The first few days of the trip were rough. I remember feeling frustrated, angry for much of it. I had great expectations of what this trip would do for me.
Growing up whenever I was bad at something or when I realized I wasn’t gong to be tall (which I took as a great disappointment) I always blamed it on the fact that I was out of my “element”. I thought, “hey, this isn’t fair. I have to be doing the same things as all these other people who are the same, but I am not the same. I would do better in India”. I believed that all of my shortcomings were a result of not being in India. I felt that if I only could go back to India I would truly be able to be myself. I would be around people who looked like me. Maybe I would even remember the language; people always told me that I would probably pick it up quickly since I had been there as a child. The more I blamed my insecurities on being in the US the easier it was for me to feel like I was being constrained by living in the US. I felt like I would be able to accomplish great things once I returned to India.
Returning to India was not what I had expected. I felt awkward and out-of-place. I felt like an impostor. The people in the streets were not like me. Their skin looked different. I didn’t belong here. Nothing came back to me. I couldn’t understand what people were saying to me. They expected me to understand. People wanted me to know their gods, to follow their customs, but I didn’t. I knew nothing. I could barely stomach the food and the sweets sickened me. I clearly did not belong in this place.
I had come here because my parents had given us this trip for our christmas present. I came here to feel normal. I came to India because I felt I stuckout in the US. Not glaringly, but I felt I was different from everyone else. I thought that difference was because I was adopted, because I was in a place that I wasn’t totally cut out for. Returning to India would erase that difference. I would no longer stick out. I would be like everyone else, not special, just another face in the crowd.
Arriving in India, I immediately felt out-of-place. My discomfort overwhelmed me, not just physical discomfort either. People knew I was different. They thought I was Indian, but knew, presumably by my dress, that I was not like them. I didn’t blend it, I still felt like I couldn’t escape unwanted attention. It hurt me to realize this. I had thought this trip would change my feelings. I thought it would make me feel more comfortable, like I belonged somewhere. Rejection. India was rejecting me because I was a phony. I was a phony American and now I was a phony Indian.
These thoughts tore into me during my first few days of the trip. I couldn’t shake them as they felt reaffirmed everywhere we visited.
The first few days of the trip we walked around Bangalore. We visited temples and gawked at the emaciated, seemingly stray, cows wandering the dusty city streets. My eyes began to become bloodshot and I developed a cough from all the particulate matter from car exhaust, dust and whatever industry defined Bangalore’s prosperity.
Our trip would take us further into the south center of India, slowly making our way to the city where I lived, in a small orphanage overseen by a group of Catholic nuns. Reaching the orphanage, personally witnessing my direct connection to India had a profound effect on changing my feelings of rejection. Visiting the orphanage forced me to acknowledge that I did, in fact, have a connection to India.