We have published the best of your stories of India below—your travels in India, your family’s stories, your memories of growing up in India, your favorite myths and tales—everything that makes India such a rich and fascinating place. Thanks so much for participating!
I was born and raised in India. I remember with nostalgia visiting Calcutta (now Kolkata) every summer to be with my grandparents and cousins visiting from other parts of the country. They were magical times. I remember running barefoot after the pani-puri and 'jhaalmuri' vendors in the afternoons, haggling with them for one extra scoop of the delicious concoction. Most of the day would be spent playing cricket and marbles on the street. There was no TV, no movies to go to, no computer or video games. My 'treat' was a small cup of sweet yogurt bought at the little busy store at the end of the street that I was awarded on days when I behaved well!
I specifically remember waking up to the melodious hymns of the lone saint that visited our street every morning, playing his violin, smiling peacefully as he greeted passers-by. On days when the milkman did not show up, I would accompany my grandmother on a short walk to the barn to get fresh milk, soaking in the sights and sounds of a glorious city at sunrise.
I wish I can recreate the magic for my US-born children so that they can relish what will be an indelible impression in my mind and some of the best times of my life.
Everytime I set my foot at Delhi Airport and I smell the muggy and humid air I hate it but then everytime I set my foot back in Atlanta I yearn to go back to my India. I can't explain what I like about India. Perhaps, it is the carefree ambience, the easy going mentality, or it is the convenience of everything within walking distance, or perhaps its the rickshaw wallas. Perhaps, it is eating real mithai not the pseudo one made from milkmaid or it is standing outside and talking to the neighbor for hours. It is simple things like street hawkers coming to your door to sell fruits etc. I wonder why I luv india, perhaps it is sense of belonging, not feeling odd because of your accent, your long hair, being able to put mehndi on without others wondering just the feeling of normal is what attracts me to India.
I spent 3 weeks in India in November of 08 and found it simultaneously beautiful and abjectly horrible. The cities are so polluted your throat hurts, conversely the tiger preserves and farming country delightful, simple and wild. Women are beautifully dressed and yet nowhere in professional life except for a very few. The beggars, many missing body parts, are rife and I see no evidence the government is doing anything about the open sewers, road safety or food and water borne illnesses. How can a nuclear power with a space program not address the basic health issues of the nation? I hope the best for India, the people deserve more.
What amazes me most about India is that it is a country where Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jews and Zorastrians live in harmony despite the occasional political unrest trying to unsettle the Indian way of life. I grew up in a Hindu-Jain family where I was free to attend a church service or any other place of worship. My friends were from different religions. India's heartbeat resonates from ancient times as one of "harmony in diversity". No other country can claim that honor...yes, we have the caste system, but there are those who choose to defy it today and hopefully more will do so in the future.
Our history is so rich, we need to honor it by preserving the wonderful archeological sites featured in "The story of India". Hopefully this PBS-BBC production will encourage us to preserve our rare heritage, starting with the ancient temple, mosque or building on the street corner to the world renowned sites like the Taj Mahal. "The story of India" is a wonderful way to showcase an unbiased view of India to the world and especially to the children of Indian descent living in different parts of the world. Thankyou.
In 1984 I was fourteen and lived in the village of Chikhale, Maharastra.
It was December; a planned pilgrimage to Goa had to be cancelled so we went east into Maharastra. I didn't know where we were going and I still don't know where we went. After hours on a bus into an arid dusty landscape we came to a large rock hill. I vaguely recall being told this hill was a sacred place and many came from all around to climb and pray. There were stairs embedded in the rock and it was a long climb to the top. About half way up I noticed a man sitting in a crevasse, there were monkeys all around him and yet he did not move. He sat cross-legged, long white hair draped to his knees, he only wore a white tunic and he never moved. The monkeys walked on him, around him, nested near him and sat with him yet he did not move. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. I stood there transfixed by his locked serenity. He became part of the rock, the hill, the cloudless sky and watchful monkeys.
Now the image of the Hindu ascetic from years ago, in place I may never find, calms me at times, and will forever be my picture of India.
One of my fondest memories is of watching the India-Pakistan match in Bangalore in '96. Here we were at the Chinnaswamy Stadium full of 20,000+ people cheering for team India. Sachin, Siddhu, Jadeja ... they were all fantastic. We, the crowds, did the Mexican wave, painted our faces, clapped, sang, screamed till we were hoarse... saw saree clad women standing on their chairs cheering for 'the boys'. The city had come to a standstill, not a car on the streets. It was such a thrilling match! I think it was the quarter final but it felt like we had won the World Cup. Nothing unites India like cricket does.
I grew up in a village in Kerala. I still remember some wise ways of the elders in villages. The elders who are consulted to be neutral parties in petty disputes were never politically correct. People used to refer such elders by their first name along with their religious or caste names. For example, we used to call one Christian elder there as Anthony mappila. He was a thin and tall person with a slight hunch. He used to walk all around without a shirt, displaying his cross on a thread around his neck. He was very religious. He was considered a wise and neutral man. He didn't drink or quarrelled with others. But like any wise person in India, he was very respectful of other religions. He used to scold young people. Everybody used to respect him. People like him maintained tranquility in neighborhoods.
Educated people stopped this practice of calling others along with their caste and religion. But one of the downsides of the educated people especially in cities is that they also are losing some of the wisdom the elders of that era represented. These elders openly acknowledged their differences with others. But there was always some mutual respect.
I was always told that India was a very spiritual country. I found this to be quite true, especially with one incident in Cochin. My wife and I were walking back from a performance (Kathakali)and one of many rickshaw drivers stopped to offer us a ride. We accepted, and agreed on a fare of 100 Rupees. As this area is of mixed religions I asked the driver of which faith he was. He barked at me impatiently, and said "don't trouble me with such things, sir!" "My faith at this moment is to return you safely to your hotel, and at that point my duty is complete and you may choose to pay me or not. My only wish is for your happiness". I paid him the 100 Rupees, but never doubted the sincerity of his response. He would have accepted a "namaste" as fare for our ride.
