By Isheeta Sanghi
There’s something infectious about India. When we get off the plane, we are disgusted with the so called bus that takes us to the terminal, we cringe at the thought of those oh so familiar smells of poor hygiene, sweat, and masala.. And of course, none of us look forward to being bombarded by thousands of (mostly short) Indian men all advertising one thing as soon as we exit the airport ‘Taxi Madam?’ No baba, nahi chachiye- obviously NRIs have family coming to greet them!
The fact remains that we all make the pilgrimage home at some point in our lives, maybe even a few times a year, because that’s what we do. We know that our grandparents, maybe a handful of aunts and uncles live there and that is the primary reason that we go. As a child, the trip is somewhat monotonous. The same things being said ‘oh the last time we saw you…’ or ‘oh you’re so big now!’ You get to a point in life though, when that trip is worth more than just bringing back lehngas (which are rarely worn) and pictures of exotic India to share with friends. It’s more of a homecoming. We’re exposed to our roots and our heritage, which in today’s fast paced world is something that we all will learn to appreciate more and more.
Roots are the origin- the starting point, and no matter how high up a tree may grow, branches may extend and leaves may appear- the root remains the origin. Likewise, no matter how much we may try to convince ourselves that after being born and brought up in America, that we are truly only American is a little bit of a lie. No matter how far apart we may grow from our traditional colourful culture, values and heritage; there is a part of us that will inevitably always be connected to our roots.
Initially I was hesitant about acknowledging my heritage. I convinced myself and everyone around me that I did not care for anything Indian. What I realized, after living in India, is that it really is not all that bad. Sure there are things that are ‘typical’ Indian that still I am still ashamed of- like the underworld that rips away the innocence of so many young girls and boys, the lack of preservation of the many monuments, and of course the smelliness of some of the gullies. However, there are more things that make me proud to be of my heritage. I love the family values, the colourful festivities, and the warm people.
Going back to your family’s heritage is amazing, and if you are lucky, you will have family members who have it all mapped out, and you can see where your origins lay. You may not have met most of the people, but just knowing about them gives you a sense of pride. You can smile at the accomplishments of those who came before you, and recognize that if they didn’t do what they had done, you probably wouldn’t be in the place that you are in right now. I learned that if my great grandfather had not pushed my Dada out of the country to pursue his higher education, we would be leading a very different life. Since my Grandfather studied outside the country, he saw some benefit in it, and encouraged his own sons to venture out as well. When you hear about things like that you only learn to appreciate your roots- either family roots or cultural roots- even more.
Like you learn to love people, you learn to love India. You start to take pride in the fact that the country has come a long way- a very long way- sure it’s not perfect, but what place is? It takes time, and it will take a lot of compromise from your end, you will have to treat it like a child, and forgive its inconsistencies and wrongs.
Picture courtesy this blog.
WOW!! I am assuming you are pretty young Isheeta. It was a very nice article and am glad that younger people can appreciate the culture that their granparents lived with millions of other people. For a forty something who has spent about half my life in my country “India”, and the other half in NOW my country “USA”, the appreciation of the smell of masala, sweat and let me add the sound of a hissing pressure cooker in every house in the evning is like the sound of the bells in the temple. I am torn between the two worlds, given a chance I would give up Spaghetti, Burritto and the best wine for my Chholey Bhature, Kathhi Kabab,Dosa and Lassi by the street in Delhi. My nine year old said to me recently “Ma, I want to go live in India and I hope nothing ever changes there…the dust, the people and the smell because it makes me feel closer to the earth” I guess she was also trying to get to her roots just like you. But coming from a nine year old, it had me thinking…do I really want India to change… She is old, she has seen many emperors and many battles and wars…and yet she stands strong …so strong that the strongest fear her strength sometimes. Take pride in her Pundit Bhimsen Joshi and Jasraj, in her Lal Qila and Taj Mahal, in her Himalayas and Jaiselmer so what if there is a lttle smell and some sweat !!?? Think big…start a deodrant plant there…hey! you just earned a business oppurtunity !!
Isheeta, this is a really great article. It makes me really miss living in India and all my wonderful friends. Think bigger than deodrant (and I do not really think that is needed), start a campaign for more clean water.
wowwww u r amazing!!! i love ur articles, they are SO good and they always make me emotionally cry, alot, andandand we’re also moving to india after my high school finishes, i jist gotta make convince my mom that we’re not making a mistake….. but keep smiling! 🙂