As my summer winds down to a close, there was time for one last trip sightseeing. My grandmother and I went to Ooty, a hill station near Coimbatore, for a day/night trip. The weather was even cooler than in Kodaikanal, between 50 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. I was comfortable in t-shirt and jeans; it was amusing to see people wearing coats, sweaters, and beanies because of the cold. Luckily we avoided the rain, so we were able to do some sightseeing. The first place we went to was the Rose Garden, where they hold annual rose festivals. While it was the off-season, there were still plenty of roses to admire.
Another cool place we visited was the Botanical Garden, which had many interesting plants and trees. They also made some cool art using plants, such as peacocks and this map of India.
Our final stop was Doddabetta, the tallest peak in Ooty (and Tamil Nadu). From the top was a beautiful view of the surrounding lands.
The drive to and from was scenic. As the road was built on the side of the hills, it was very twisty and turning. I started appreciating the car horn. It’s something that is rarely used in the US, to the point that using it symbolizes road rage. However in India, it is more important than the indicator. Apart from the traffic, it is probably the next thing people notice while on the road in India: the constant blaring of the horns. After a while, eventually it makes sense. No one follows the lanes in India; it’s a complete free-for-all. The horn isn’t used to show anger, it’s merely a “Hey I’m right here”. People use the horn when overtaking. People use the horn when approaching a car from behind. People use the horn when slowing down. But I started being thankful for that horn on the twisty roads in Ooty. With the road relatively narrow and many of the turns blind, honking the horn was the way drivers alerted potential cars on the other side that they were coming. I’m certain it saved us from many potential crashes, as we’d avoid other cars, buses, and trucks by the smallest of margins. Thankfully the trip went without any problems.
After frantic packing, I’m ready to leave. From my first “vanakkam” (Tamil greeting/goodbye similar to “namaste”) to the hostel manager when I arrived in Madurai to the heartfelt hugs goodbye with Zach and Jane at the end, I will treasure all the memories I’ve made in India. This summer will be most memorable for the people I’ve had the privilege to spend it with. Of course, I got to spend meaningful time with my family. From my cousin’s wedding to seeing my grandparents, it was really nice. I made many friends in Madurai. There’s Pedro, our first friend in Madurai who got us acclimated with life there. Zach and I met Pandian and Prabhu at the gym, who taught us a lot about life in India. My Cleveland pride lit up meeting Erica, who we made trips with to Kodaikanal and Rameshwaram. We could always count on her to stop by our office for a chat or cup of tea. Suresh and I shared laughs and love for various Tamil actresses, and I hope he takes our advice in coming to the University of Pennsylvania. Then Davendra, who we unfortunately only met at the end of the internship. But going to Murugan Idli for my last meal in Madurai was perfect! And of course, Zach and Jane. We shared many laughs, and it’s photos like this one that make me sure we’ll always be together ;).
Family, friends, color, car horns, chaos, Tamil movies, and of course good food, India does have a certain attraction that I’ll miss when I board my plane in some hours. Life this summer was wonderful, and really does make me wonder if I’d be prepared to move here for good in the future. With medical school around the corner, such a move is not on the cards anytime soon. So for now, I’ll have to be content to plan my next vacation to India (there’s still the North to explore!). Until then, vanakkam.