I grew up in Banaras by the banks of the Ganges on a beautiful and large University. Most of my childhood was spent riding my bicycle up and down the University campus which was very safe. We had two 'langda' mango trees in our garden which together bore over a 1000 mangoes in the summer. School days were easy, lazy and we had plenty of time to play outdoors. By contrast my kids now have full days at the local public school and are outdoors to play only when supervised. We would often sleep out in the back 'aangan' in the hot summers, on cots with mosquito nets. Again something my children have not had the opportunity to do - to fall asleep staring at the sky.
Every year we would make family trips to the South or M.P/Gujarat to visit family. My parents raised us to feel 'Indian' and not just UP-ites, and I am proud and happy to be an Indian in the world today.
We have a number of things we can improve as a country, an Indian's heart is in the right place. I find it striking that one meets so many Indians abroad and they all love India and want to be part of it no matter where they live.
Thank you for the opportunity to share our stories.
In 1994 I went to India to give a series of lectures on experimental neurology to medical students in Varanasi and Hyderabad. For two weeks afterwards I travelled the south of India from Bengaluru to Kerala on public transportation and at each stopping place was immersed in a world so overwhelmingly sensual that there has been almost no parallel before or since. From the perfumed air and jasmine flowers heavy around the Ganesha shrines, to the palpably fervent devotion of the worshippers at a darkened and revered temple to Nandi, I had a rare experience in a world of earthy immediacy. While following a route worshippers had trodden near Madras since the 11th Century I felt that this was the nearest a modern European or American could get to actually feeling the world lived in by his urban ancestors of two millennia past. Less mystical was the traffic-stopping stares I got from the otherwise relentlessly welcoming and friendly local people as the lone fair-skinned Westerner walking through Mahabalipuram at the height of July's heat.
Mad dogs and Englishmen...
Summer vacation meant a long retreat to visit our grandparents in a small town near Bihar-West Bengal borer. It was breathlessly hot and dry there. So, the first rainstorm of late summer was an eagerly awaited affair. I remember one such storm darkening the late summer sky. Standing on the verandah, you could see the hills disappear in the misty film. The lightning would light up the grey clouds and you could actually see the dense curtain of rain approaching fast across the vast rice fields till it was almost overhead. The thunder shook the house and soon plump rain drops splattered on the dry dusty earth raising that never-quite-forgotten smell of wet earth. The strong wind bend the tops of the trees, blowing away the clothes left to dry on the roofs, and best of all, rattling the mango trees, shedding the unripe mangoes to the ground. Disregarding the flying debris we ran to the orchard. Much of that first crop was devoured right away while sitting on the rain soaked verandah, listening to the rain drumming on the roof and watching it turn our back yard into a river fast and full.
Last Christmas my Mum took me and my brother to south India. We were a bit scared because we knew it would be hot and the food would be very spicy. We went to Kerala and took boats in the backwaters had rides in Phut phut taxis. My favorite bit was riding on elephants in Thekkady. We took an overnight train to Tamil Nadu and slept in bunk beds with lots of other people and they bought us lovely food in bed. We visited the gigantic temple in Chidambaram with friends of my Mum and it was like being in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. It was enormous and full of people, noise and candles. It was like walking into the past. I wish we could go back again this year.
Calum Harvey Age 10.
I was born in Mumbai, but completed my elementary education in a village. When I was growing up in a village named Bidada, in a District of Kachchh, Western Part of Gujarat State in Western India, there was no electricy, no water and no sewer system in the village. People will light the kerosene lamp at night. As soon as dark fell, village will be inactive. Except people seating at some common places to have a chitchat and a talk or discussion. Ladies will seat at some place separately than the men. Roads in the village were unpaved. There were no bathroom or toilet facilities in the house. Water has to be fetched from a 40 feet deep well. In the school, no student benches were available. 4 - 5 students will seat on a wooden bench, which does not have a back support or front support to write. In each class there were 12 - 25 students depending on the Grade Level. In the the higher grade level, very fewer students were there. The schools for boys and girls were separate.
It was a fun time and vivid memories of the village life are still fresh in the mind.
I grew up in the beautiful IIT campus in Madras. It was a forest originally, and most of the forest remains, amidst the university departments that were built in it. We lived inside campus, as was common. Snakes were often sighted as we played in the evenings, but this one time, a mongoose, followed by a rat snake, entered our house through an open door. My brother climbed up a cupboard after he saw it and yelled for help! Soon, many interested onlookers showed up. My brother eventually escaped from the room. Some folks showed up with big sticks to kill it. Many others said it was a huge sin to kill it. Finally, one brave chap said it was OK to kill it, so long as we went to a snake pit and poured milk down it for a certain number of weeks. We said, just kill it please or get it out of here. The mongoose ran away. And I think the man who talked about the milk asked my mom for 10 rupees, and said he'd manage the milk pouring on our behalf. He killed it. We were glad to have a snake-free home again, and figured he'd probably keep the 10 rupees. This was an unforgettable event from my childhood - and my memories of the day are very vivid!
Our family moved from Kenilworth, New Jersey to Mumbai India in 1967. My father bought Indian steel and was Plant Manger for an Australian company that produced products for India and export. We stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel for three months before moving to a flat on Cumbala Hill. My sister and I enjoyed telling mis-led tourists that the real Taj Mahal was in Agra to the North. One day we got on the elevator at the Taj. The operator motioned towards the back of the lift and kept saying "Beatal Man, Beatal Man." We were in the elevator with George Harrison and his entourage. We exchanged shy grins, but did not speak. When my sister and I got off the elevator, we watched for the floor indicator to stop. That way we knew what floor the Beatels were on.
