HeritageINDIA Student DJ Jassal reflects on staying in a Jungle Environment

HeritageINDIA Student DJ Jassal reflects on staying in a Jungle Environment

July 31, 2019 | Author: DJ Jassal, HeritageINDIA2019 cohort

A Stop in the Jungle

Growing up, I remember spending days in elementary school learning about the different climate zones of the Earth: the tundra near the poles, the rainforests near the equator, and so on. When we were young, we were also taught all about the different layers of the rainforests and the different characteristics that defined them. I’d always flesh out mental images of these world regions in my minds from images I was shown and descriptions I was told, leaving myself in awe of how vast, beautiful, and varied  our planet was. However, I never really imagined that I’d actually be able to visit a place like a tropical rainforest for myself one day.

A couple days ago, in Kumarakom, Kerala, we ventured out to a bird sanctuary near our resort. We woke up pretty early in the morning, around 6 AM, right before sunrise, then began hiking through the rainforest that housed the bird sanctuary. At first, we didn’t see that many birds, except a couple birds minding their own business on trees far away from us. Toward the middle of our hike though, our guide led us to an overlook where our entire view of the forest changed. As soon as we reached the top of the overlook, we observed what seemed like hundreds of cranes, flying gracefully about and sitting elegantly atop the trees we had walked through before. Standing there on that overlook, it seemed my childhood had come full circle in a way. Not gonna lie, when I learned about the rainforest’s layers as a kid, I always just brushed that information off. But in that moment, there I was seeing that information in practice. It was also so astounding to me to see how much life there was in the forest that I couldn’t initially see.

A view over the valley in Kumarakom

Kerala has been such a beautiful experience, and I’m so glad I got the chance to come here through HeritageIndia! The animals, the people, the culture, the views, and everything else that Kerala has to offer has been so amazing, and I definitely want to come back one day.


DJ is one of 8 students in Indiaspora’s inaugural HeritageINDIA Program. A unique, immersive, 3-week summer program, this initiative gives high school students of Indian descent the opportunity to connect to their ancestral homeland. Students experience and engage with India’s rich and diverse cultural history by completing hands-on projects, participating in stimulating discussions, and building friendships with a cohort that will share in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. With the exciting theme of India’s Riches: History, Culture, Diversity, & Democracy, students visit three areas of India that are geographically and culturally diverse, yet all very much represent India: New Delhi, Gujarat, and Kerala.