I wrote earlier about how this has been a special trip for me beyond just the traveling we did because of the precious time I was able to spend with my family. I learned truly how inspiring my family members are and what sort of bar has been set for me. For example, my great grandmother was married at a young age to someone 18 years her senior. They had six children, three girls and three boys, one of which was my mom’s father. Although she was illiterate, she swore she would make one son a lawyer, one a doctor, and one an engineer. She succeeded. Two of her daughters became doctors as well. I also heard about the strong minds and character of other members of my family. They are academics, educators, researchers, and parents that have simultaneously successfully instilled strong values in their own children.
A common theme I’ve noticed is how my family overcomes adversity to excel beyond what is conceivable. For example, I have a cousin named Dev who is 8 years old who has autism. But you wouldn’t be able to tell from some of his stunning art work.
The work and sacrifice that has been made by those before me has given me the luxuries I enjoy today such as living in the US, receiving an education, and the ability to travel the world independently. I have come to appreciate so much more after this shift in perspective.
Also in the familial theme, family is SO important in India. Even if you share a drop of blood with someone, they are your family and when they’re in town they make a house call. You drop anything and everything to help them. What surprised me too is your family’s family is also your family! For example, I had family on my mom’s side that spent time with family members on my dad’s side with us as well, numerous times. Can you imagine? Your extended family’s in-laws… This is something that my sisters and I have really missed growing up in the US as it’s usually just the 5 of us for holidays and such. So being able to visit all sorts of family, some of whom we’ve never even met, has been very special.
Furthermore, the hospitality here is unreal. It has taught me a bit about how I should behave with guests- like actually make them feel welcome. It’s not just the little things like having a spotless home. It is also for example quickly offering a drink and even when your guest says no, to bring out chai, coffee, and anything else you have in the kitchen. You bring it out and set it out in front of them just in case they were lying to be polite. And no matter the time they come over, the more food offered and eaten the better. When I went to visit my Dad’s sisters, we were welcomed with garlands of flowers. The host rushes around to make sure that the guest is comfortable with wherever they’re sitting, the temperature, the lighting etc. This hospitality seen throughout the country regardless of class is one of the most endearing parts of Indian culture. People take time to talk about the minutiae in their lives and catch up on the gossip on other family members. They are genuinely interested in asking about children, parents, family, and friends. On the day before we left, my mom spent the entire day not packing, but making phone calls to family and friends in India. Whether she had seen them in the past week or wasn’t able to meet them at all, she patiently recounted the same anecdotes and asked them about their lives. It reminded me too that even though I’m leaving India, it doesn’t mean the communication has to end. Even if it’s just a 15 minute phone call or an email, something is better than nothing and staying in touch with your friends and family around the world can make you a lot less lonely.
I will truly deeply treasure this trip and this time I was able to spend in India. I hope to return very soon. But for now, it is off to Europe for the next five months!