Thursday, May 2, 2013

Humbly Hospitable

This is dedicated to all the families and friends who opened their homes and hearts to me during these last eight and half months. They will all likely tell me I didn't need to write this, but it must be shared.

India is the land of hospitality. Whether one has money to put milk on the table or not, you will be offered tea. Whether a car is available or not, you will be offered a ride. Whether they were planning on eating that one dish you love that night or not, they will make it for you (in large quantities). This entry is far overdue and has been constantly in my mind since I arrived here in August.

For those of you who don’t know, prior to my coming here for this chapter of my life I had only come 4-5 times before. And, those times were only for a maximum of three weeks. I’d traveled to most other continents in the world, but hadn’t ventured to discover the land of my ancestors. I always had a hard time defining my level of culture and my coming to India was a solution of sorts.

I’ve learned many things for this place. I won’t try and summarize what I’ve learned because I think it would be a bit premature and hopeless. However, hospitality and selflessness are two things I can wholeheartedly say I’ve experienced and hope to keep with me. I can’t begin to express the amount of love I’ve experienced while in India. So many people have opened their homes and treated me as their own child.

My time in Ahmedabad is, of course, crazy near and dear to my heart. As you may have heard, we lost my mother’s mom and nephew within a span of two weeks late fall. It was a tragic time and the loss is still being felt today. Both losses came only a few weeks after I had moved to my masi (mom’s sisters) home. And while we were all grieving, I grew incredibly close to my family there. I had tears in my eyes as I type this now.

The hospitality I felt living there was incredible. I was immediately taken in as a sister and daughter. My masi would take me shopping as if I were her own and help me pair kurtis and salvaars. She’d help me match my dupatta and make my favorite dishes at home (kitchidi and baath ni mutiya, for anyone asking ;)). My masa would give me the love and motivation my own father would give me in the States. He’d ask me questions about my day and help me understand some of the Indian nuances I was facing. Priyanshi, my cousin sister, would make me laugh and introduce me to her friends. I could ask her anything and everything and she’d help me find an answer. She is my younger sister now and I’m going to miss hanging out with her terribly.
Priyanshi (cousin-sister), Priti-masi (mom's younger sister), Saurin-masa (masi's husband), and me 

Priyanshi and I

Mother daughter bonding

My masi and masa were dying to meet some of the girls I volunteered with so they hosted pani puri night at home- (from left to right: Jinal, Tapasya, me, Stuti, Madhavi). Tapasya, Stuti, Madhavi and I traveled to Rajasthan a few weeks after this picture was taken.
My mom’s elder sister and husband in Varodara, as well as their daughter in Bangalore, also opened their homes and hearts to me. My masa (mom’s sister’s husband) became my personal encyclopedia. I would ask him everything under the sun and he would respond with an answer, or call a friend and ask. I learned so much about life from him. He taught me about my ancestral religion- Jainism- and taught me about how to live a happy life (apparently the key is selflessness and honesty). He inspired me to read more and to keep being curious.
Mota-masi (mom's elder sister) and Nilesh-masa  (mota-masi's husband- the man who knows something about everything)
Gandhi family trip to Palitana (a Jain pilgrimage sight)

Celebrating Priyanshi's birthday in Bangalore (Gandhi sister reunion)- from left to right: me, Evan, Niyati-didi, Kriday, Rachana-didi, Priyanshi
A funny picture from our Gandhi sister reunion in Bangalore :)
Anand is where my father is from and where I spent Uttrayan- Kite Festival (so many festivals in India I still haven’t blogged about). My family there held a three-day extravaganza for the holiday. There were other family members from abroad visiting at the same time. My bhabi (cousin brother’s wife) and I had a conversation one night about how creatively they had planned the weekend. There were games, prizes and talents shows. I am a bit intrigued to see if we can bring that sort of fun to the Doshi’s in the west (yes…I’m thinking Mother’s Day weekend guys).
Some of my cousins in Anand (and guest appearances by some others), from left to right: Priyanshi,  me, Nidhi, Nishu, Prapti, Devangi, Purna, Hemabhabi
Visiting Mumbai turned to be a consistent event. Every couple months I’d find myself in Mumbai and overwhelmed with a number of places to stay. Family friends would open their doors to me and offer their help regarding my travel plans. My time would always be a little flustered because I’d want to meet so many people and not leave without saying hello. I’m still in shock as to how amazing it has been getting to know some of our family friends on a more casual level. There is something special about being able to plop down on a couch and just have a random conversation about life. The spontaneity of it strikes an appeal to me.
Hiloni-bhabi, me and Shilpa-kaki
My dad's cousin Kuldip-kaka, Shilpakaki, and I one of my last nights in India
Hanging out at home in Ghatkopar with my cousins Purna and Prapti
Even while traveling around India (in Rajasthan and Kerala) I received messages to confirm my safety and happiness. I am floored at this love and would like to sincerely thank all the hosts I’ve had while here, this trip would never have been what it was without your generous hospitality.

I hope to have the opportunity to be as good of a host as people here have been for me.