Stories from India

Claire Reichle - India


February 23, 2017

I have been living in India for five months now, which means quite a few things. First and foremost, this means that I have been slacking on my blog posts, with my last and only blog post having been written before Pre-Departure Training (our first week together in California). I have quite a few things to fill you in on, from the greatest experiences I have had to the normalcy of my daily routine. Secondly, this means that I have learned and grown in innumerable ways; some ways visible to everyone, and some ways visible only to myself. It means that I have been living with my host family for five months, and have undoubtedly found a second community here with the members of my host family, my neighbors, and the students I work with at school. I have found my routine, and explored outside of it. There is no way that I could sum up what my experience has been so far, and what it has meant for me. Still being in the middle of my bridge year, I wouldn’t be able to process the experience fully for myself.

So, instead of trying to outline all that I have done, all that I have felt, and everything in between, I will begin to explore one of my favorite memories from each month that I have been here. You can expect to find one blog post from August, when I met the fellows who would be by my side throughout the year and then left for India, up until April, when I will returning home and reflecting on this great journey.

And yet, while I will be describing some spectacular experiences from each month, it is important to note that some of the most important memories I have come from some of the more simplistic actions in my routine here. It’s exciting to talk about the time my program partnered with Adventures Beyond Barriers, an organization dedicated to creating opportunities for those with disabilities, so that together we could climb Torna Fort, or the time I celebrated Diwali with my host family by making diyas, creating rangoli outside our home, and bursting crackers to symbolize the presence of light within and without. However, some of the memories that will stand out the most while thinking about the shape my year have to be some of the smaller and seemingly less significant day-to-day acts, like walking home with one of my students, Tushar, and his family, or playing Passage-Passage with some of the little kids in the hallway of our apartment building (a mixture of tag and monkey-in-the-middle tailored to the dimensions of the building). These smaller moments – ones with little prestige or status – are the ones that fill me with the most joy and make me realize why I am here. I am not here to change the world or even to change a single person — I am here to learn, to experience life in another corner of our vast world, and to work past our differences to strengthen our connections as humans.

One of the things that I look forward to in my day is walking home with my student Tushar, his brother Kedar, their mother Rani, and one of their friends Diksha. They live just up the street from me, so they agreed to show me a shortcut home, which turned into a daily routine.

Pictured here are two students in the 1st standard class that I was substituting. While the rest of the class was running around and shouting in complete chaos, these two were sweetly working on their drawings, oblivious to their surroundings. Moments like these ground me and help me to see the beauty in even the smallest of actions.

Making rangoli with my host mom for Diwali, the festival of lights.

Climbing up to Torna Fort with one of my new friends Anju, a participant in Adventures Beyond Barriers. The fort can be seen at the left-hand corner at the very top of the ridge.

Our group stopping halfway through the hike for some laughs and a water break.

 

The view from Torna Fort.

Claire Reichle