I thought that I would be sad to leave India. And, if I'm honest, I will miss several experiences from this trip:
- I will miss traveling through the Himalayas. As someone who has always lived in and urban area, I never realized how attached to nature modern people can be. Perhaps it's because of the sparse population of these towns or the permeation of Buddhism and Hinduism into day to day life (signs encouraging sanitary practices don't hurt either), but the streets of the Himalayas were much cleaner than those of the big cities we visited.
- I'll miss visiting amazing palaces and forts that couldn't even be dreamed of being built today. At the Agra Fort, within the massive complex full of ornate rooms and secret passage ways, there is a bathroom that sparkles with gold in the dark and has a built in band. We visited places where the builders were so rich, they built their servants gigantic tombs. How were people, 500 or 600 years ago able to dream of such creations, let alone build them? These old sites were a reminder to how powerful and lasting human dreams and creations can be.
- Most of all, I will miss talking with people (in Hindi!) about their lives. In the US, I almost never have a reason to speak Hindi, so I have a pretty limited vocabulary. I always thought that my basic, conversational Hindi wasn't good enough to communicate effectively, but to my surprise, I was able to understand what others were saying to me and I could respond appropriately most of the time. There's something about communicating to people in their native language that allows one to have a greater understanding for their culture. When we visited the Tong-Len Youth Hostel, I felt I was able to better understand and make friends with the kids there because they weren't struggling to find the words they wanted to say. There was one student around my age who knew English pretty well, but we were able to joke around in Hindi that wouldn't quite make sense in English. For example, my name is Leela, but some of the kids thought my name was Neela which means "blue" in Hindi. Since a lot of other colors and names in Hindi rhyme with each other, we were able to joke around with what my name was and tease each other about their names.
This trip has helped me realize the importance of understanding how one fits into the world. I was born and raised in the US, but my ancestors are from India. I was raised with American ideals, but I couple that with Indian culture. I am not sad to leave India because I know that even though I am an American and I embrace the US as my country, India will always live inside me through my family, language, and Indian community at home.
See you soon!