A Trip to the Land of My Ancestors - My Family Travels
Visiting the Taj Mahal

There I was, an American born Indian boy, from the Texan suburbs, in the middle of rural India. I lay in a cot outside in the humid muggy air staring up at a dark star strewn sky, feeling strange, out of place, but at the same time feeling as though this was my home. I was used to air conditioned houses, luxury cars, and American food. So the concrete house void of even plumbing, the Jeep with a leaky radiator, and food so spicy that you drank more water than ate food; all of which I was now getting accustomed to, were enormous changes for me. So you might be wondering, “What are you doing here?” While this was my family’s idea of an amazing vacation, I can’t disagree because that was exactly what it turned out to be.

I was in Rajasthan, probably the only place in India which looks similar to what Disney’s Aladdin portrayed it as. It was hot, the A.C. in the car was not working and I was starting to think that this vacation was failing to be exciting. So we stopped at this area on our road trip through India and looked around through the sights, which I’m sad to say were non-existent. However, Rajasthan had some things for sure which were culture and tradition. I saw this clearly for the first time as I went to a dabba (food shack) to eat lunch on that blistering day.

I saw these people dressed in traditional clothing and chatting with each other as though they had grown up from birth together. They shared a bond and viewed each other as family rather than just strangers. Coming from America, I assumed they were all related which I quickly found was impossible as they left one by one leaving each other behind. Their clothing was traditional and they seemed to have age-old formalities foreign to me. They talked, laughed, ate, and drank as one. I was an intruder, a stranger to their customs and routines. So I sat with my parents at a far corner and watched. Our food was brought to us and with it came people. We were hesitant at first to talk possibly fearing they were hostile, but the residents, always curious, hospitable, and friendly, as we found out, dragged us into conversation and we too were soon laughing with the rest and felt as though we were one of them.

I soon learned that these men and women lived in nothing more than small concrete houses with no amenities and did back breaking work to survive. They seemed full of life however and happier than most in America, who had 10 times more than they. These people glowed with enthusiasm at the mere aspect of being alive. They were a hardy people resilient and joyous till the end. Though they were poor in terms of possessions, they were rich in culture and tradition. It was like they had an entirely different perspective of life than I, and it was infectious. I soon found myself thinking of how good I had it and how worse off I could be, just as those sitting around me thought. Though these people’s bodies were exhausted from work and surviving in these harsh conditions, their souls were full of energy.

So to explain how I came to be in that cot staring up at the stars in Rajasthan, all I can say is that it was through the hospitality of those generous people who took us to a hotel for the night as our car was going through repairs, after showing us a good time, that is. I felt as though I attained some culture and tradition from these people that day and learned to appreciate my good fortune more than ever before. 

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