I was in Madagascar in 2006 while my sister traveled to India. I felt happy knowing she was enjoying her life in India. Prior to 2006, my sister and I had a bad relationship, but we became friends that year. I was in Africa, and she was in India. We had contact for awhile but lost connection. Even so, I felt like I could imagine how she lived during the time we lost contact.
We weren't very close growing up. However, time had changed us and we had become the best of friends. There was not one strand of information that we did not tell each other. We fully shared about ourselves and our lives. My sister traveled to India often and invited me to doing a non-profit training program in India. I really wanted this to happen.
I had to travel to Lonavla which was near Mumbai. A few days before I came to India, my sister had a change of heart two days before I departed for India. She decided that she wanted to go and serve in Mother Teresa's home which was in Kolkata. I arrived in Lonavla while my sister went to work in Kolkata.
Indian culture was a very difficult one to adjust to. The first thing I noticed was it was a highly male dominated society. It was dangerous for females to walk about without a guy present as an escort -- especially in the evening and night time. I had to wear Indian clothes and eat Indian food. It was amazing to see how the men would order women around, and they did exactly what they were told.
Eating Indian food was tasty but not when I only had low cost options. I had to eat watery daal and rice every day which I actually hated. I had to work very hard to fit into Indian culture, and it was not a walk in the park. I started to learn how to give up what I thought were basic rights.
I understood that all my life I had been thankless to all the facilities and privilege available to me in the past. Small things like toilet paper, running water or the security to roam around alone at night were things I took for granted. I never knew I was so spoiled before I came to India.
I had to share everything in India. I had to share a small room with many people; I had to share my food and sometimes my money, too. Everything I had was shared, and I actually kind of loved it. This is the year I really learned how to live in a community. I traveled all across the country and was amazed to see the cultural differences between Northern and Southern India. My favorite food became idli and dosa.
During the year I was learning all of this, my sister had moved up north to Dharamsala when I lost contact with her. I finally made contact with her, and I got to know that she was living in a Tibetan colony where she had fallen in love with working with Tibetan refugees. I went to see her and was amazed to see the view of her home which was just next to the Great Himalayas. I met her and the man whom she fell in love with. He later became my brother-in-law. A new chapter of our family would start from there.