From Outsider to Family MAG

By Unknown, Unknown, Unknown

   From the moment I stepped off the plane, there was a complete change in ambiance. Thebanter of American greetings and slang was replaced by a combination of Hindi,Gujurati and other dialects that together formed an unending song in my ears. Theodors even epitomized India: the definite smell of spices and dusty aircontrasted strikingly with the American airport which had reeked of sneakers andpopcorn.

The streets of this distinctive city presented an even moreforeign experience. My surroundings were completely unlike any in the UnitedStates. Dusty roads lined with vendors advertising exotic wares and noisy trafficjams gave me a sense of a completely different world. I was surrounded by peoplewho shared my complexion, but I was unable to communicate with any of them.Frustration filled my mind. At home, I was able to talk freely and comfortably,but now I felt restrained - like a complete outsider.

For the second partof our trip, my family traveled to the part of India where my father grew up. Thesame feelings of uneasiness and "not belonging" still lingered as Iwalked down the road lined with delicate green plants and scattered pieces ofstraw. People covered in saris and dhotis (garments worn by women and menrespectively) peered at me in wonder. Despite my ebony hair and Indian features,I was a foreigner who appeared to have nothing in common with them.

Mygrandmother enfolded me in her arms, crying and expressing herself in Bengali. Myscant comprehension of the language translated her thoughts to be feelings ofconcern and affection for a granddaughter who lived far away. Her arms and tearscommunicated that her love surpassed the fact that I grew up in America and wasnot fluent in Bengali. I am her granddaughter, and many of my roots come fromher.

These feelings of being an outsider in this land began todecrease in the next few days. Using my limited Bengali vocabulary, I talked tomy cousins, laughed at their antics, listened to their stories, and bonded withthem. I stared into their faces and saw something I had been unable to when Ifirst arrived in India: my face reflected in theirs - we shared similar features,expressions and gestures. Uncles and aunts carried my father's face, and theimmense connections between me and these people who lived 10,000 miles away fromthe U.S. became evident.

Immersed in this culture, I received a bettersense of myself. I reconnected with the values, people and traditional elementsthat helped shape the person I am. I saw how my father grew up and how he becamewho he is. My own identity was mirrored in this part of my family.

Ina place where I had felt completely lost, I was eventually able to derive astrong sense of myself, and see that part of me existed in this foreign land.From that instant I realized that something that had initially appeared sounknown was very real.

I left India with a greater sense of my heritageand an affirmation of the values my parents have given me. The faces of myrelatives still shine in my mind as a reminder of the links that exist betweenus, even 10,000 miles apart.

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