Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Perfect Break

I've made it a point since college started to write at least at the beginning and end of each semester, and after last semester I wasn't being negligent...senior fall was just really hard. Friends, classes, and extracurriculars all lined up in a way that could have made for a great time, but something caught up to me and I found myself stressed, overworked, and overwhelmed most days...I guess it had to happen eventually!

Anyway, I've been waiting until the very last minute to write this post because I don't think my winter break could have been any more rejuvenating, and I've been trying to stretchhh the end of it out as long as possible. But as I return to campus tomorrow for the start of my last semester of college (!!), I just wanted to recount what a perfect vacation this has been, especially the two-week trip to India I got to take at the end and now find myself very jet-lagged from.

Basically, I know when my mind needs to take a complete break and do absolutely nothing, and that's more or less what this trip was. Lord knows there's no better way to relax than at the homes of one's grandparents, so that's just what I did, but first...

Mumbai

I had the awesome  privilege of getting to return to one of my favorite cities in the world after five years to help out HUII Presidents Zahra and Udai with this year's Harvard US-India Initiative conference in Mumbai!! These two days (and the run-up to them) were utter craziness, complete with all the adrenaline and late nights that I'm sure have to accompany planning an event of this size. High school- and college-age delegates arrived from around the country to discuss solutions to India's greatest development challenges of today. I mostly just hung around and tried to make myself vaguely useful for most of the conference, and on the second day I moderated a panel on Alternative Care for Abandoned, Orphaned, and Abused Children which featured Jacqueline Bhabha (Professor at Harvard Law School and Kennedy School), Suparna Gupta (Founder of Aangan Trust), and Meera Gandhi (CEO of The Giving Back Foundation). Getting to learn so much about a topic I care so much about was a really, really engaging experience, and the content of the conference as a whole was hugely inspiring and optimistic. On a personal level, getting to spend time with some of my best friends and their family and friends in India was unbelievably special.


This incredible experience started my time in India off on a high note, and I was feeling full of love for the country as I made my way to my home state of Punjab.

Chandigarh

I always feel different in Punjab. Different from how I feel anywhere else, but always the same as I did the last time I was in Punjab. Since I was a kid. Arriving in Chandigarh was immediately soothing, and this initial impression was only buoyed by the EXTREME pampering I received upon arrival there. Nani had booked me for three different massages during my four days total in town, and each one was flanked with food that was so out of this world I don't know how it can be made of the same matter as what we typically call "food." Mooli parathas melted in my mouth as I moisturized, lazed in the sun, and caught up on sleep. In between my utter indolence, I would give Nanaji laptop lessons and accompany Nani on (light) errands. 


This lasted for not enough days before I embarked on the gorgeous drive to... 

Ludhiana

When I reached Dadi's house, we dove straight into business mode, driving straight to the bank for Gyaan Ghar work and then visiting the Principal of Malwa Public School to ask if we could recruit a new class of primary school students from their ranks (our fundraiser this summer did so well that we're thinking of adding a new class to the learning center!). I spent the evening of Lohri, a winter solstice celebration, in Ludhiana around a warm fire with neighborhood friends, and when one of them told me to make a wish I had nothing to ask for! I got to spend just one class with my students, and we had a wonderful conversation that impressed me and filled me with hope.


After another brief touch-down in Chandigarh, it was time to begin my journey back...

Home

I flew out from Mumbai, full of all the feelings this country fills me with and so excited and inspired to get my hands dirty post-undergrad and start working on some of the things that are so close to my heart, in a place so dear to me.


All of the amazing PEOPLE I got to be surrounded by and spend time with during my stay here, against the backdrop of Punjab fields and the Mumbai ocean, were the perfect reminder, and just the one I needed, that the world is so much bigger than every day.

1 comment:

  1. It is marvelous to read about your trip to India, the people that dedicate their lives to improve the lives of others; and to feel the hope from the picture of students sitting around a fire, and most of all, your love for the home state. Your Vertex friend and fan – Helen Shi

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