My Summer in India: Seeing the World From a Different Perspective! (இந்தியாவில் என் கோடைகாலம்)
It was only 4 am and as soon as I stepped outside from the airport the heat took my breath away. Dr. MohanKumar had warned us it was going to be hot, but nothing could have prepared me for the heat of India. Myself and 14 other veterinary students from the University of Georgia had been selected to spend 7 weeks with Dr. Puliyur Seshadri MohanKumar and Dr. Sheba MohanKumar in India. Our first stop was Madras Veterinary College located in Chennai, India.
At Madras Veterinary college we rotated through the various clinical wards. This allowed us to follow individual cases, interact with the clients who brought in their pets, the students, and the veterinarians/professors. Even though I was unable to speak the local language (Tamil) it was obvious that the owners cared deeply about their pets. Luckily most of the veterinary students and professors spoke English and were willing to translate things for us. This was a unique opportunity for me to see cases that I may never see in the United States. Some examples are a horse with rabies, a water buffalo with Johne’s disease, goats with goat pox, and a dog with tetanus.
Our next stop was Gujarat, India, where we had the pleasure of following Dr. Ramanathan on his daily activities. He specialized in equine medicine and farrier work. It was amazing to watch him make specialized horseshoes and how much they help the horses with hoof and confirmation issues. While following Dr. Ramanthan we were also able to learn about rare breeds of Indian horses called Marwari and Kathiawari. These horses had very unique ears that turned inwards. We also got to see several mares checked for pregnancies.
During our journey we had the pleasure of visiting several temples. During undergrad I had taken several religious studies courses learning about Hinduism and other religions of Asia like Jainism and Sikhism. One thing I could not have learned from these classes is just how intertwined ones faith is into their daily life. We also hiked in the dessert at 115F to explore ancient fossils and ruins. Another very unique place we visited was a step well located in Adalaj near Ahmedabad. The architecture was a mixture of Hindu influence as well as Islamic influence. This is because it was completed during a time of Muslim rule. We were also very fortunate in being able to attend a traditional Indian wedding. I have to say it is nothing like a traditional American wedding. The bride was absolutely gorgeous in her sarhi and henna. We were so lucky to see several rare Asiatic Lions during our safari at the Gir Lion Sanctuary. And of course no trip to India is complete without seeing the Taj Mahal. To be honest I was amazed at how much we were able to pack into 7 weeks.
Of all the places we visited Mudumalai Tiger (புலி) Reserve was my favorite! Unfortunately, we did not see any tigers, but we were able to spend most of our time with the mahouts, their elephants (யானை), and the local veterinarian. We were able to learn techniques for capturing rogue wildlife and practiced using blow darts. The thing that fascinated me the most was the story behind the elephants. Each elephant that was in the camp had a troubled past. They had either killed people or wrecked havoc in some way that made them a threat to the public. The elephant was then captured using other elephants that had been trained by the mahouts. They were kept in a shed and given their own personal mahout. This person would stay with the elephant to help rehabilitate and train them. These mahouts did this with a great deal of patience and non-violent methods. The two would form a strong bond and the elephant would learn that not all humans are bad. Once the mahout/elephant bond was strengthened, the elephant would be able to roam the wild jungle at night. In the morning the elephants would return home for breakfast and a bath in the river.
The elephant that stood out the most to me was Moorthy. He was the friendliest of them all and very interested in us. After we met the elephants we were told about Moorhty’s story. I could not believe what I had heard. He had killed 24 people and there were two possibilities for his fate. He was to be captured or in a neighboring area he had been sentenced to death. Luckily for Moorthy, he was able to be captured and he had become the nicest elephant in the camp. It just goes to show how much of a difference a little compassion can make.
Miraculously all 15 of us survived the Indian heat and even became accustomed to it. During my 7 weeks in India I made memories and friendships that will last a lifetime. I am hopeful that one day I will be able to return to this beautiful country to explore it further.
I would like give a special thanks (நன்றி) to the MohanKumar family for taking us with them to India. This trip has had such a huge influence in my life. You guys are the best!