In Mumbai, I befriended the locals at the Gateway to India, Haji Ali, and Mahalaxshmi. My nickname was Attcha Bhatt. I travelled India by plane, taxi, and rail before the steam trains were retired. I had an "Letter of Introduction." The letter basically said "This is my friend, he is an extension of our friendship. Treat him well." I felt like the character Kim from quoted in Rudyard Kipling's book as a "Friend of the World."
Growing up in India is a unique experience. I was born in 1977 and have seen India emerge from the shadows of its colonial past and step into the future as a liberalized economy. I am an example of someone who has benfitted from the opportunities this liberalization has brought along
My grandfather (a construction contractor) migrated from Pakistan to India in 1947, and was allotted a piece of land by Mr Nehru, and was asked to build a town there. This was in the north of India, in State of Haryana. So he built a town called Nilokheri, where we still have a house. I've lived and studied there for 3 years, and now I live in Atlanta, GA. The whole journey seems so improbable and fantastic, when I think about it.
I've lived in New Delhi for 10+ years. traveled extensively all around India, and have barely even scratched the surface of what this epic country has to offer. Times are tough right now in India, socio-politically speaking, but we are a resilient people, and am sure will bounce back.
Growing up in India, for my generation, gives us a unique perspective. I believe my generation has a link to the past, and a window to the future, and its been great
I have been brought up in the city of Mumbai. But as a young boy the greatest memories revolve around trips to the south indian state of kerala. There is the train travel - all 28 hrs of it and then the great temple towns in Kerala. The train journey, over 2 nights, with its rural stations, the people selling their wares between stations - especially the fresh fruits, the morning coffee and onion vadas - I can still close my eyes and smell them !
Once in kerala, the routine would be to hire an Ambasador deisel car and drive around the state visiting the various temple towns - Guruvayoor, Vaikom, Trichur. These temple towns are serene, green, beautiful and spirutually very uplifting. There is no place like India.
After my education, I started working in Chennai. I owned a two wheeler (a motorcycle) and commuted to work on it. One day, coming back home in the late evening, the tyre punctured. I was still far from home and I had to push it. After about 20 mins, I saw a small wayside mechanic's shack. The owner a middle aged man in ragged and dirty clothes was in the lower socio economic strata of society. I asked him what he would charge to fix the motorcycle, and he asked for 60 Rupees. All I had was 15 Rupees. I told him that I would pay the next day and gave him my visiting card. He agreed and fixed my vehicle for me.
The next day(it was almost night)I found the shack closed and so it happened for about 10 days. Finally, I paid paid him the balance and since I knew that the money meant a lot to him, I apologised for not paying him earlier and asked him how come he did not call me to remind me, even though he had my vising card and ph. no. He replied that he knew I would come to pay him and did not feel that he should bother me. Now, 15 years later, through all the years and places that I have visited, the magnanimous generosity of a poor man who came to my aid still remains strongly in my heart.
Only in India! It was the return trip from a month-long visit to Dharamsala. While waiting at the train station in Panthankot, I had a chance to sit and watch the evening sun makes a slow, beautiful decent in the sky. I had watched as a one-legged man hobbled past my bench; taking note only of his presence and not so much his physical state. I stood for a while and walked the platform looking out across the tracks. On the far side I could see a dog running. Much to my surprise, it was a three-legged dog. "Huh", I said to myself, "What are the chances of that?" I thought perhaps I would return to the bench and as I spun around to do so, low and behold, I saw a one-legged crow! All of this in a matter of 5 minutes. I was flummoxed. Was there a message in these sightings? I still can't say that I've come up with an answer, other than to say, only in India.
I spent the month of November 2002 in Dharamsala, India. Located between Pakistan and China in northern India, it is home to the exiled Tibetan community. It took 16 hours of flying from Cleveland to New Delhi, a 12 hour train ride to Panthankot, and a 2 hour car ride past a military checkpoint into Hamachal Pradesh (Home of the Gods) then up barely drivable roads in the Himalayan foothills to reach Dharamsala. There I witnessed in a local internet café, Buddhist monks with shaved heads poking out of maroon and saffron robes participating in chat rooms and sending emails.
The Indians and Tibetans I met were typically extremely poor yet extremely friendly. One Tibetan family invited me into their home, a one room metal shanty with a dirt floor, and shared what little they had without reservation, and their smiles came easily. I also visited a school facility called the Tibetans Childrens Village. In America, one might see the fighting slogan of the school's sports teams painted in large letters on a sign. Here at TCV I saw their rallying words painted in large letters on a boulder: "Others Before Self".
Like its chai, and Naan, India left me with a passion to return and taste more.
I have a bit different history than most of indians, My mom is Christian, my dad a hindu, and my dad's sister married a muslim, so I grew up in a beautiful multi religious family, not only that, my family comes from all parts of India, so if you come to my house you would experience all facets of indian life, I grew up in a small town called Kollegal among other things one thing i really loved was in the morning I would wake up to the sounds of the church bell ringing, the temple playing the chanting of waking up gods,and the masque haza(call for prayer) it was so rhythmic that it almost felt like that we are all in this together and we all went our way about every day business.
i saw how much respect they had for each others differences, they all attended each others festivals, ceremonies. They all went out of their way to make sure that they didn't offend each other during these time of happiness or sadness. It taught me to respect everyone's openion even if it is detrimental to your own belief. In doing so you learn about each others fears and weaknesses. By knowing this you can really deal with what ever comes your way.
India, I now call it my " Birth Country " as England or rather United Kingdom is my adopted country and I reside in USA and as I approach 72, my mind & body still wanders between the three countries and continents I have spent my life in wondering where should I finally rest. While the British gave me the freedom, the encouragement and opportunity to gain as much knowledge in as many areas as I wanted. The people respected me and helped me for what I am, rather then what family I cane from or if I was wealthy or poor. Though I was lucky in many ways than the Indians who started coming in the 1970's onwards. In 1960, there were no restrictions, no visa or no rules except that I was from a country of the British Commonwealth.
