Saturday, November 21, 2015

Happy Diwali!

I digress, it has been a long time! Alas, I have been quite busy with final presentations, tests, and enjoying every last minute in India that I have.

Much has happened since travel week, including Halloween, my final field visits for research, Diwali, an epic cricket match and an awesome cooking class.


Per Tom's suggestion, Halloween ended up getting very creative this year. In addition to a few small pumpkins, we carved watermelons, and it was delicious. I think Smriti ended up putting over 5 pounds of watermelon pieces in her fridge by the end of the day. Picutes below.

The carnage!

We're cute...Happy Halloween!


As far as field visits go, one of our last class field visit was to the DOTS center in Udupi. DOTS stands for Directly Observed Treatment, Shortcourse and is one of the World Health Organization's best public health interventions to date. DOTS is a public health intervention of treating Tuberculosis, or TB. In India, it is estimated that over 2 million people have TB, and tens to hundreds of thousands more are infected every year. It is a life-threatening disease characterized by a fever, pains, and severe cough. The good news is that TB is curable and treatable. It takes months of regimented antibiotics and maintenance of health, and this is where DOTS comes in. DOTS requires that a health care provider observe the infected person physically taking the antibiotics two to three times every week until the disease tests negative via a sputum sample. This accountability ensures the full course of treatment is taken so the person is fully healed and antibiotic resistance does not occur. Overall, DOTS has worked to continuously reduce the burden of death and disease felt by TB in many countries.

What a #publichealthparty!


My field visits for my independent research wrapped up as well! This time, Prashanthi and Sushma helped me with translation at the Padubidri Primary Health Center. This field visit helped to further solidify the conclusions I had been drawing from my previous interviews throughout Udupi Taluk. Sarah also went along for this visit, and to show them our thanks, we went out for lunch afterwards, and it was a riot! They are fun people. I am soon going to turn in my final report and I am excited about the conclusions I have drawn.

Sarah, Sushma, Prashanthi, and I outside of PHC Padubidri

Research Squad 2015


Happy Diwali!

About a week ago, it was a joyous time all around Manipal and India because of this famous Hindu celebration. Diwali signifies the "festival of lights" and is a time where people appreciate togetherness with their family, friends, and other loved ones (see "Diwali" in 'Useful Links'). Many people go home, though we were lucky enough that our friends in the Geopolitics Department stayed around, and were nice enough to invite us over for a party. We dressed up in our sarees again, and had a great time. The next day, we continued the celebration by participating in Manipal Univeristy's "Illuminaire", which is a gathering where we lit lanterns and sent them floating into the sky. If you have ever seen the Disney movie "Tangled", it most definitely resembled the famous canoe scene. It was absolutely beautiful. Pictures below.

Rangoli with dias (lanterns) placed in the middle

Happy Diwali! :)

Extremely fun party at Hamsini and Saketha's apartment!

Entrance to Illuminaire

Tom, lighting our lantern so it could float up into the night sky

Emilie and Tanzy about to send their lantern up!



There was no way any of us were leaving India without trying cricket! Smriti set up a match in the field behind our building, pitting us against the Geopolitics Department. In cricket, you hit a ball with a flat, wooden stick, and instead of running around bases, you run to and from a line as many times as possible. If you hit it far enough, you can also get 4 or 6 points (depending on how far you hit). We lost by a long shot when it was us vs. the department, but when we mixed teams up a little bit, the match was a close one! It was such an event that even some of our professors played... I really appreciated learning how to play India's favorite pastime.

Booking it for the team!

Cricket with the best


This last Tuesday, we attended a hands-on cooking class at Manipal University's School of Culinary Arts. We were set up in a huge kitchen and taught to make dishes such as chicken curry, aloo jeera, palak paneer, carrot halwa, and dal shorba. It was really great (even if we labored for over 3 hours) to see how Indian food is normally cooked and the passion of our student chefs were extremely evident. My student chef and I bonded over our love of baked goods and for the movie Ratatouille (to be perfectly honest, I I felt like I was in that movie throughout the entire night). I especially hope I can make the deliciously sweet and buttery carrot halwa and the savory chicken curry when I am back in the U.S.

