Upon returning to Delhi for our final time, the realization that we were indeed heading home in a few days started to settle in. Frantic shopping and creative packing techniques proved to me that I was actually about to leave this country that has slowly become my home. I was leaving the country that I once feared and now adore in just a few days. I had changed from feeling like a lost, terrified tourist into a person who found tourists to be amusing. I am now starting to feel at home in this frantic, intense, and beautiful country.
In the past nearly four months, I have come to learn a great deal about India and the great diversity of Indians who inhabit this vast country. We saw the poverty and joy of beggars; the spirituality of the Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Muslims, Christians and Zorastrians through the country; the natural beauty of the jungles, beaches, deserts, and mountains; the serenity of the mountain villages and the chaos of the cities. We learned how to navigate the overly crowded streets, the Delhi metro, and the buses of Kerala. We felt the love of our host families, the sadness of the orphans and the joy of a shared smile. We tasted the burning heat of curries, the sweet taste of chai and the warmth of Tibetan soups. We smelled smells that cannot be described. We heard incessant car horns, street dogs in the middle of the night, fireworks in the streets after the Indian team won the Cricket World Cup, the music wafting out of temples, and the chanting of monks.
As I prepare for returning to my home country, it is these small things that seem ever more challenging to pack than the material things I have purchased here. The experiences from the past months seem to be ingrained on my heart, but I know that they will fade as time passes and I readjust to living in America. Holding on to the sights, smells, taste, sounds, and experiences of India is something that I hope to do.