It is that time of our journey that we are reflecting over the last 36 days of pure adventure in Chennai, Delhi, Agra, Jaipur, Gurgaon and Pondicherry. In Tamil, நன்றி means thank you, and is pronounced nandri. We used this phrase the most while we’ve been in South India, but in Hindi, thank you is धन्यवाद or dhanyavad, which we mainly used in North India. I would like to dedicate this post to everyone who has helped our UF in India group throughout our trip. First of all, thank you to Dr. K for being the leader of our group 24/7 for five weeks, for being our mentor and guru, for giving us the the experience of a lifetime and making sure everything was perfect for us everywhere we went. I would also like to thank Dr. K’s wife, Dr. L, and daughter, Janani, for letting him take the time away.
We are forever grateful to the administrators at Madras Christian College, Principal Dr. Alexander Jesudasan, Bursar Mr. Sundaraj and the head of the Social Work Department Dr. Miriam Samuel, for making our stay extra special and taking the time to have us interact with the students, give guest lectures, and most of all for the inspirational words of wisdom in sending us off. A special thanks to the medical officer on campus who made sure we didn’t get sick, except for a few minor illnesses. To our staff at MCC International Guest House who made our stay as comfortable as possible. We will never forget you and we will always think of IGH as our home away from home in India. Special shout out to Pravin Jaba for always putting up with our antics, we know it wasn’t always the easiest job looking after fourteen young ladies and one “young” man, and we really appreciate the extra degrees you went to make our study abroad trip the most memorable it could possibly be. We all hope we get a chance to return to MCC in the future and see you again, along with Nagu, Mani, Subosh, Bobby and the rest of the staff. Indra Auntie and Uncle Dr. SKS are two of Dr. K’s closest friends of MCC and who were there for us almost every day in Chennai. We went to them with all sorts of problems and they were constantly asking us if we were doing well and how our families were. They comforted us when we were down, and if it wasn’t for them, Dr. K would’ve had a few more sleepless nights. From the whole UF in India 2013 group, we say thank you! நன்றி.
Also to every single person who were our tour guides, who brought us tea and biscuits, who catered to us, who showed us around NGOs or schools or villages, who gave us informative guest lectures, and who inspired us to continue our love for helping others and making the world a better place. You all are doing just this in Incredible India, and the hospitality that we have received is insurmountable to any other place I’ve been a guest.
Over the past eight days back in Chennai, we had our last two NGO field visits to Action Aid India’s regional office in Chennai, and attended the Felicitation Ceremony of five leaders of reputable NGOs at Soka Ikeda College of Arts and Science for Women. The last one made the trip full circle for us as we saw some of the people with whom we started out our NGO field trips, got a chance to meet the UF Consulate General of Chennai who gave a speech on NGOs and development, and performed the dance that we made up in front of a few hundred people. We also participated in the folk dances performed by the students which had us rolling over laughing as we tried to learn the complicated steps. It was one of the most fun NGO Field visits, and we were also placed in the India Express paper two days later. See the article available online here. To end the program, we finished up our final papers and delivered our final presentations that we have been vigorously working on the past week or so.
Then, it was time to celebrate! We performed our dance multiple times, dressed up in our sarees that were given to us as gifts from our friends at Sethu Bhaskara and Soka Ikeda, and we had a beautiful feast on the last day of the program. From the experiences we’ve had — both frustrating and beautiful, cultural and educational — to the people we’ve met, this has been the trip of a lifetime. It is hard to describe to someone who hasn’t been through this journey with us, but I wish that everyone could have the chance to see this lovely, diverse and complex place that seems so far away from the culture that I’ve known all my life, but has come to feel like home.
Stick around for another final blog post in a few days. See the final tweets from Dr. K by clicking here!
Click here and you can also hear us talk about our experiences with the students and faculty at the cultural exchange program that we had at Pondicherry University at the end of July.