I was able to access anything and everything a British Citizen could, speaking fluent english did give me an advantage, though keeping an open mind and not carrying any historical prejudices ( few years in English Catholic schools in India and 3 years in the Army which was was still in command of British officers training Indian officers to take over in the early 1950's helped) as a young man made a bigger difference in making adjustments with society and being accepted.
Almost 18 years ago when I was a pre-teen, my mother took me to Kolkata to visit our relatives. I remember one particular family gathering spent on our family home rooftop where we chatted under the moonlight and sat on pillows just laughing, eating, and trading stories of good old times. We read poetry by candlelight, sang bengali songs, and enjoyed the cool night breezes. As I looked around the roof and saw all my family members enjoying such a wonderful evening, I had the overwhelming sense that I did not want this night to end. It was heaven!
I am 2 generations removed from India, yet it has a special place in my heart. Our family visits frequently to volunteer in hospitals and also to let my brother and I learn about our 'roots'.
Our roots began in a country, a country rich in history, culture, spirituality, sights, architechture, not to mention being the world's oldest democracy, a country which brought forth number zero, the game of chess and a myriad of other accomplishments.
When you arrive into the country, you can actually 'smell' the country. India has a distinct frangrance--whether it be of camphor, incense, cows, people, food, cars, and anything you imagine. You are immersed into the country from the very first step you take outside the airplane.
Everytime I enter India, I feel a warm gentle embrace, an embrace that carries me through until the end of the journey when I don't want to let go of the familiar warmth. As I leave the country, I leave with a heavy heart, yearning to return as quickly as possible, to immerse myself again in a place of pure magic.
I grew up in Bombay (Mumbai) and Madras (Chennai) in the nineteen forties and fifties. Every summer I used stay with my maternal grandparents in a town called Kumbakonam. During that period in history the rural towns and villages in India were pristine where the people were still living like their ancestors many years before them. Bullock-carts outnumbered motorized vehicles. Most people did not have a formal education from high schools and colleges. However looking back now I feel that they were more educated than the present generations in basic principles of life and possessed an uncommon degree of common sense. For the most part they treated their children, elders and all living creatures with kindness and reverence. Family ties were stronger and neighbors always came to the rescue in times of need.
I got to know India first hand during a pan-India tour in the final year of college. It was a rail journey that took me from Trivandrum, Kerala to the historic Delhi capital region, to the foothills of Himalayas in Simla, to the magnificent palaces of Jaipur, the sandy beaches of Goa and the overflowing commuter trains of Mumbai. The trip lasted only about three weeks. More than the monuments and the landmarks, true India was revealed to me on the train. The golden twilight bathing the mustard fields, a group of gypsies waiting on the platform at some station in Rajasthan, a cup of tea sold in an earthen cup at some village in Madhya Pradesh, farmers with bullocks plowing the fields until dusk, a long line of ladies in Vijayawada waiting with pots to collect water from a well, a seven year old with no shirt and dusty hair loudly singing some popular Bollywood number, the jingle of the coins in his hands, his eyes as he looks at you for a fleeting second, vendors on platforms selling everything from boiled eggs to cigarette lighters - these are some images that still endure after more than ten years. India is still a mystery to me. So I can’t wait to watch the PBS show on it.
I have been born and brought up in New Delhi and settled in US. I miss my childhood days and really feel bad for kids here as they do not get to spend much time outsides. I got to spend so much time outside playing with my friends, meeting neighbors, catching butterflies during summer break, sitting outside and sharing food with friends, climbing trees etc. What a fun-filled childhood. Here kids are glued to TV, computer or are always busy with their extra activities. I miss all the festivities/vibrancy of India - my birth country.Even though people do not have that much money but they are happy and satisfied and are friendly.
We just came back from a yet another fascinating trip to Bengaluru (formerly known as Bangalore), India. I grew up in Bengaluru and lived there for 30 years. On this visit we made to trip to Belur an ancient Hindu temple town 381 kilometers from Bengaluru. The temples built in12 CE is a visual treat of the Hoysala architecture which took about 103 years to complete. The sculpture art work is one of the finest with intricate details portraying the ancient Indian epics Ramayana, Mahabharata and other mythological stories. This is one example of many such marvels that exists all over India. Truly, this is an oldest civilization with all the traditions still thriving along with the modern day technological advancement. We look forward for another trip to visit another ancient culture center of this fascinating country, India.
It was early 80's in Hyderabad -India and I went to a School where only 3 out of more than thousand students were Muslims. The School was very diverse in the sense that students came from different regions of India - from Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi in the North, to West Bengal, Bihar in the East, to Maharashtra and Gujarat in the West, and to Kerala, Tamilnadu in the south. All speaking different languages and belonging to different cultures and backgrounds. Four of my closest friends with whom I shared almost all my School life were from various religious backgrounds and hailing from different parts of India: Jacob a Christian from Trivandrum (Kerala), Ramanand a Hindu Brahmin from Goa, Charanjeet a Sikh from Chandigarh, my self Abdul a Muslim from Hyderabad. We always learned, played together, shared Tiffin’s,etc. I wonder if this kind of complex friendship still exists in today's India - with not so good news coming out of Hyderabad, where 52 youths were wrongly accused, locked, beaten, tortured and later released, since all charges made against them were found to be false.
I grew up in Chennai, in South India. In my mind there is no city better. In school, the gang of friends that i used to hang out with included the Lead guitarist of a rock band, a classical singer, a mrindangam player (a classical percussion instrument), a girl who dabbled in ballet and a bharatanatyam (Classical dance of tamil nadu) dancer who had done a course in Kalakshetra. All of us hung out together, go to each others performances. We were equally comfortable meeting at cafe Coffee day and at the roadside Bajji stall. Such seeming contradictions were just a part of everyday life to us. Only in Chennai.. Only in India.
