Kids Corner

Travel

Worlds Apart

GITIKA KAUR BAJAJ, 14

 

 

 

 



I have visited Punjab and India six times since I was two. For months at a time. To visit my Naana and Naani (maternal grandparents).

They live in a large house in Vasant Vihar, an affluent colony in South Delhi. Both my uncles, one of whom is married and has two children, live with them, making it a ‘joint family’, a living arrangement not uncommon on the subcontinent.

I don’t remember much of my first visit except that I had my second birthday party there and was covered in mosquito bites which grew so large that my worried mother rushed me to a nursing home.

However, as I got older and became more aware of my surroundings I saw a greater difference between the two countries -- my birthplace and home, Canada, and the land my parents left behind to make Canada their new home.

Since most of our visits were around a special occasion or event, my mother would often leave me at my grandparents’ home when she went out, because I was very young. Also, due to the summer heat and blazing sun in Delhi. I realized that being young and from Canada, I was protected from the real sights of India … the street vendors, the crowds, the beggars, etc.

Since I came from an affluent family, I could afford to spend the majority of my days in an air-conditioned room with 2 didis (maids) who were at my beck and call. Anything I desired was brought to me in my room -- from my food, to my drinks, to my entertainment. I did not have to leave the air-conditioned room at all.

Thus, since there was even no opportunity for me to enter the humid hallways because of the lizards and bugs that frightened me, I was treated like a princess since I was the first grandchild of the family.

At night, once it was cool enough, I would be taken out to a reputed restaurant (usually found in 5-star hotels). This is because I was not acclimatized to India’s weather or food, which caused me to become terribly ill many a time.

Once my didi (maid) let me rinse my mouth after brushing my teeth with tap water which resulted in my throwing up continuously. After falling sick almost every time I visited people, I got paranoid and took many precautions to make sure I did not fall sick.

Even though I feel as if I was kept in a controlled environment, I did get to see some of India’s sights. I was able to visit Ludhiana, Una Sahib, Chandigarh and, of course, the Darbar Sahib (Golden Temple) in Amritsar.

Each trip showed me a different but very important side to India, different than what I was used to seeing. It made India and my own country, Canada, seem like polar opposites.

There were many things that I saw on my trips that seemed so peculiar to me. Such as the multi-shaped water tanks atop village and town homes in Punjab. The outlandish configurations ranged from an air plane to a soccer ball!

Other things that fascinated me: the train staff on our trip to the Golden Temple;  how you had to negotiate and bargain over prices in markets; the behaviour of people in authority, like police officers, security guards, etc.; the corruption everywhere; and, of course, the all-pervasive poverty.

The first time I saw the state of the poor up close was at the very outset, when we were on our way from the airport to our house in South Delhi. There were groups of children shaking our taxi for money or something to eat. It was shocking to see so many children younger than me begging for their necessities. 

There are many differences between India and Canada. India, though politically very young, is an old land; while Canada is relatively new.

India is still a developing third-world country, despite its affluent minority; Canada is a first-world country. There are glaring differences in rights, freedoms and equality. There is the vast gap in health care. And another huge difference is that while Canada, the second largest country in the world area-wise, has a much smaller population, India is grossly over-populated, soon to become the world‘s most populated country.

Growing up and living in Canada has enabled me to see India in a different light from what it projects itself to be to the world.



August 8, 2015
 

Conversation about this article

1: Simrat Singh (London, United Kingdom), August 08, 2015, 12:35 PM.

The photos -- echoing the article -- remind me of the tale of 'The 12 Blind Men & The Elephant'. A parable that captures India like nothing else does. Good article, Gitika!

2: Baldev Singh (Bradford, United Kingdom), August 09, 2015, 5:38 PM.

Every citizen of the world should be demanding that India get its population down to a level which is reasonable and sustainable. Currently, it's like a runaway train ...

3: Harsaran Singh (Indonesia), August 11, 2015, 8:02 AM.

Dear Gitika: As the title mentions, you are 14 years old, that makes you the same age as my daughter. First, I would like to congratulate you for your well-written article. Although it is nice to know that you have been coming to Punjab and India often and staying in one of the affluent parts of the capital, it makes me feel sad for the reasons of your trips going bad. I think you will agree that girls and boys of your age need to be mentally and physically tough to face the challenges of life. Youngsters with Jewish ancestry around the world have been travelling to Israel during their school breaks so that they can have a feel of how their forefathers lived in the arid deserts of Tirat Zvi and Beit She'an valley where temperature goes up to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. These kids are also born and brought up in America, but then their love for their faith gets them to feel their roots in these hostile conditions. My point is that let us look at Punjab and the subcontinent as the place which gave birth to our faith, the same faith which gave me my name, Singh, and yours a Kaur. Our father Guru Gobind Singh was not even born in Punjab, but in one of the most populated and lawless states of the land called Bihar. Talking of Punjab I think you must have read that because of air pollution in Amritsar the gold covering of Harmandar Sahib will need to be changed every 10 years instead of 50 years. Should that stop us from visiting our spiritual birthplace? Do not let the crowds, the beggars, the noise or in your case polluted tap water be an excuse to stop visiting your ancestral homeland, because our roots are there. Our identity lies in the place of our origin where we can feel the teachings and retrace the steps of our Gurus. The same Gurus who sacrificed all they had for this thankless land now called India. But then, we have been taught the meaning of Nirbhau and Nirvair, haven't we?

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