And so I’m back, unceremoniously, in America. I am left sitting in my parent’s home (as I feel my home was left sitting in Gopanpalli) awaiting the moment when I suddenly realize that the past four months not only were real, but that they also cannot be relived or recreated. The most tangent evidence beyond a heavy heart are the myriad fabrics I’ve brought back with me in order to try and piece together the “me” I’d become abroad with the “me” I’ve always been, hoping my quest to become my own safety blanket holds true, that the stitching doesn’t fall apart after a few washes. I think I can prove my strength, though; I know these Indian cloths don’t fall apart easily, and I’m considering myself worn but durable, like a favorite pair of leather sandals. 

What I know will remain working on my soul for a long time is the deep-rooted connection with Bhavani and Tanvi. These two beautiful people (one for her warmth, wisdom and resilient courage, one for her avidity, curiosity and naive but well-intentioned care) have had far more an impact than they could ever know upon my being. I have grown from the seeds they sowed, and as I continue to mature I know the memory of their radiant smiles help to ignite my own light to keep me smiling. Their role in my journey, while only physically lasting four months, will carry significance far beyond the restraint of time. In one way or another, I dare to think that the universe was busy, busy, busy during my stay in India, and I dare not take any experience had over the semester for granted.

India, I have loved you, and you have loved me, and that is all I can ask for. 

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Oh, how I wish I could continue to watch this little girl grow up. She’s only four going on five, but I swear she’s coming up on 18 quicker than you’d think. It’s odd, to think I will be able to watch her from afar, through pictures on facebook, and by emailing with her mother. But, will she remember me? This girl has grown up with a huge group of 20-something year-old best friends that change every four months. She has always lived with revolving older brothers and sisters, and she has loved many of them just as family. What impact can I have on her as she ages, being one of the many young adults who has been active in her life? Maybe I am asking the wrong question. Maybe it is easier to understand what impact she has had on me, for I will unquestioningly remember her for the rest of my life. 

Tanvi has reminded me that simple things cannot be taken for granted. Dancing is a natural part of life, and you should always engage in it, regardless of how good you are at actually keeping a beat. Cameras were made to capture moments of silliness, and being silly is better than being anything else. The computer is a device from which anything can be learned, including what a galaxy is, what neurons are, and how they look alike. If your dress doesn’t match your shoes at all, but you like them, that’s okay, and you should damn well still wear that dress and those shoes. Absolutely anything can be made into a game, and there doesn’t have to be a winner and a loser, there just needs to be an active imagination. Holding hands is a natural phenomenon and should be done between people who care for each other. To be a hair stylist, all you need is a pinecone brush and some hair bands. A loving Momma’s work is hard, and never over, but always rewarding. 

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trying not to think about
how what goes up must come down

trying not to think about

how what goes up must come down

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Let the waves of the universe rise and fall as they will. You have nothing to gain or lose. You are the ocean.

- Ashtavakra Gita 

(Source: liquidlightandrunningtrees, via holeinmyskull)

everyday

everyday

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From Goa - the more relaxing side of things

only in India will you come upon a fair at 10pm, when it has just closed and everyone has left, and the men will restart the ferris wheel so you and your friends can ride it in the dark, empty fair grounds.

also only in India will the ferris wheel GO INCREDIBLY FREAKING FAST WHAT EVEN IS SAFETY CODE DOES IT EXIST but damn that was fun if not a tad dangerous

April 5th CIEE Farewell Dinner

1. me in Bhavani’s sari on the rooftop where all the cool kids hang out feelin’ like an Indian princess in the sunset (accompanied by my dear friend Emily in the corner)

2. home stay family love, Priya and I both in Bhavani’s saris

3. roommate love photobombed by my dear friend Bob

4. The best group picture accidentally taken; I’m sure I’m telling a story to Bob and Thomas, and Nick on the end there is stealin’ the show

guess what I wrote another poem

If we’re trying to understand the universe 

why can’t we do it through our hands,

fragile little bones bending 

to send the energy we conduct 

by blood pulsing in and out of chambers 

through all that we touch,

with the hopes of feeling out the edges 

of matter and gravity,

two of the only things we can be sure of, 

after all, the bits and pieces we have to put together 

are that which the earth provides us, 

and I swear it provides us with miracles,

sparkling radiant mirrors beneath the dirt 

that show us we can’t possibly grasp our own reflections 

because the “i” that we see is less of an image 

and more of a conception,

but that’s not what I’m talking about here. 

