My favorite thing to do in the entire world is eat. During breakfast, I think about lunch, and during lunch I think about dinner. In fact, the first thing I thought about when I was accepted to this fellowship is how great it would be to eat my way through India. So, it is rather fitting that I compare my fellowship journey to what I believe is one of the greatest meals in the entire world: a South Indian thaali. A thaali, depending on the size and grandeur of the restaurant it’s being consumed at consists of 8-12 small dishes. A large helping of rice along with a puri or roti is served with a lentil, curries, sambar, biriyani, pickle, chutney, rasam, yogurt, and the local sweet. My very first time eating a thaali, I was overwhelmed and intimidated. How could I get through all of these amazing dishes? What if I wanted more of one? Or worse, what if I got full before I could try every dish? Similarly, when I first arrived in Madanapalle, I was distressed, anxious, and scared as to how I could possibly get through 10 months of working and living in a village, leaving behind everything that was familiar to me and moving so far away from home.
My favorite aspect of the thaali is that it gives you a taste of all the wonderful spices that India has to offer. The unique opportunity to relish a small portion of rich, sweet, spicy, salty, flavorful, and pungent dishes leaves one feeling more satisfied than almost any other meal. This fellowship journey has been just that for me. There have been days that have made me feel like I’m on top of the world, wanting to stay in India forever. There have been nights when I’ve cried myself to sleep wondering why I ever agreed to be away from my family and friends, counting down the days till I could fly back home. There have been many moments when looking at toilet paper has given me more joy than it probably ever should and there have been numerous events when I’ve felt humbled, privileged, grateful, and wholeheartedly astonished that I was lucky enough to be one of 30 people receiving the opportunity of a lifetime.
At the end of my meal, I sit back in my chair, not because I have time to waste, but because I physically cannot get out of my seat for fear that I will fall over and excrete ingested food. Yes, the chutney will probably burn my stomach lining, the rice will make a dent on the weigh scale, and I’ll be belching inappropriately for the next few hours, but I will leave feeling extremely satisfied. On July 1st, I’m going to board my flight back to Los Angeles at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi reminiscing my arrival. Thinking back on the many wonderful experiences this exquisite country has given me, I will leave feeling more love and loyalty for India than I ever have before and a thirst to come back for more.