My chef! He was fabulous and I hope to try his cooking/baking again one day

Makin' chicken curry

I felt like a pro (even if I wasn't)

Everything about this meal was aesthetically pleasing!


Intently watching educational videos during Sunday morning volunteer fun with the energetic kids at Bijapur slum


The days since travel week have flown by, and I am still enjoying India to the fullest extent. I can't believe I only have one week left in Manipal and two weeks left in India itself. It is going to be very weird going back to the U.S. after all this time, and seeing my country with, I expect, much different eyes than before. I do not think the fact of going back has settled into me yet, so I will just have to see when it hits. This upcoming week will be finals, enjoying my favorite people and things about Manipal, and the closing ceremony.



P.S. Happy 18th Birthday to Kyle this last week and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone this upcoming week!


Me, at the beginning of painting class! I am now only one more session from finishing my Ganesha :)


The answer to the last question: "Who is the current Prime Minister of India" is Narendra Modi. Shah Rukh Khan is arguably India's most famous actor, Jawaharlal Nehru was India's first PM after Independence, and Pranab Mukherjee is the current President of India.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment! ~


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Bangaluru (Days 7 and 8, Travel Week)

Day 7

After our 14 hour overnight journey from Nagercoil, we were grateful to reach Bangaluru, the capital of Karnataka. With a population of over 8.5 million, this metropolis features almost anything that a city in the United States does. In fact, I almost felt like I was back home many moments during the day. Also called the "Silicon Valley" of India, this city boomed during the country's IT Revolution, and is the starting place for hugely influential companies, such as Infosys.

We checked in at a very nice hotel near the center of the city, Hotel Regalis. It was definitely the classiest place we stayed at over travel week, and surely less rugged than the house boat in Alappuzha!

Before being left to our own devices by Smriti for our "free evening", we travelled to Sri Big Bull Temple and Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace. Sri Big Bull Temple displayed another awesome goparum, with the most significant feature being what you would think: a ginormous bull (with all the flowers and colorful decorations of course). After spending a little while there, our taxi took us to Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace. This destination highlights Indo-Islamic architecture and was where Tipu Sultan lived during the summer. The Sultan has been hailed as a military hero and good with foreign relations; for instance, Napoleon of France sought to ally with him. He's also known for the advancement of rockets in Mysore, and finding a balance between Islam and Hinduism. However, some historians have analyzed that the Sultan displayed negative attitudes towards Christians. The Sultan served in the Second and Third Anglo-Mysore War, and died in battle during the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War in 1799 (See "Tipu Sultan" in 'Useful Links' for more information). Photos below.

Sri Big Bull Temple. I think I have been in more temples than churches at this point...

The Big Bull him(or her)self! Bangaluru, India.

Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace.

You can see the Indo-Islamic architecture in Tipu Sultan's Palace.

The Blues Sisters? (featuring Michelle and I)

In Tipu Sultan's Summer Palace!

Gardens outside the palace.

That afternoon, we decided to try some different cuisine, as there were so many places to choose from. Upon the dedicated research from Tanzeela, we decided on Hae Kum Gang, a Korean restaurant, and loved it...we ordered sweet and spicy chicken, sushi, and beef sizzlers. Afterwards, we had a craving for something sweet, so we went to Dunkin' Donuts and enjoyed an American treat! Afterwards, we went shopping at a mall and enjoyed just observing the bustling city.

That evening, a few of us went wandering through Brigade Road and Commercial Street, both brightly lit, energetic, and full of anything you would ever want. I loved walking around and enjoying the hum of humanity. It reminded me of a crowded Washington DC, probably more of a New York City feel. The climate in Bangalore was also superb, as it was warm, not humid, with a slight breeze. It was paradise weather, but in the city. Nightlife in Bangalore was happening and shut down much later than 10 or 11 p.m., unlike in Manipal. In short, I highly suggest it for anyone visiting! Overall, I very much hope to return someday and experience more of this awesome city. Photos below.

