Shritin is currently reporting from Gujarat, India as she is there (like many of our fellow South Asians) for the summer.
by Shritin Patel – Houston Baptist University Graduate
Whilst sitting inside Papa Johns eating my mushroom and cheese pizza and listening to Justin Beiber’s “Never Say Never”, I almost forgot which country I was in until I went to take a sip of water and realized I couldn’t because I didn’t know if it was bottled or not. Reality jolted me awake like a rickshaw crazily swerving to avoid hitting a cow. I’m in India, not Texas. How could I forget? Maybe it was the familiarity of walking through a mall with stores such as Apple, Nike, United Colors of Benetton, and The Body Shop. Maybe it was the lack of concern over if the place surrounding me was air conditioned or not. Whatever it was, as I stepped through the sliding glass doors and back into streets of Vadodra, I was assaulted by smells, sounds, and colors I had subconsciously blocked for the past few hours.
I absolutely love this country. The culture. The history. The devotion. It astounds me and humbles me to be in a place where one’s word is still their bond, culture and religion are prevalent in everything people say and do, and confidence is at an all time high. With that said, the juxtaposition of the modernity of this country and its residents awes me. Four story malls with major designers, beloved fast food chains like Pizza Hut, McDonalds, and Subway, and grocery stores with all my favorite brands such as Tide, Dove, AirWick, and Lays. This country has the best of both worlds in that regard. I am able to walk out of my house into the streets, grab a rickshaw, and indulge in some Mickey D’s fries. At the same time, I can walk through the traffic and immerse myself in the local markets nearby with their diverse goods and unique charm. I must say in my time here so far, I am eagerly learning the art of haggling and have already put it to good use today with a rickshaw driver who tried to besmirch my “NRI” status (Non Resident Indian) and charge me 40 rupees for a ride that only cost locals 20 rupees. I haggled with him, and lo and behold, I sit here back at my house smug and cheery because it only took me 20 rupees to get here. Hah to you sneaky rickshaw driver. I say HAH.
I think it’s important for all second generation Indians to come to India at least once in their lives; it’s vital for a few reasons: Sometimes some of us, myself included at a point in my life, feel disconnected from our culture and religion. How can we understand something that we’ve never fully experienced? Coming to India, visiting stunning and breathtaking mandirs, and being a part of a real-to-goodness monsoon wedding changes your views a bit. Also, every time I visit India, I learn more about how the past and the future can coexist here in the present. India is the one place I’ve been to that can make multi-story buildings by using sticks to prop up each floor and workers who build with their bare hands. Sometimes a lot of us are so engulfed in our futures that we forget where we came from or what it takes to get us where we are; seeing people struggling and flourishing in this environment is a testimony to all the things we can accomplish if we try. Lastly, I feel India is a place that can teach us to appreciate the things we have. We are SO fortunate and lucky and a lot of times we forget that. Forget nice shops and fancy restaurants, here necessities such as water, food, and shelter are luxuries for some people. Air conditioning is for the wealthy, and electricity goes out regularly. It’s never a bad thing to be reminded of how lucky we are.
I think India’s beauty lies in the fact the country is a paradox. I intend to indulge in the beautiful contradictions that make India so unique, unforgettable, and dear to my heart.