As I sit here in the Boston Logan Airport waiting for my connecting flight, I feel like Niswarth has officially come full circle. Over the past three weeks, I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve sweated, and I’ve experienced so many life-changing things. After all of it though, I find myself sitting in the exact same plot of land as before.

But even as I am struck by this eerie airport déjà vu, I am also reminded that in so many ways, the trip has not come full circle at all. In addition to more than a few hand-beaded bracelets and pairs of  harem pants, I am bringing home a new sense of what it means to be wealthy.

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Hand, Heart, Head

We have formed many circles this past week. In circles of song and dance, sweat trickled down our skin like rivers of rain running down a car window. We formed circles of discussion, gratitude and love, where truth was spoken. ESI has impacted my spirit and sense of self, more than any place. From learning about mind-control from Mukesh Bhai to losing myself in the candles lit at the silent dinner, I found a peace that was wrapped in layers of worry and insecurity. 

I am bringing back the gratitude and love that Suresh Bhai had as he patted each of our heads, that I felt looking at each person within our imperfect circles. I am bringing back these circles, a spirit of openness and honesty to myself and others.

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As I sit here on Emirates flight 237, only two and a half hours away from stepping foot in Boston, I can hardly believe it's been three weeks since I left home. I'm sitting in a nearly identical plane, eating nearly identical terrible airplane food, wearing a nearly identical outfit to the one I did when I began my journey to India. If you were to look at me, you would think nothing had changed.

But you'd be wrong.

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The laughter of my thirteen other Niswarthians; the laughter of the children at the slum community center. The stories we told each other at midnight, and the names of the girls I danced with in Khalol. The heart and spirit of ESI, Suresh Bhai, Mukesh Bhai, and Jayesh Bhai.

Niswarth has given me so much. It has filled my heart permanently with love and appreciation for everyone I’ve met. Whether I am staying on in India or heading home in a month, I will have these values and ideals with me because they are no longer just teachings. The people and places we’ve visited have been constantly shaping my life for the past three weeks, and won’t stop after the eighteen of us go our separate ways.

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Clarity. It’s a simple word, with a simple meaning. Though it was never a simple concept for me to grasp. Looking back on my sophomore year at school, I realized as the intricate web of high school got more and more complex, my understanding of clarity got less and less coherent. What should have been simple thoughts and interactions became difficult and complex. Clarity in my mind was what I lacked because I had clarity with my music; I had clarity with athletics, and academics, just not in my head.

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Heavy Hearts and Knots Down the Throat

I find myself, once again, listening to Hey Jude. I start to mumble the lyrics at the tip of my tongue, words evaporating into thin air. Soon I realize that Nick is singing it too. So I figured that I might as well play it on my laptop.

The song of broken-hearted departure and once postponed goodbyes. The ones that I said when I had to leave my friends last summer for a new life at Andover. I was listening to Hey Jude before I boarded the plane on that warm summer night.

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Well, it’s been three weeks, and once again I am sitting on the floor of an airport and trying to compose my thoughts as I wait to depart for somewhere else. Three weeks ago, I was convinced I would be deeply changed by this experience. Now I’m wondering what exactly it is that will stick with me when I get back home. What am I bringing back with me?

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Doors wide open

In the end, the only thing that I can change for certain is my self.  I need to begin with myself before I look outwards – a message repeated by many inspiring and accomplished speakers on the Niswarth trip.  I’m staring at the Man in the Mirror /  I’m asking him to change his ways / If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make the change.  Since I spend a healthy chunk of time looking at the mirror, I hope I can dedicate an even larger chunk of time continuing to self reflect and explore change within my self.

Three weeks later.  Where am I at this moment?

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I’m Leaving on a Jet Plane, Don’t Know When I’ll be Back Again

Leaving India, I am bringing home a stomach that is a little less dependent on meat, a heart filled with friendship, a head filled with ideas and a journal filled with memories. It is easy for me to say that besides the friendships I developed with my fellow Niswarthians, the friendships that I made with the students of Riverside were the most important gifts that was given to me on this trip.

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To be or not to be, that is the question

Who am I? To quote the musical Rent, how do you measure, not a year but measure a person? In race? In age? In socioeconomic status? In friends? Family? Memories? Experiences? Intelligence? Where I was born? Where I live now? Who I live with? The color of my hair? The clothes I wear? There are endless aspects to one’s identity and throughout this trip I began to conform to what society wants me to be. I started to say what people wanted to hear me say, rather than what I found to be the truth.

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The Return

I am returning home with new and powerful friendships. I take comfort in the knowledge that I will see many of these friends back on campus. As we greet each other on the paths, our encounters will colored by a commonality of experience. Only we will know what it means to meditate ESI or walk through the communities of rural Gujarat.

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