I looked up to the sky with eyes full of wonder and a heart pulsating with newfound joy. My long hair danced around my head as the wind caressed my skin. My golden skin shone almost as brightly as the beaming sun on that afternoon. I found home- Kerala, India.
America has been my home for all of my life; however, we have an interesting relationship. You see, her large flag bears beautiful colors of red, white, and blue, with a meaning of independence and democracy in every wave. Parades and marching bands with vibrant face paint and gigantic floats are her celebrations. I’ve always appreciated her culture and her powerful presence. However, I never felt like I belonged. Being the only Indian kid in my elementary school always had me wondering if it was me that was the odd one out. I never quite understood why classmates would ask me, if I stayed out in the sun too long or if I was wearing a long-haired wig, to school. I then realized I must’ve been the first brown person they’ve interacted with. I felt very disconnected from my Indian culture and instead covered up my urge to belong with self-deprecating jokes and refusal to further my knowledge of Indian culture. I had a very proud family though. My grand-mother, mother and uncle were born in Kerala and my Grandpa was born in Chennai. I’ve always longed to explore these places that are so deeply rooted in my genetics yet, I couldn’t muster up the courage to tell anyone.
Once I reached high school I realized my culture is a huge part of who I am and that I should start to take it more seriously. If I didn’t feel at home in America and didn’t connect to my heritage, then what did I have to relate to? Then, my mom suggested a trip to Kottayam, her hometown. As I packed my bags for the trip, a wave of nerves consumed me. “What if they thought I was too American... can’t even speak a word in any Indian language , What if they’ll laugh when they hear my American accent...” These “what ifs” are what frightened me to my core. I was afraid that if I wasn’t accepted for who I was here, and was rejected in India too, where would I belong?
When my feet touched the hot stone on the streets of India, I felt excitement wash over me. Suddenly my fear of rejection faded when I was surrounded by hundreds of people who looked just like me. This was foreign from my prior experiences. I was used to looking around at crowds of people of different colors, hair types, and mannerisms. Now, it all felt so familiar. People would lungforward to hold open a closing door for you, they would give you directions if you just looked lost, they’d even be willing to share their lunch with you if youare hungry! Their mentalities were so... compassionate. I had never seen that same level of love and compassion for complete strangers in my hometown, New York City. Even making prolonged eye contact with strangers in New York City was unwelcomed. The sudden switch from one lifestyle to another really opened up my eyes.
One afternoon during our trip, we went to the beach Feeling the warm air on my skin ,I looked up into the orange colors in the sky and a long pole carrying a Tri- color Flag . Then,seeing my curiosity my Dad explained the significance of the Indian flag ,Suddenly feelings of comfort, joy, and safety, all filled my mind. I had never experienced such emotion back in America. In those moments,I realized that India had always been my home. Her doors were wide open, just waiting for me to walk through them. Her orange, green, and white flag swayed gently and patiently awaiting my attention. Her ‘saffron’ color represents her courage and strength, ‘white’ symbolizing her honesty and peace, then ‘green’ displaying her desire to never stop growing. Her colors are more than what meets the eye. And the Ashok Chakra in the middle of the flag with its 24 spokes,represent 24 ‘Rishis’in the Himalayas from Vishwamithra to Yagnavalkya. It is also known as ‘Samaya chakra’,24 spokes symbolizing ’24 Hours’, the Time’
When I was trying to grasp the deep meaning of the flag, she gently swayed, welcomed me warmly and fully accepted me for who I was. No questions asked, she welcomed me into her home with open arms.
I enjoyed our stay in my ancestral place in Kerala . Kerala, known as ‘God’s own country’ is literally a Tourist’s paradiseand I enjoyed every single moment of my brief stay visiting places, getting a glimpse of the fantastic Kathakali,mohiniyattam, listening to the unfamiliar’ Chenda’melam in a temple festival and the spectacularsight of caparisoned elephants ,standing in perfect discipline ,in spite of the deafening Chenda.
Everything about Kerala is refreshingly different – her scenic beauty with emerald- green paddy fields ,backwaters ,her people of different, religious faiths with their worship places, presenting architectural marvels of temples, churches, mosques and even synagogues, Carnatic and the Hindustani music , different forms of Dances ,BharathaNatyaam, KuchipudiKathakali and Kathak, ,the mouthwatering Malayali cuisine – are only some of the many attractions beckoning me .
Knowing that I felt at homewas really meaningful to me. I know I can always visit India and that I should never feel truly alone because she will always be there to comfort me when I need her most
Additionally, I have gained a newfound love for America. While America is different from me, she shows me that a person’s vibrancy can be loud, proud, and beautiful. Here, I’ve learned to come out of my shell. She has taught me to speak fearlessly as a person of color and to never hesitate to take initiative despite being the odd one out. My initial perception of America has most definitely transformed into a magnificent appreciation of what she has given me and more. I will never forget my cultural roots nor my place of upbringing and will be grateful
You know, India was once under the British rule. But she fought the mighty British with the twin weapons of Gandhiji Non-violence and Satyagraha and won her freedom on August 15,1947
January 26th is celebratedas India’s Republic day to commemorate India’s Constitution coming into effect on Jan26 1950.
It is a national holiday celebrated throughout India with great fanfare .. The Flag- hoisting ,great speeches, the spectacular parade of the - the Army,Navy and the Air Force, paramilitary and the Police display our strength and patriotism .The beautiful tableaux represent the culture of various States show unity in diversity and our Federal Constitution .
I know this year’s Republic day celebration is less exciting due to the pandemic resulting in the absence of the Chief-guest ,the Prime minister of UK and also due to the farmer’s strike.
Still ,January 26 is a very special day to all her people, including me
Gratitude fills my heart with the knowledge that India will have her doors wide open and will be a symbol of home for me wherever I am
So, I will enthusiastically be watching the celebrations that will take place from my computer in America.Though far away from Delhi, mentally, I will be there, cheering and waving her flag as proudly as any other exultant Indian would .I urge you too ,to celebrate Republic Day within the confines of your own homes, no matter wherever that may be!
ASHA KRISHNA is a 12th grader at LAGUARDIA HIGH SCHOOL
A brilliant student with an overall average of 97 percent, she is a student representative for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society and serves at the Mental Health Advocacy at the school. She established the IMPACT Club which raises funds for the school.
She plays trumpet for the last 9 years and she is an avid piano player. She is also classically trained for JAZZ. When she wsa 11, she performed at Carnegie Hall
She has been learning how to crochet from her grandmother, who is a Guinness Book Record holder.