To get to the Lufthansa lost and found desk during a layover in the Frankfurt airport, you need to
- have a true friend or two to help you withstand the scary emotional implications of a lost iPhone
- go through customs and earn two German passport stamps
- marvel at the Volkswagen taxis everywhere
- ring three separate yet intercom-connected doorbells
- speed walk on a moving walkway
In what has now congealed itself as a Bressler family tradition, I lost my phone in Germany. I do not know how, but somewhere between the fog of the airplane and security, it went missing. My first lost phone ever. What could have been a devastating experience turned into one that was a reminder of how profoundly lucky I am to be with people that look out for my well-being.
Before I left India, I wondered what I would come home with and what I would leave behind.
Concretely, my bags weigh more because of scarves and extra dirt and the two Tagore books that Ammu bought me. I left behind a pair of headphones, an empty bottle of conditioner, 12 Cliff Bars wrappers, the third photos of the Taj Mahal.
Goodbyes are weird. They never feel complete. You can say goodbye once, draw someone in for a hug and cry a little but there is always so much left unsaid. During our final bus ride as a group, Elisa and Matt read superlatives. Rose got “Most Likely to Use Professor Ganguly’s Dating Service.” Kate’s was “Most Likely to Write the Screenplay for Mother Theresa Superstar.” My favorite was Gavin’s because it was so simple. “Thirstiest.” He once drank a five-liter bottle of water in less than 24 hours.
This is another way to say I am really going to miss these people. I am really going to miss India.
Currently, the book in my lap is “Poor Economics,” which is written by the founders of my future co-op, J-PAL. J-PAL’s work is, succinctly, about utilizing research-based solutions to end poverty. In the book, there are countless examples around places I have been to: Udaipur, Kolkata and Mumbai. Three times in India and I am beginning to understand things more. The cities are no longer just scribbles on a page but they are also people I met, places I journaled about.
Trying to summarize five weeks in India feels impossible in the way that it feels impossible to summarize just one day. On one of my last nights in Delhi, I stared at the traffic and looked out at hundreds of cars at a standstill. Repeat and repeat. The reiterations are everywhere: carts with dozens of mangos, hundreds of faces awe-stricken by their first sight of the Taj Mahal, dusty roads with enormous slabs of marble one after the other, hexagonal curves looping around and around in the windowpanes in Rajasthan’s palaces. It makes me feel so small. In another sense, I feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of things to see and care about: sanitation, climate change, poverty, inequality, healthcare, child beggars, Bollywood movies, Modi and disappearing red crabs.
On one of the winding drives in Shillong, Professor Ganguly yelled at me to look out the window when we passed by a particularly beautiful waterfall or a goat sneezing by the side of the road. “Are you awake? Are your eyes open?” Afterwards, everyone in my car laughed about this moment. I was the only person in the car who stayed awake the whole time.
In this post-India phase, I want more than anything, to keep my eyes open, to take in both inspiring and painful sights and to never stop caring about what I see. I want to be able to shout “Yes I am awake. My eyes are open.” Full stop.