The Journey Home

Hi Everyone! My name is Aardra and I am a rising junior in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. I will be graduating with a degree in Bioengineering and South Asian Studies in May 2016. This summer I am so very excited to take a journey that I know will be rewarding on every level- and I invite you to share the experience with me, from the lessons I learn to the relationships I make to the insights and ideas that I will take away from these 10 weeks!

I will be spending the next 2.5 months in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand, India which is part of the Himalayan range with a non-profit organization called CHIRAG, Central Himalayan Rural Action Group (Simyal Village, Naintal District). Established almost 30 years in the region, CHIRAG has been the source of various projects involving education, health, natural resource management, etc. My interests are primarily in environmental engineering and their projects that target watershed development, spring recharge, and forestry.

When we think about development, we often see that while nations might have a rich capital of natural resources and raw material, the inability to allocate and use them in a productive and sustainable way leads to resource depletion. The effects of resource depletion are by no means isolated- beginning with individual communities and then spreading to larger economic systems and livelihood structures, eventually affecting even the education of children in the area. Consequentially, entire nations are faced with issues larger and more complex than any system could model- and solutions can often take a very long time because the more a non-profit or ngo integrates itself within a community, the more they realize the depth of work that needs to be done.  Change is slow, and being completely aware of that, this summer my goal is to actively immerse myself in a dynamic system for the purpose of understanding engineering in an environmental and agricultural context. Developing nations are the most in need of efficient design solutions and I am excited to see how I can I learn from and contribute to the existing projects led by CHIRAG.

But let’s get to the heart-speak. More than anything, I am looking forward for this to be a personally fulfilling journey. For me, if America is the home of my body, India is the home of my spirit. There is so much anticipation and love and good feelings that is associated with being there that I cannot help but wish I am there longer each time I go- even if it is three months. And the worst part of this journey might be the return flight back and walking through US customs. I want to express my gratitude more than anything else at having this opportunity to go spend 10 weeks in this super-remote mountain village. It teaches you character. It starts with washing your own clothes, eating simple, and not having AC and it ends with learning how to live in a way that makes you thankful for what you have- less needs, less wants. My goal is to be as open as possible during this trip. Although there are a million places I want to go and things I want to do- I completely realize and accept that only what is meant to happen will happen (ie. Indian train tickets are super flaky and hard to get)- so the entire point is to be completely in the present moment- take opportunities as they come, be spontaneous (without being stupid), and completely enjoy each experience regardless of the plans I made. Love to everyone reading- I am starting my journey home…

White-water rafting in Nepal!

White-water rafting in Nepal!

3 thoughts on “The Journey Home

  1. Aardra, I love your last paragraph so much! Especially this :
    “For me, if America is the home of my body, India is the home of my spirit.”
    It’s much the same for me, but you’ve captured it in a way I don’t think I could have. Here’s hoping you discover yourself and the motherland like you’re hoping to 🙂

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About Aardra Rajendran

I'm a recent Bioengineering graduate from the University of Pennsylvania. I will be headed to Chennai, India over this next year to conduct public health work as a Fulbright Student Research Fellow. My interests include Eastern spirituality, medicine and contemporary approaches to healing, hiking, being part-lion/part-owl, and watching the stars at night. Peace.