So it was the first day of the trip. I had only gotten 2 hours of actual sleep and woke up with a runny nose and hadn’t been able to stop sneezing. I realized I forgot to take my allergy medicine last night. Luckily, the breakfast place in our hostel had tea which probably helped tone done my allergies (and Zyrtec). At breakfast we got to meet the kids from the leadership collective who just wrapped up their three week trip. It was very cool to see kids from the United States and all over the world that weren’t of Indian descent actually talk in-depth about their experience in India, and how their perspective of India drastically changed. We also officially met Sridar (interesting fact, my cousin actually works for his company KPMG in Mumbai) and he along with Raj told us basic rules and answered a lot of our questions/concerns we had about the trip.
After that, we went to the Rashtrapati Bhavan museum where we learned about Gandhi and what India was like before/after independence. The other key takeaway was the 3D movie theatre (which ended up only being 2D). The film was pretty interesting as it gave a good summary of Gandhi’s life during his time advocating for India’s independence. However, we were all confused about the random fetus flying into the sun, and were a little upset about how Gandhi was compared to Stalin/Hitler. I should also point out that our tour guide, Sidant, was probably the best tour guide anyone can ask for. He not only memorized what he was supposed to talk about, but was able to explain the topics in great detail. None of us expected to get this good of a tour for our first visit.
So at this point we are heading to the national museum and I was so tired that I didn’t even know I fell asleep until I heard the car door unlock. Because of this I didn’t really know what was going on in the national museum. I only remember the first few parts where the tour guide gave a lecture about how India has always been connected with a lot of East/West Asia and her talking about how people lived their daily lives in ancient India. All I could think about was the pain in my feet and legs as well was the heaviness in my eyes. I kept telling myself that this was just really severe jet lag, but I’ve experienced jet lag multiple times before. I’ve never felt like I was on the brink of passing out. When we got to sit down, I was zoning out while the tour guide was talking. I did my best not to, but I couldn’t help it. This is when I realized that taking Zyrtec in the morning was a big mistake. Zyrtec does help with allergies, but in order for it to work, you have to sleep, so it makes you sleepy.
We got back to the Hostel and we had a little circle session to reflect on the day. I didn’t say much because, well, you know why. After that we took an hour break before we went to dinner, and I was able to sleep and revitalize my self. We went to a restaurant called Assam Bhavan. At the restaurant we met the kids from India that were part of the leadership collective. It was very interesting to talk to the kids that lived hear about how their lives are in India as well as hear their opinions about the United States and Americans. It was a little surprising to hear that they don’t have the typical stereotypes most foreigners have about Americans (loud, obnoxious, etc.)
One thing we discussed in length was India’s and USA’s politics. One thing they pointed out was that it’s not possible to understand how India’s government works in one day, and the same is for the US government. But the most surprising thing, at least for me, was that both our president and India’s prime minister are actually very similar when it comes to nationalism. I didn’t know that Modi had strong ties to Hindu nationalists, and that religious tensions haven’t improved under his administration. It was also cool to see how I differ politically than the rest of our own group. This allowed us to have a fun and thoughtful conversation. At the end of the day, I was relieved that I can finally get a proper sleep, but I also thought about the great adventures we are going to face on this trip and I’m very excited to see more of India.
Ishaan is one of 8 students in Indiaspora’s inaugural HeritageINDIA Program. A unique, immersive, 3-week summer program, this initiative gives high school students of Indian descent the opportunity to connect to their ancestral homeland. Students experience and engage with India’s rich and diverse cultural history by completing hands-on projects, participating in stimulating discussions, and building friendships with a cohort that will share in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. With the exciting theme of India’s Riches: History, Culture, Diversity, & Democracy, students visit three areas of India that are geographically and culturally diverse, yet all very much represent India: New Delhi, Gujarat, and Kerala.