Once every three years, my family and I take an 18 hour plane ride to India. As a child, I used to look forward to those trips since they would give me the chance to play with my cousins and be spoiled by my grandparents. All of those trips were clouded by the innocence that comes with childhood; I had only focused on having fun. On my most recent trip, however, I was able to see how utterly amazing my birth country is.
After our plane crossed over the borders of India, it made a direct line towards Chennai, Tamil Nadu. After a quick thirty minute stop, the plane took off again towards Coimbatore, a small city located an hour away from my mother’s hometown of Udumalaipettai. When our plane arrived in Coimbatore I was overjoyed to see my extended family waiting for me. Back in America, the only other family I have is my parents. Here in India, though, I have more than enough. Now that I am old enough, I can fully see how close my mom’s side of the family is. Her parents, sisters, and their families all live in the same house. The chances of seeing that in America is very small since most family units consist of two parents and their children. My father has always expressed how important family is to a person, but I never truly understood him until now. Even though it does have its hassles, such as fights to use the bathroom, I believe that a close family is one of the most important things a person can have.
During my stay with my maternal grandparents, we went to Palani which is home to Murugan, a Hindu god. After shaving my head (a ritual that many Tamil Nadu residents perform) we climbed 600 steps to the top of the nearby mountain to pray. This is when I had a second enlightening experience. There was so much culture. I go to the temple frequently back at home, but those visits are nothing compared to this. Hundreds of people had gathered in this one spot to pray to their heart’s content. I was not even paying attention to the spiritual experience. All I could focus on was how many traditions I missed out on by growing up in America. The annual holiday of Deepavali (the celebration of Good triumphing over Evil), the birthdays and wedding days of the Hindu gods, and other holidays that I rarely get to experience. The visit to the Palani Murugan temple made me regret for not having known what it is like to grow up in India.
After a couple days, my parents and I left Udumalaipettai and took a three hour car ride to Karur, my father’s hometown. When we got there, we stayed at the farm of my paternal grandfather. I always loved visiting the farm and that joy was still present when we went recently. I can never get enough of how the soil feels beneath my bare feet and how cool it feels underneath the mango tree. My favorite sight, though, is the amount of life there is. Trees and plants as far as the eye could see. It is this quiet life that I cannot experience in suburban America and I really wish that I could.
After three excellent weeks, we had to return back home to Austin, Texas. Although I was not happy with leaving, I realized that a little bit of India was coming with me. I will always have the memories of my family, my culture, and my agricultural heritage.
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