As our group woke up on our last morning in Heranjal, we tried to give back to our homestay families who welcomed us into their homes with open arms. Some of us sang American songs, while others made scrambled eggs with onions and masala. We spent a good portion of the morning getting ready to leave the village, and once we finished our last south-Indian meal of the trip, we said our goodbyes to our families. It was a sad moment as our families had taken excellent care of us, and been like actual families.
We then got on the rickshaw and stopped at the school to bid adieu to the school kids. The kids rushed us as soon as we stepped into the schoolyard and after receiving countless daps, smiles, and high-fives, we were invited inside one of the classrooms. There was an unofficial farewell ceremony with exchanges of roses, hugs, applause, and mysore paku (think of the most flaky and fudgy cookie ever…now multiply that by 10!). It was moving to see how in such short time we were able to make these genuine connections, and it made it even sadder to leave. As part of our tradition, the final rickshaw ride out to the village limits was spent in silent reflection and observation. Our time in Harenjal had officially come to an end.
The garden across the street was opened special for us to provide a private space to host our closing ceremony, bringing us full circle to our fist meeting as a group eleven days ago. After reviewing our agenda from the last week and a half, we shared specific, we looked back at the goals we set and saw how each goal had been met successfully. In the end, we passed around a Tulsi plant (basil) and each shared something that we wanted to take with us and something we wanted to leave. Some mentioned wanting to hold onto the power of investigating the world or recognizing impact of actions, while others wanted to leave behind wasteful behaviors or judgments that subconsciously dictate behaviors and experiences. Then, as a group, we the watered and planted the Tulsi.