Saturday, February 28, 2015


The difference that has had the most impact on this trip is the presence of friends; friends that recognize me quickly and surround me with welcoming arms and delighted smiles. Friends that offer me a place to stay without hesitation and before I even think about where I’m going to lodge. Friends that go out of their way to meet me where I’m at and help me when I need it. Friends that cordially usher me to the police station ad nauseam to attend to business.  And friends that offer to bring me tea in the local prison at least once a week.

Before you go imagining me sitting on the floor of a dark and muggy prison room, let me say that I am not currently in prison nor does it look like I will be sent there. In fact, there was never a valid reason for me to be shipped up the river; however, due to the number of times I had to trek to the police station it became a bit of a joke among my friends that I was on my way to prison. Let me try to explain the situation.

As I mentioned earlier, I have friends who graciously and without reservation offered me a place to stay. I had the option to reserve a room with Mrs. George (here I stayed last time), or live a bit more like the average hospital staff member. I took the second option. You know me… always looking for a way to push my personal comfort zone to a new level. I had been warned that I would not have a private room, bed, air conditioning, Western toilet, or a Western shower. I liked the sound of all of the above so I took my friend Meha and her delightful roommate Kriti up on their offer. What I had not been warned of was how much the police would not approve of this arrangement. No one knew, to be fair.

When you arrive as an international in India you are required to check in with the local police… for safety and security reason, or so I’m told. When checking in with the police, they take note of your lodging location and confirm that it is a safe place for you to stay. Most international students stay on the CMC Campus at the hostel, so it is not an issue. As I was staying off campus, the address I gave threw a red flag for the chief inspector and he refused to give me his seal and signature until I could submit a letter from the home owner stating he would allow me to stay there as well as his I.D. proof.

My friends and I informed the landlord that we would need this documentation and he immediately come for a visit. He is a cordial man, a local politician, who was a bit skeptical of a white girl traveling alone to India, especially seeing how old I am and not married!!! However, I charmed him with my one word of intelligent Tamil and behaved myself during his stay and he gave his consent to my visit, yet declined signing any letters. He told Meha that she could sign the paper and show her CMC i.d. and call it good.

As luck would have it, that wasn't good enough for the police. Mind you, we found this out after about the fifth trip to the police station. The Chief Inspector keeps his own schedule and is often not available at convenient times, and when they tell you a time to return it is often not in sync with the ever-changing schedule of the Chief Inspector. Each time I went I would take a new friend with me. Most of the time they were just as confused as me with what was required; however, they could at least speak the local language.

At long last, the sad decision was made to take up residence at Mrs. George’s house as she had letters of approval from the Chief Inspector and Bureau of Indian Tourism to house international visitors. Now, I don’t mind Mrs. George’s home at all. She is so welcoming and if affords quite comfortable accommodations. That little gecko that bunked with me last time was even there to welcome me; however, I am alone there. I am not with my friends.

Having spent the first half of my trip with Meha and now the second half with Mrs. George has given me a greater insight on the phrase “home is where your heart is.” Yes, Mrs. George’s residence has a very home-like feel to it and is fully equipped with a bed, Western shower, Western toilet, etc.; notably missing is the element that makes it home: the heart—the hearts of friends that make a house a place you want to retreat to at the end of the day. Last night as I was dropped off at Mrs. George’s home, I wandered in to her lovely place and the empty feeling of solitude began to creep in. I was alone again. I longed to walk up those stairs to my room and turn into Charlie’s room to discuss the events of the day, but I knew her room was empty. I wished that I could sprawl out on the low mattresses on the floor of Meha’s apartment and dive deep into a conversation on pros and cons of Indian culture as it relates to healthcare. I knew that when I arose in the morning, Kriti’s amazing cold coffee wouldn't be waiting for me when I got out of the shower.

What I have learned is that you don’t need beds, Western showers/toilets, A/C, or private rooms to be happy and comfortable. You need to be surrounded by the hearts of people you care about and who care about you. People who will walk through life with you, even if that walk leads to the police station eighty-seven times in one week.  
Manoj: one of the many friends I have met here in Vellore

Meha and I at lunch on Thursday

Ronald and Divya: never a dull moment with these two.

Mrs. George, my gracious hostess.
The view from my new residence.


  1. Home is where the heart is. We are so glad to have yours:D <3

  2. Eighty seven times?? You kidding me??? Woah.. Poor you.. I had told you the other alternative.. ;) You could have done that.. :P