After an eighteen-hour flight from Los Angeles, I finally arrived in New Delhi. It had been five years since I last visited and I don’t remember much from my past experiences, but I do remember my unwillingness to go every summer. I distinctly recall the humid and sticky weather you feel as you step out of the airport and into the chaotic streets. With these few experiences in mind, I dreaded my return to India and slowly made my way out of the overcrowded airport. As I walked outside, the sickening smell of garbage and smog welcomed me.
I got into the car and headed over to my grandmother’s house. Cars continuously honked their horns and rushed recklessly through the streets. Pedestrians ran across the road and attempted to avoid the speedy cars who rarely stopped for anyone. Stray cows and dogs roamed the street as people often attempted to kick them away. After a five-hour drive, we arrived in Sirsa, where my grandmother lives. We drove through the crowded and unpaved roads until we reached a narrow alley. Familiar faces stood in the alley outside the home I vaguely remembered playing in as a child. As I looked around, I noticed the small shops lined up along the dirt roads. I suddenly remembered the candy shop I would go to every morning to buy tons of mango-flavored candy with the 100 rupees my parents gave me. I remembered going outside with my grandfather to feed the stray dogs and cows. I remembered all the fun I had flying kites with my cousins on the roof of the house. I remembered how much I loved being in India. Yet at the same time, I remembered always feeling embarrassed about my home country.
I spent the next few days with my cousins, feeling as carefree as we did when I was growing up. We drove around on my cousin’s moped and passed by many tiny roadside shops and food stands. The streets were swarmed by people buying groceries from the side of the road as rickshaws slowly passed by. Cows sat in the corner of each street while wild boars and dogs searched for food. The crowded city no longer reminded me of the stereotypically chaotic slums portrayed in movies and television. Instead, the lively and communal streets reminded me of the wonderful culture of my country. As the next few days passed, I excitedly prepared for my trip to Sikkim, a state in northeast India.
After a short plane ride, we left for our hotel and occasionally passed through small villages, but the breathtaking backdrop of the mountains held my attention constantly captive. As we drove down the broken and unpaved roads, I was amazed by the views the mossy and soft slopes had to offer. Upon reaching the hotel, I realized the environment of Sikkim vastly differed from the city life I usually encountered in India. We visited so many monasteries, temples, waterfalls, and drove through miles of lush greenery. I went to the Rumtek Monastery and Buddha Park in Ravangla. Both of these places shared a fascinating story about India’s history as well as the customs and traditions of Buddhism. After all my visits to India, this was the first time I felt aware of the captivating culture and history of my country. As I enjoyed the serenity of the monasteries and the fresh air of the mountains, I came to realize that India has so much more to offer than the dirty cities Western media had shown me. I realized that I could proudly call India home.
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