Although my parents were raised in New York City and were of European heritage, they became Sikhs in New Mexico when I was very young. When I was eleven, I and my brother attended a Sikh boarding school in the foothills of the Himalayas (Mussoorie, UP) along with a large group of similar "white" American Sikhs who were at the school for most of the 1980's.
Some of my most indelible memories are of the looks on the locals' faces as we toured Punjab giving performances of the ancient Sikh sword-fighting style called "gatka". Ironically, since everyone always wanted to show off their English, I learned Punjabi best only when I returned for College at Columbia University!
In 1967, I had been travelling in India and Nepal for a year and a half and found myself in a hotel near Kalighat in Calcutta. I had been very weak and passed out at the kitchen table and was carried to a pedicab and taken to an alleyway and dumped. In the morning, someone pointed me in the direction of the Home for Destitute Dying and I walked in. I told them I was hungry and they went to get some food. Mother Theresa came out and handed me some bread with sweetened condensed milk on it. She then arranged to have me taken to the male group of her order. On the way out of the place, she stopped and said to say a little prayer at an altar on the wall with a Jesus on a cross. I had been raised Jewish, but at that moment, it all dissolved and became one, and I have not had any religious divisions since. After 10 days she rode with me in a cab to the airport and waited there with me until I flew out. A very special time, indeed.
Folks, I'll be honest -- I do not miss India. I was born and raised in India and like many others, came to the US to do my Masters. I fled India because of its corruption, pollution, violence, horrible infrastructure & lack of civic sense. It is a land of extremities that Dickens would find it hard to put in prose. It is nostalgic to see such a wonderful documentary by Mr Wood but realities are different. For me, America is my new home -- it gives me faith in life & humanity, I feel protected here, government works much better than in India and levels of integrity are much higher. I do miss my childhood and simpler days of a simpler post-independence India. I do not recognize the India (& Indians) of today. I feel at home in the US.
Growing up in Pune, India was a true delight. My parents are doctors, working at a government hospital in Pune. I inherited a lot of things from my parents... foremost among them is a wanderlust that runs deep in my veins. An annual ritual in our family was to go trekking to the Himalayas, making a long journey through the plains up to the mountains. We couldn't afford air-travel at the time, so the journey to the mountains involved a train journey to northern India in the sultry summers and then a bus ride. I still remember seeing snow-capped mountains near Manali on the third day of our journey... probably the first time I saw snow in my life. We usually trekked for 10 days and then headed back home with memories of songs sung beside the camp-fires and the spectacular views from 15,000 feet tall mountains.
I hope I get to share this wanderlust with my children some day, and go back to the Himalayas.
I had a chance encounter with a group of Kashmiris in the Ahmadabad train station. In true Indian fashion, they invited me to make the journey home to Srinagar with them. In true backpacker fashion I agreed. We road the train up towards Jammu, passing the new year on the journey. From Jammu, we drove through the hills to Srinagar, snow now covering the ground. It is said that the Kashmir valley is the most beautiful place on earth, and beautiful it was. In Srinagar, I felt a very different vibe. The city surrounding Dal Lake was on edge. Soldiers and army trucks were everywhere, check posts, machine guns,and tension always tangible. I traveled to small villages, where the families I stayed with had never seen a foreigner before. It was wintertime, cold, not as cold as my home in Canada, but without heat, only an hour or so of electricity a day, and mud houses the cold was hard to shake. My wicker fire pot kept me warm, along with the amazing meat dishes and pink salty tea I was served non-stop. I met soldiers, militants, journalists, businessmen, fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. I saw the effects of decades of militancy and military. I saw the beautiful yet thorny crown of India.
My grandfather worked for the british-indian (soon to be indian) embassy in Delhi. He was stationed in Bahrain, Tokyo and in London but the most historic station was when he was sent back to Pondicherry, India for the passing over of the city from the French to the newly formed India, during the time of India's independence.
I have a picture of my grandfather in his victory garb standing with a group of men, including Nehru.
My grandparents both remember the day the French left town.
Just like when the British left Delhi, indians lined the street to watch them leave town... but as opposed to joy when the British left Delhi... in Pondicherry the local people lined the streets weeping and crying. The french had been very good to the local people, adapting to their customs and even marrying locals.
We go back often. The city still has touches of the french about it, and a large franco population but it has now been incorporated into indian culture, just like throughout all of India, a giant melting pot. Its the most peaceful place in the mornings walking along the coast, gazing at the pretty whitewashed houses with blues shutters that hug the winding roads that follow the curve of the sparkling water.
I was born in Delhi but my family moved to the US when I was about 4. For many years I grew like many to become detached from my culture and completely immersed in the popular culture. When I was sixteen I went back to India to visit my family. I slowly started to speak my language more and become more familiar with my surroundings. I was so moved by my environment which was so robust and full of life. My father took me to visit the Taj Mahal for the first time in my life and what happened there really cemented my Indian identity for me. I was standing in the rear of the courtyard looking at my surroundings and I closed my eyes and realised that the sights, sounds, and smell was Indian and that I was Indian. Ever since that day I have a confidence in my Indian identity while being a completely integrated American.
I was born in a place called Zero, Arunachal Pradesh. I like to say I started at zero. My parents fled from Tibet in 1959. My mother was from Toba region and father from Amdo. They had a very difficult time until they settled in Kalimpong-where they raised my 2 brothers, my sister and I. We went to schools in Kalimpong and Mussoorie, so we spent most of our lives in the mountains. Our upbringing was enriched with a combined culture of Nepali, Tibetan, Indian and British origins. I have been in the US for almost 20 yrs but most of my dreams still take place in India. It is the nation that granted amnesty for thousands of Tibetans and the Tibetans in return have become partly Indian. Tibetans cook Indian food, we speak Hindi and other dialects, we love Indian movies and we love the Indian people. My favorite spot in India is probably along the hills of Kalimpong where we can get a full spectrum view of Kachenjunga in the mornings. If the world could get along the way the diverse people of India do, there wouldn't be so many conflicts. I hope to return for an extended period someday, maybe in retirement.
