With only a few weeks remaining before my return home, I’m forced to think of what I love, and will miss about India. The food is amazing with spices and breads of all styles. Aravind is an eye-opening new image of healthcare. But these both pale in comparison of the adventures India offers me.
With a free day I can hop on a bus, travel into the mountains or down to the beach. I can view acres of tea plantations or aged stone temples, explore new restaurants, take photos, and then ride a different bus back home by nightfall. Each weekend I strive to leave and find something new that India can offer me, taking me across its hills, coasts, and country sides. Here are a few precious places I have found.
Most hill stations in India were built by the British to escape the heat and disease of the plains during the summer. This station, hidden in the crevice of the hills of Kerala, is cool, green and fresh. Thousands of acres of tea plantations span its hillsides, giving them a mottled, mossy texture. I traveled here with several British Medical students as they ventured further North.
Established as the headquarters of the French East India Company in 1674, this French inspired, tourist attracting city lies on the coast of the Indian Ocean. It offers a great variety of tourist attractions, however its previously beautiful coast has been steadily eroded away, requiring the creation of a rocky seawall. Of interest to me is the Aravind eye hospital just outside Pondi, one of the five (soon to be six) tertiary level Aravind Eye Hospitals at which our fellow interns Maggie and Quan Quan work.
Named after Siva, “Lord of Rama,” this island city is the closest geographical point to Sri Lanka, and is one of the most sacred Hindu points in India. Populating this island are 64 Theerthams, wells powered by the deities that reside in the land after Siva built a land bridge to Lanka to rescue his wife. Hindus come from across the country to bath in the Theerthams and wash themselves of their sins. If you walk in the footsteps of Siva you will find the land bridge leading almost to Sri Lanka down Danushkodi beach, a straight white road sandwiched by white sands and curling waves.
“Queen of Hill Stations”, “Gift of the Forest”, “Forest of Creepers”, all are titles for this nearby hill station. Like Munnar its climate is moist and cool and its hills are green. However, this station is dedicated to more tourist attractions rather than tea plantations. Spanning its hills are rocky spires, waterfalls, and trails hidden in the usual midday clouds. In the center of the station is the valley’s Kodai lake. We met our friends Maggie and Quan Quan here and rode across the hill sides, got soaked, completely immersed ourselves in tourist crowds, and cruised along the lake.
I have found it all in India, quiet solitude in the lush hills of Munnar, nostalgic reminders of colonization down the streets of Pondicherry, awe-inspiring ancient lore on the coasts of Rameswaram, the bustle of tourists on the trails in Kodaikanal. Between each of these adventures lies a whole spectrum of experiences, culture, and people that all shape my time in India. I’m honored to have had these journeys and will miss these opportunities once my time to leave arrives.