The Closing of a Cultural Chasm | My Family Travels

 

An intimidating chasm had always existed between my parents and myself: A great cultural divide lay between one generation and another. I was born in the United States. My parents came from India. I would describe it as an exotic paradise with foreign wonders and beautiful natives, and furthermore explain that there is a magnificent Ganges River with its sapphire water rushing over the moss-covered pebbles at the bottom the basin, creating a rhythm in sync with that of the surrounding music. However, I’ve been to India, and I have never seen this “sapphire water” or these “beautiful natives.” This was my first impression of India: The air smells like an awkward combination of strong spices and the stench of old ladies who haven’t yet discovered deodorant. Dark-skinned with disheveled hair, the Indian people carry around a giant ego while haggling prices with a merchant to buy a “one of a kind” vase that every other merchant down the street happens to have.
            Unfortunately, I made the mistake of telling my mother this description of India. 
            A week later, I found myself sitting on the floor in my mom’s house in Madras with relatives eating oily food while my eight aunts and uncles were obstructing my view to the television, which couldn’t really be heard over all the bickering between siblings anyway. Immersed in this paradise for only an hour, I was already sick of the way people naturally used vulgar accents. I felt claustrophobic and fatigued, but mostly, I did not want to find an appreciation for this place. I was “American” and sick of the joke my mother called heritage. It was not that I didn’t know what my culture consisted of; I simply didn’t like it.
            My mom had arranged for the rowdy family to go see a street-side show including dancers. We walked the streets of Madras, and my senses were flooded with everything from the screaming of boys playing to a ubiquitous humid feeling. We situated ourselves along the side of the busy road, trying not to get hit by a rickshaw. The bells jingled, and the dancers came out, dressed in gaudy colors with flamboyant jewelry. What the dancers were doing looked like a bunch of uncoordinated gorillas trying to stomp on a particularly elusive ant. I was hoping not to get buried under the mob of people, when I noticed my mother’s expression.
            She was looking at these dancers with admiration. Her head was gently swaying to the music. She caught my eye and smiled, and resumed her swaying motion. It was then that I realized everything here was perfect for her. She was filled with emotions that could never be taken away, like the joy of being with her family and revisiting memories of her childhood. I, on the other hand could not see how perfect the scenario was at first because I could only think of how everything could be better if there were air conditioning.
            The song came to an end, and my mom approached me with a question: “Why is your head swaying?” I realized, despite my teenage, rebellious nature, that this trip had opened my eyes to culture that was a part of me. As we walked back to my mother’s house, my senses were delighted by the perfection of India: from the brilliant colors of the Indian clothing to the mouth-watering smells of the delicious ethnic food. We took the plane ride home a few days later, and I was already having nostalgic flashbacks of the memories I had created in my mother’s home, in my home.

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