I never knew how hard it could be to say goodbye to people you don’t know if you will ever see again. I have spent eight months here working and living with the people of Chandelao, including my dear host grandmother and host father, and saying goodbye is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do.
When I left for India, I said goodbye to my life and friends in Nashville and my family in Texas, but I knew I would be back in both places after my time here was through. However, leaving Chandelao is a very difference experience because I don’t know if or when I will every return to this village and see the faces that I saw smile and stare at me every single day for the past eight months. Even though I have been living here for quite some time, and the children all know my name although I have no idea who they belong to, people still stare at me and have not gotten used to me wandering around the village. That seems strange to me, or maybe they have gotten used to me, but still find me an amusing alien to their lands.
Even last week, as Emily and I got on different buses, mine heading towards Jodhpur and hers towards Delhi, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness knowing our time here is over. I had to call her and talk it over with her to realize that although we will find a way to see each in other in the U.S. and stay friends, that our Indian families will no longer be in our lives and the time that we have spent here will stay with us forever. Neither of us wants to leave India, but we both knew it would have to happen.
Saying goodbye at the crafts center was really hard and I thought I would start crying as each of the women lined up to give me a hug the day I was leaving. Before that though, I had already given all the women their bangles and sweets that I had bought them, and had not intended on going to the center again, especially the day that I was leaving. I felt that they didn’t realize that I was actually leaving so soon the first goodbye and they didn’t know what to do. They had given me an embroidered bag, a scarf, and a heart with “From Sunder Rang” on it as a leaving gift, which was sweet of them to do. I said goodbye and left the center feeling a bit sad but since we had just taken a few photos and not hugged or had a proper goodbye, it was bearable. The next day, however, right before the car was leaving, I went to the center to say goodbye where my host grandmother was sitting, and all the women from the center and many more from the village had gathered there to say goodbye to me. I was very touched and after saying goodbye, they all gathered round an each gave me a double-sided hug and gave me snacks and jagery (a traditional celebratory sweet) in order to see me off properly.
I couldn’t help getting a bit choked up when leaving the center. The hardest part came when I had to give a goodbye hug to my host grandmother, Dadisa, and watch she waited next to the car for me to leave. I had my sunglasses on the whole time so no one could see the tears that were forming and slowly dripping from my eyes as I nonchalantly wiped them with my fingers when no one was looking. I am truly sad to have to leave my home here and realize that I will no longer have to hear the booming sounds of Marwari voices and delicate mornings of birds chirping, or pet little Kitty, my lap dog at the hotel, and probably not see some of the faces that I have gotten so used to ever again. I don’t know when or if I will make it back to Chandelao and while my head says yes, my heart is just sad thinking that I won’t.
Now I am in Delhi, abiding my time while I wait for my immanent return to the good ole United States of America. I leave in two days and I still have time to be a tourist here in Delhi since I have not seen any of the touristy sites around the city. However, this just makes it harder to leave because I realize how much of India I have not seen and the extent to which I will miss it when I am gone. I am excited to go home and see friends and family though and those are the thoughts that are keeping me going right now. Grocery stores, fresh vegetables, good beer, and a facial are things that will be in near future after arriving in Houston to find my loving family awaiting my arrival. Loud Marwari women, beautiful and colorful sarees on a stark landscape, the rich culture of Rajasthan, and so, so much more will be what I am leaving behind as the flight attendants ask me to put my seatbelt on and the plane makes its departure from the country that has beaten it’s way into my now unwavering heart.