by Priya Chhaya
When I was younger there were three things that I feared when my parents told us we were taking a family trip to India. The lack of American/European toilets (something that has mostly ceased to be a problem), spending time with cousins I barely knew, and consequently wasn’t sure I liked, and the rain.
Over the years, the first has become less of a problem, and the third is easily avoided by going to India during the non-monsoon season. Getting to know my cousins is another ball game.
This past month I traveled to India for three weeks. Why?
1) My grandmother turned 80
2 )Wedding shopping (my sister is getting married in May)
3) Vacation time—I finally got out of Mumbai and got to spend some time in Goa
It’s been about three years since I’ve seen most of my cousins face to face (two or three of them have managed to visit the U.S. for the first time in the interim), and this past visit made me realize the value of a particular tool in strengthening our relationship and making it easier to communicate across oceans and continents.
Of course, age does have something to do with it. When you’re a teenager, you are loathe to enjoy a trip that takes you away from the typical American summer activities, and meeting family doesn’t seem like an awesome way to spend your time. But as we’ve grown up—we’re all adults now—we’ve come to realize that we have a lot more in common besides blood. Enter everyone’s favorite social media site.
In previous years, we’d arrive as almost-strangers—scrambling to be filled in on what had happened in the intervening years, trying to find that comfort you feel with close family—something usually achieved right as we head back to the airport. Now, thanks to Facebook, we come in knowing that one cousin has been working on a purse design business, and that another went on a trip to Ladakh, and that another cousin and his wife redecorated their new place in Pune. In a way, Facebook has replaced those single sheet, blue airmail letters that we grew up watching our mothers and fathers send back and forth, and phone calls can now actually be filled with a conversation instead of awkward filler. Facebook is even going to let me get to know my cousin’s future husband despite not being able to go back to India for the wedding.
And that is why I think this trip was so successful—from the 21-person field trip to Khandala, a hill station just outside of Mumbai, to the excursions to shops all over the city—the trip was filled with camaraderie and a more familial repartee… and the best part of all, memories with family members that I love.
For more information on my visit to India visit thisiswhatcomesnext.wordpress.com.