite with. And the paradox of it all is that this was my life, this is over a billion peoples’ lives, but mine will end here and theirs will simply continue, going about on its Indian way. I think it’s the most bittersweet experience I will ever have.