India 2016, Day 1 (July 9): On Dresses and Children’s Meals

Hello friends and denizens of the vague, empty ether that is the World Wide Web!

In the spirit of trying to get back into a daily writing routine before I embark on my next adventure – graduate school to study journalism at NYU – I’ve decided to blog about my experiences on my trip to India with my family. This my first trip to India in four years; I last came to India (alone) on a Hindi language immersion program in 2012 in Rajasthan. This time, I’m spending much of my time at weddings in my parents’ native state of Andhra Pradesh and the city of Madras/Chennai, as well as visiting family across Andhra Pradesh. But I’ll also be spending some time being a quintessential tourist in northern India, as opposed to just visiting the home of relative after relative and aunty upon aunty, which is often how previous trips to India with my family went.

Each time that I come back to India every few years, I witness a significant change in the city structures, fashions, technology, restaurants, and more. I expect this trip to reflect more change, but apart from that, I have no expectations (well, aside from the constant itch of mosquitoes, smothering and affectionate love of extended family and friends, and humidity).

My trip to India was a long one, going from SFO -> LAX -> ABU DHABI -> HYD (Hyderabad) on Etihad Airlines, which is supposed to be know for its rave reviews of the on-flight food. Did the cuisine live up to its reputation? Well…not exactly. Still, it was passable, and they pass out a nice Haagen-Daaz ice cream to redeem the airline.

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The flight menu for Etihad Airlines. Fancy!

On the subject of food, airlines and more: on all legs of my fight to India, I was surrounded by families with children. Which really wouldn’t be noteworthy, except for the fact that not once, but twice, a stewardess approached the row where I was sitting, looked confusedly at the older couple sitting next to me, before turning to me, smiling and asking ‘Children’s meal?’ while bearing Happy Meal-like trays. Mortified that I could still pass for a pre-pubescent youth at the ripe age of 24, I found myself unable to do anything except stammer out “I-I’m not a child.” Embarrassed, the flight attendants were at a loss for words until the parents explained that the meals were actually for their children seated in the row in front of us. Whoops.

While lost in the terminal at LAX, I ran into an equally confused-looking mother and daughter duo, who happened to be on my same flight and were going to Hyderabad, like me. Turns out that the daughter was also a recent Cal alumnus from the Bay Area like me, as well as of Telugu origin, like me. I’ll refrain from using the much-used truism that people say in these cases, and instead just say that it was a pleasant surprise to come across a friendly face on my long flights to India.

(FYI: Telugu refers to the language sp Ken by the majority of people in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. Many people immigrated from Andhra Pradesh to the U.S in the past three decades – including my parents – and formed tight-knit Telugu communities across the country.)

After countless delayed flights, nearly-missed connections and more than 24 hours, I arrived to Hyderabad, the capital of the new Indian state of Telengana (Hyderabad was formerly the capital of Andhra Pradesh, until the state split into two, and the new state, Telengana, took Hyderabad with it in the split). This is the vast, sprawling city where my grandparents live. I exited the baggage claim area to the sea of family members pressed together, waiting for their loved ones to emerge from the terminal. I saw my grandma and other uncle of mine waiting for me, and rushed my luggage over to greet them. However, the fun didn’t end there. My uncle’s car was almost towed, and we got there in just the nick of time as they were loading the car up on the gangway. Luckily, he got off with just a small fine, but I was worried for about a minute about the real possibility of being stranded at the airport at 5 am with my boatload of luggage.

After much ado, I finally arrived at my grandparents’ home. My parents arrived on another flight a few hours later. The rest of my day was relatively unremarkable, marked mainly by the trying on of outfit after outfit and visiting tailors to ensure my dresses were in all in tip-top shape before I jet off to an Indian wedding tomorrow. Personally, I have no inkling for fashion in general, let alone the latest Indian styles, so I pretty much stare blank-eyed whenever a shopkeeper asks me about things like my bangle-wearing preferences while I let my mom and grandma handle the rest of the talking.

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My dad relaxing at my grandparents’ house in Hyderabad after a long flight.

I also had fun playing with the children of my grandparents’ servant staff, and also meeting up with some relatives that I hadn’t seen in a while.

And so that concludes my first day in India. Stay tuned for the next update! I may not have time to post on a daily basis, but I’ll do my best. Until then…

EDIT: with the insane incidents spanning the gamut from police brutality, police killings, racial bias, and ultimately, gun violence and lives cut short this week, my heart is heavy as I write these words. Human rights at home are far from being secured, as I wrote this from abroad. Be safe, friends. Be vigilant. Take peaceful action to ensure that we don’t have another week like this in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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