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Day One: Into the Mountains

The first thing you need to know about Jharkhand is that it's deep in the mountains of Northeastern India. And it's absolutely beautiful.

Sometimes, when you're jam-packed between suitcases and winding through the mountains, it feels like everything you're afraid of is slowly getting unraveled. The mountains around you are so magnificent and vast that it becomes impossible to feel like a stranger. Your mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, and the only perceptible change in your surroundings is the dip and swell of peaks. Under the jungled leaves, you feel something you hardly know how to name: something huge and cosmic. Love, maybe. Or hope.

Today is my first day in the villages of Jharkhand, and it's been an unforgettable experience so far. Thank you so much for joining me on my journey into Jharkhand--we're just getting started.

Jharkhand brims with beauty, from jewel-green forests to flowers that bloom like little kisses.

8:00 a.m. Arriving in Ranchi

After flying in from Delhi, I (unwillingly) posed for a picture in front of the tiny Ranchi airport. In order to better adapt to the local culture, I've abandoned my usual jeans and sweaters in favor of traditional salwars.

The journey into Ranchi has certainly pushed at my comfort zones--this will be my first time living in a rural village, as well as my first time visiting India with limited knowledge of the local language! But for the next few days, I'm putting all of that aside. I know that this is going to be the experience of a lifetime, and that moments like this don't often come twice.

12:00 The Waterfalls

Our Ekal group was very thoughtful to show me some of the natural wonders of Jharkhand during the drive from Ranchi to Karanjo.

I was thrilled to visit two beautiful, secluded waterfalls--Panchdag and Hirni Falls. Looking at the bright insects and quietly trickling falls, it wasn't hard to pretend that I'd fallen into the pages of The Jungle Book.

Flowers erupt at every corner, reflecting the wild and untapped beauty of Jharkhand.

I was treated to a snack of wild dhoodh berries, plucked straight off a tree. They tasted like a delicious blend of blueberries and peaches.

2:00 Welcome to Karanjo

After four hours of mountain driving and hairpin turns, we finally reached the tiny village of Karanjo. It's the kind of place that cannot be done justice with photographs--the cameras can capture the faded paint and galloping goats, but not the scent of deep earth and clean air. So I try to use words instead, but even writing can't describe that kind of beauty.

We were welcomed warmly by the residents of the Gramothan Resource Center (GRC) and treated to a delicious homemade lunch in the guesthouse. Now it's time to rest up, beat the jetlag, and prepare for the days ahead.

Words of wisdom painted on the front of the guesthouse.

The Mountains Ahead Over the next few days, I plan to experience. And there will be plenty of incredible new things for me to experience, from the culture of the GRC to the rural lifestyle to the powerful programs that Ekal Vidyalaya has to offer. I plan to write about those experiences, both here and over at The Homegirl Project. I also plan to teach, focusing on a special research study I prepared in order to empower youth to use their voices for good. But most importantly, I plan to learn. I know that by myself, I'm just a girl from America with ideas. But with the wisdom learned from the men, women, and children of Jharkhand, I hope that I can one day become the change I wish to see in the world. I just arrived at Karanjo, so I haven't gotten a chance to truly explore the GRC and reach out to the families and children of Ekal Vidyalaya. But based on the magic of the first day alone, I know that the next week will be nothing short of an adventure. And I'm so glad that you're here to experience it with me. Lots of love, Malavika Kannan

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