Culture Gap | Teen Ink

Culture Gap

January 14, 2008
By Anonymous

Some came back from summer recess rejuvenated by the pink sands of Bermuda and some still seemed captivated from the thrills of amusement park rides. But, I am sure my classmates did not see the same leisurely satisfaction exuding from me because my summers involved traveling to a place plagued with poverty, corroded with corruption, and infested with tropical insects. No, this is not the land of milk and honey, but it just so happens to be where my roots lay— this is India.
The sole reason for our visits was to maintain our familial bonds. Despite the warmth my relatives received me with, I could not help but feel reserved. Regardless, I have come to realize that those trips gave me an experience that shaped who I am and contributed to my education.

Last summer my mother and I made the annual pilgrimage once again. The bumpy car ride from the airport to my grandfather’s house in Bihar brought back many memories. The same billboards were on the streets and the familiar stores lined the rough, cracked roads. As I passed the giant field where older boys were playing cricket and younger boys were watching in awe, I could not believe that this city represented me, even in the slightest nuance.

Even the less obscure traditions were strange to me. In the afternoon, the most intense duration of heat, it is customary to take a nap. I hated the afternoon. I wanted the dead silence to be once again full of noise and chatter. Once I tried lying down in the warm darkness. I closed my eyes and waited for sleep to come to me like it came to everyone else, but it wouldn’t come. I stopped trying.

But, I started exploring. Traveling through The Hindustan Times, reading news about a place so far from home; excavating through an Urdu newspaper, a language my ancestors held in greatest stature; discovering a poverty riddled city through the means of an Indian scooter—I was finally building my niche.
I like to call it my cultural awakening. Books representing an eclectic blend of folklore started to interest me; be it the conflicts of a Mexican-American, the perils of an Afghani refugee camp, or the traditions in Moroccan culture. My trips to India indeed awakened me.
Our date of departure had arrived. Waiting to go inside the airport, I sat in the car with my grandmother who, because of a stroke and old-age, was too weak to get out. My grandmother suddenly took my hand and gently squeezed it. She started murmuring some prayers for my safe trip home. As I looked in her eyes I saw genuine love and fear for me. I realized that nothing, no cultural identification, could make her love and words more transparent. In my heart I also love her. Through my American accent, quiet disposition and western clothes—I just hope it somehow shows.

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