View India with window eyes open to the green landscapes and earthy village life.
Look beyond the dung to understand the form and function.
See the vibrant colors of the market – alabaster cauliflower, amethyst eggplant, golden grapes.
Listen to the stones tell their stories of rajahs and concubines wrapped in sandstone palaces.
Hear the echoes of love reverberating from the inlaid marble in the Taj.
Attune your ears to honking horns and the pipers haunting melody.
Savor the spiciness of dal, the sweetness of honey, the warm pleasure of nan on your tongue.
Taste the tang of citrus, the crunch of peanuts, the creaminess of curd and butter.
Feel the texture of silk and simple cotton, the threads of dhoti and sari.
Stroke the pile of knotted rugs, the softness of pashmina.
Touch the intricate carvings on ancient fort and temple walls.
Respect the vast diversity.
Lose the looking glass of American life.
Lift the blinds to clear the windowpane of introspection.
Excite your senses with the spirit of India!
Technology and poverty sit side by side
on the dusty Indian soil.
Satellite dish rests behind a mud hut
Sharing space with the tethered goat.
Cell phone in ear, a young man strides past
A sari-clad woman washing clothes in metal vessel.
Barefoot children with dark eyes smile
As they sit on the floor of their deskless school.
Motor scooters whiz by rice laid on the street to dry.
A camel pulls a water wagon that will quench the thirst
Of highway construction workers.
Primitive ways prevail as growth presses forward
In a country of contrasts.
I am a Hindu who grew up in Old Delhi in 60s, 70s and 80s and was always surprise to see on Holi (festival of colors) that how come my side of street was full of colors and other side of the road where the Muslim population lived, all walking with white spotless clothes. Also miss all the festivities - which by the way came one too many times in a calendar year, crowded bazaars and the road side khomchas (stalls) with seasonal dishes. Just would like to re-iterate if not already that Hinduism is more of way of life rather than a religion. That is why perhaps in the west, we do not seem to bring up Hinduism when we discuss Christianity, Judaism, Islam.
I went to India over the summer and one thing we did half of the time there was SHOP! Yes, shopping is a big part of India. We sat in the sari shops for hours bargaining and looking at the best prices. I remember sitting there begging my mom to go nut these trips seemed to never end. The sari shops were burning hot and I craved for a cold breeze. But of course none came. My throat was parched and I was starved. If there was a fan I would position my self right in front of it and cherish the air. Sometimes I wished we could just leave. But I must say the saris and lengas they pulled out were gorgeous. Some were bright pink with tiny gems threaded on the bottom. Others were a mix of yellow and orange which had with wide bottoms, so when you twirled, a complete circle was made. My dream dress was found when I spotted a totally white with top part embedded in silver jewels. The bottom was a layered and had silver lacing on the bottom. That was one shopping trip I did enjoy.
The Story of India brought back three years of my childhood spent in the Kargil region of Kashmir. Ponies were our mode of transportation. There was no electricity or telephones. A radio kept us informed of world events. The valleys between the hills beyond the ZoJilla pass were inhabited by diverse ethnic groups, with their own language, customs religions and dress codes going back thousands of years. They are the descendants of Huns, Macedonians, Mongols, etc.., As a kid it felt like ancient Indian history had come alive.
Bangalore, 2001: As I puff up the steep stairs, my son says: ‘It’s worth it, Mom; he’s the best kurta pajama tailor in the whole of South India.’ The stairwell is dark and filthy; dark terracotta stains of paan spit everywhere. I hold my breath but press on to find the tailor in a poorly ventilated boxroom on the third floor. The kurta pajamas are indeed perfect but I cannot escape the stairwell soon enough.
Bangalore, 2003: The same steep stairs to the same tailor but the stairwell wall is gleaming with shiny new tiles. A tiled picture of Ganesh faces a sad long-haired Jesus while a brilliant green tile sports the crescent moon of Islam. There is no trace of paan spit anywhere. ‘It’s a new experiment in public health,’ says my son, ‘no self-respecting Indian will spit on another’s holy images.’
We woke up early to physically experience the Ganges like a local Hindu pilgrim. I started to feel out of place and a bit voyeuristic. Pilgrims were already in the water receiving the ancient blessing of the goddess Ganga. A woman, dressed in full bathing sari, stood in front of us and yelled in Hindi down to another women in the water. "Why are you bathing on the left side.” There was my sign. Women on the right, men on the left. At the final platform a man covered in bright orange fabric, finishing his ritual, was chanting and praying up a storm. Though the currents looked swift the water next to the platform was calm and a bit shallow. I was too tall to get the full immersing effect. Hands overhead with all good intentions I did what resembled a face plant on the surface of the river, forgetting to close my mouth which filled with the chai colored water. On the second dunk I got on my knees and closed my mouth. As I emerged my pilgrim friend stopped his chants with a nod of his head. So I baptized myself in the Ganga, unaware of what India would reveal around that next bend in the river.
What a beautifully done show! Thank you, Michael Wood.
I was born and brought up in Uttar Pradesh, and graduated from Kanpur before leaving for Canada in 1969. Some of the favorite memories include summer vacations with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins in Mathura (birthplace of Lord Krishna) and Bulandshahar. However, the most memorable incident took place when I went back to India for the first visit in 1973. After having just landed in New Delhi, I was in a train to my parents' place in Kanpur. I was tired and hungry, but was reluctant to buy anything at the railway station (you know, hygiene and all). My fellow passenger in the train perhaps recognized that. Soon after the train left the station, he opened his packed lunch, and the first thing he did was to offer it to me. I could have never imagined something like this in Canada. The incident still brings tears to the eyes. There is no doubt that despite the widespread poverty, the people are enormously generous.
