Anthony Bourdain once stated, “Travel is always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart and your body. You take something with you and hopefully you leave something good behind”. In my opinion, whenever you are given an opportunity to try something new or to take a bold risk, you should seize the chance to not only make an impact on the world, but an impact on the others around you. Travel is just one way to show your adventurous side, just as a little taste of freedom to see who you are and who you can become. Over winter break, I had the privilege of traveling a total of 23,000 miles, to the other side of the world, to India. I knew very little about this country before heading on the most amazing journey that was completely different than anything I have ever known. Holland New York is a small, rural town in the middle of nowhere. India, a place so foreign to me, having people bustling down every street, buildings taller than I had ever seen, and made of culture so well preserved compared to the melting pot that I had always known. This is where my adventure began.
My trip began with a flight to Phoenix to meet up with my aunt, uncle and cousin, as well as my aunt’s parents, who would be accompanying me on this long journey. My aunt’s parents are from India and they offered to let me tag along on their trip back home. Three airports and 36 hours later we landed in India’s second largest city, Mumbai, to be greeted by the people I now have the privilege of calling family. They were more than surprised to see that we had brought 22 checked bags containing everything that Nani (my aunt’s mom) could think of from the states from plates and forks, to cheese and chocolate. It took us three cars to get from the airport back to their house in Chembur. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
For the next three days or so, we stayed in Mumbai. We visited the gateway to india as well as the the central train station. I also had the chance to attend a traditional wedding. Going in, I had no idea what to expect. On the way, I was given a brief synopsis of what I should possibly expect to see and how different it would be from a wedding in the United States. First, we were dressed in traditional clothing. I wore a saree and my cousin wore a Kurta. I was amazed at how a saree was put together. Just one long piece of fabric could create something so beautiful, yet complicated to a foreigner who had never put one together. Secondly, I could have never imagined the sheer size of this event. There were approximately 2000 people. For us here in the states, this is a huge wedding. In India, this is typical and weddings can host up to 5000 people and last up to 7 days.
From Mumbai, we traveled to New Delhi and Agra. In New Delhi, we visited Qutub Minar which is the second tallest brick minaret in the world. The structure also functions as one of the world’s largest sundials, telling the time based on the curves and points in the shape of the structure. Agra is where we visited one of the world’s wonders, the Taj Mahal. This is one of the most unbelievable things I have seen in my lifetime. Not just the huge size and detail of this monument, but the history that comes behind it. There are absolutly no words to describe the the Taj Mahal. When I travel, I am more inclined to assimilate into the lives of the people that live there in order to understand what they see. This is just one monument that everyone should see when travelling to India. It is just magnificent!
Soon after, we traveled to Jaipur and Mount Abu. Jaipur is known as the “Pink City”. All of the buildings are beautiful terra-cotta color. This is where I was able to participate in two authentic customs of the Indian culture. First, I rode an elephant to the top of the Jaipur Fort. This is one thing I’m able to check off my bucket list. Going into the trip, I really didn’t know much other than we were going to the Taj Mahal and that I would ride an elephant. I was so excited to ride the elephant that I didn’t realize the amazing view that came along with it, until after we reached the top of the fort. The second thing I experienced was my first ride in a rickshaw, a little green car that has no doors or seat belts. I would have to say this is one of the scariest things I have ever done in my life. When the driver of the rickshaw was heading upstream against the traffic of a two-lane road that has three lanes of cars going in each direction, I didn’t know what to think. Even though it was a terrifying experience, I’m now able to understand firsthand the chaos of driving in India.
My favorite part of the trip was going back to the village where my aunt’s parents were from, Kutch. I got to see the house Nana (my aunt’s father) grew up in. I was able to see the temple that his father built and even take place in a traditional ceremony worshiping there. I had the opportunity of meeting Nani’s sister, who is the highest female priest in the Jainist religion. I went to Temple with their family and listened to her sermon. I didn’t understand exactly what was going on but I had the family translate what she was saying after the service. This is one of the highlights of my trip because this was where I realized that we are all not so different. Even though we don’t worship the same religion or speak the same language, the message is generally the same; be kind to one another and respect everyone for their differences.
This trip was eye-opening, not just the culture shock of everything that I was able to see, but the way I was able to experience a new culture. Not just seeing the tourist sites, but living and breathing the culture and embracing a new way of life. I have the Bharani, Gogri and Strasser families to thank for that. You all mean the world to me and it was my honor to be able to meet and travel with all of you. I cannot wait to see you all again! Goa here we come!