Then end? …nah

[originally published June 6, 2012]

“All travel is circular… after all, the grand tour is just the inspired man’s way of heading home.”

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 The fields of Balewadi Stadium, Pune, and Agra, respectively.

The fields of Balewadi Stadium, Pune, and Agra, respectively.

 

I’ve been putting off writing this blog for a few weeks now — the whole business of it all seems a bit too final for my liking. I’m not ready for any sort of au reviour, I bid thee adieu, sayonara, ciaocito or the likes… to India, to this blog, or to this experience as a whole.

 

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“You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place, I told him, like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.”

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But I’ve made to back to good ole’ home in all of its sea salty glory. I woke up my first morning back under a pile of blankets as the chilled sea breeze drifted in… this is what I had been missing.

Home sweet home.

 

It’s a bit wild to be plucked out of the life you’ve been living for almost a year and thrown back into your old one. I always find that a strange mental distance suddenly sets in when making the physical and emotional transition from Away to Back: Did that really happen? Your memories begin to feel like a book you once read. You lovingly recall vivid landscapes and familiar characters, and a storyline you had once interjected yourself into that came to the last page. It’s over. Home sets in and you pick up with such ease and your friendships rekindle so effortlessly, it’s hard to think that you’ve been gone at all. But then you realize — you leave a little of yourself in these places, and pick up pieces as you go. You feel invisibly, emotionally marked in a way; justification that that your experiences were legit.

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“You go away for a long time and return a different person — you never come all the way back.”

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 At a base level I’ve found this blog to be a helpful way to remind myself that YYyyYYYYeEeEEssSSSs, that DID happen, these people happened, and yeah remember that time you got snotted on by an elephant? (and hopefully provide you all with some entertainment in the time being).

I’ve had fun chronicling some of my faces (those characters?) and places (those landscapes?) along the way. In writing this blog, though, it’s been some times what’s been left out that I’ve cataloged in my brain as being some of the most truly memorable.

 50+ countries came to visit the blog!

50+ countries came to visit the blog!

 

I’ll explain.

 My friend Neha, affectionately known as 'Little One,' on left. Here she suits up for an All-India match in August, 2011. Right, a  girl from Agra.

My friend Neha, affectionately known as 'Little One,' on left. Here she suits up for an All-India match in August, 2011. Right, a  girl from Agra.

 

One aspect of having a public voice that I’ve wrestled with is the issue of censorship and revelation. I’ve done a number of formal interviews in my day but the most telling moments of this experience have come when the pen was down and voice recorder off. They’ve happened as I’ve sat and listened to a friend as we drove through the city, in the hushed “did you know?”s over cups of coffee and candid talk of life… many of these conversations not having anything to do with rugby at all. I’m in the business of asking questions. Sometimes I’d think I was being all great and asking the right things — but the most telling tales have had a certain way of revealing themselves in unexpected ways.

 From left: Surabhi, Anna, Neha as they are being announced as victors in the All-India Women's Rugby Tournament, August 2011. Right: a wedding procession in Udaipur, spring 2012.

From left: Surabhi, Anna, Neha as they are being announced as victors in the All-India Women's Rugby Tournament, August 2011. Right: a wedding procession in Udaipur, spring 2012.

 

Some of what I heard was damning. A lot of what I heard pointed to a flawed system in which, well, maybe this sport can’t thrive: a lethal mix of culture, bureaucracy, politics and personality. But then, well all seems to be frustrating and futile, you hear stories that give a glimmer of hope — that these women (and the people helping them) are really on to something. But out of respect, some anecdotes had to be left untold.

 Left: my friend Ketaki celebrate a try; right: being invited to dance in Rajasthan.

Left: my friend Ketaki celebrate a try; right: being invited to dance in Rajasthan.

 

With that in mind I’m currently scouting for ways to present this project, these photos, these stories now that I’m back on home turf. How can I do them justice?

The essence of the Fulbright project: what can we, back here in the States, learn from them?

 

I usually don’t believe that everything happens for a reason — in retrospect, you naturally can connect all the dots to make sense out of anything — but too many weird happy coincidences panned out in India that really make me think that perhaps there was a certain serendipity to it all. India just made so much sense, if you let me be so cheesy.

 Left: Leading a rugby practice with the RFS Pune women at a local school in Pune, Maharshtra; Right: Dancing during Diwalli in Koregoan Park, Pune.

Left: Leading a rugby practice with the RFS Pune women at a local school in Pune, Maharshtra; Right: Dancing during Diwalli in Koregoan Park, Pune.

 

In India: to my Pune cohort (Noor and Crissy, that means you too!), team Maharashtra and my Fulbright fam from the Laj to Jahmkked; to Surhud Khare Sir and my girls at RFS Pune; to the other rugger ladies I’ve come to call my friends spread all across the subcontinent; to those who’ve dedicated themselves to give these kids a chance to play (a special shout-out to Paul Walsh, Abhi, Brian Wolf and the Tag Rugby Trust) and to everyone — coaches, players, supporters — playing a decisive role in Rugby India: THANK YOU. I can’t begin to count the ways.

To my family and friends back home: thanks for the Skype chats, the juicy inbox messages, the general concern for my well-being and most of all — thanks for humoring me. ;)

SEE YOU SOON.

 

 Photo credit: Solen Fluzin!

Photo credit: Solen Fluzin!

‘Til next time…and yes, there is no THE END happening here today…you haven’t heard the last of me yet. :)

xx

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“One traveler’s conceit is that he is heading into the unknown. The best travel is a leap in the dark. If the destination were familiar and friendly what would be the point of going there?”

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