Three weeks later and I cannot believe it is over. The experience felt like it lasted only a few days where I made friendships that felt like I knew them for years. Our last day in Hubli at the scholar house was filled with tears, goodbyes and sadness. We knew it would be a long time until we saw our Indian friends again and it was hard to say goodbye to people who are now so close to you. A short flight and we were at a new stop, the Tamil city Chennai on the Bay of Bengal. The next few days would be spent visiting Hindu temples, Christian churches and important cultural sites. I never thought that I would see a piece of a body of one of the apostles but a trip to San Thome Basilica changed that. One of my friends from India, who was born and raised Christian, explained to me how his ancestors had worshipped Christ for hundreds of years before mine (I am Irish Catholic). Knowing little of the history of Christianity in India I thought we was pulling my leg and I am glad to have learned a lot more of this little known fact about India. While this was very interesting, it was the trip to a Hindu temple I found most fascinating. This temple was dedicated to Shiva, his wife Parvati and his sons Ganesha and Murugan and dated back 1400 years. The complex was large with beautiful structures, praying sites, and even a section for cows (which are revered and holy in Hinduism). It was my first time visiting a non-Abrahamic place of worship and was interested in how different the architecture, style of worship and traditions were. The next few days flew by as we visited many sites (including a beach) and learned a lot about Indian culture. The next thing I knew I was at the airport saying goodbye to my American friends (I had booked a different flight due to cost and had luckily wound up flying with the Chinese students). A long layover later (where I got to see the unique city of Hong Kong for several hours) and a tearful goodbye later I was on my final 14 hour flight home.
Jet lag still has me in its grip, but I will always remember this truly once in a lifetime opportunity. Whether it be Sahil and Naveen teaching me how to cross a road (you simply walk through the chaos and do not stop unless it is a bus or a truck because they never stop) or Tejas showing me the best place for kebobs. The unbelievably amazing massages the Chinese students gave (I do not know where Kuku, Cindy and Teddy learned how to literally fix my back) or heart-to-heart with Chirag on the back of his scooty while he brings me to get medicine. The long nights sitting with a dozen of my friends talking and sharing stories and dreams. The early mornings walking through the dusty, palm-lined path to school (where Jon would always be talking to his new friend the security guard). Our best friend Ralphie (a tiny puppy who would follow us around campus) at backgate waiting for snacks and scraps. There is far too much to write about here, however if you are a student reading this and have the chance to go with Professor Mehta to India I have one word for you. Go. You’re life will be changed for the better and you have no idea what lies in store for you. Just know it is amazing and you will not regret it.