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Friday, December 7, 2018

Our first wedding anniversary in the middle of a forest in Dang, Gujarat

Flashback December 2009, The Dangs, Gujarat: A year into my marriage, I was in a dilemma whether I should be spending our first marriage anniversary with my husband in Vadodara over a nice dinner or with a bunch of students at a remote campsite in the middle of a teak forest in Gujarat's southernmost and most tribal district, Dang (or the Dangs). The husband said I should go with my students and so sitting by the campfire and missing my husband dearly in a no-network zone, I blurted out that it was my anniversary. The students were surprised that I had decided to take the trip with them. The next day we were in the district headquarters at Ahwa where some of the students were chatting with administrators. One of them asked me if she could use the BPL network on my phone to reach her mom in Vadodara. I obliged but requested her to make the conversation short (anything to save batteries!) The next day we would be making a couple of visits to villages and then heading out to Saputara to meet some people from a couple of NGOs my colleague had contacted. Soon after we hit the main road, I got a call from Rachit. "Your student called me to say that I should come to Saputara to surprise you. Do you think she was joking or should I come?" I was surprised. Of course my students hadn't told me their plans. I cut the call and texted, "Come. They must have planned something." Soon after we reached a 'hotel' for lunch, my colleague and I decided to lie on the grass and chat. Rachit texted, "I am about 20 minutes away. Be prepared to be surprised." I had to suppress my laughter. After half an hour my colleague and I walked in for the lunch. The students had gathered. I saw Rachit. "What are you doing here?" I looked surprised enough. And then there was shouting, clapping and cheering. Later in the day, at the campsite, there was a cake made of jam sandwiches and we finally had some chicken for dinner (after a week of brinjals). It was our last night there. After nine years, it still remains my best anniversary, a shared moment with students who are now friends.
Thank you Jignasha Pandya, Rushabh Gandhi, Ashwini Ajith Nair, Shweta Shetty, Ritesh Gohil Nishita Pereira Priya Patel Himadri Chauhan, Priyanka Patel, Kushan Patel, R Ravi Narayanan and Rinoj Joy for that beautiful memory and my partner-in-crime Rachit, who drove all the way from Vadodara to be with me.

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