Halfway Across the World for the Holidays


Photo courtesy of Rudraksha Bhukhanwala.

Rudraksha Bhukhanwala (’22) poses with his grandmother in front of their Christmas tree.

Kaylee Powell, Staff Writer

After tirelessly working from home for five months, students thoroughly enjoyed the coveted winter break. Usually, this would have included ditching the house for a few weeks and hanging out with family, but thanks to COVID-19, most of us have not left our homes. For others, the pandemic has actually been a blessing in disguise. Due to virtual school, Rudraksha Bhukhanwala (‘22) was able to fly to India and still make it to class, during an extended trip from November 14 to December 29. With all his extra time outside of school, Bhukhanwala focused on spending time with his family and bonding with them.

“I’m in Indubob, which is where my grandparents and my cousins live,” said Bhukhanwala. “My cousins are four years old, so they don’t recognize me because I was last there three years ago when they were one, so I’m looking to build a bond with them, so they can recognize me next time they see me.”

While they don’t have winter holidays like we do in America, Bhukhanwala is still excited to celebrate his birthday and see his old friends.

“We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas, but I will get to celebrate my birthday which is pretty fun. I got to meet a couple of my friends that I haven’t seen in three years and that was very special,” said Bhukhanwala.

Travel during these times is not always the best option, but when the risks are carefully weighed out, enough precautions can be taken for many to feel safe. The process to get through the airport has many steps, designed for the safety of the passengers.

“For me, it was pretty seamless. I had to get a COVID test about two days before the flight,” said Bhukhanwala. “The results came back almost immediately and I just had to show them the results to travel. Luckily for me, even though I only had economy class tickets, I got four seats to myself so I just slept in them.”

Bhukhanwala quickly noticed the difference between the ways America and India are handling the pandemic.

“I feel like India is doing a very serious job,” said Bhukhanwala. “I think the chance of getting COVID is very unlikely. I myself was very surprised by some of the precautions in place. For example, if you’re in a car regardless of who you are with, you must wear a mask.”

With all the upsides of traveling to India, there is also one big downside: the time difference. Bhukhanwala was able to work around this with the curfew set from 9 pm to 6 am, but it was especially tiresome for his extracurriculars, including No Place for Hate and Beta club.

“The time difference is ten and a half hours,” said Bhukhanwala. “It has worked out for me pretty well because my classes are from eight to one at night. […] I start work at five o’clock in the evening and I work through two o’clock in the [morning] and from two to ten, I sleep. Then from ten to five, I hang out with my family.”

When Bhukhanwala returned from his trip in India, there were many things he missed.

“I would have to say [I miss] cricket,” said Bhukhanwala. “Every three days, I used to go to my friend’s place, and we used to play cricket down below his building for an hour. Here, the only person I can play cricket with is the wall. I really miss out on just meeting up with friends and playing cricket.”

There are also a few aspects of India he can live without.

“I think [there are] two things I miss the least,” said Bhukhanwala. “The weather was [very unexpected]. I thought I would have been fine, but I was constantly sweating, and [was not] adapted to the heat. Also, in India, people are just constantly honking for no reason. If you’re stuck in traffic, everybody’s just honking at the same time.”

Back in Atlanta, Bhukhanwala’s New Year’s Eve looked very similar to the rest of ours; instead of having parties and going out with his friends, Bhukhanwala celebrated on a smaller scale at home.

“My dad allowed my sister and me to have one friend over each,” said Bhukhanwala. “We just played some board games and watched a movie. And, we always wore masks.”

Overall, Bhukanwala had a very entertaining trip, despite having to travel just three days after Christmas.

“I have no complaints,” said Bhukhanwala. “To be honest, I have grown to be very comfortable wearing a mask. It wasn’t a big deal at all. The only problem was that I had a six-hour layover in Chicago, so I had to watch some YouTube to keep me occupied.”

Though it is easy to focus on the downsides and restrictions of our current situation, Bhukhanwala’s experiences also reveal the flexibility and resilience of Chamblee students, balancing school, family, and other responsibilities—even while traveling halfway across the world.