“Mom, what are we doing for Christmas?,” I ask my mother with excitement.
“We are going to visit your Grandma and uncles” she responds rather bluntly.
That was the day I learned we were visiting India: the third-world, crowded, poor country. Of course, being only 14, I was only excited to see my Grandma and to eat all the delicious spicy food in a nice hotel. The trip that was to come was an unforgettable experience I would never have expected.
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We arrived in the New Delhi Airport at around 5:30 p.m. local time. It was the most crowded, unorganized, dirty airport I have ever been in. People were running everywhere and wild dogs and cats roamed around between our feet. I was scared and so was my family until we saw one of our relatives wave us over to his car. The outside wasn’t much better. The sound of diesel trucks and cars constantly honking and the people yelling was overwhelming. We finally reached the house of my Grandma and we relaxed after our twenty hour flight from John F. Kennedy Airport. I had neither expected nor thought about any of these conditions and was surprised to find out that we were in fact staying in our Grandmother’s home. This was not such a bad thing since she had an excellent cook to feed my craving stomach and the house was located not far from a beautiful park. On my first day, I had only experienced the food and the park. The next few days would happen in a blur and I would never forget my first experience walking in the streets of New Delhi.
After a hearty breakfast of scrambled eggs and gulub jamans (very sweet balls of dough deep fried in a sugary sauce), our family set off to walk in the streets of New Delhi. We all stuck together for fear of getting lost. Dogs, cats, cows, monkeys, and even goats walked right next to us as well as the crazy drivers whizzing by neglecting to use their turn signals, ignoring the stop lights and signs, and any traffic rules. It was mayhem and I was so scared that I complained I wanted to go back to the United States. Our family hurried off to the side or the road and we reached our destination: the popular Quitab Minar tower. This was a beautiful park open to the public dominated by a tower that bore memories of the previous rulers. The park was a much needed relief from the hectic streets. The next few days went by, filled with different destinations and more cultural enlightenment. We visited the Taj Mahal, the different rural towns around Delhi, and the many zoos and castles that attracted thousands of travelers like us.
Since I was 14, I really did not appreciate the culture as much as I should have when I was there. The rich history of India and the completely different lifestyle changed my view of the country. I had thought that this was a country with nothing to it but busy streets, wild cows, and many poor and homeless people. While these may be facts, there is a rich cultural history that seems to be forgotten when people think of India. I realized that even though I had not stayed in a touristic five star hotel or saw exotic landscapes, I had witnessed the most important aspect of a country: the cultural history and the unique landscape. I had been a part of the true Indian experience and I was proud to call it the home of my father.