First Impressions (Or Finding Comfort in a Sea of Colorful Chaos) 

Transition is never easy, yet somehow I have managed to stay sane in the hectic metropolis known as Mumbai. Maybe I can attribute my success to previous experience living in a developing country. After 3 years abroad, I know how to handle uncertainty, ambiguity, and unfamiliarity with ease. I had come to Mumbai prepared, well aware that the tap water would likely not be drinkable, public restrooms would probably not have ideal conditions, and fighting my way onto public transportation would become the norm. I had prepared myself for living life by a new rule: “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.”


An after school dance party in Rajasthan

An after school dance party in Rajasthan

From the stories I had been told, I expected a crazy, whirlwind city, full of people, traffic, and heat. What I got was a crazy, whirlwind city, full of people, traffic, and heat. But somehow, it wasn’t as overwhelming as I had anticipated. Meeting my colleagues at Educate Girls instantly put me at ease and excited for the work ahead. My easy-going new roommates and welcoming landlord made me feel at home. Bargaining for my purchases came naturally. Zipping through traffic in a 3 wheeled auto-rickshaw at heart-stopping speeds was more exhilarating than it was agonizing. Long lines, crowded trains and constant background noise became my normal way of life.

When I arrived at Educate Girls, I encountered a newly formed communications team. Most of the members were hired in the few weeks prior to my arrival, and we were all in the process of familiarizing ourselves with the organization. Such ambiguity can be confusing for someone who had expected to arrive and find a clearly defined role and tasks. However, I consider myself lucky to be a part of the process of creating a strategy for the next phase of branding and communications for Educate Girls. Where some people may have felt uncomfortable with the evolving state of affairs, I felt inspired. To ensure that I fully grasped the Educate Girls model, I traveled to the field to visit the program in the Jalore district of Rajasthan. After a 16 hour overnight train, I arrived in rural Rajasthan, where my English proved useless and smiling became my main form of communication.

All smiles after a day of playing Holi

All smiles after a day of playing Holi

After a trip full of laughter, hugs, lots of dancing and excessive amounts of chai tea, I returned to Mumbai not only with a better understanding of the impact of Educate Girls’ programs on the lives of communities, but also with a better appreciation for uncertainty, spontaneity, and Indian hospitality. I returned just in time to celebrate Holi festival, also known as the Festival of Colors. People from all backgrounds, young and old, rich and not-so-rich, local and foreigner, toss around colored powder or shoot water guns filled with colored water, in what can only be described as a kaleidoscopic free-for-all. I ended my day soaking wet, painted with various hues, from my hair to my toes. As I made my way home, I saw people everywhere still “playing Holi”, throwing colors at each other, laughter all around. There were splashes of vibrant yellow, neon pink, bright red, emerald green, electric blue and brilliant purple all over the streets – evidence of the fun had on that day. Instead of worrying about how many times I would have to shampoo, or how hard I would have to scrub my hands to get the color off, or how in the world I would find a way to get the color off of my glasses, I just smiled. All I could do was smile.

These 6 weeks in India have been interesting to say the least. It has been surprising to learn that I didn’t have to “get comfortable being uncomfortable.” I have yet to feel uncomfortable in my surroundings. What is even more surprising is how easy it was, and is, for me to find comfort in the chaos.

A smile is the only language understood by all

I snapped a picture of this sign on my way home from Holi

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