One foot in India…One foot in America

Isn’t it funny how things work with looming deadlines?

Last week, when Christina and I were finishing up our study, we looked forward to this week, our last at Aravind. Unlike most weeks here, we thought it would be relaxing, a week to ease and prepare ourselves for our eminent departure – shadow doctors, watch a few surgeries, numerous thank yous and final dinners. Somehow everything seemed to be lumped in the final few days, but managed to work itself out in the end.

Isn’t it funny how you grow attached to people?

By the time I write this line Christina and Sindhu are already off on the next leg of their journey. I’m handling it as well as anyone would if they lost 2/3 of themselves – I ordered Dominos and watched startrek. I’ll be OK.

Christina is jaunting off to Mumbai, Agra and Delhi before flying back home. Somehow she managed to pack beautifully under time duress. Between her newfound Indian wardrobe, gifts and mementos, she managed to pack as the most seasoned world travelers would. It seems like only a month ago instead of three we were planning our pre-Aravind trip to Bangalore and Mysore and now the next time we will meet will be on Locust Walk.

Sindhu’s heading home for much-deserved family time and vacation. From Israel she flew directly to India and expertly managed to insert herself not as a complete stranger, but as a seasoned friend.

Before leaving, Sindhu emphasized that we must not under any circumstance remain only situational friends – thrown together in a foreign country for a few months. Friends by force, not choice. Obviously that won’t happen. They’ve only been gone for a few hours and I’m already looking forward to “raging” during NSO, buying “matching” bikes, eating at the new Han Dynasty in West Philly and dairy “boot camp” (lots of Dairy Queen!). Christina, fine you win. I’ll even let Sindhu go to your family’s Thanksgiving…as long as I get her next year!

And that’s just Sindhu and Christina….

Inspired. Entirely welcomed. Those are the first words that come to mind about Aravind. Everyone from the lowest to highest employee made us feel part of the family. During the last few minutes of Christina’s goodbye, the retina clinic sisters crowded around her. All wished her the best; a few even demanded and successfully escorted her out of the hospital.

It’s touching how close we’ve all grown from working together. Our disparate backgrounds, language, culture and religious barriers may loom like the Himalayas, but were easily surmountable. (Hey, I’m leaving tomorrow. When else can make awful, Indian-inspired similes?)

The sisters kept asking when we will be back. Nobody knows, but Mr. Thulsi, the director of LAICO, Aravind’s consulting/training arm, mentioned how Aravind tends to attract repeat visitors. Nor is it uncommon to have intergenerational family members working or volunteering at Aravind over decades, he quickly added. Could this be us?

After a terrific summer, who knows when we’ll return. I certainly don’t, but I’m sure we won’t remain strangers.

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About Sam Ware

I graduated from Penn in 2013, majoring in Health and Societies. I worked at Aravind Eye Care System in Madurai during the summer of 2012. I'm currently serving as a Global Health Fellow in rural Haiti where I manage community health programs for 75,000. I'll be returning to the US at the end of June 2013 where I'm very excited to eat tons of dairy products and green things!