The much anticipated visits
As a member of the Indian diaspora, I am all too familiar with the annual “India trip”. It is customary for Indians living abroad to visit their homeland annually. I have been doing these annual trips since I was a child. In fact, I would have so many school breaks, that I would go biannually. Now, since I am living in the United States, such frequent trips are not possible; so we have settled for just the one trip in December. Our families – meaning my parents and in-laws will visit us in between the year.
India trips are jam-packed with family, food and travel. Most married Indian couples visit their in-laws’ home and their parents’ home for a separate amount of time. We will be covering 5 cities in 5 different states in 3 weeks: Jodhpur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Bhopal and Shillong. During this time, we will visit maternal & paternal grandparents, in-laws, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. In each city that we visit, our parents’ friends will host us for dinners, lunches and afternoon teas. One thing I have learned from all my years of being invited to friends’ and relatives’ homes is that you just can’t refuse that extra portion of food. It’s a part of our Indian culture called “Atithi Devo Bhava”. A Sanskrit term, Atithi Devo Bhava means, “Guest is God”. So, friends show their respect to us as guests by offering to put more food into our plates, and it’s important to reciprocate by accepting it gracefully. There is also an unstated rule which says that, as guests, we should never visit a person’s home empty-handed. We must present them with a gift, even if it is a small token, as this shows thoughtfulness on the part of the guest. We usually take the opportunity of Thanksgiving to buy gifts for relatives/friends. Gift-giving is good fun – I feel satisfied when the person for whom I bought the gift appreciates it!
One of the trips that I am really looking forward to in my month in India is Shillong. Shillong is the capital city of the North-Eastern State of Meghalaya. Meghalaya – which means “Abode of the Clouds” is known for its tall cascading waterfalls, thick forests, caves and is also one of the rainiest places on earth. More famous are the “Double Decker Living Root Bridges”. For those not in the know, living root bridges are a fine example of the co-existence between man and nature. A living root bridge is actually formed by guiding the roots of a tree across a stream or river. Over time, the roots become strong enough to support people, enabling them to cross the stream! Meghalaya has several of such root bridges. Apart from the natural beauty, the culture of the people there is also what I am looking forward to learn more about. The North Eastern States are not widely visited – in fact, it is only now, after decades of travelling to India, that I even planned such a trip.
Overall, this is going to be an eventful and fun trip ! I’m looking forward to sharing interesting anecdotes once I am back from my trip!