Team India 2017: The Start

Team India 2017 is in full motion! Avi Borad, Sahit Menon, and Rahul Masson have started this year’s trip and look forward to seeing the results from last year’s initiative and reconnecting with familiar faces. Avi and Rahul, who both were a part of Team India 2016 which had focused on the literacy and tobacco reduction initiatives, are excited to see how the relations will develop with their return to the village. Avi excitedly states, “I am looking forward to seeing what we accomplish with our initiatives, but I think the most unique thing about India for me is the relationships that are formed. The India trip truly defines the RISHI family which is not just limited to the RISHI members that go on the trip but includes the villagers as well.”

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Meanwhile, Rahul is anxious to reconnect with the villagers and is interested in how this trip could help us learn more about the village. “I’m very curious about how the villagers will receive us, especially once we hold the dental camp. It will be a great opportunity to connect with villagers personally and to learn more about the disparities between health care in the United States and health care in a rural village.” Sahit Menon, on the other hand, is visiting the USC chapter’s village, Naga Valadia, for the very first time. He emphasizes wanting to see how the cultural and language barriers may be for his first visit, “I’m especially looking forward to meeting all the villagers and seeing our year’s work of hard work turn into sustainable change. Also, I’m looking forward to all of the challenges and unexpected twists that the village life will pose. First on my list – how do I overcome the language barrier?”

Sahit recounts his experiences on the journey thus far:

Before I left for Gujarat, I remember my uncle saying, “There’s a certain charm to India. After you haven’t been for a while, you yearn to go back.” I now understand what he means. Growing up in America, it’s difficult to stay connected to Indian culture at all times because of societal constraints. It’s tough to remember your roots as a college student in the famed “university bubble,” all while working to advance your career and discovering your place in this world. For first generation kids like me, it’s very easy for our relationship with Indian culture to be diluted.

That is why I am so thankful to be in India this summer, that too with my friends. Even though I don’t speak the language and I don’t know anyone here all that well, I still feel connected to the people. There is an uncanny, familial-like understanding that runs deep in this country. When we were having some trouble finding our way to our hostel in Gandhidam, we had to ask for directions repeatedly. Although the first few folks we talked to didn’t know exactly where the hostel was, they tried to point us in the general vicinity. Eventually, after talking to four or five individuals, we found our way to the hostel. These were simple acts of kindness that did not call for anything in return. Such is the charm of India.

In a way, our experience resembled what USC Project RISHI stands for: a collective effort to improve the lives of others. After settling in Gandhidam in our first day, we’re excited for our first day in Naga Valadia tomorrow. We plan on meeting with village leaders, talking with villagers to inform them of our presence, and preparing for our dental camp in a few days. That’s all for now, but be sure stay tuned in for more updates on the village life!