Quick follow up with my life here… for the past 2 weeks, I spent Christmas and New Years visiting family in India. It was an awesome trip back to the motherland yet not my first. However, every trip back to India is laced with new experiences and adventures, this trip was no different. I mostly hung around the state of Maharashtra specifically between the cities of Mumbai and Pune. For the first time in my life, I traveled by plane alone. It was a very nerve-racking experience filled with (fortunately) very little hassle. On my journey to India, I mainly jumped between one family members home to the other for about 2-3 days at a time. Street shopping and bumpy rickshaw rides were a must between both destinations not to mention the incredible variety of food I was gorging three times a day. Most importantly, I was reuniting with aunts, uncles and cousins whom I had not seen for almost five years. I was also brushing up on my native tongue, Marathi and practicing my Hindi.
Another goal I had in mind while in India was to learn more about my family history. My last grandparents (the ones I was most close with) passed away in 2008 making this journey to India the first in which I would not have the pleasure of seeing them again. It was a very difficult thing for me to face, especially walking past my grandparents house knowing another family occupied the same rooms they once lived in. Their absence also left many dry, unanswered questions lingering in my mouth. Why was my grandfather in Germany and England in the 60’s? How many brothers and sisters did he really have? How did my great-grandfather pass away so young?
In America, everything is carefully documented and fairly easy to trace. If you had ancestors that lived in the US for many decades, you could most likely find some documentation such as immigration paperwork or a birth certificate about them in one of the 50 states. I thought that in India, they would also keep documentation of all there citizens. I was greatly mistaken. I was told by my parents that I could learn about my family history by visiting my family shrine in the small, desolate village on the outskirts of the coast of Konkan, Maharashtra. With my whole family on board, we rented a small travel bus and took a three-day vacation to the Arabian Sea coast. However, it took us 5 hours to travel only 70 miles due to the poorly constructed, pothole-filled roads leading us up to my family shrine. In addition to the 5 hours, we would also have to take two ferries and another 5 hour bus ride which on the second day of traveling, no one was looking forward to. Instead, we camped out at the beautiful bungalow my aunt and uncle booked for the family in advance and opted to visit the many beaches we came across throughout our journey. I quickly learned that the best way to know anything about my ancestors was to look through old black and white photos and talk to family that was already with me in the flesh. Thats just how Indians do things I guess. Maybe next time, I’ll just go to Goa for the long weekend instead of the Indian village side.
Although I never got to visit my family shrine, I sure learned a lot about my past family. I also learned that sometimes, it doesn’t matter what happened back then, but what is actually happening right now. “Just live the moment!” as my cousin liked to put it. Anyways, I had an adventure filled two weeks in India, reconnecting with family and creating memories with all the people that mattered to me at that very moment. And so, after two pints of beer, some whisky, three tequila shots, one tattoo, one drunk shopping escapade, a three-day family reunion bus ride and lots and lots of good food… its time to get back to reality. Happy 2014 everyone and I hope the new year brings with it many fun filled adventures for you as it did for me!