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My First Time Travel Destination, My Second Home

AyatulRahman Wafik | 4th January, 2016 Back to Blog

India: the country of charm, music, festivals, colors and diversity. I have always dreamed of going to India to see in reality all the fascinating places and events I see in Bollywood movies. However, it never crossed my mind that it will come true, and that one day I will be leaving my birthplace, Cairo, Egypt and work here in the beautiful Mahuva, Gujarat, INDIA.

As a first time traveler, you will be showered with tons of advices from almost everyone you know whether they have traveled or not. Also, if you are a book and internet worm like me, you will start searching for more information about many details varying from which clothes are more suitable to wear while traveling, to the procedures followed in the airport, to which seats are more comfortable, to how long will the flight take to adjust your sleeping hours in the plane. By the time you collect a good deal of information about traveling you feel that you have accomplished a lot, and that you are ready to get on the plane in the following hour. I ended up, however, forgetting all these things once I reached the airport, and I found myself going with the flow that sometimes I did the complete opposite of everything which I have heard and read. I remembered the advice of chewing gum, reclining my head back on the seat and closing my eyes at the take-off. Yet, as the airplane started moving, I simply decided to sit up with eyes wide open watching outside the window and taking pictures. All my plans of sleeping on the plane vanished especially that I the option of watching nice movies. Also I got the feeling that the plane food has a special taste that i started to miss it after some time.

Landing is usually more exciting than taking-off no matter where you are going. At least in Cairo International Airport I had a special assistance person accompanying and assisting me with every step based on instructions given to him by a friend of mine who’s a military general, but in Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport my only companion was Allah. I had to completely depend on myself and use body language to explain some questions when the person in charge was not speaking English. Moreover, there is a big difference between the place I left and the place I arrived to; I perfectly know every detail about the first but not a single thing I know about the latter.

Anyway, you cannot go to a different country without being emotionally and psychologically ready to face many changes and differences.

The sudden change of atmosphere and humidity level was the first thing that struck me once I got out of the airport to Mumbai streets. It didn’t last for long though; on the way to my first accommodation in India, I had more things to focus on. I was having fun listening to the Bollywood songs I have on my phone and watching the streets, the shops, and people with their lovely colorful clothes. I have always regarded Anarkalis, Kurtis and Sarees as the most elegant wear for women, so seeing them live was so entertaining; it felt like a never-ending beautiful fashion show.

Food is also one big change that you should be expecting. If you are not familiar with the types of food typically served in the country you are visiting, you need to have the quality of adapting and adjusting especially if you are staying for a long period of time. Two major features were more noticeable for me than any other in Indian food: different Masalas and spices being added to every dish, and Cardamom being used in sweets whereas in Egypt we only use it in savory food, mostly soup. Furthermore, in Mumbai, it was easier for me as a Muslim to get the food my body needs, but in Gujarat it is way less easy. The dilemma mainly lies in rigid social restrictions more than the hardship of finding the food itself. Consequently, I always tend to seek alternatives that can provide a portion of the elements needed by my brain and body to avoid social clash. On the other hand, there is lots of Indian food, snacks and drinks that I can eat or drink every day without getting bored. As examples, I can name Sev Murmura, Bhakhri, Pav Bhaji, Pani Puri, Bhel, Dosa, Veg Pulav, many chutneys, and my everlasting love: Chaas. In addition to making Egyptian food such as Mesaqa’a, Fattet Ads, Baladi bread, Areesh cheese and many others whenever possible.

Now, if you are living in India, then you are lucky. Likewise, if you are visiting India in the right timings, then you are also lucky. The many mesmerizing cultural and religious festivals make it a paradise to me. I have attended Ganpati festival in Mumbai right after my arrival. I marched among the idols to the lake and shouted “Ganpati Bappa, Morya” with the crowds before watching the ceremony of releasing the small, big, and huge idols in the water. In Navratri celebration, I had moved to Mahuva; I have done Aarti every single day of the nine days with the family I am staying with, I have worn Chanya Choli and I have danced Garba in Gurukul temple. In Diwali, very colorful and very cheerful Rangoli and fireworks were the themes of the celebrations. Also, the whole family came to visit us at home and it was a nice chance to make new friends. I was asked on Christmas school function by a student: “Ma’am, which Indian festivals do you want to attend?”, in fact my answer was the kites-flying day but I never explained to him that it happens to be the day following my birthday so it will be a new and fun way to celebrate my birthday. In addition to that, I am so looking forward to Holi festivals; it will be an opportunity for me to feel the joy around me and to wake my inner child up and play with colors.

The most difficult part about traveling is leaving people and places you love behind. I still remember both days of my departure from Egypt in September and November as if they were yesterday. I was like a child; I didn’t want to be separated from my mother’s arms, and I didn’t want to lose the smell of my dad or the happiness of caressing my cat. I cried a lot, and so did my family and my two best friends. Again it was the same situation here when I left India to go back to Egypt for a 10 days vacation. The whole family I am staying with and I cried a lot, and we were counting down the days till my return. Nonetheless, on the bright side of it, traveling makes you gain great friends like those I met in Mumbai and at HHS here, acquaintances like the sweet Indian girls I met on the flight back to Egypt, and even a family like the family I am currently staying with, my second family.