Today was our last day in India and I’m struggling to believe that the trip has come to an end already. Strangely one side of my brain feels as though we have been away for ages and the other side of my brain can’t keep up with how quickly the trip has come and gone. Pre-departure meetings and sitting in the departure lounge in Edinburgh Airport only seem like yesterday and here I am in Abu Dhabi waiting for our connecting flight home.
Even our last day in Chennai wasn’t a quiet one. We started off the day as usual with a trusty breakfast of Cornflakes and set off for some last minute shopping for souvenirs. We were all aware that you’re not really supposed to leave India with any local currency and many of us still had plenty rupees to get spend. We took full advantage of the nearby Chennai craft markets and FabIndia which is a shop that sells native Indian clothing and homeware. Despite being lenient with our rupees, it was still a challenge to get rid of them with most things costing under £2. In the end we managed, saving a little bit for the airport. After shopping we headed back to New Woodland’s Hotel, a place we had all grown very fond of. We finished up packing or cases before checking out and gradually it became more and more apparent that we were leaving tonight.
But we didn’t want that to spoil our farewell lunch which was very kindly organised for us. It was so lovely to have everyone from the University of Edinburgh and the University of Madras together for one last time and I couldn’t help thinking how strange it will be to soon be back to eating with a fork and knife. Afterwards, just as we thought Professor Ramu Manivannan and the team from India could not give us anymore gifts we were presented with a collage of photographs from our trip. Once we had given them their gifts from Edinburgh we boarded our favourite little Traveller bus for the last time and headed to the airport. The team from India accompanied us through Chennai traffic to the airport where we said our emotional goodbyes and entered the international terminal.
Despite our time in India speeding by and two weeks being just a brief portion of our year, it almost feels as if I’ve forgotten what life back home is like. I think there are reasons as to why my concept of time is so mixed up. The idea that I am coming home with 9 amazing friends who I knew barely a thing about before we travelled together makes it feel almost impossible that it has only been 15 days. And the fact that India is so vast and hugely contrasting to Scotland it made it feel as if we had been away for much longer as well. On the other hand, it was fast pace in that we saw so many new sites and met new people every single day. We were lucky enough to travel through almost the whole of the state of Tamil Nadu and experience the differing cultures and ways of living as we travelled from the north to the very south.
I think I can speak on behalf of everyone when I say it was the most incredible trip we have ever experienced. I feel extremely privileged to have been given the opportunity to see a side of the world I had only dreamed of seeing in the distant future. To have an opportunity like it so early in my life was unimaginable before now. I kept having to pinch myself throughout the trip because I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be in such a beautiful and diverse country.
Looking back, the aspect that struck me the most about the beauty of India were the people. Every day we were in disbelief at their generosity. Without the assistance of the University of Madras, Professor Ramu Manivannan, Kharishma, Dorji and everyone else we met, our trip would have been very different. We are massively grateful for them and they made it even more special than we could have ever imagined. It has been sad to say goodbye to them but we’re coming home with so many unforgettable memories and new friends. And as Harry once said, “Do not be sad that you’re leaving, be happy that you came.”
So India, goodbye for now.