It is unfortunate that there are no international flights to rural India. No, you have to visit a city first. Now, Delhi seems quite the nice place after you’ve been living in a village for a couple of months. In that state of mind, you will appreciate any place that can provide you with an authentic chocolate milkshake, no matter what the state of the roads or plumbing. But as far as first impressions go, it doesn’t seem to me that Delhi makes a very good one. To be sure, five days there was enough to make one anthropology student question his reasons for coming back to India in the first place.
The real highlight for me was attending church on Sunday. And by “attending church” I mean participating in the services of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which I am a member. I worshipped with the Delhi 2nd Branch. I ran into one familiar face there, an Elder Kusuma who I went on splits with when I was in India in 2003. He’s lost some weight since then, become an Assistant to the Mission President, and seems a whole lot more comfortable with the suit and nametag than he did before. He finishes his mission in a couple of months.
I also met the Jacksons, a family which lived in my mission boundaries when I was a missionary. I never got up to Ethiopia where they were living, so had never met them, but some mission buddies told me the family had moved to India and that I should say hello if I happened to run into them. Well, I did run into them, and I did say hello, and in return I got invited over for lunch. It was very kind of them, and I had a very pleasant afternoon in their home. They have the most extensive collection of elephant statues I have ever seen (yes, Sister Waldron, the most extensive—by a long shot).
Towards the end of my time in Delhi, the first three students arrived. We tried to make good use of the one day we all had together in the city, and visited the Red Fort and the Bahai Lotus Temple. We also lost ourselves in a massive market in Old Delhi (I think I saw every one of India’s billion people that morning) and nearly missed our train out of town that night because I took us to the wrong railway station. That, and just the hassle of getting from place to place was really made for a lot of headaches.
But as with all my experiences in India, things worked out beautifully in the end. By the next morning I was leaning out the door of our train car, seeing the sun rise over lines of coconut palms, breathing air heavy with the scent of soil and rain, watching a pair of women in colorful saris walking with unhurried steps down a village road—and suddenly everything was okay again. There are some moments when we can hardly regret what we had to go through to reach that point in time.
I’m glad I came back to India, after all.