This winter break, I had the pleasure of going to Calcutta, India. This was my third time to the motherland, but for the first time, I really felt like I experienced what living in India was like. I felt more like myself as opposed to just another tourist. The first time I visited India was when I was a wee baby, unable to perceive that I was in a completely different country. The second time was in 2012 where I took the classic tourist's trip starting from Delhi and traveling throughout northern India. We didn't stay in a city for longer than two days. Although it was a fun trip, I felt very alienated from Indian culture. I always felt like an onlooker and frankly, an outsider. I didn’t feel any closer to my Indian identity after returning home. After all, I spent most of my time with nice hotels and tour guides. However, this most recent trip was different. A week and a half in one city. No schedule, no tour guides. Calcutta is my father's home city, and most of our time there was spent doing what I do in the US: eating and talking. Somehow, we spent more time eating than anything else, or at least that's what it felt like. During the remainder of our time there, I had the chance to meet the people who surrounded my father growing up. I became much closer acquainted with my Pre-American Father: his nicknames, habits, and of course, endless mischief. More importantly, I felt like I was becoming more acquainted with my Indian identity for the first time. It was more than just trying different foods or buying different souvenirs. Not only was I able to understand and speak much more Bengali, but I got a better sense of the daily life of an Indian. Turns out, it isn't radically different from ours. What I enjoyed the most is that we did not force ourselves to go out for some arbitrary activity in Calcutta every day. We had the chance to relax and a enjoy a different setting, which we came to realize really wasn't so different. Add a few million people and a little spice, and I honestly don't think you could tell the difference between America and India. In all honesty, though, the people that I met on my vacation really convinced me that India was not another world. Getting to talk over good food with so many different people allowed me to see firsthand that people are pretty much the same just about everywhere. I felt like I was right back in Alabama. The Altamont School is a small bubble on our big Earth, and just about as far away from India as you can get, but somehow, I didn't feel like an alien in India. No, I felt right at home.
Sameer, 10th Grade
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