The day we flew out of SLC to begin our journey to New Delhi was full of logistics, anticipation, and nervousness. The air was almost electric with mixed emotions as we flew out of the normalcy and comfort we knew in the US. However, unlike most trips away from home, I knew the intensity with which we started this trip would not dip down by any means. I was beyond excited, and I didn’t want to slow down this pace. Arriving in India was just as I expected. A sea of people waited behind a fence as we pushed through a wall of humidity and pollution. We were hurried past the gawking and were shoveled into cabs with our luggage perched atop the vehicles clinging onto gravity as their only chance of survival, as they lay sitting in a 5 inch tall metal basket. As we began navigating traffic, all traffic signs, lines, and signals were regarded as “loose” guidelines. We soon realized that closing our eyes provided a little bit of comfort in what seemed to be a “no holds barred” race to get to our hotel for the night. But, alas, we made it to our rooms and quickly crashed, anticipating what the daylight would hold for us.
With a very memorable 48 hours behind us, we started our work with the school of public health in Chandigarh (PGI) and a local non-profit (MBCT) and became acquainted with the culture of India. Although the research and work was why we were ultimately there, I can hardly remember what I wrote down in my research notes. What I do remember are the colors, the dynamic flavors, the amaaaazing tea, the weathered faces, and the generosity. Upon stepping into India, I unknowingly entered into friendships that would last beyond our 3 week stay in India. In this land of unfamiliarity, I found comfort in my peers, both from home and India, and in the $8 jar of peanut butter.
By the end of the trip I found myself in a love/hate relationship with India; I was miserable in the 80% humidity, 100+°F temperatures, and no escape from dirt, but I was enamored. I loved the offerings of tea and homemade cookies on our walks through the villages, I loved the beautiful fabrics and colors of everyday attire, I loved the camaraderie of my research team, I loved the roaming dogs and cattle, I loved the fluidity of what appeared to be reckless and chaotic traffic, I loved the love I felt from India and its people. The beauty in the chaos grew on me, and stayed with me as I returned home. India taught me to be more generous; even when my bank account is drained, I can offer my time, ears, home, or developing cooking skills to those around me. India taught me to draw more parallels between cultures, religions, and people from around the world and realize that we are not so different after all. India taught me to use my selfish curiosity to realize my dreams and goals of helping others. I took with me the lessons I learned in India, and I hope I never forget them.