After a week of mild to moderate heart ache and promises of long term friendships, my Indian adventure is coming to an end. In 23 hours my flight back to Cleveland (The Land) begins. Although I return to a city still bereft of an NBA Championship Title, my emotions are more of a mixture than pure chagrin.
Here is an excerpt from my journal I want to end my contributions to the blog with:
When I was 18, and I dreamt of how my collegiate education would go – where it would take me, what heights I wanted to reach – I don’t think in my most reckless moments of letting my imagination wander that I would be where I am now. Typing what I type now.
I did not think I would be in the back of a rickshaw racing down a barely paved road in rural India, feverishly trying to brandish 40 rupees for the fare before we reach our destination. My heart racing not only because I can’t seem to find the rupees in the black of night with water splashing past the canvas flaps of the rickshaw’s cabin, but because I glance at my watch only to realize I am more than two hours past curfew, with lightening and rain setting the background as monsoon season begins in Southern India.
Probably not my wisest choice, but as a reckless 20 year old, I traveled over an hour alone by bus and rickshaw to Mysore from Sargur to meet someone I had only first became acquainted to less than 9 days ago. The language barrier was low enough that I could make out enough to be confident he would be at the bus stop when I arrived in the city. But only just that confident.
The trip was well worth the struggle, I reflect, when I recall gluttonously eating the first meat I had in over two weeks and when I let my gaze wander to the corner of the room and I see the stash of Coca Cola and chocolate that I managed to scuttle into my room without attracting too much attention as I walked through the not for profit hospital in rural India – ah yes, this was the beginning to my sophomore summer.
I came to India to be wrong. To let the little things challenge how I form categories and make distinctions. I think I succeeded.
I nearly urinated at what I took to be a wall urinal reminiscent of the old Michigan Football Stadium urinals, but turned out to be a place to hand wash garments (to really understand how egregious of an offense, imagine if someone came into your home and began to relinquish themselves on your washing machine). I have asked the driver to get into the car, only for him to respond “Then step away from the drivers seat”. I have been told to arrive at 20-06-2015, with my first thought being “Damn, how many months does India have?”. I failed to correctly eat fish, which I corrected by swallowing dry rice like a Multi-Vitamin to force the tiny bone into my stomach. I have eaten rice so incorrectly with my hand that even after a month people still ask me “Do you need a spoon?”.
For 20 years I have used restrooms that looked the same, gotten into cars with the drivers seat on the same side, written the date the same, eaten with the same tools, and I never contemplated that these things could be done differently. I never thought that my time and place helped me generate these schemas that were not universally applicable. I was not in an environment conducive of questioning these commonalities, these taken for granted understandings.
To grow up again is valuable. And I have “grown up” again in India, all the way down to using the restroom.
Thank you to SVYM, VMH, Janelle Fosler, Latha, Sindhu Suresh, Rekha, Raju, Balu, and Dr. Padmaja TJ. And, most importantly, thank you to the donor of the Summer in South Asia Fellowship Program for making this all possible.