Bangalore, India.

Commercial Street

Look at the energy and crowds!

Day 8

The next day, we all got into our taxi to go to Bannerghatta National Park about 2 hours from the middle of the city. On the way there, we had a very spicy, but very good South Indian lunch. As soon as we arrived in the park, we were bombarded by enormous masses of people. As it turned out, the Dashara festival attracted huge crowds and the safari had filled up before we got there. I still hope that I can see some great animals before leaving. One thing about traveling, and especially in India, is you must be flexible! We returned back to Bangalore, got delicious sundaes and enjoyed the city at dusk before getting on our train back to Udupi. Photos below.

A quiet Sunday morning in Bangaluru

Our taxi was decorated for the Dashara Festival... (see "Decorated Trucks" in 'Useful Links')

Waiting at the train station

Going home!


Travel week throughout South India was one of the most amazing experiences I have had in my entire life. Not only did I sew new things, enjoy new cuisine, and meet new people, but I learned so much more about India. What I have discovered about being here is that even a four year stay, let alone the four months I am here, would never teach me everything I would want to know about this country. Actually, I think I could spend a lifetime and not know everything! I most definitely hope to return to this region of India someday and am excited to keep exploring until the very last minute when I board my plane in Delhi. I am so grateful for this opportunity!

The journey through South India!


Thank you for reading my chronicles of travel week! I hope you enjoyed them. For the last 4-5 weeks I am here, I will be resuming my posts about life in Manipal, so be sure to keep on reading. I have come to immensely love writing for this blog, as I love to write and I love to travel. Please do not hesitate to comment or email with any questions or remarks.




Thursday, November 5, 2015

Kanyakumari (Days 5 and 6, Travel Week)

Day 5

At the southernmost threshold of India lies Kanyakumari. Known for its indescribably beautiful sunsets (and sunrises), this city is also legendary because it has been mentioned in both of India's most famous epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the Ramayana is an Indian epic in which Ram, a divine king, saves Sita, a divine queen, from Ravana (Ravana is an evil demon). Unlike the Ramayana, I have not read the Mahabharata, so I am not as familiar with it, but according to what I have heard and read, the story is about the Kukrukshetra War, the defeat of demons by Krishna, and contains the Bhagavad Gita, a religious and philosophical work it its own right.

During our stay in Kanyakumari, the annual Dashara festival was being held. Dashara is a Hindu festival which, coincidentally, celebrates the defeat of Ravana by Rama. In essence, the festival commemorates the victory of good over evil. Because it is such a big celebration, we were able to witness a huge parade on the day we were there. However, this also caused problems with our intended plans (for example, the ferry to the Vivekanandhar Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue was very crowded and closed much earlier than we anticipated). We still got to see these places from a distance, and it was probably worth it in order to experience the festival! The parade is better described with photos, so I will say no more (Photos below).

Dashara Festival; the priest adorns the idol with flowers...we even got the experience of throwing flowers onto the float!

A man plays the traditional Shehnai as a part of the festival

What a celebration! Smriti said that it was a crucial for us to experience the crowds to get the "full, Indian experience"

Kanyakumari, India

Vivekanandhar Rock Memorial and Thiruvalluvar Statue in the near distance...Thiruvalluvar is the "eternal poet" of the state of Tamil Nadu

Before heading to the Gandhi Memorial, we visited the Devi Kanyakumari Temple. We found a guy to show us around, and I am glad we did because he took us to the roof of the temple, where we got a great view of Kanyakumari, Thiruvalluvar Statue, and the ocean. At this particular temple, men have to take their shirt off before entering, so Tom had to take his shirt off as a sign of respect. Goddess Kanya Kumari is worshipped, and is believed to remove the rigidity of our minds. Pictures below.

Panorama from atop the Devi Kanyakumari Temple...what a great view! Pictures were not allowed inside, but they were on the rooftop...

Selfie after being blessed inside the Devi Kanyakumari Temple.

Group pic!

