Now you are Indian

October 5, 2009
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“Now you are Indian”. Those were the four words she spoke to me as I walked past her. I did a double take. I asked her if she was referring to me; an average nothing-special white girl from the unknown suburb of Hingham , Massachusetts . When she said yes, I got confused. What made me Indian? Sure, I was dressed in semi-Indian clothing with henna fading on my hands, and was about to board a plane that would take me from my new home, New Delhi back to the United States, but what made that any different from the many tourists who visited India every year? Why would a random woman inform me that I was an Indian?
I thought back over the past month, trying to pinpoint a specific event or time when I started feeling more like I belonged and less like an outsider. Maybe it was overcoming the challenge of crossing a pass at 16,000 feet during our two-week trek in the Himalayas when I had struggled to make it through the first day. Perhaps it was being in charge of organizing the transportation for our group and having to find rickshaws in order to get to a hotel after a seventeen hour bus ride. Before, I had just been taking a back seat and letting others lead me around where as being in charge of the days transportation meant that I had to step up and be a leader. I thought back to the day before we got on the plane to India , when we were all at Justin’s house packing our backpacks and readying ourselves to embark on our month long journey through out India . I was extremely nervous to leave home for so long with a group of people I barely knew. That first night racing through New Delhi in a cab after midnight, looking around and taking in the sites and realizing that after a month I would come to call this place home.
“If I had moved over two inches I would have been in a different rickshaw.” During our first full day in New Delhi , India , we had to rush from our hotel, Hotel Namascar, in rickshaws, to the bus station to catch a bus. I was one of the lucky people who got to take backpacks with me in the rickshaw. I was terrified that I was going to fall out onto the busy New Delhi streets or that one of the bags was going to, so I held onto to the bags for dear life. At one point we came so close to another rickshaw that I was certain had I moved over a couple inches I would have been in it. Riding in a rickshaw for the first time was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. It was like a roller coaster ride without a safety harness. Therefore, when I came to enjoy those hair-raising rides through India , it emphasized to me that India was now an actual part of me.
Another aspect of India that became a part of me was the food. I am a rather picky eater and so naturally I was nervous about finding food that I would like. India has a reputation of having spicy food, something that before my trip, I did not think I would enjoy. With a little experimentation and adventurous eating, I found out that not all Indian food was bad and that most of it, I really liked. Palak paneer, spinach and cheese chunks, is now one of my all time favorite foods. Before, I would have steered clear of anything evolving spinach let alone mysterious cheese, but I am glad I did not because if I had not tried it I would have never known what a delicious food palak paneer is.
Hearing that women’s words made me realize how a part of me would always be in India , a place I had come to call home. That month formed me as a person. Before I arrived I had been struggling to figure out who I was, and how to be a confidant individual in society. Backpacking through India forced me to gain confidence and learn how to lead as well as interact with strangers whom I would have normally run from.

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