I have recently come back from my first trip to India where I was adopted from over 34 years ago and then moved to Kenya shortly afterwards where I grew up. It was a surreal and also whirlwind experience, mainly as my sister was getting married so it was full on with wedding events, also my family (including extended family) were all going to be there and together for the first time in over 16 years.
I had great intentions of documenting more of my trip and sharing it on Instagram, which is my favourite social media platform, but the intermittent Wi-Fi connection (which I learned later was due to it being overloaded with the amount of us staying in the same hotel) and overall busyness of the trip made it hard. At first I got frustrated, also I had wanted to do some work while I was there, but then I relaxed into it and it was actually perfect. I took a total social media break – no Facebook for almost 2 weeks (!). So I really got to experience everything, including the wedding celebrations without seeing it through a lens.
A few small things, from noticing the cultural differences as well as other observations, stuck with me and made me look at my own life and how I can make more of it.
1. There is a great sense of family and community My family is quite disconnected, we all live in different parts of the world and those of us that live in the same place don’t see each other that often either. Whereas in India, many of the family members still live together and do a lot together as a family and in the community. Having all my family together in India, whilst difficult at times, was also extremely comforting. Even if your friends are your family, it’s so important to spend time together in person and not just rely on our modern technology ways of communicating.
2. I have so much to be grateful for It’s so easy to take for granted how much I have living in the UK with everything so accessible, services that work, clean streets etc. I have always been aware of the poverty in this world, growing up in Kenya, and being made aware from a young age. But you get accustomed to your western bubble and forget – or it fades to the back of your mind. Being in India was a sharp reminder of how privileged I am and how much I have to be grateful for every second of the day, especially when it comes to the things you don’t even think about such as clean running water and a roof over your head.
3. I felt connected to something for the first time in a long time This is still settling within me, but I felt so at home in India. I felt totally relaxed and at ease (after my initial culture shock wore off). For years I have almost rejected Indian culture and whenever I was asked if I was Indian I would adamantly say I’m not, as I had been adopted into a western family and life from birth. But, I felt compassion for, and connection with the country and people – which is something that surprised me. I embraced the culture and customs, and loved the colours, music, dancing and other traditions. Feeling a part of something was fulfilling and something quite new to me. I have felt confused about my identity for a lot of my life, only recently feeling more comfortable about just being me and not having to define myself. But being in India helped add a layer to this and made me feel even calmer about who I am today. I can see the importance of finding out more about your heritage and background now and why family and friends often encouraged me to in the past.
Here are some of my initial thoughts I wrote when I was there:
“I’m back in India for the first time since being adopted. It has been different from what I was expecting, I guess mainly in the way that it has taken me a while to settle in and adjust to the sights, smells, sounds etc. It’s quite a contrast to the London bubble I live in. I love it here though now, I feel happy, comfortable, peaceful. I love having the hot sun on my skin, finally warmth to my bones.
There’s a lot that’s wonderful and beautiful about this place, even the culture and traditions, which are also so far removed from what I am used to. I am truly blessed and thankful to be here. Thankful for everything I’ve had and have in my life – the opportunities, the privileges, the experiences.
I feel proud to be Indian for the first time in my life, having rejected that part of me for so long as it wasn’t the identity I grew up with.
I long to explore more, to immerse myself in this intoxicating place.”
Thank you for allowing me to share.