Outside the temple, Smriti and Emilie got their fortunes read by a man and his parrot! Emilie definitely seems to have a good life cut out for her. We also visited a Gandhi memorial, which honored Ganhiji's service and commitment to peacefully freeing India from the British (see "Gandhi" in 'Useful Links'). His ashes were contained in Kanyakumari for a time, before being thrown into the ocean. A plaque at the memorial building read:

"I am writing this at the cape, in front of the sea, where three waters meet and furnish a sight unequaled in the world, for this is no port of call for vessels. Like the goddess, the waters around are virgin"- MK Gandhi

I also learned from Smriti that people here are not buried, and everyone's ashes are thrown into the ocean when they pass away, which I think is very interesting! Pictures below.

Emilie gets her fortune read!

Gandhiji Memorial

Where Gandhi's ashes were before they were spread into the ocean

Atop the Gandhi memorial

After a while at the Gandhi memorial, we headed to "Sunset Point", aptly named because it offers one of the best places to view the sun setting in the entire world. It was honestly was of those scenes which is hard to describe, so if you are looking for an excuse to come to India, say it is because you need to experience the sunset at Kanyakumari. I saw clouds coming up from below the horizon, which was a bizarre, but beautiful sight. There was no full moon the night we were there, but when there is, one can witness the moon rising and sun setting in tandem. Photos below.

Sunset Point, Kanyakumari, India.

After spending an hour at Sunset Point, we headed to dinner and I ordered some delicious lemon-pepper fish, and then ice cream for dessert (of course). We headed to our rooms afterwards to get some rest before heading to Bangalore the next day. To say in the least, it was a blast to room with Tanzeela and Emilie, they are such great people and friends!

Day 6

To recuperate after many days of traveling, our meeting time was not until noon the next day. The three of us took advantage of the late meeting time, and relaxed in the hotel and ate breakfast until meeting later. Because of the ongoing Dashara festival, the only visit we made before heading to the Nagercoil train station was the southernmost point in India, where all three seas meet. Here, the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Bay of Bengal all meet and converge at the point of India's border. It was very cool to see, and the water was immaculate! Photos below.

Colorful boats pattern the seashore and compliment the colorful buildings

Marking the southernmost tip of India with the convergence of the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and Bay of Bengal

Fearing we would hit traffic because of the festival, we headed for the train station about 4 hours before our departure time. We ended up arriving there in 30 minutes, so we had over 3 hours to wait! Not wasting a moment, I enjoyed exploring the train station and taking some photos. The name "Nagercoil" comes from Nagaraja Temple, which worships the serpent king. The city is surrounded by the Western Ghats, which made for a very scenic backdrop for the train ride out of Tamil Nadu (For more information on the state of Tamil Nadu, see "Tamil Nadu" under 'Useful Links'). Now all that's left is for me to touch the northernmost tip of India...I guess I will have to make another trip to this beautiful country someday! Photos below.

Nagercoil Train Station, India.

Sleeper trains in India are divided up into A/C and non-A/C and then by tier...we stayed in second and third tier A/C trains, which made me feel like I was in some sort of adventure movie!

On the journey of a lifetime (photo credit to Smriti Chhabra)

The fun and learning did not end here, however! Our last stop was the large metropolis of Bengaluru, the capitol of Karnataka. I hope you will join me in my final leg of the journey, Bangalore (Days 7 and 8, Travel Week). After the last travel week blog is posted, I will resume my weekly accounts of life in Manipal.

Thank you for reading.



P.S.- The answer to the last quiz question, "What disease is India famous for its efforts to eradicate?" is Polio! Before the late 1970s, Polio was a grave epidemic in India...with the launch of Pulse Polio, and the efforts from the Indian government, WHO (World Health Organization), and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations), India was declared polio-free in 2014, following 3 years of no cases. The only two countries left with wild polio cases are Afghanistan and Pakistan. Smallpox was the most popular answer, and though eradicated from India as well, is technically eradicated from the Earth, despite the samples in top-secret labs in the U.S. and Russia. Smallpox eradication was another great public health achievement, though polio elimination is what makes India famous in terms of public health.