The first time I stepped foot in India was just about two years ago, when I came to begin a summer research programme in Bangalore. As soon as I finally made it out of the mess of people inside, the automatic doors opened, letting in both a wall of heat and the acoustics of what to my surprise was even more people frantically waiting outside for those of us who were exiting.
Strangely enough, this sea of family embraces transported me across the world to my own home in Mexico, to the point where I could have sworn that my own giant, loud and loving family would be waiting for me; little did I know that two years later, after being “hooked”, India would indeed be my new home, where I would be living full-time after college, working in bustling Mumbai.
To be honest, my contact with Indian culture truly began two years before that moment, when I arrived at college and met my new roommate (and now pretty much my brother) who happened to be from Mumbai. Sitting down with him and exchanging stories from our hectic graduation summers, I had no idea how great of friends we would become, and how big of a role he would play in “Indianizing” me. After watching many a Bollywood film together, and salivating at the thought of our spicy home foods, he convinced me to take some supplemental Hindi classes, and before I knew it, I was on the other side of the world stepping foot in Bangalore two years later.
I can’t express how much I learned during that summer, and keep on learning with every new day in Mumbai in the present. Sure I learned a great deal of science, but I learned so much more about the value of friendship, solidarity and warmth that makes India so much like home. My lab mates (as culturally diverse as India itself) became some of my best friends; one of them even became my climbing partner as we scaled the mountains from the countryside of Ramanagram, where the ever-famous Sholay was filmed. More importantly, I was able to travel across the country, staying with local friends along the way, getting to know even more of this beautiful country. During a two week trip across India I got a taste of India’s diversity as I went from seeing the pristine green beauty of a monsoon-enveloped Maharashtrian countryside with my roommate from college and his family, to staying in Lucknow and enjoying the warm company of my climbing partner’s family.
The summer was an amazing taste of the endless variety India has to offer, but the story of what my friends like to call the random Mexican in India changes with every new day in Mumbai. Be it the chance of plunging into Juhu beach for a Ganesh visarjan with my roommate’s family, the chance of attending events such as THiNK through work where excitement for a new, better India comes to life and breathes in the air, or simply the chance of improve my haggling skills in Hindi by getting in a weekly “heated” debt with some taxiwalla, India has offered a new world in every direction I look; a new world that has become another home.