Moving to India This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

October 19, 2009
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“It's just a big, dirty city.” The “it” here refers to New Delhi, India. The words were spoken by a fellow traveler in the New Delhi airport in 2008. He was one of many who come from the Western world to India. A typical businessman, he was speaking loudly on his cell phone. I shook my head because a mere two years before I would have agreed wholeheartedly. But now everything was different. I can't deny that New Delhi is big and dirty. What I disagree with is the “just.”

In seventh grade my parents sat me down and told me that my dad had applied to a job in New Delhi, India. I was shocked, but I did not want to be the only person to raise a fuss and make the rest of the family ­miserable. So I said that although I was not thrilled, I was fine with it. Several months later I learned that my “fine” had landed us on a 14-hour plane ride, leaving all my friends and moving to a country I had never even visited.

Going to New Delhi was almost like going to a different planet. There were still humans and cars, but somewhere around there the similarities ended. When we arrived my mom, my brother, and I set out to explore the city. We took taxis to different places, and while there were markets, monuments, and neighborhoods, they all had common traits. They all reeked, they all had street animals, and they were all filled with poverty.

The smell never went away, but after six months I barely noticed it. The poverty I never stopped noticing. When we travelled in taxis, beggars came up to us at stoplights. We had been told to ignore them, so we tried. Some walked away and some tried to get our attention. I will always remember the time a boy flung his arm so that it slapped against our window; he had to fling it because it had no bones. I probably looked upset because I was told to ignore him, and the taxi driver yelled at him to go away. Once it was clear that we were not going to give him anything, he hit his palm against the window as hard as he could before he walked off. I must have jumped a foot.

Then there were the street animals, including street dogs. The embassy had told us that they were all vicious and had rabies. We were told to give them a wide berth. Many were starving. For me it was almost as hard to walk by a starving dog going through the dumpster as it was a starving human who was begging. Cows wandered through the street and tried to find even a bit of grass. They often caused traffic jams. I would get stuck in traffic only to find that a cow was lying in the middle of the road, forcing everyone to go around it.

The school was also an adjustment. For sixth and seventh grade I had gone to a small, all-girls Catholic school. The new school was larger, with about 90 kids in my grade, and it was co-ed and very international. The school had a large turnover rate, but there were still students who had been friends for years. I made some friends the first day, but we were tentative, and not all that close.

I was so unhappy at the school that my parents decided to explore other options. We visited a boarding school in the Himalayas and they also considered sending me to live with a relative in the U.S. Going to another strange school did not appeal to me, and none of my relatives had dogs, or lived where I could return to my old school. Miserable as I was, I decided to stick it out.

Slowly, everything got better. The street dogs wiggled their way into our hearts. It started out with Shaniou. She was short, chubby and white. We saw neighbors feed her, so we gave her a treat. When we started feeding her dog food, the other dogs decided that we could be trusted, so we started feeding them too. One male discovered he could get over our gate. Slowly they were allowed in our house. When we walked to the market, they walked with us. We went for a run and they would run with us. Shaniou would even get on her back feet and dance for food. They each had their own personalities.

One day my mom and my brother were driving home. They had the window open because the car's air conditioning was not working. One poor boy suddenly popped his head in the window and gasped out a single word: “pani.” My mom and brother desperately searched the car for water without success. From that day we always carried disposable water bottles with us. We would give them water and in return they talked to us. They spoke Hindi so only my mom could understand them, but their happiness was clear. They were not “just” poor, they were also kids who liked to play and be happy.

So, two years later, at the end of ninth grade, I was sitting in an airport waiting for the flight that would take me home. I was reading when those words cut through the din: “It's just a big dirty city.” I chuckled to myself and thought how he could not be more wrong. It wasn't “just” anything. It was the city of kids who can be happy in spite of their poverty, the city where dogs will wiggle into your heart, the city where you can be culture shocked and find that you love the culture. It is the city of everything and anything. It is the city that I moved to miserably in eighth grade and was fully in love with by ninth.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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This article has 5 comments. Post your own now!

travelor57 said...
Mar. 19, 2015 at 6:43 pm
Loved your story. I swore I would never return to that country. Needless to say..India is again for the 4th time calling my name.
 
anonymous said...
Sept. 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

i am indian and even though the things that you have describedare not something to be proud of i just love

 

i love my country

long live india

 
4141aurora444 said...
Apr. 6, 2010 at 2:44 pm

ha i kno wat u mean by the stray animals. i was in turkey nd i saw like 50 cats sitting and staring at a fish market.

and the beggars in Kenya r worse. packs of Kids run around and will threaten u if u dont give them money (ps this info came from a guy that lived there for a while)

 
Mrs. T said...
Feb. 27, 2010 at 1:52 am
What a beautiful piece on the conflicting visions of India. Well written, and honest. How lucky are those who can share your glimpse out the window of your car of your time in India.
 
Alekhya said...
Jan. 16, 2010 at 1:40 pm
I can totally see eye-to-eye with you on this. Great job!
 
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