The Conspiracy

Goodbye, America! Hello, India.

In less than one month, I should be gliding into Chennai (formerly known as Madras), India. From there, I’ll travel 100 miles south to the city of Pondicherry with about 15 other American students. Why would I leave the steely gray beauty of Pittsburgh for the warmth and bustle of a southeast coastal town in the most populous democracy in the world?

For the food, of course!

Kidding. That’s not the entire story. I am able to study in India because the flexible nature of a humanities degree at Carnegie Mellon University allows me to study abroad for an entire semester virtually anywhere I want. I chose India for several reasons. Firstly, I was drawn to the fact that I can complete my religious studies minor there while experiencing unfamiliar religions first-hand, instead of learning about them in the confines of a classroom. I also wanted to go somewhere radically different than the places I’d visited already like, say, western Europe, a popular destination for study abroad. I was also eager to seize the opportunity to learn a language (I’ll take Hindi or Tamil) that is hard to study at Carnegie Mellon, while knowing that many, many people will still be speaking English. And finally, I sought to experience the culture and customs that are so different from my own.

Needless to say, I’m excited. I’m looking forward to visiting temples and other holy sites that are vastly different from the Reform American Judaism I’ve grown up with–but I’m wondering how I’ll keep my “Jewishness” this far from home and for such a long amount of time (spanning over four months).

This past Friday night, I went to a friend’s house for a potluck. Her Jewish roommate made latkes, even though Hanukkah was over, and the mostly non-Jewish crowd ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the oily potato creations. While I could have attended the last Shabbat of the semester at Hillel, I went to the potluck. But at least I had options. I’m doubtful I’ll have much of a choice when I’m in India, but that’s part of the adventure.

My informal research has turned up little about any Jews in Pondicherry or Chennai. However, there are four Chabad houses, in Goa, Mumbai, Manali and Bangalore. None of these are remotely close to Pondicherry, but could be an interesting trip. I’ll be blogging (in words and photos) about various adventures (think, trying to keep kosher for Passover) throughout the semester. Stay tuned, and if you’re in southeast India, let me know!

Update: My blogging home for India is here! More soon.

Courtesy of flickr

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6 Older Responses to “Goodbye, America! Hello, India.”

  1. Sukrit
    December 13, 2010 at 10:59 pm #

    Good luck with your visit. Do check out my website for useful info about the city of Pondicherry.

    Cheers.

  2. Vishal
    December 14, 2010 at 1:16 am #

    Just stumbled on your link whilst searching for something else!
    Welcome to India! I am sure you will be amazed to learn about our country. Have a great trip.

  3. Thirukumaran
    December 14, 2010 at 2:52 am #

    Hai Dude!!!!!!!!!
    How about my city

  4. Rachel
    December 14, 2010 at 9:56 am #

    Hi Caroline,
    Sounds like you’re bound to have a great experience. I hope you’ll share some of your travels on Pink Pangea (http://www.pinkpangea.com), the community for women travelers.

    Thanks,
    Rachel

    rachel@pinkpangea.com

  5. Iwkbal Syelvan
    December 15, 2010 at 12:24 pm #

    Good Luck guys !!! South India is amazing and during your summer months you can escape to Yercaud Hill Station near Pondicherry. When I studied in Pondicherry, I have heard there are few Jewish families lived in Sadras near Pondicherry. Well I’m nt sure though … You can research on the lost tribes of Israel Nation still lives in Tamil Nadu or Kerala. Pondicherry is nice mix of Tamil – French Culture, I accept the roads are very bad .. . Any how Best of luck for your studies.

  6. Caroline Kessler
    December 19, 2010 at 2:03 am #

    Friends, thanks for your notes! I’ll be blogging here: http://carokess.tumblr.com/ when I have Internet access.

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