I woke up early feeling rough. I had slept badly and it didn’t help that we had gone for cocktails and danced the night away in the only club for miles around. Today was the day I had been dreading since I arrived. The day I was leaving India. The day before had been my last day volunteering with the children at Daya Dan where I had been for 3 weeks and formed some close relationships. However it was just like any other day for me, I pushed aside the sad goodbyes and pretended I would be back the next day. It didn’t feel like I was leaving yet.
Today was the volunteer’s day off anyway so although we were up early for breakfast, we weren’t rushing off anywhere. I had already packed my rucksack so I now had nearly three hours until my taxi would take me to the airport. We sat in the beautiful garden of the hostel we had been staying and soaked up some sun. It was a peaceful haven away from the noisy, polluted outside world of Calcutta.
Having nothing to keep me busy, the tears that hadn’t come the day before soon began to fall in floods. This was my life now and I couldn’t believe I was leaving already. The last 3 weeks had felt like a lifetime, I knew I was a different person. It wasn’t just the volunteering it was the other volunteers who I had met and had supported me to become the person I wanted to be. It sounds cliché but they really were the most incredible people I had ever met. I sat surrounded by my Calcutta family who I felt closer to than I had ever felt with anyone else and sobbed until there was nothing left in me. I felt numb. I wasn’t ready to leave and I certainly wasn’t ready to go back to my dull life back in the UK. I was scared. It had been easy to form a relationship with God when you’re attending mass every morning and prayer every evening in the convent with Mother Theresa’s nuns. But how easy would it be when I got back home? My situation was not unusual, spending so much time praying and in the presence of God, it was inevitable that I would become closer to my faith.
My taxi arrived. I picked up my bag and put it in the car. I didn’t know where to start with goodbyes. Everyone had tears in their eyes, who knew if or when we would see each other again. I held onto everyone long enough for the taxi driver to beep his horn, a sound barely noticeable amongst the streets of India. I felt letters of farewell shoved into my hands as I climbed into the backseat of the car. They would be read later, not now. My vision was too blurred. I heard the guards on the gate arguing with my driver over the cost I would be paying to the airport. Everything was bargained in India even though the first price always already seemed cheap enough to me, a common westerner.
As we winded our way through the streets, I stared out the window. I would never forget these sights and sounds unlike anything I had experienced anywhere else in the world. I promised myself I would come back one day. I had too. I couldn’t leave in this state and never return; India has so much more to give. I know it.