Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Mother India Beckons

I think the universe is giving me signs to go to India this year. Slumdog Millionaire deservedly won many awards this year, and there is a great PBS series entitled The Story of India, which covers the beginnings and progression of Indian civilization, starting with the earliest human migrations from Africa, to the present day. It is my parents’ country of origin, and strangers usually identify me as Indian, even though I can count on one hand how many times I’ve been there. Still, I feel drawn to Mother India, and it doesn't have much to do with my familial connections to the country. The diversity of its people, their religions, cultures, politics, climates, and landscapes makes the Indian subcontinent a fascinating place to visit again and again.

The last time I spent significant time in the country was in December 2004, and I made a promise to myself and to a few family members to return two years later. I broke that promise, much to my dismay, but I did go back for a week in 2007 for a friend’s wedding. Obviously, seven days is not enough time to do the kind of traveling I yearn to do, which is taking the train from the North to the South. I will experience Mother India’s chaos the way a traveler is meant to using that mode of transportation: its natural beauties, art, music, pollution, corruption, despair, and hope.

I have a love/hate relationship with my parents’ country; it is formed from my family’s stories, my own observations of Indian people (from within and outside India), and the news. While my mother is wary of the country because of her difficult childhood, my father hopes to return to Mother India after retirement, so he can live out the rest of his days surrounded by coconut trees, peacocks, and mosquitoes. As a cultural outsider, I see it as a place to experience history and progress simultaneously, while learning more about myself in the process. India is a mess that some choose to do without; I choose the opposite.

Do you have similar relationships with other countries?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mother India does beckon! I agree sister friend, it has even won over my heart - I'm originally someone that never cared too much about roots, now I find myself stealing moments in my day to look at online photos of Kerala beaches and old chinese fishing nets with sunrises and sunsets as backgrounds.

I just recently re-watched The Darjeeling Limited and was reminded again AGAIN with the look of India - the smells, the taste, the look, the heat, and the people.

Its so strange too - the last time I was there was 9 years old - but how I do yearn to have an adult perspective and experience on this foreignly familiar place.

One day soon, Pauline!

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