Long Hugs and New Friends

In India, I hear more. When you strip away the constant noise of needless newsfeeds and buzzing text notifications, you aren’t left with silence. Instead, there are the sounds of birds in the morning, of rickshaws honking meters away, plates clanking.

One of the most constant parts of the structure of this trip is the waiting. As members of this Dialogue, we take long winding bus rides and sit before meals and learn things about each other. Learning, more broadly speaking, takes place through many avenues: lectures, site visits, climate models and journal articles. However, I learn as much through these things as I do through my encounters with other people.


My roommate Lila in the Delhi airport


Climate change chocolate

A member of the Dialogue, Kasha, did her capstone on solar energy and informed me about the differences between commercial and residential solar panels. My roommate, Lila, is teaching me how to play the ukulele.

In another experience, after giving a panel at the University of Burdwan, I received some friend requests from people in audience, students studying economics like me. Over Facebook messenger, we chatted about the caste system and Donald Trump.

Sometimes, people just introduce themselves. In the airport bathroom in Guwahati, a girl with a headband and sweet smile asked me where I was from. “US.” I replied. “What state are you from?” She responded she was from Kolkata, West Bengal. In response, I mumbled something about Kati Rolls.

A few days later, after a five-hour drive into the mountain in a vegetarian restaurant


Large country, small world

parking lot, I heard a knock on my car window. It was the same girl I had met in the airport!

This third time around, I feel so much more open to meeting new people. Now, I ask questions about what states and cities other people are from with the same aura of recognition that they give me.

It doesn’t hurt, either, that our TA, Udit, acts as a translator wherever we go.

Last night, Udit took me, Rose and Tavish to his aunt’s house for dinner in Delhi. Immediately, in the stairwell of the apartment, Udit’s mom and aunt each gave me a long hug, like I was a part of their family too. While reflecting on this moment, I can’t help but feel suspended. Grateful.

A few days ago, I felt inspired enough about a person I met here to write a poem, my first one in a couple years.


But first: sunset in Shillong


Amit told me the

Bare bones of his life story

Between the traffic


Although my sister

Makes fun of my ten and two

I close my eyes and


Remember that it’s

Possible to drive through

The south of Mumbai


When the lessons take

Place at the age of thirteen.

Dusty rural roads.


He said: “I’ve always

Wanted to be an artist,

To paint a canvas


So ebullient it

Would make the Louvre explode:

Self-combustion from


Pure beauty. Amit

Likes beautiful things which

Makes sense: white walls, huge


Bowls of golden sweets,

Grassy parks just before the

Sun is about to


Set. That afternoon

I wore an unraveling shawl,

Wavy lines of black


Thread left a trail of

Reality. Of cheapness.

In my head, I change


Opulence for

Artistry, even when I

Love the things that break


Quickly. Between his

Forty seventh and forty

eighth patients of the


Day, Amit makes molds

Of broken teeth, sculpting more



With more precision

Than Michelangelo could.

He folds his dreams of



In a museum somewhere

Into smiles, and


An application

To American dentistry

School. Hoping. Waiting.

This entry was posted in 2016 and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Long Hugs and New Friends

  1. ctwanders says:

    Nice poem! People in India seems very friendly, there is an amazing movie from Bollywood which I really love, the title is “3 idiots” I think you will like it too.

  2. akansha1602 says:

    Beautifully written!

  3. asthaguptaa says:

    Well expressed 🙂

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