I could start this essay the ol’ fashioned way. You know “the days were hot, the nights were cold,” yada, yada, yada. The days were hot and the nights were hot but not as hot. What would you expect? It’s India, my friend. IT’S ALWAYS HOT. But you don’t want to know about the temperature, you want to know about the experience. And that is what you shall get.
We left for India 2 days before school left. That means that I had to take all of my finals 2 days before everyone else (No, I’m not complaining). My last week on U.S. soil was divided between packing items and studying. But the night before, even though I was tried and never wanted to see another t-shirt or sigma sign, I was excited. For the first time in 8 years, I would see my relatives. My uncles and aunts and cousins and grandmas and grandpas, the whole gang.
We woke up at 2:00 a.m. To some, that would have been impossible. But for me, it was too much fun. I had always associated getting up early with a good time so the earlier, the better. We checked all of the items, and left. We got to St. Paul International Airport, went through the metal detectors and boarded. And then show-time. We took off!
After 4 planes, 3 layovers and 10 hours’ worth of delays, my family and I got home. When we stepped out into the night, the first thing I felt was the humidity. It was 100 degrees with 55% humidity at 2:00 a.m.! And I vividly remember thinking “What have we got ourselves into?” I met my uncle for the second time in my life, boarded a bus and rode for 12 hours to get into the heartland of southern India. We had reached my birthplace, Madurai.
Since I grew up in the slums of India, we didn’t go to any resorts or amusement parks or anything of the sort. The whole vacation was spent either on a bus, traveling or inside a relative’s house, talking. And I must say that talking that summer was a lot more interesting than a roller coaster ride.
The next month and half just disappeared. We traveled over 300 miles, going from uncle to grandpa to cousin, throughout all of India. The landscape? Beyond words. But if I had to describe it, imagine the rolling hills of Africa’s plains, mixed with palm trees and lakes speckled throughout like blueberries in the brown, Indian sand pancake batter.
And the food (it needs its own paragraph). I used to think that my mother’s cooking was the epitome of Indian cuisine. Boy, was I wrong! Everywhere, street vendors were selling delicious, exotic cooking. I gained 10 pounds by just eating! But like the sweet, light, milky flavor of “palkova,” my time in India was fading.
The last day was bittersweet. I was looking forward to using a real bathroom, seeing my friends and feeling the sensation of “cold.” But this would the last time that I would see my family for a long time. My cousin was getting married soon; my other cousin was going to college. Life in India was so different from the last time I was here and I can only imagine how differently it will be when I come back. That last day, there were a lot of tears. Not me though, until some…uuh…dust got into my eye. When we stepped on the bus, I looked back to see everyone gathered, waving for possibly the last time in my life.
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