This blog post asks us to complete the nearly impossible task of predicting the effect that a year of service in India will have on our lives. Four years ago, I began my first journey to India. For nearly a year, I lived and worked on a tea estate in Darjeeling, West Bengal. The effect this year had on shaping my life was enormous. I arrived in India – with (my then girlfriend) Denna – fresh out of college and unsure of the direction that my life was headed. I returned home certain to pursue a future in medicine and confident that I was ready propose to Denna. Along the way, I gained a second family and a second home in the Darjeeling hills. None of this was predictable prior to taking that first leap of faith and departing for India.
Similarly, it is impossible to predict what may happen in this up-coming year; however, I may hazard a few guesses. Personally, I am hopeful that I will develop friendships that will last a life-time, integrate myself further into this region, strengthen the bond that I share with my wife, and contribute to the positive development occurring within many communities of the Darjeeling district. Professionally, this experience may allow me to gain an understanding of how development at the grass-roots level works to impact the health of individuals and their communities. These positive moments will likely be contrasted by moments of utter sadness at the social conditions found in many rural communities and rural schools, frustration at how the poor always bear the brunt of corruption and poorly performing public sectors, and anger at the way in which the world allows for many human beings to needlessly suffer.
All together, though I cannot anticipate how these experiences will converge to affect my own personal development. However, I can be certain that this fellowship (just as occurred in my first trip to India) will spark a process of personal change and growth. I am excited to let this journey begin!