I recently finished reading “India Calling”, a book by Anand Giridharadas recounting his experiences and difficulties as a second generation Indian American who makes a permanent move back to India as a young adult. The book begins with a conversation the author is having with an older Indian man on the plane ride to India. In response to the author’s explanation that he was moving to India rather than visiting, the older man remarks “We’re all trying to go that way,” he said after a moment, gesturing toward’s the plane’s tail end and, beyond it, the paradisiacal West. “You,” he added, as if seeking to alert me to a ticketing error, “you’re going this way””. Over the last few months after accepting the Clinton Fellowship, I have fielded similar questions from friends and family- “Why did you leave your job to do a fellowship?”, “What exactly are you going to be doing?”, “What do you think is going to be the hardest part?”, “You’re spending a whole year in India?”. It’s my desire to develop a greater understanding of India, its people, its culture and its endless potential that have led me to commit the next 10 months to the Clinton Fellowship and leave all that is familiar.
Growing up I visited India every few years with my family and most of my memories and love for India are heavily rooted in the joy and comfort of my extended family. As I’ve grown older and spent some additional time in India studying and experiencing the Country outside the frame of my family visits, I have come to understand what a complicated and diverse place India is, with endless opportunities and its own challenges/frustrations. So as I sit at my parent’s dining table in Virginia and prepare for my longest “visit” to India yet, I can only hope that over the next ten months I can begin to forge my own unique personal relationship and understanding of India. I look forward to meeting mirthful new people, learning about the social enterprise sector through my fellowship with Dasra, traveling to parts of India I haven’t visited previously, and navigating the in’s and out’s of all the everyday logistics of being a resident. So while I’m exactly not sure what awaits me over the next 10 months, I’m sure that at the end of it I will have developed a new appreciation and understanding for all that is India.