I spent the first 18 years of my like in Karachi-Pakistan. I grew up learning about the Indus Valley civilization and Mohenjo-daro and Harappa. As a child I was fascinated with the teachings of Ashoka and the concept of non-violence. I also learnt about the wise Mughal rulers and how society flourished in that time.
I was lucky enough to visit India in 1997 and see the difference and similarities between Pakistani and Indian cultures. Food, cricket and hospitality are 3 things we both value.
I hope both countries have another age of learning and self-reflection ahead of them.
In the 1980s I lived in Nepal as a US Peace Corps volunteer, and made several trips across the border into India for what amounted to a long weekend to nearby places like Varanasi or Darjeeling. Other Western travellers I met in India always had so much stuff - hiking boots, sleeping bags, and giant backpacks packed for months on the road. I had flip-flop sandals, a wool shawl to sleep under, and an overnight bag with a change of clothes and a water bottle.
Travel in India can be very intense, with people rushing everywhere, cars honking, chai wallahs shouting at you, or the occasional leper clawing at your sleeve. One India travel survival trick I discovered was that each train station usually has a little oasis: a canteen or restaurant where one can sit more or less away from it all. Not only were the canteens quiet(er), they offered superb service and great food - delicious, quickly prepared, and inexpensive. Who knew that TRAIN STATIONS could be a fine dining option?! I will always remember that.
In 4/05 I spent 2 incredible weeks touring NW India by car with my friend Sreenivas. Every hour in this sensual country of extremes left me with a memory. Was that really me humming to Punjabi tunes while careening down a bumpy highway crowded by camel carts,bicycles,and honking Tata trucks? Amusing images of scooters whiz by with families of five or regal Sikh couples dressed for a night out. I pass by dung pyramids on endless dusty roads made lively by silken sari rainbows.
I miss the cadence of perfectly spoken English and abundant spirituality, where gods appear on walls,dashboards,and candy wrappers. Each experience was a blessing and I never felt more alive. I had the best butter chicken but loathed butter tea. And who knew eating that intensely flavored food by hand makes it taste even better? One day I awakened to calls to prayer and the next to the sounds of a forest. Did I really see a wild tiger from atop an elephant,have monkeys for neighbors,& get chased indoors by a wandering bull? I wonder if the colorful prayer flags we tied on the mountainside are still waving wishes from Dharamsala? And pics with smiling young admirers at the Taj will never let me forget that in India, this middle-aged woman was a rock star.
Bengali’s biggest celebration Durga Puja performed in one’s own home is quite rare now-a-days, In early 50s, in rural Bengal this was done annually in my grandfather’s home. The whole neighborhood was invited. As a small child I didn’t have any duties as such. I would gleefully scamper in the backyard with my cousins and friends. There was no school and no homework for those few days. I remember listening half asleep, to my grandpa’s voice reading ‘Chadipath’ in the wee hours of the morning. I remember stepping on the soft carpet of dew drenched shiuli flowers under our tree, I remember the sacrificial black goat tethered in the yard, But most of all I remember the luminous face of Goddess Durga, flickering in the dense smoke of my grandpa’s ‘dhunuchi’. I used to stare without blinking lest I miss something. I was sure if I squinted hard I could almost see Her eyelashes flicker. Those days are gone for good. My children and grandchildren will never experience this in their lives.
How can a place like that exist? Once you know it is there, how can you not go look for it? Yet, the more I learn, the less I understand. Can anyone go there, or even start out for it, without being changed by the act? Siddartha, the great Buddha, was born and enlightened there. Rumors whispered across the centuries say The Christ spent his missing years there. It was Christopher Columbus’ unreached goal. It eventually humbled the British Empire. Mark Twain played off it using clever condescensions but did not try to hide his awe . . . or his amusement. Gandhi looked within India and found the conscience of the modern world. The Beatles found Love. India, in its diversity and spectacle, entices every seeker of a response. Perhaps that response is not the answer to the question one brings it. Perhaps the response is yet another question handed back to the questioner. Perhaps it’s all a colorful illusion, without meaning - which is, in its own way, meaningful. I must find out for myself. And now, having made that journey (October 2006), I must go back. I don't know what I will see or experience . . . and that is why I must.
I had been studying abroad in India for nearly a month when I witnessed my first animal sacrifice at a Kali temple in Calcutta. A desperately bleating goat lost its head before my eyes in honor of the Hindu goddess Kali. Though shocked by the scene, I was more surprised by my experiences at another Kali temple later that same day. I approached the second temple cautiously, ready for another sobering scene of carnage. What I actually encountered, though, were smiling faces and the sounds of joyful music. Inside the temple I found a large gathering of Kali devotees sitting on the floor, singing, clapping and playing musical instruments. I sat down and joined in the ceremony for over an hour. Kali, the same goddess who had incited an animal sacrifice at one temple, was now the cause for joyous music and celebration. The contrast was stunning, and my fascination with India has enveloped me ever since. Two years after my study abroad experience, I returned to India to work there for six months and ended up leaving with an Indian fiancé! You never know what India has in store for you.
In 1977-78 I spent a year at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences–India’s population then ~500 million. Steam engines were still on the rails–most now long gone. Those “locos” took me all over India–the Grand Trunk Express, a 72-hr ride, Madras to Delhi; the Ahmedabad Mail, itinerant musicians boarding to entertain & earn a few rupees. Wonderful journeys in 3rd-class rail cars, families share food, make you a part of the family on the spot. Where the trains don’t take you, the buses do – to gleaming white marble Jain temples in Ranakpur; far west to Jaisalmer at the edge of the Thar desert. Far south to Kerala’s back waters - ancient methods of fishing, big nets hovering over water next to coconut palms. A glorious, exasperating, beautiful, astonishing land & people – such diverse customs, food, music, dance. Yrs later 1995-98 I was lucky AGAIN to work with WHO on polio eradication- ~500 million people in 1977, now population ~1 billion. The down: crumbling infrastructure, explosive over-population. The up: new technology–cell phones everywhere-growing middle class, progress for women. Diverse India, you are always in my heart.
