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New Year in India

January 08, 2020

BIO 675: Health Care in India: Traditional and Non-Traditional Healing

January 1, 2020

Our journey to India began on New Year’s Eve with a short two and a half hour flight from O’hare International Airport to Newark, NJ. After a short three-hour layover, we excitedly jumped on a plane for a long 14-hour flight to Delhi, India.

Ours is a diverse group of eight students, majoring in a variety of fields, from nursing and biology to neuroscience, and even marketing. We were all bursting with excitement and enthusiasm! Everyone commented on how nothing felt real, but more like a fantasy, and I couldn’t agree more myself!

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We finally landed in Delhi on the evening of January 1st, around 9:00 pm local time. As we stepped off the plane, it hit me: “I am in India!, it’s really happening!”. A huge sign up ahead further confirmed I wasn’t in some type of delirious dream “Welcome to India” it read.

As we stepped outside of the airport, we all gasped: “We made it, we are truly here!”. A sea of people awaited, and a hundred eyes set on us as we walked by. The air breathed differently, heavy, thick and hazy. Cars blaring in the distance, dark building silhouettes in the background and loud chattering everywhere. A lively city slowly unfolding in front of us.

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We broke up into smaller groups and hopped in a few taxis. I do not believe any of us were prepared for the ride ahead! We would soon learn that Indian traffic is something else, and most definitely not for the faint of heart. The main avenues are long stretches of road with almost no traffic lights. Cars, rickshaws (a light two or three-wheeled passenger cart), trucks, and mopeds swerve in and out of their lanes, cutting each other and getting dangerously and extremely close at all times, while constantly honking and flashing their lights to announce their moves. This would appear insane in the eyes of any westerner, and we surely jumped out of our bodies a couple of times! However, one quickly gets to understand that as crazy as it seems, it is actually more of calculated chaos, a fast-paced, risky, and synchronized skilled dance. Believe it or not, we didn’t see a single fender bender!

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As we got close to our hotel, the streets started to change: gleaming lights, music, loud horns, barking dogs and noisy chatter everywhere, as well as numerous stores, began to pop up. Colorful garments, charms, shoes, shiny golden jewelry, and all sorts of other items for sale could be seen. There were people on the sides of the street with piles of neatly arranged spices, grains, fruits, and vegetables on wooden carts, and all sorts of street food, tea and drink stands. It was late evening, but the hustle and bustle of the city were at full bloom. 

Traffic now incorporated pedestrians as sidewalks are not consistently present. People walk on the left side of the road, sharing space with all types of motor vehicles, bicycles, and even cows! There doesn’t seem to be an established right of way so, at some point, we got stuck in an intersection where everyone went in at the same time. Cars, motorcycles, rickshaws, pedestrians, bikes, all conglomerated in some bizarre puzzle or Tetris-like fashion. Nobody could advance and no one could back up! Even then, somehow, they found a way of “untangling” themselves and we were able to resume our drive.

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We finally arrived at our hotel and were welcomed by the smell of burning incense, a colorfully decorated lobby in Indo-Asian style, and a beautiful rainbow-lit open area surrounded by arches. We were tired, sweaty and sore from the flight, yet full of joy and thrilled at what the next couple of weeks will bring. We got our first taste of India, and we are ready for more!


About the India Study Tour

THE TRAVEL DATES

Dec. 31- Jan. 16, 2020

THE INSTRUCTORS

Biology Prof. Margaret Wentzell 

AN INTRO

In this course, students will be examining the health care in India, focusing on influential factors such as class, gender, environment, and caste, among others, while also studying the hospice care and ceremonies performed at the end of a life. Through these experiences, students will gain a more holistic approach to the unique challenges in India. Also, by examining different groups, students will have a greater understanding about the way the people have responded to such issues.

Writer

Patricia Baker ’20