Dec 07, 2015 | Post by: mnanda001 3 Comments

The Sun is the Same

It’s the first day of December and the first day back from our EPIC family trip to India.  I’m on my way to pick up Devan from school.  It’s cold outside,and I’m bundled up in my favorite winter coat enjoying the cool, fresh air.    I’m a bit hazy from the long journey home and the time change.  I’m walking  along a path I’ve walked a thousand times, yet today, the world seems different.   I’ve changed, I’ve grown… I feel oddly alone, yet in a good way.  The large clouds are moving swiftly across the sky as the wind picks up.  The sun finds a gap among the clouds, and I feel it’s warm late afternoon rays on my face.  I look up and feel comforted knowing that the sun is the same.    At this moment, I find myself smiling and  remembering all the faces of my family in India, as well as  my family from the States.  There were 28 of us from the States that embarked upon this journey together:  my mom, my husband, my son, my brothers and their families, my cousins and their families, and my 90-plus year old uncle.

I think about the joy we shared during this sacred time together.  I know this journey will never happen again in the way it did this time, this year, right now.

This journey  started because my cousin’s daughter in Mumbai was getting married, and my uncle here in the States mentioned that he was going to attend the wedding.  The next thing I knew, my two oldest brothers were going with my uncle, and  from there it was a domino effect with an additional 25 of us deciding to join him.    The journey would take us to Mumbai to meet our family in India and attend all the wedding events; to Goa/Amona, my Dad’s birthplace and hometown; and to Jaipur, Agra and New Delhi.   We traveled mostly by bus and were together nearly 100 percent of the time. My family from the States came from all over – New York, Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago and Palo Alto to name a few.   The ages ranged from age 7 to over 90 years old.   For some of us, it had been decades since we had seen each other;  for others, it was meeting for the first time.  We joked about how we all had to come to India to see each other.   We joked, but it was the truth.  Aside from the ‘life is busy’ reason, I began wondering why this was?   Could this change?  At that moment, I stopped the questioning, embraced the present, and knew that this would be one of the  many “ah-ha” moments I would experience during this incredible journey.

I have so many memories from this journey – funny ones,  sentimental ones, tired and smelly ones,  learning ones and loving ones… I feel overwhelmed and this overwhelming feeling almost stopped me from writing this.     I mean really –  how can  I do justice to this experience in a simple blog entry?  It seems laughable, and maybe it’s easier to keep the memories and feelings to myself – but I push on…

I have decided for this blog not to recount all the amazing places visited or all the amazing interactions I had with family members, but to rather summarize what I learned and what I most value from the plethora of interactions and experiences I had on this trip.

Connecting to my Dad/Honoring my heritage 

I lost my Dad 11 years ago in the physical sense, but spiritually, I know he is always with me.  Being in India I felt his spiritual presence even more.   I think it’s fair to say we all thought about him and talked about him a great deal during this journey.  I could see  in everyone’s eyes and hearts that he was talking to us – telling jokes while eating Indian spiced nuts and drinking a beer, probably wondering why we weren’t playing more cards, and keeping us safe.

Visiting Goa and my dad’s hometown, Amona, was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most.   The last time I was there I was 10 years old. I was curious as to how revisiting this place as an adult would compare to how I saw it as a young girl.

Mostly though, I also wanted to honor my dad and our family roots.   During the visit I could sense that my dad was full of pride and loved seeing all of us there together.   This was the last time we’d see our relatives from India on this trip before we headed to our next city, Jaipur.   I will always hold the memories of this part of the trip close to my heart.   As we said our good-byes to our family, the sun was setting and an unexpected and unusual burst of rain showered upon  us.     While driving away and waving good bye, I remember seeing the pink sky through the raindrops on the bus windows and thinking they must be my dad’s tears of joy.

Loving my Family 

Family is one of things in life that I most value, and while it may seem obvious to mention it,  I’ve learned over the years that it’s often the things that go unsaid that you regret or take for granted.   I want to say ‘I LOVE MY FAMILY’.    I’ve always known I have been blessed with a tremendous family stemming from my parents’ love for one other and their dedication to our family.   This feeling was exemplified from the moment I stepped off the bus to attend the first wedding function.    I was overwhelmed with the anticipation of seeing my family from India.  I had not seen some of them since I was 10 years old during my first trip to India;  for others, it had been 11 years since I had seen them.  And there were others that I was meeting for the first time.   I immediately experienced feelings of excitement when they greeted us, yet surprisingly, at the same time, a feeling of familiarity took over.  There was a natural connection between us  that was tangible – we all felt it.  I was reminded  not to take for granted what has been given to us  just by being family, and to honor what has been cultivated through each generation before us ….family, connection, tradition, heritage, and faith.   It’s our responsibility to keep this going and to pass it on to future generations.

Passing it on 

Having my 8 year old son Devan experience this journey with his family and especially his cousins was definitely a highlight of the trip.

{Our visit to a spice plantation and Devan and I enjoying the smells from the cinnamon tree!}

I think it’s fair to say that some of the educational and historical highlights of  the trip were missed due to the laughter and goofing around with his cousins.