I’m talking about a little girl 

closing her eyes and dancing,

her twirls falling in and out of rhythm,

the hem of her dress making ripples in a tide

that her arms snap back and forth to break, 

her spastic kicks pounding out the 

wrong beats on a sandy shore,

to embed her footprints as deep as possible in the grains - 

her hands push the heavy air to keep the water moving,

and the wind she creates 

stirs up dirt from my stomach 

that I can barely keep choked in my throat,

and I watch her tiny fingers play the music 

she’s hearing in her head.

I want to know what what she saw every time she spun around

and the world turned blurry, 

colors mixing together

to form an alternate landscape - 

Tell me little girl, 

what world did your fingers find?

She said that she

was on a mission to find a place deep down

where she can sing everything she says 

in any language she wants

and the only things that grow big are the flowers,

and they make the whole place smell real nice, 

a place where she’s not too small to traipse through the forest 

without an adult,

and not too big to use dandelions as transportation,

a place where everyone,

all the kids like her,

can pick the fruits of the flowers and never go hungry,

cause she’s seen so many kids be hungry,

and what she doesn’t understand about the universe

is why?

And I know I can learn a lot from her

because even at the tender age of four,

she knows that open-palmed children

deserve more than they can muster up the courage to comprehend,

that their little hands can’t possibly hold the weight

of a vegetable or fruit,

while the fruition of coined giving 

dissolves into cracked palms of old men -

and when they touch you,

they don’t feel you,

rather you can feel their energy draining into the sewage beneath them,

curiosity undermined by destitution,

dust and grime blocking the passageways 

that would allow them to hear the same music

or to know that it’s gravity weighing them down

more than the makeshift chains that bind them to a curbside, 

their sparkling radiant mirrors 

are buried so deep in their chest

that the miracle becomes finding the “I”

and pulling it to any surface,

so this little girl,

she sings for them,

little prayers filled with seeds, soil and water,

hoping that one day 

their fingers will touch the bark of trees

and feel the liberation of timelessness 

work its way into their veins,

that they can climb up into the leaves

and make a blanket from the night sky,

rather than smog,

and I tell her that if she loves them,

she’ll dedicate every star she sees to them,

to give them some light to hold on to 

cause the stars may change depending on where you are 

when you’re looking at them,

but the patterns will follow you,

and constantly remind you that you’re

looking into something of rhyme and reason

and the most chaos imaginable,

and that, sweet girl, is the reason

so many children go hungry,

because among all the rhyme and reason of the universe

there always has to be more chaos than imaginable,

but if you can use your hands to create a home

and your fingers can rub off caked stains of dirt

and every touch can send warmth 

in the form of a love unmatched by spoken word

then why haven’t we been using our hands 

to understand the universe

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From March 27th - HOLI: Festival of Colors

4

From March 28th - Why I No Longer Have a Personal Goal to Ride an Elephant

This is only the first among a few posts I’ll be sharing about my week in Goa (from which I have just returned). I had a great time, but I also learned a few hard lessons this week that have changed my perspective on one of my biggest excitements about coming to India. 

Everybody wants to see elephants when they come here. It is a natural desire, as images of elephants are everywhere, and India is a land known for the majestic creatures. And really, you can find them all over the country, especially if you’re looking. What is difficult to understand from the outside, however, is that they’re often found shackled to post or a tree in a parking lot, turning tricks for rupees while wooden or metal sticks are jabbed into pressure points meant to control them. They’re treated like giant circus dogs whose lives serve the sole purpose of making somebody money. They are domesticated to the point that they resemble only the image meant to be sold - no longer are they the wise, powerful, beautiful beings conveyed in their symbolism, that wild aspect has been tamed to give the people a satisfaction of having engaged with that same mysterious animal on their keychain, and that they probably got a picture of it for their friends. I admit, prior to my journey here, I was one of those people. I wanted my moment with an elephant, and I thought it would be a radiant one that would fulfill a strong feeling of closeness to an animal I could never imagine experiencing. I imagined riding through lush greenery, allowing the creature to take me where it wanted to eat or drink, and that I could send it my warmth, and that it could send me its wisdom of the world. It was a dreamlike, over-eager conception of what the experience would actually be like, and I knew this, but still I made it an ultimate goal for my time here. When I heard there was a beautiful spice plantation in Goa which doubled as an “elephant sanctuary”, I thought maybe I had found the place to live out this dream.

