In the September 2009 issue of India Currents (Desi By Marriage), I detailed my wish to be part of my husband’s family. I am American—a Midwestern gal from Missouri—and he’s Indian—Telugu brought up in Chhattisgarh. For twelve years I have been building my life around the family and educational values which Indian culture promotes. I’ve also been a happy vegetarian and an avid learner of cooking, religion, and common desi quirks. These are some of the topics I explore in essays written for this magazine.
My husband and I hoped one day his family would agree to an Indian wedding. Our open communication and patient negotiations proved successful; in December we’ll be married in India with the blessings of his family.
It’s going to be the biggest adventure of my life and I need your help! Think of the first time you flew to the other side of the planet. You probably have a favorite story about your first days on a new continent. Maybe you weren’t sure how to use a shower curtain, or drive a car. Those days were about learning and you hold them dearly; glad to have had those experiences.
I conquered my fear of yogurt rice and I’ve perfected the art of bindi-wearing but can I fly on a plane for 18 hours and ride in an auto through the streets of Bangalore? The longest flight I’ve ever taken was four hours long!
Chicago’s traffic is notorious but I’m not sure it can prepare me for the world of Indian transportation!
No matter how many years you spend studying a culture, nothing can prepare you for the actual experience of living and breathing within it. I feel like a kid on her first day of school; excited, nervous—ready to make new friends, eager to please my teacher.
My husband and I will travel to Bangalore to meet his family and have a traditional wedding. He has a large family with brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews, and a grandmother!
I can’t believe an entire year has flown by since I started penning my adventures in desi-land for India Currents. There’s a thrill in seeking the connections between cultures. As humans we naturally desire knowledge and understanding. Your comments and encouragement fill my heart. They remind me that connections are the most important part of our lives. I will be keeping a journal and photo diary of my trip. Next year I’ll be back to share all I’ve learned.
Here’s how you can help: I know the basics—like only drink bottled water and get my vaccinations—but your expertise within the following categories will make my trip safer and saner.
If you see a question for which you have advice or if you’d like to share a short blurb about an experience you had travelling for the first time to either India or America please send it to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Because some advice is dependent upon on region and customs I’ll let you know we will be primarily in Bangalore and Andhra Pradesh.
Be safe and keep reading!
Editor’s note: Readers, we’ll consider some of the best responses for our Letters page.
The Goods: What to Pack
· What medicines should I pack which may not be available in India?
· Any certain types of clothing?
· Are there any items which are common in America which people in India love, i.e. microwave popcorn?
· What type of gifts do we bring to family members? For ladies? For men? For kids?
Plane and Simple: How to be Comfortable on the Long Flight
· What should I keep in my carry-on bag?
· Do airlines serve good vegetarian food or should I pack some?
· Tips for maximum comfort in a confined space.
Ports of Call: A Guide to International Airports
· Best ways to spend a lay-over in an airport?
· Advice for smoothly getting in and out of airports: documentation, etc.
· Tips on Duty-Free shopping.
· Ways to overcome jet lag.
First Impressions: Culture Shock: Mental and Physical
· Common remedies for common ailments: tummy aches, bug bites, etc.
· Greeting family members for the first time.
Travel Within India: Planes, Trains, and Temples
· Tips for taking train journeys.
· Tips for air travel within India.
· Temples and places to visit on day trips in and around Bangalore.
The Indian Wedding: Let’s Get Married!
· Any general advice for a bride getting married in South India.
The Road Home: Travelling Back to America
· What items should I bring back from India?
· Is the trip back more exhausting?
Cristina Chopalli’s blog can be found at http://www.cristinachopalli.com.