If you’re like me, you probably don’t know where to start when you really want to write about one of your greatest trips or adventures. When I became a part of this team, I also didn’t really know what to write about. I’ve been to India countless times in the past and never was it anything more than going to my Auntie’s house, eating, sleeping, going to my other Auntie’s house, eating, sleeping, and then going right back in a few days to my first Auntie’s house to repeat the cycle over and over again until it was time to leave. There was one time, two years ago, when I accidentally dropped and killed my phone from six stories up, but writing about that would only make me relive the trauma of losing my one item of fun in case I got bored!
But my trip from last winter break was full of new and exciting memories that I would love to relive.
What was special about this particular trip was the time in which it took place. Normally, my family and I would spend New Year’s Eve at a party hosted by one of my close family friends. This was the first time in a long while that I was out of the country when the new year started, and it was definitely a worthwhile experience. Also, this time, instead of simply swinging back and forth between my two Aunties’ houses in Pune and Mumbai, we went somewhere different: Delhi, the capital city (hey, that rhymes!) I remember waking up early that morning of January 7, and packing my bags and going down to the streets below to wait for our driver. In the quietness of the dark morning, I noticed for the first time just how peaceful the center of such a heavily-urban area could be. Pune and Mumbai are two of the largest and most urbanized regions in the Indian state of Maharashtra. Silence was the last thing I’d expected when waiting there on the side of that street.
But, there was too much silence…
Where was our driver? He wasn’t pulling up. Our flight was about to leave in an hour and the airport was thirty minutes away! My dad called him and angrily asked him in Hindi where the hell he was. Although the driver said he would be there in a few minutes, my mom was nevertheless getting more impatient. She suggested we take an auto-rickshaw all the way to the airport. To those of you who have not heard of an auto-rickshaw: it’s a three-wheeled, doorless, and usually loud vehicle driven over relatively short distances. It wasn’t ideal to take one all the way to the airport, since it wasn’t designed to hold suitcases or too many personal belongings. At first, my dad and I laughed my mom’s idea off (not literally, of course, since our driver was STILL nowhere to be seen). However, I soon found myself clutching my suitcase tightly against my chest next to my dad while riding down the freeway with the wind and street dust blowing directly in my face, as the comfort of a door between me and the outside was too much to wait for. Thankfully, since there weren’t too many cars, we managed to make it to the airport and passed through security to our gate just as the flight was beginning to board. We had been so worried. It was no wonder my dad didn’t pick up his phone when the driver called us while we were standing in line to board the plane! We thanked my mom for her brilliant suggestion to take the auto-rickshaw.
Once we landed in Delhi, we hired another. more reliable, driver to take us on the three-hour journey to Agra, which housed the main attraction for our visit there: the Taj Mahal! Out of all the years I’d been to India, I had never seen the Taj Mahal. In fact, my family and I weren’t planning on going there for this trip either. Somehow, while we were all planning in the travel agent’s office back in Mumbai, everything just fell into place and instead of deciding between Hyderabad or Goa, we miraculously agreed to finally go see the world-famous mausoleum! The miracle of the New Year worked its magic! Because so many iconic photos of the front of the Taj Mahal already exist, I thought I’d add my own little variation. I call the photo below “Sunset Pool” because of the reflection the sun gives on the marble floor of the exterior of the mausoleum. The photo was taken shortly after we exited and when the sun was setting. Sorry there are no photos from inside.
As we left the area to go to our hotel, I couldn’t help thinking to myself that this really was a special trip. Since I got to see a famous attraction, I got to appreciate all the events and scenery that were unfolding around us, and I felt more confident in my ability to really capture all the important moments in my life, not necessarily from the click of an iPhone camera. I got to see more of India on this particular trip both by visiting a different spot and also by seeing India for what it really was. While visiting family was always a favorite activity of mine on these trips, I asked myself before leaving from America, that I wanted to really “experience” the journey, not just see what I saw before with a passive and shallow mindset. Seeing the Taj Mahal was the first step.
While I did enjoy visiting family and friends, I found that another special part of the trip came about right in Pune, and now, after visiting the Taj Mahal and finishing my second semester of my first year at Rutgers, I can finally appreciate and write about my shadowing experience at the Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital to the best of my ability. As a pre-med student, I naturally try to see the benefits of each of my experiences in a clinical setting, but with these other explorations, either at the Taj Mahal or right here at Rutgers, I can go back and describe these particular experiences with a much more open and profound mindset, very similar to the one I had on this winter break adventure to India.
To Be Continued…