I groaned as we hit yet another bump that sent a jolt straight up my spine. I didn’t remember the road leading up to Krishna Ranch, the farm on the outskirts of Udaipur where we had spent our very first week in India, being quite so rough. But then again, the last time we had been at Krishna it was the end of the monsoon season and the road was more of a river than anything else. In the chilly Rajasthani winter, the water and mud had solidified into what could only be the bumpiest road I had ever travelled on. The auto slowed to a crawl and my anticipation mounted as we drew closer and closer to Krishna Ranch,
We pulled up next to the horse-filled stables and I stepped out of the auto with the eerie feeling that I had stepped back in time. Although it had only been four months since the last time we had been here, to me it felt like an eternity. We had come to Krishna Ranch for our mid-year retreat, an opportunity for us to reflect and recommit to our experience in India. It had been a deliberate choice to return here, to where we shared so many of our first memories with one another. I was already in a nostalgic and reflective mood as we marched up to the farmhouse.
We enthusiastically greeted Narani, the cook who had introduced us to foods that we now call our daily staples. The group feasted on paratha, daal, aloo gobi, matar paneer, banana pakora, and so much more. It seemed almost exactly the same as four months ago, except this time we knew the names of everything we were eating and could properly thank Narani for her delicious cooking in Hindi.
We spent several hours over the course of the weekend journaling and reflecting on our time in India so far, comparing our expectations for the program with our real life experiences. We were encouraged to identify areas where we felt we were excelling and areas where we had room for improvement, both personally and as a cohort. In addition to journaling activities, we played several games. My favorite involved blindfolds, water bottle landmines, and a partner shouting at you to throw bundles of socks at fellow group members.
The games and journaling activities mirrored how we spent our days during our previous stay at Krishna, fleshing out our goals for the coming year and playing icebreaker games to get to know each other. Except that now, four months later, my goals seem almost childish and the idea that I considered my cohort anything less than family seems impossible.
In the evenings, we sat around the fire and reminisced about our first time at Krishna and listened to Lauren play the guitar. On the last night, we picked names out of a hat and anonymously wrote what about that person we were most grateful for. After we read them out loud, we burned the scraps of paper and huddled together for one of our massive group hugs. I ended up in the middle, squished between students and instructors alike and relishing in the warmth I felt from the bodies all around me.
The weekend ended sooner than anyone would have liked, and before we knew it we were packing our bags and loading into the autos to drive down the bumpy dirt road back toward Udaipur. I left Krishna Ranch with a new appreciation for how I have changed since arriving in India. I am certainly more deeply grateful for the people I have met here, from my cohort to my instructors, from my homestay family to Narani to my NGO coworkers. My relationships have shaped my time here, and there are no other people I would rather huddle around the fire with as we listen to the strumming of a guitar, or blindly throw socks at, or bounce around in the back of an auto with as we travel to yet another destination, ready to make even more memories.