India – As Seen Through American Eyes
My profession allows me the high honor of meeting many wonderful people who have shared their stories with me and I can now say I have had the privilege of experiencing the home country of many – India. It was more memorable than I even imagined it would be!
I boarded the airplane at the Little Rock Airport with so much excitement about what the next18 days would hold for me. I just wanted to “hurry up and get there.” My trip to India had been in the making for several years and it was now becoming a reality. I knew that I wanted to do as much as I possibly could while in India since I may never get this opportunity again. As we touched down in Delhi, the sweet older Indian lady sitting next to me placed her hand on my arm. She looked at me with her soft gentle eyes and said “Welcome to my country!” So many of my UAMS colleagues and Indian friends had shared recommendations, advice, and suggestions on how best to experience India but none of them had prepared me for the life-changing events that were about to take place!
The Golden Triangle
DELHI – My time in Delhi was short, but a wonderful introduction to beautiful India. I kept pinching myself saying, “I can’t believe I’m really here!” After a quick stop to see the India Gate and lunch (where I saw my first snake charmer!), we headed to Agra.
AGRA – Despite the fact that it was dark when we arrived in Agra, the sensory overload of the city was incredible. Honking horns, motorcycles darting in and out, people sitting on the side of the road around small fires, vendors pushing their cart of wares amid brightly lit buildings and dark alleyways, cows walking in the streets, men and women cooking outside over an open fire, a stage with bright spotlights awaiting the show to begin – it was amazing! The family with whom I stayed was incredibly accommodating and treated me like a queen. My first home cooked Indian meal was like nothing I had ever had in the U.S.! I saw many sites, but the highlight of Agra was definitely the Taj Mahal. Sunrise over the Taj was amazing. In fact, being at the Taj Mahal is so hard to describe because it is more than a building and beautiful grounds….there really are no words to explain the grandeur and beauty of this place – it is truly an experience.
JAIPUR – Many shopping opportunities here with a lot of history interspersed. Amber Fort had a magnificent view – both from outside the fort walls, looking across the lake to inside the fort, looking out over the city. Truly fitting to watch tourist-laden elephants make the trek from the bottom up to the gate of the Fort. I met up with a couple of friends who were also visiting India and we decided to cook our own dinner that night since it was Thanksgiving in the U.S. We stopped by the market and bought lots of veggies and attempted to make our own Indian meal. The taste of our homemade meal was not a highlight, but Thanksgiving 2014 was a wonderful memory for me – 2 Chinese and 1 American celebrating Thanksgiving in India!
RAIPUR – For many years, one item on my “bucket list” was to participate in an Indian wedding IN India. Over the years, I have worked with many Indian nationals and forged some wonderful friendships over and above our working relationships. In 2009, I met Aniruddh at my previous employer and over time, we became close friends. We often talked about when he would eventually get married and how I would try to make his wedding my “bucket list trip.” My bucket list item was now about to be checked off with Ani’s wedding! Let me begin by saying there is NOTHING like a real Indian wedding! I had no idea what to expect and how this experience would impact me. It was so difficult to describe all the wedding festivities with my American friends/family when I got home because you really can’t compare an Indian wedding to an American wedding. For most Americans, their point of reference is an American wedding, so to describe the nature and meaning of all the Indian festivities is almost impossible! There were beautiful flowers, colorful banners, sweet smelling incense, delicious wedding feasts with sweet desserts, beautiful women in beautiful saris, outside altars with the priest offering prayers of blessings, wedding cloths, colored lights in the trees, women singing, drums playing, music in the air, fireworks exploding overhead, the sweet smell of spices, a processional from Ani’s home to the wedding, a white horse, gifts given, henna tattoos, vivid colorful curtains around the wedding area, lighted boxes carried on the heads of servant women, dancing, pictures with the bride and groom, so much celebration and happiness everywhere! It was a multi-day celebration that provided me with a lifetime of amazing memories.
RAIPUR – After the wedding, I was honored to spend some time with the family of one of our UAMS physicians. While in their home, I was treated to LOTS of delicious food, engaging conversation, a tour through the local villages and a papaya farm, and shopping in the markets. Once again, I was treated like a queen!
KERALA – My final few days in India were spent in Kerala and what a beautiful place that is! I was privileged to visit Cochin, Alleppey, Thekkady, and Munnar. In Kochi, I watched the Chinese Fishing Nets in action, visited a 1724 Dutch Cemetery, and did some shopping in Fort Kochi. The Backwaters in Alleppey were experienced from my very own houseboat! I visited the Thekkady Kathakali Centre for a cultural dance program and a martial arts demonstration. The dance program was so unique with the dancers’ painted green and gold faces, exquisite costumes and heavy make-up. The mountainous countryside and waterfalls in Munnar are breathtaking. Hills after hills of tea plantations interspersed with cascading waterfalls were simply beautiful! Another experience in Munnar was an ayurvedic oil massage….. again -nothing like that in the U.S.!
My trip to India was more than I ever dreamed it would be. The Indian people were so kind and took care of me every step of the way – even before I ever left the U.S. I made some new friends there with whom I will stay in touch. To all my Indian colleagues and friends – thank you for sharing your country and your culture with me.
“Your tomorrow depends entirely on what you do today.” – Mahatma Gandhi