I hitchhiked to India in the late 60's and was lucky enough to stay several years. One time, while living near the Kutub Minar outside Delhi, I met seven Jain nuns who were walking from Calcutta to Bombay. They invited me to come along, so I joined them for a few days. We were greeted and cared for by many along the way. However, as our walk would sometimes get tedious, I gave each the task of "playing" a musical instrument. One was the drum, another the clarinet, and so forth. Soon the eight of us were laughing so hard at our air band, as we oompah-ed down the road.
I was born to Muslim Indian expatriates in Saudi Arabia and grew up spending my summers in small towns called Sitapur, Kakori and city of Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. Belonging to devout Muslims of Avadh, I cherish the rich heritage of my ancestors and frequently visit with my husband and kids. My last visit was summer of 2008 and despite the boom in economy and cultural revolution, the traditions, mannerism, friendliness and humility is still there and I wish to see it sustained. Our fondest memory is of visiting the renovated Fort in Jahangirabad 70 miles off of Lucknow which was bought by a local Californian and renovated to its original design and is now an institute of learning for the minorities. Shows how compassion, education and learning is embedded in every Indian even if they live oceans apart. Thank you for your wonderful program.
I am a 30 year old first generation ABCD (American Born Confused Desi). I have been to India to visit my father's side of the family 5 times.Its definitely a rich and passionate country in every aspect. I love to go and crave to go back when I am back home in CA. The flip side of India is disheartening and very real. When the population is so high, how do you keep a reasonable grip crime? My father was raised in Delhi. He was only 11 when his favorite sister just never came home from school one day. She was 16 years old. She was very family oriented and loved by all. The police did nothing, which is often the case. Apparently this wasn't uncommon or a priority then. They never heard from her again. I learned of this from my mother when I was 18. At age 61, he is still feels the hole in his life. I don't think he knows that I know. I secretly find him online searching on the internet for her every now and again, just hoping that maybe she is alive.
India shines from all its radiant spirit, yet its demons are just as dark.
There was once a beautiful dream; a dream that was Pakistan. This was such a powerful dream that it estranged families. My grandfather believed in that dream of Pakistan but his elder brother the famous muslim philosopher Abdul Bari believed in a united India. They argued and never spoke again. Even though they lived in the same haveli, they never spoke. My grandfather kept to his side and his brother to his. The only communication between the two was through the wives and children of the two brothers.By the time partition came round both my grandfather and his elder brother were dead. However the pull that dream of Pakistan was powerful even in my grandmother, so powerful that even as a recent widow and despite reassurances from the children of her brother in law that they would take care of her, she took her children the eldest of whom was 19 and the youngest 1 at the time and migrated to Pakistan.
I lament now at what has become of my country, the depths to which it has sunk to. A land where a mafia don is now president.I am inclined to agree with my uncle when he said that Pakistan; the Pakistan of our dreams died in '71.
I went to India in early 1970. I had 25 dollars when I crossed the border. I was with 2 friends. We were definitely part of the hippie wave, though our spiritual quest was probably much stronger than the lure of hashish. Of the six months there, I lived for 3 months in the foothills of Rajasthan with Swamiji Hare-Puri and other Naga babas. My life was changed forever. 14 years later, my daughter, Ananda, was born. And 16 years after that, I returned to visit her. She was an exchange student, living in Mumbai for her Senior year in high school. I was surprised when she chose India. Actually, we all know India chose her!!! That trip further deepened my love for India and connected and reconnected me to my past and future. Next year, in February, for my 60th birthday, I will return for the Kumbh Mela in Hardwar and bathe, once again, in Ganga mal. The smells of chai and chapatis cooking. The sadhus and movie executives. The second class sleeper is the only way to travel. Bidis, pan, marigold garlands, the monsoon season. The people. Every one of them. The smiles. The love. The spirit. These are only some of the reasons I love India.
The summer monsoons with flooded streets, the Holi with water canons and irremovable water colors, the Diwali with new clothes, fire crackers and sweets, the marriages with dance and late nights, the cricket and tennis ball, the winters with warm milk and short days and long nights, the summers with mangoes and watermelons and long vacations, the fiat cars and maruti 800's, the power cuts and hide and seek, the first crush, the evening tandoor with makki ki roti, the Republic day and the morning parade, the 8 AM sunday cartoons, the 10AM Ramayan and Mahabhrat episodes, the 15th August and kite flying ... yes, that is my India, and I will forever be indebted to the country that gave me the childhood that others can only dream. I guess, I still dream in India...
I was born in a small town called Kothamangalam in Ernakulam District of Kerala state. I was educated in different parts of India, namely Delhi, Bombay and of cause in Kerala and had traveled in most of the states in India. But, the documentary has given me much more than I could see and feel of my country of all through these years. It's richness in it's poverty, it's clarity in it's confusion, cohesiveness in its diversity. I feel more an Indian beyond my color, religion & language. It could give me a glance to it’s marvelous story than what is perceived by the average world
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan in the late 1970's, I had the opportunity to travel to India for vacations. My most vivid memory involves Fathepur Sikri, the abandoned Moghul city, not far from Agra. I wandered around the buildings and found myself standing on a life sized parcheesi board. I don't remember if I read it or there was a guide telling us about it but the emperor used women from the harem as game pieces. For the very first time in my life I was simply overwhelmed by the depth of history and by the fact that this ancient testimony to the past was beneath my feet. From that point on in my life, I developed a love of history that all my years of schooling had never been able to impart.