I grew up in a conservative Christian, middle-class Republican family from the boroughs of New York City. They were people who came from immigrants, whose own childhoods were darkened by poverty, and who had worked hard to give my sister and I a better life than they had had. When they traveled, it was to neighboring states like Pennsylvania. They were wary of planes, wary of foreigners, wary of the ever-changing world outside of New York and the local church community.
Little did I know then that I would grow up to go to college, get a fellowship for work and travel, marry an Indian man and see places my grandparents can't even imagine. I have been lucky beyond words!
I write this to you from a hotel in New Delhi, India on my first trip here. Everyone told me, "Prepare yourself: India is overwhelming. It assaults the senses." Yes, that is true. The smog is thick, the dust kicks up, and it's been difficult for me to breathe while outdoors. The crowded streets and size of population rivals Penn Station at rush hour - no small feat. Many places are dirty and polluted.
But India is simply amazing. The United States is only 234 years old, but I am in a country with palaces and ruins from the B.C. era. Delhi in particular has seen the rule of kings, sultans, Mughal Emperors and the British Raj. It was the scene of terrible violence and upheaval during the 1857 Mutiny and the 1947 Partition. It is still the capital of an emerging player on the global stage, where Parliament convenes and the Prime Minister and President work.
I believe, from my own experience, that for those who have not traveled in childhood, it's impossible to go to another country (ANY other country) without changing your life.