We knew it would be the most touristy thing we’d do here, but from the basic research on the place, we thought it’d be worth it. The site advertises the possibility of riding and bathing with elephants in their natural habitat, and touring the plantation learning about the spices and their uses. It looked beautiful, and from the pictures the elephants looked happy in their little jungle reserve, even with the tourists on their backs. However, when we got there we were met with quite a different story. Kids and parents were piling atop uncomfortably saddled elephants as men riding in the front prodded them with sharp metal rods and shouted at them to walk. They went in a circle around the parking lot and back, allowing the bright-smiling faces of the families on top to get the perfect picture to bring back from India and show all their friends. All we had to do is make eye contact with the elephant to realize that we did not have the heart to do it. We couldn’t contribute to something that we could plainly see was wrong just for the experience. So we left, hearts heavy, leaving our enthusiasm over the chance of an elephant ride behind. 

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From March 9th-10th Buddhism in Nagpur

Five friends and I were invited to speak about Buddhism and world peace at a Dr. Ambedkar International Seminar in Nagpur. All expenses - travel, accommodation, food, cab fare, everything - were paid for by the organization that had invited us, so we got a free trip up north and an incredible opportunity to speak as a delegate at the conference.

Nagpur is famous as the place where Dr. Ambedkar denounced hinduism and converted his hundreds of thousands of followers to Buddhism at Deekshabhoomi (pictured second). He and his disciples took the 22 bodhisattva vows together, setting in history the largest religious conversion. His goal was to unite his people under a religion which would treat them all as equals. He himself grew up a dalit, an untouchable, and devoted his life to breaking the limits of the caste system - and he indeed did succeed, going on to be a writer of the Indian Constitution.  The seminar is one of many that acts to keep Dr. Ambedkar’s voice alive, discussing how Buddhism can be used to cause peaceful revolution within a society. They’re religious activists for a better world with an entirely equal society. 

The area has now become a large pilgrimage site for Buddhists. We drove out to Dragon Buddhist Temple (pictured first), and I was able to take my daily meditation in front of the Buddha shrine and stupa. So many hindu temples I have visited while, so many churches I have been in throughout my life, but to walk into this room, hand clasped at heart, complete silence - to kneel down in front of the Buddha and to sit at rest and at peace, practicing that which the Buddha taught, without being told to do so, or the proper way to do so, without anyone interrupting you, or reading from a sacred text, or asking for a donation, without an audience waiting patiently for you to show that you believe too in what they believe - it felt true. I became aware that what I was doing was not because it is what I thought I should do, but it was what felt natural. And so I sat. In peace. On my own. Meditating. And then I quietly stood and wandered the grounds. 

There was a very old, frail man with overly large spectacles perched on his thin nose sitting behind an open window. He had a half-smile on his face when I approached him, but I don’t think it was at anything in particular, and I had to get his attention to ask how many rupees for the different cards of the temple. He gave me a big smile, acknowledging me this time, and then said “English, no”, so I repeated my question in broken hindi, and he held his smile and took out each different image of the temple he had from his stacks, put them up to his forehead, and smile unwavering, handed them to me. He returned his hands to clasp at his heart. I returned the gesture and said “Namaste”, to which he beamed once more and repeated. 

I found peace here. True, simple, pure peace. 

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some haikus because India

breathing the air is

like smoking a cigarette;

just take an auto

flower in her braid,

sari dirty but beautiful;

finding wealth in streets

there’s a goat downstairs,

I always put my hand out,

he always headbuts

eight rupees to leave;

one hundred rupees back home;

fuck you rickshaw man

4 kilometers,

uphill bike ride with flat tires,

haha I’ll hitch hike

hop on back of bike,

"where you want to be going?"

anywhere, but class

sometimes the bus comes,

other times it is nowhere,

blame absence on bus

there are road lane lines

they mean absolutely nil

direction? lane? what?

I will not die here

no matter how fast this goes

shut eyes, hold on tight

From Feb. 16th: Mom and I went to Golconda Fort