Indian-ish

It has been a little over three weeks since arriving in Delhi. Each week has been a new adventure with new experiences. Sylvia and I have really come to enjoy spending time with our host family and exploring different places in Gurgaon. It’s definitely starting to feel like a home. One aspect of living in a close-knit community is that we stand out so much from everyone else. On our walks back from the nearby gym to our house, we find ourselves being stared at from almost everyone on the street. As someone who is half-Indian and born and raised in the U.S., I have for the first time felt conflicted about my identity.

Though I am much more immersed in American culture than Indian culture at home, I still have so much pride in my Indian heritage. I enjoy listening to my grandparents stories of their time in India and their religious practices, as well as eating traditional food made by my nana (mild of course). Upon hearing about the opportunity to work in India, I felt really compelled to apply and have the chance to spend an extended amount of time experiencing first hand the culture I had been hearing about all these years.

I feel very connected to India through familial ties, while also feeling very detached as a visitor. Since my arrival, I have seen family members for what seemed like the first time and friends of my grandparents who welcomed me into their family right away. In these moments, I am comfortable and India suddenly becomes familiar to me. When I go into Delhi to shop and sightsee, though, I feel as if any tourist would; overwhelmed by the crowds and struggling to communicate. It is strange to have a place that is so imbedded in my family’s life be so foreign to me.

As I have settled in, I feel less conflicted and have embraced the dichotomy of my identity. The other day, I was waiting in line, and an older woman came up to me and spoke fluent hindi asking me for help with something (still not sure what she needed). I was kind of shocked by her mistaking me for a local, but I then realized it was probably because I was wearing a kurta instead of western clothes. I smiled to myself thinking, finally I look Indian! Now, as I reflect back on my transition into India, I look forward to more new experiences to come. I look forward to the new projects at work and going to the local schools. I look forward to traveling to my father’s hometown. I look forward to spending more time with family and friends. Most of all, I look forward to each day feeling more immersed in my culture than the day before!

Lodhi Gardens

Trip to Agra

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About JulietKohli

Hello, my name is Juliet Kohli! I am from Montclair, New Jersey and I am a rising senior in the Health and Societies major. This summer, I am working with the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) in Gurgaon, India. I am very interested in studying and working in maternal and child health. Aside from my academic/professional endeavors, I run division I Cross Country and Track and Field for UPenn. I also enjoy traveling, spending time with family and friends. I am very excited for a summer filled with adventure, learning, and new experiences!