One Year Later: How CASI, India, and the idea of embracing new experiences continues to shape my thinking

It’s been a year and a half since I was a UPenn junior and CASI summer intern, tucked into the lush foothills of the Himalayas for three months working for an NGO called Chirag. On the record I was there to assess their microfinance self-help groups, but as expected my time at Chirag ended up being about so much more than that. Just two weeks ago, someone I met in the hills suddenly and coincidently popped into my life and everything about that summer came rushing back like the swift faucet-turn of the monsoons.

I’ve spent the past few weeks in Delhi and Calcutta, swinging vines through my family tree and drawing diagrams of everything from neighborhood streets to the different terms assigned to family members (maternal grandmother, paternal elder uncle, etc.). My grandmother still lives in Delhi, and I’ve been literally running to keep up with her as she and her new bionic knee led me through all kinds of markets and fairs.  One warm day in early January we went to the Dilli Haat craft fair, a place where traveling artisans set up their booths boasting handcrafted goods. I perused stall after stall, enjoying the celebration of color reserved only for Indian markets, when I came across a sign that looked very familiar.

K I L M O R A        handcrafted from Uttarakhand

I turned to my grandmother to say, “Kilmora! That’s the brand that Chirag partnered with, selling products made by the local women in the hills! I knew so many- ”

But I barely finished my sentence when I was interrupted by someone calling out my name. A girl emerged from inside the stall, a girl I knew from the Himalayas two years ago who used to run the Kilmora stockhouse. My body ran hot and cold at the sight of her – a familiar face I never imagined I’d see again! We embraced immediately.

I mumbled my half-forgotten Kumaoni, and she laughed along in her broken English, but the shock and delight of that meeting was as palpable as my memories of that summer.

After some time I left her stall, holding her hands and telling her how happy I was to see her. And she responded in English, “See you…soon!”

Sometimes I toy with the idea of returning to Chirag and the hills I fell in love with, to contribute to the ongoing success of this NGO I feel so strongly about. But even if I don’t, I know there are so many other coincidental moments waiting to happen. And sometimes the best coincidences happen when you’ve accumulated a whole variety of experiences, loose ends and adventures and challenges, which end up unexpectedly aligning. 

 

Take a step toward a new experience. Apply for the CASI internship program.

http://casi.sas.upenn.edu/studentprograms/internships

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About Shumita Basu

A host/producer/reporter at WNYC Radio