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Group Shot of TCE Students in India

Manan Desai: Student Report from 2018 Alternative Summer Break to India

India is like peppermint extract. Anybody who has ever cooked with peppermint extract knows that one drop contains a high amount of concentrated flavor. India was very similar.

We were in a very small village, but it had some of the most concentrated culture I have ever experienced. The second I stepped foot in the village, I was bombarded with tradition. When we left the car, there was a group of villagers already dancing and playing some instruments. I recognized one of the instruments as a shehnai, but the others were foreign.

Ravinder on the Work Site in India

One time when I was younger, I tasted a drop of peppermint extract. Tasting the peppermint extract was similar to being greeted by the villagers. I was very surprised and a little uncomfortable, but in the end, I understood I was experiencing true essence, whether it was peppermint or India.

Sheela on the Work Site
Sheela and a native worker at the site

When I tasted peppermint extract the first time, my stomach had an interesting reaction; I may have had too much. Authentic Indian food also caused a stomach reaction. It was definitely a lot to digest. I was lucky to have experienced Indian food before, but even with my prior experience, authentic South Indian food was an absolute revelation. Some members of the group did have some adverse reactions, but I think everyone enjoyed the cuisine overall. They say you are what you eat, so we must be pretty spicy now.

Manan Desai and Judith Mallory Pull on Brickmaking Lever
Tarun helps Judith pull the lever on the brick-maker

Anyone who has ever cooked knows that peppermint extract needs other ingredients to make a good dessert. India is similar once again. I would not have had such an amazing time without the people accompanying me. My trip was like making peppermint brownies where everyone I interacted with was a vital ingredient.

Alisa Plants a Tree in Indian Field
Alisa plants a tree

I obviously can’t name everyone, but there were a few people that stood out. Ravinder would be the eggs of the brownies; they both have a lot of protein, and he really gave the whole trip consistency. He was in charge of the actual work we did there, so we saw a lot of him during the day. Sheela was the milk; she kept everything running smoothly and was a great point of contact throughout the whole trip. She was always friendly and cooperative. Elisa was definitely the sugar because she made the trip more fun. She was our dance teacher and had a great sense of humor. My fellow students on the trip were like their own individual chocolate chips, adding their own flavor to the adventure. Mitch was a pretty funny chocolate chip, making jokes even when he was experiencing some technical difficulties. Nishant was a very vocal chocolate chip, a true leader. Cameron was a lively chocolate chip, always happy and ready to conquer the world. Tarun was an intriguing chocolate chip, always keeping the trip interesting with his stories. Makayla was a great medical chocolate chip, providing some timely Pepto Bismol. Everyone on the trip came together to make a great experience in India and a very good peppermint brownie. Similar to a freshly baked peppermint brownie, India was also very hot.

Manan Desai and Makayla Drink Coconut Water
Makayla and Manan have some coconut water at the worksite

Overall, I have no regrets about my trip to India. It was fun, and I am glad that we could get some work done. Even though the trip was short, this one drop of peppermint extract was a refreshing burst in my life.