Student Experience Blog

Humidity and Operation Smile

So I took two flights, and reached Guwahati today from Srinagar (it's a town in the Himalays), where I met my parents. It is a bucolic city, kind of like a conglomerate of villages that just managed to become a city somehow.

As I was driving from Borjahar Airport to my hotel, which my partner Mark told me was ghetto, I could not help but think about when I was growing up. Guwahati resembles Jammu, the town I spent 18 very happy years growing up in. Except it looks like Jammu from 15 years ago.

The roadside is surrounded by the vestiges of buildings from the 1960's in a style I like to call Government Colonial, squat brick buildings stuccoed and painted yellow or some goofy shade thereof. Except instead of eucalyptus trees, there were palm trees and banana trees and what have you.

As soon as I deplaned, it felt like someone started smothering me with a warm towel. It is really humid here, partially because the monsoon is coming, and partially because the entire town of Guwahati is next to Bhramaputra, one of the great rivers of India.

I drove to my hotel, and found myself in a veritable bucket of people. Seriously. So many people. I felt the temperature rise 10 degrees just by body heat. And then I reached my hotel room. Mark was inside. To call it a hotel room would be an exaggeration. It looks more like a set for underground porn filmmaking. Stained blue walls, a twin bed, a single bed, an Indian-style toilet (get squattin' son) and a window that opens up to a trash heap. Romantic.

Mark and I smoked a cigarette and talked for a bit, and we decided to explore the city and the site of our project. We ate a really horrid mutton pilaf on the way.

We reached the site, and it was this huge complex (not really, but I expected something out of M*A*S*H, tent hospitals and what not. I am an insufferable romantic.). I met up with our liaison, Sagar. A tall Indian guy out of Bombay, who has a leonine presence. He does not walk, he lopes. He met up with us and gave us a tour of this hospital which was the most incongruous thing ever. It smelled like a hospital, which is a smell I detest, but it was filled with paintings of rainbows and happy children. Very child-friendly, set for the latest Hollywood slasher film.

We talked for a bit, and I was suitably impressed. Guwahati is home to the biggest Operation Smile station in the world. They have done over 5,000 cleft surgeries. Sagar seems really passionate, and I like that guy. Which is important, because he is going to be our main man for the next 10 days.

Mark and I ended up back in our hotel. Because it is so muggy and hot, we ended up pretty much in our drawers. He was just in his boxers, and I was wearing a towel to hide my briefs. We smoke some cubanos, which Mark thoughtfully purchased, with assamese tea (the best in the world, thank you very much), to kick off our humanitarian mission of making children able to smile again. It was quite a sight. A brown guy in a bright yellow beach towel, and an oriental man in boxers (Stark naked otherwise. I blame the heat, and humidity.), smoking cigars and drinking tea.

Mark then went to take a shower, which is what he is doing right now. I am waiting to take a shower. Humidity does strange things to the human body.

Today was eventful overall. I was talking to Mark about it, and I feel we got it made. We got 10,000 dollars to do good work for humanity, and we also got to visit new places. and I get to take pictures. I could live this life everyday.

-Rahul Sharma

Rahul is a senior art major from Jammu, India.