Its our last day here and Ila just left for work. She hugged everyone goodbye and then got to me. I saw tears in her eyes and felt her silent sob as we hugged. We group hugged and then Jayshree walked with her as she left for work. Its hard to explain how our relationship formed with them. It happened slowly over the course of the first week. At first they were our translators and nothing more. With every interview we grew to trust each other more, and eventually I realized we were really collaborators; partners in this crazy three week journey where they shared with us village by village, interview by interview, what they deal with here. They shared their clients, their hopes, their dreams, and their amazing personalities. Last night they shared their saris with us, and we danced in a circle together. We stumbled over the Garba dance moves, while they moved gracefully with smiles on their faces.
These two women became our friends. When I thought about what I expected to happen in India, that was certainly not in the plan. It happened slowly through nicknames, the inside jokes, the giggling over boys, the tears, the hand holding, and hand squeezing when things got rough, the complex communication methods that combined hand gestures, the gracious translating of Pramiti, and our attempts at simplifying our English so it was understandable, and gifts exchanged.
And now we are all going to go home together, leaving them here with just each other. It will be back to their normal lives, but I still feel a little strange about our departure. We really came crashing into their lives and shook things up. We have had several conversations about making sure that we don’t actually leave their lives just as suddenly. We have exchanged emails, numbers, and we have a lot of ideas for how we can stay in touch and continue to impact their work here. With our research. I am so grateful for the way they embraced us, and welcomed us even into their own homes and their lives. I’m excited to continue to work to help their NGO when we get back to the States, and worried that we won’t be able to do enough.
We have done a lot of conversing and thinking about Global Health and our impact here. I have learned so much from being here. There were so many things that never occurred to me before. Like how harmful it may be to roll into a community with sunglasses and cameras and laptops out. Like how harmful it can be to roll into a community and ask what we can do to help them. Things I never thought of before.
It’s possible that this will be my only experience with research outside of the US, and Jayshree and Ila were responsible for most of my positive experiences. I am so grateful to Dr. Greaves for bringing us here, and grateful for the hospitality we received at the Palace. But most of all I am grateful for the people we were privileged to interact with. I am leaving with so much. I only hope I have left something behind. It may take a long time to fully process this experience, but luckily I have
four six women to do it