A few weeks back I feel to the southern portion of India to spend the weekend with my fraternity big, Aaron, and his mom, Audrey, in Pondicherry. I left Delhi super excited to explore a new part of India with two of my best friends. Yes, both my friend and his mom are my best friends.
The flight was fairly easy to Chennai, but once there I needed to wait for Aaron and Audrey at the airport as their flight from Madurai was arriving a bit late. While waiting, I sat down next to another young girl in the baggage claim area. I could feel her watching over my shoulder as I was editing a photo of my friend and I on Instagram. She candidly asked me, “Is that your girl friend,” and I candidly responded, “Oh no, I’m gay.” She stared back at me with wide eyes and a slightly ajar mouth. She certainly was not used to hearing that type of characterization in a typical conversation. I quickly, remembered where I was when I saw the surprised reaction on her face and whispered, “Oh, sorry. Yeah I’m gay.” She answered back, stating, “Um oh okay,” and that was the end of our conversation and she quickly found a reason to get up from her seat. This experience set a few notions regarding Indian culture and global acceptability, in general, in perspective for me. Being so comfortable in my university environment at Penn, I truly had forgotten that there were still young people out in the world who were not totally comfortable with that topic. I feel both blessed that I am able to enjoy these liberties in America but also excited to change perspectives of others both inside and outside of India in regard to their notions on sexuality and acceptability.
The rest of the weekend with Aaron and his mom was an amazing time. Upon arrival we checked in to our hotel which was a restored French villa in the center of town. As I stepped out of my room at night to head downstairs for dinner I was immediately blinded by my own glasses. The change in humidity from my room to the outside air was so dramatic that my lenses were entirely clouded. The nights outside in Pondicherry were the most humid experiences I have had in life to date; luckily the fans and misters in the hotel dinner space kept us cool. I woke up the next day excited to visit the Ashram and have the yummy pizza I heard about there. I was fascinated by the structure and interested to learn a link between it and the hospital Audrey was doing work for in Madurai, as Aaron was able to make a connection between the spirituality at both the hospital and the religious space. We also managed to make it over to the Botanical Garden in Pondicherry which turned out to be not so well maintained but still was an interesting place to check out. Sadly, all of the jellyfish in the aquarium tank were dead.
When I got in the car to head back to the airport I was sad because I was leaving my two best friends but also excited to get back to Delhi to continue working on my risk analysis project.