By Kehkashan Dadwani, MPIA ’14
Prior to leaving for India, I had a few reservations about what to expect after I landed in a country my grandparents had called their own prior to 1947. Due to my Pakistani birth, I had issues acquiring a visa even though I’m a US citizen. Furthermore, I heard nothing but warnings from my family and friends.
When I boarded my flight, I expected everything that could possibly go wrong to go wrong. To my surprise, my travels to India couldn’t have been better. But, would one great experience convince me to relocate to India in the future? I’m still letting the thought marinate.
Being able to speak Hindi and look like a native was my golden ticket for getting around in New Delhi without a hassle. If I did ever make the decision to move to India, the transition would be smooth in that regard. Most of my Indian counterparts speak English and dress in Western wear. Having an affinity for Indian foods – and the scorching spices that made everyone else sweat while in India – also helps. Did I mention I could now put down “expert haggler” on my resume as well?
One of my biggest concerns about India was being accepted due to my heritage. It is no secret that Indians and Pakistanis are quite hostile towards each other, even if it’s just playing a “friendly” game of cricket. However, I was welcomed into the country with open arms. Most locals I met were far friendlier than those I encountered at the embassy in Houston, and were delighted to have a Pakistani American in their country.
Well, this place just sounds fantastic for me, why wouldn’t I want to live there? Having lived in the US for over 14 years, I realize we sometimes forget we take certain things for granted. For example, as Americans we’re always complaining about one thing or another: it’s too hot, it’s too cold, the streets are too dirty, people can’t drive and it can go on and on. Well, let’s have a rundown of India. Most housing doesn’t come with central heating (hooray for being in India over winter break), the streets are always dirty, smog covers the city by 2 p.m., and if you think Americans are bad drivers, then au contraire! Traffic lanes and traffic signals are only a mild suggestion in India. Beyond first world issues, inequality of women and the caste system certainly keeps me from wanting to relocate to India.
Being in India with my peers, Dr. Kishore Gawande and Dr. Nirmal Goswami was an experience I wouldn’t have been able to encounter on my own. Having the opportunity to visit Indian slums, meet with ranking Indian officials, and attend a small Bollywood film premiere set up for professionals only enhanced my international experience, which added to my personal and professional growth. India is a beautiful country that, while paradoxical, I’d rather enter as a visitor than a resident.