India - My Family Travels

Once in a blue moon, a lucky individual gets to capture that life-changing voyage through a strange, mystical land: elephants, saris, pungent food, jingling dancers, sweaty people, hoards of yellow autos, rupees, temple bells, and spiritual unity that exists no where else. What if this fortunate individual was you? Or as a matter of fact, what if it were me? Last summer, my older sister and I went on a three week excursion to South India.  Ever since I was little, India has always been that far-away spiritual haven where stories and fairy tales take place. In real life, India has opened my eyes to the authentic world. It is now a fast bustling land of contented people. The India that I now store in my heart is the place where I revealed the world and played in its breathtaking colors.  Now, I proudly say to any traveler who listens, “Your next destination should be India.”

            We started off in the Memphis International Airport; we took a connection flight in Northwest Airlines to Minneapolis. From there, we switched to Delta for a flight to Heathrow, London. Imagine: a fifteen-year-old with her sister, both glaring at the screen in front of them, amazed at the fact that they were going on the trip of a lifetime. India was a beautiful obsession. After this, we flew on British Airways to Bangalore, India.  From there, we were picked up by our family’s driver and transported to a small city called Tirupathi.

Tirupathi is known to the local South Indians as a religious center for one of their main Hindu gods. The famous temple sits on a high hill. The temple itself caused a small town to thrive around it; the hill and the temple are synonymous to the word “Tirmula.” Any day of the year, one can see a congregation of worshippers or sight-seers there to honor the god. At the bottom of the hill are several buses waiting to take people without vans or cars up to the top.  Many people prefer to climb the stone steps to the top; another batch of people chooses to hike up a different path. My sister and I chose to climb all 2,200 stone steps to the top. Each step was decorated with an array of holy powders by various hikers before us (the rain washes it clean each week). The number of every hundredth step was etched into the top of each stone step.  After reaching a thousand and twenty steps, the rain started to pound on the plastic coverings above us.  The temperature and climate seemed to be completely different than the climate down below in the city. Almost flood-like conditions prompted us to find a stone cave-like shelter on the pathway. The view was spectacular even from there.  The rain just made the mood of our trip even more magical, as if we were explorers trying to get to our far-off purpose. We were part of something older than thousands and thousands of years. When we reached the top, we spent about ten minutes searching for our hotel, and we rested for the day.  Hotels can be pre-arranged via internet or through local connections.

After Tirmula, we traveled to Bangalore, the silicon valley of India. My sister and I drove there, but air-conditioned special buses are available for transport everyday. The change in atmosphere between the small city and this enormous giant of the south was felt even before entering the city itself.  The Hanging Bridge, an enormous bridge shaped as an “H,” greeted us as we penetrated the city boundaries.  As a jungle man sees New York, we sat stunned in our seats at the silicon city. One exceptional thing about Bangalore was its diversity in comparison to Tirupathi. Here, I could see people from all over the world. Shopkeepers are required to know at least three languages (Kanada, Hindi, and English). Commercial Street is the biggest shopping street there; every item is gorgeous, and we loaded up on trinkets. Fancy boutiques are squeezed between bustling restaurants filled with multicultural food. The locals claimed that it was quite normal to have a McDonald’s next to Han’s Chinese-Indian Cuisine.  Crackling corn cobs strike the pan as street venders sell them to the crowd.  My whole Bangalore experience felt like a dream, a dream that too soon came to an end.

We left from the Bangalore International Airport straight from Bangalore.  Conveniently, it was located near the city, and had great security.  I sat in the window seat of the plane opening and closing my knapsack full of mementos, trying to keep the memories locked up. “I will be back,” I stubbornly said to the land as it grew smaller and smaller.   


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