I’ve always been fascinated by India. From the picturesque Himalayan mountains and the legend behind the Taj Mahal, to the Bollywood celebrities, the more than 700 dialects of Hindi and the persistence of the caste system, India is a universe of its own. I’ve always had a hard time wrapping my mind around the fact that an entire fifth of the world’s population lives inside its borders. I’ve always seen India as one of those places that you have to experience if you want to really further your understanding of the world.
It hardly feels real that in a few short days I’ll have moved into my homestay in New Delhi, and have begun working at Prajna, a small NGO that runs dance, art, drama, and meditation classes for children in the New Delhi slums. While I’m there, I’ll be conducting interviews about the role of creative activities in the lives of children living in abject poverty. Although I have recited my summer plans more times than I can count, it’s only now that the receipt for my Minneapolis to Delhi round trip ticket is sitting in my inbox, that the words feel like anything more than a fantasy.
In hindsight, how exactly I ended up with a $3000 check, a prescription for anti-malarial pills, a new journal, and a ticket to India is largely coincidental. Back in October, when I was still eagerly going to every club fair on central campus, I was wandering through the fall study abroad fair on a hunt for foreign candy. When I came across the table for the Summer in South Asia Fellowship and asked the fellows a little about what they did, I was immediately hooked. The next time I opened my laptop, it was to set up an advising appointment in the International institute.
Flash forward to March, and after a long application process that required doing a little bit of soul searching and sending a lot of unanswered emails, I opened the congratulatory email notifying me that I’d received the grant to fly halfway across the world. The adrenaline rush and excitement were closely followed by a flurry of travel clinic visits, paperwork, lost packages, and advising appointments fit in between classes and finals. However, in the past few days since I’ve been home, I have finally gotten the chance to catch my breath and process what this all really means.
I applied for this fellowship to further my understanding of inequality from a global perspective, and to immerse myself in a different way of life. I don’t know much about how the next six weeks are going to look, but I do know that I will see poverty like I’ve hardly been exposed to, feel heat like I never have before, and get to know a family and group of children that have lived lives strikingly different from my own. In the next few days I’ll be dusting off my big backpack, buying sunscreen, and leaving behind a world where things are predictable, understood, and mapped out for me. As each day brings me closer to my May 8th departure, my stomach turns with that uncomfortable, yet addictive apprehension that comes along with venturing completely out of your comfort zone. I have no idea how I’ll feel when I step off the plane on Tuesday and find myself in India’s capital city, but for now all I can do to prepare is try to rid myself of expectations, and open my mind and my heart to everything I’m about to experience in the slums of India’s capital city.