And, yes, his favorite part of the trip was playing in the ocean on the beach in Goa, and who could blame him?

However, having said all this, I am not giving him enough credit.

{What are they thinking?}

When we walked in and first saw the Taj Mahal, Devan looked at me wide-eyed and said “Mom, we made it.  It’s the first Seven Wonders of the World for me.”

Since we have arrived home,  he’s talked about Gandhi, peace, and nonviolence.  In addition, he’s mentioned about meeting and hanging out with family he never knew existed, and how he’s lucky he’ll always have a ‘home’ to visit in India.   I knew having Devan experience India with his family was going to be awesome, but it never FULLY occurred to me until I saw it happening.  Seeing the younger generation connecting with each other from across the world was exhilarating, fascinating and often times breath-taking and even surreal.   It’s our responsibility to keep the family ties thriving and growing.

Finding our Rhythm

I’ve always loved India in all of it’s glory.   It’s fair to say I made a conscious choice to disconnect from work, but I never really do — design is how I think, feel and act  and India nourishes my excitement for design all over again.  From a design perspective, it’s  innovative, colorful, vibrant and elegant, yet grounded and humble.   I was most inspired in Jaipur with Amber Fort, textiles, silk and wool rugs and handicrafts.

India is complex,  historical, artful, crowded, smelly, chaotic, poor, rich and full of passion…at it’s core India’s spirituality and hospitality unites.

Some say it’s organized chaos with camels, monkeys, elephants, cows, people, cars, rickshaws weaving in and out with each other in perfect harmony.   I’m humbled by the crowds of people and their ingenuity or just plain hard work (often times curb side) to make a living.   It’s a country where the richest of the rich and the poorest of the poor live and work side by side – a dichotomy that’s often difficult for me to  wrap my brain around.  It’s people EVERYWHERE –  moving at their own pace and doing their own thing in many instances just to survive.

It’s more than organized chaos.   Some may call it routine or others may have been bothered, but to me there’s a rhythm to India that just works and seems to be grounded with their faith and family (and food!).

 

 

This experience challenged me to look at my life in a different way… to be thankful for the home, food and clean air and water I get to consume; but, it has also challenged me  to find the rhythm of my own life –  to dig deeper and not be just “stuck” or bogged- down with life’s routine.

The sun is the same.

India…it’s a world away.   From afar, almost everything about India is quite different from my day to day life experience.  Or is it really that different?  Are we that different?   As I sat on the bus for hours at a time traveling from city to city, looking out the windows and making eye contact with many people passing by, I came to realize that at the core of it all, we’re all the same.   We all need faith to carry us through life, food to nourish our bodies, and  love to warm our hearts.  I saw unclothed children on the street embracing their mothers…probably hungry and tired, but not crying and often times sharing a warm smile with people passing by.   I saw people cleaning their clothes in what seemed to be a polluted and dirty river.  At first I cringed and thought ‘oh! how sad’, but who am I to judge the realities of the betterment of their lives?  They want to wear clean clothes too….to feel good about themselves,take pride in who they are and to know they matter.

We are all more alike than we are different.

As I approach Devan’s school to pick him up, I am alone.  I went from walking down the streets of Mumbai with nearly 30 family members by my side,  to my daily walk to school by myself to pick up Devan. Don’t get me wrong –  these daily walks to and from school are held close to my heart, but how does one ‘settle in’ after such an extraordinary experience? Our family in India are far away,  my family in the  States are spread across the country, and we’re all getting back to our ‘regular’ lives.   I do feel a bit lonely, yet at peace and full of gratitude.  I am content knowing we’re all more alike than we are different, and the sun that we all share is the same.

Until next time….

~M

 

3 Comments to The Sun is the Same

  1. Marlene Ashburn
    December 8, 2015 12:05 pm

    Thank you, Maya, for sharing such an incredible experience. Oh your Dad would have been so proud. The photos are wonderful.
    Merry Christmas and all the joys of the holidays and New Year to you and your family. Joe and I look forward to the newest family member when Becky has Limones2. Hope to seeyou in not to distant a time. Hugs Marlene

  2. Jason Herrington
    December 10, 2015 7:24 am

    Maya-

    Very nice story. I followed everyone’s pictures on facebook and I’m sure everyone felt the same as you did. What a great experience! My mom really enjoyed your post as well.

  3. Sue
    December 10, 2015 10:15 am

    Dear Maya, Your reflections bring me to tears as you describe your experience of India — its colors and textures, your connections with family, your memories of your Dad. Yes he was there with you. And sharing with Devan…how wonderful….and with Rich, too, of course. I Iove your photos and have created an album of these and Rajan’s photos. Your sense of design makes you a great photographer, or maybe Rich took some–design skills in the family.
    And your thoughts about feeling one with the people touched my heart. We are not separate; we ARE one people. I am so happy your time in India nurtured your soul and now lives in your very being in a new way. I look forward to hearing more when I see you.
    Love,
    Sue

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