My friend Sonali was visiting India in November when I arrived in New Delhi. After trying to figure out the best location to meet up, we settled on…a shopping mall.
I asked her to share her reflection on her visit and she obliged. Thanks Sonali!
My return to the motherland
It has been 3 years since I was last in India – it was 2009, the primary reason for my trip was to see my grandmother – my mom’s mom. It was an incredible three weeks spent with her – she told me stories of her life of my mother, my father and family. I left India feeling an incredible connection and love for this place that my mother and father called home for so long – the country from which my culture originated.
3 years later, it’s 2012, and I have returned to my mother’s land – my grandmother’s land. My grandmother passed away on July 27th – just a few weeks short of her 96th birthday. I arrived in Delhi, a few months short of seeing her, a few months short of saying goodbye to her. As the driver took me to my family home, I felt the city’s energy. The smell in the air was the same – it was 5:30AM and Delhi was just starting to wake up. There was something beautiful and peaceful about what I was experiencing – a group of young men running, bike rickshaws and three wheelers heading to the markets to work for the day; yet something was different.
For 20 years my trips to India have been filled with history, culture and love. They were opportunities for me to experience the very unique identity of this young democracy. As I embarked on this trip, I knew something would be missing – my grandmother. What I didn’t expect was that she wouldn’t be the only missing piece, also gone was the pride in the country’s culture. Each of my visits to India were primarily focused on my family, with a secondary focus on experiencing the hidden beauty or pockets of India and somehow my grandmother and family members helped heighten each experience. With each trip my love for India grew and my appreciation of its rich history intensified.
I have called India my motherland, specifically Delhi, but during this visit it didn’t feel like the land of my mother, it felt like the land of shopping malls. Now don’t get me wrong, an opportunity to go shopping is something I’ve always enjoyed, especially when the shopping is for a wedding or a special family event. But, when the defining characteristic of a city with an incredible history is its shopping malls there’s a miss. The place where Gandhi’s legacy lives, where members of the largest democracy come together to advance a 65 year old country, how can the defining characteristic be shopping malls?
I continue to reflect on my short visit to India, trying to understand the county’s evolution and appreciating the pieces of culture that I still had the opportunity to experience. What I take away is new sense of pride. For years I’ve left with a sense of appreciation, knowing that the truest and purest level of Indian culture sat with its people. What I frequently failed to remember was that I was one of those people and that if I was going to look back to this amazing place with its rich and recent history, I must take time to share its story. So today, I say that India is in the midst of an identity crisis, they are striving to be a progressive nation where women are seen as equals and the caste system is almost obsolete, yet the country is continually pulled back by it’s conservative history. I left India with a less than usual desire to return, however my time of reflection has ignited this desire to return to mother’s country, my grandmother’s country and watch as it evolves into my country.