Friday, September 14, 2012

Welcome to Guwahati

The drive from the airport to where I am living is about half an hour. The airport is way more rural, so it is nice to see the many acres of tea fields and rice fields as you drive into the city. We were welcomed by my roommates Kristin and Rosie, who are both nurses and have lived here for over a year. As we walked in the apartment, they were about to go feed children in Lakhtokia, a slum that is located immediately next to the train tracks. Kristin and Rosie cook rice, dal (lentils), and vegetables for 90 in huge pots and pans. They’ve been doing this every Sunday for about a year now and the whole endeavor has since developed into something larger called the Pratyasha Foundation. So, Dad and I went along for the ride.

Dad carrying the rice to Lakhotokia.

Into the tuk-tuk we went. Lakhotokia wes particularly chaotic that day because the government had just torn down most of the homeless encampments on the tracks. The poor are not supposed to be living there but they do not really have anywhere else to go. As Dad said, “It was the most intense poverty I had ever witnessed.” But despite it all, the kids love to play and laugh and have fun. The slum has taken to the project, doesn’t hassle Rosie or Kristin or the various helpers, and is all smiles upon the food’s arrival. Three teenagers from the slums help serve the food, and an older couple provides the space where the food is served from, which is the most unbelievable makeshift Hindu temple which has somehow arisen right there next to the tracks in the middle of the slum. As we started serving food to the kids, I turned to Dad and said, “Welcome to Guwahati.”

Some of the kids in Lakhotokia.
Rosie trying to organize the chaos
while the older kids serve the food.

A yummy banana!

Kristin playing with the kids. 

Dad doing "the stance" while the kids eat their meal.


Outside my apartment. 
Another “Welcome to Guwahati” moment was on Tuesday night when a monsoon hit. My roommates called this my initiation ceremony. Although the monsoon season ended some weeks ago, everyone is saying it is coming late this year. The rain began pouring around 4:30 when Dad and I were still in the hospital, so we, as amateurs, decided to wait it out. An hour later it was still pouring, so we got in an auto rickshaw to go home. The driver got as far as Lamb Road, where I live, and said he could not go any farther. We looked down the street, trying to stay as dry as we could under the awning of a tiny market, and Lamb Road had been transformed into a raging waterway. After a few minutes of this, we made a go of it and got out and walked through knee-deep water to get to the apartment. It is important to understand that Guwahati’s sewage system does not work, so I try to not think about what we were walking in. But we were definitely… walking… in… it. Once Dad and I changed out of our wet clothes, we went to the front of the apartment to join the audience gathered at the flood on Lamb Road. We watched as people tried to get through the flood. It was the night’s entertainment for many. Some cars got through, and some did not. It was a great show.

Most of this week we have been doing various errands, and learning the lay of the land. Most mornings Dad and I have woken up very early and we go on walks so that we can learn our way around the neighborhood. Yesterday morning we found a Baskin Robins (yum!), a busy fish market, and the Lodi Gardens of Guwahati (a much smaller version that runs along the beautiful river). I have gotten a cell phone, gone to the police station to register myself, done some grocery shopping, and the list goes on. Thank goodness for Dad coming because he has successfully helped me get situated.

Dad has been taking beautiful photos.
My old friend, the security guard.

The first day we got to the hospital, everyone remembered me (even the sweet security guard) and they were all just as happy to see me as I was to see them. I also just got word that I will be going on every Operation Smile mission that comes to India. I will be working the medical records and will be able to travel all around India. My first mission is next Thursday (September 20) when I will be traveling to Silchar, which is located in Assam about 200 miles south of here. Other missions will include trips to the southern tip of India, Calcutta, and the list goes on.

An adorable patient. 
Anyways, I am so happy to be where I am and more than excited for the coming months. I cannot imagine being anywhere else.

Keep smiling,
An incredible view from my Dad's room. 
Yesterday, we went to a famous temple called Kamakhya temple (you can learn more about it here).

Some men at the temple. 

Kamakhya Temple

A view from the way up to the Kamakhya Temple.


The flood. 
Notice the motorcycle riding through.


  1. I liked your blog...truly amazing!

    1. got your pictures and earned enough experience that will make you the star of any conversation for this lifetime. I was utterly surprised when I came to know that you haven't even finished college and it made me wonder if this whole thing was an adventure for you to tell your friends back home and earn their admiration or if you came with a genuine intention to help people out. We have abundance of people here in India and a gigantic pool of doctors and other qualified individuals and we can certainly manage without a low-skilled (for the time being) worker. And moreover you intentionally portrayed the worst possible image of Guwahati in your blog. Seriously you came all the way from the United STates to walk a couple of slum kids to school?