on leaving

I was planning my post-internship travel yesterday (Ooty, Kochi, Alleppey, Varkala, and more, until I reach the tip of India! woohoo!) and as I was looking over my printed-out itinerary, saw the words: “Arrival: San Francisco, CA.” San Francisco, CA?? Jesus. How strange it will be to go home. We’ll be asked, “How was your summer? How was India?” by those who mean well but who forget that there is no way to sufficiently answer that question. How does one convey the meaning of a place to someone who wasn’t there, without having them sit through a slideshow of thousands of photos, without recording the sounds of kids singing prayer songs and dogs howling, and playing those sounds back to them? No one but past and current interns will really understand what it’s like to be constantly greeted by “Thindi aitha? Uta aitha? Did you eat breakfast? Did you eat lunch?”, what gecko poop on my bedsheet looks (and feels) like, the joy and pain-in-the-ass of crowded bus rides. I’ll go home and think, “This? Where is the dirt and the bugs and the jasmine flowers and the blasting of music and horns? This place is so… colorless!” As for answering my friends’ inevitable questions, I’ll probably say something along the lines of, “India was good. I saw a lot of elephants.” They’ll be satisfied with the sense of exoticism, and I’ll be able to keep all the true gems to myself, or to share with those who really want to listen. Man. August and California can wait for now. It’s definitely time to come to an end here in the BR Hills, but there is no way I can completely go back.

As for the last week of our internship, it’s filled with writing reports and bringing sweets to our workplaces to say goodbye to the people we’ve come to know in these last two months. We’re heading to Bangalore on Saturday to present on our work at the main Karuna Trust office, and then we’re branching off to travel, before we finally come home.

A quote from one of my favorite travel books, Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck:

“A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

— shrestha, karuna trust, br hills


One thought on “on leaving

  1. What an amazing quote and a perfect way to capture the essence of traveling…especially in India!

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About shrestha singh

Current graduate student at Harvard Divinity School. Penn Class of 2012, Health and Societies major with a concentration in Global Health, minor in Journalistic Writing.