It was the middle of October, almost four months into the program, when my Amma (mother) and two of my Akkas (older sisters) travelled 22 hours on a plane to India. I cannot properly convey the excitement that was bubbling over into anxiety a few days before they got here. On the day they were arriving, I promised to meet them at the airport. Pulling up to the airport thinking I was late, I would then find myself waiting restlessly by the gate for another hour before their beautiful faces would walk out carrying a bunch of suitcases, with their beautiful Indian-American selves. I instinctively ran towards them only to be stopped by a guard who told me I wasn't allowed to pass a certain point, but when the three of them reached me it was as if all the emotion I had been carefully keeping in check for the past 4 months, came spilling out of me in the form of a big hug and a full-on sob as I wrapped my arms around my Amma, convinced I would never let go of her.
The next couple weeks with my family were as close to bliss as I had felt since being in India. A lot of planning had been done last minute for flights and trips, but we were honestly just happy to be together in India. I'm not going to lie, the few weeks leading up to their visit were stressful for me. My phone and computer had stopped working, I broke out in a rash, and had some exams to take, all while finding flights and planning travel routes for my family when they got to Hyderabad. But all of that didn't seem to matter anymore. I felt invincible now that we were all together. A true testament to the strength of my family when we all got together. Not only that, but the amount of laughing I had exuded was unmeasurable. I felt as though I could finally be fully and 100% myself and the worst they could do is yell at me for the dumb things I said, because frankly, they weren't going anywhere.
We traveled to Aurangabad and saw the Ellora Caves, a site my Amma had dreamt about visiting since she was young. The look on her face as we walked around the Kailasa Temple is seared into my brain. It was quite breathtaking, and I loved experiencing it with my Amma and Akkas, able to ask any questions I thought of and just absobing any knowledge I could from the older souls in my family. After Aurangabad, a couple days in Hyderabad to meet my host family and rest, my family travelled to Tirupati, my Amma's birth city. I joined them later to catch up on class and work, but I was able to get there in time to see my Amma's childhood home, school, the hospital she was born, and even her favorite Rama Temple that she would sneak to whenever she felt she needed to get away. And although I had visited Tirupati a few weeks earlier on my own, it was a completely different feeling to be able to see it through my Amma's eyes. I was truly on Cloud 9.
As my family's trip came to a close, activities slowed a bit and we spent a few days together in Hyderabad with my host family. We celebrated Diwali together- one of my favorite days of the year, and a day I had been nervous to spend without my family, that was transformed into immense gratitude. I have grown amazingly close to my host family and to see them laugh and eat with my actual family is a feeling that I have yet to properly put into words.
When my Amma and Akkas were finally leaving for the airport, I felt a twinge in my heart- a new feeling of anxiety. I knew I would be seeing them immensely soon, but I couldn't help but feel a deep pit restlessness. I didn't want them to go. Plain and simple. But of course, I smiled and hugged them and reminded them I'd be home sooner than we'd think. Even still, saying goodbye was really difficult and now that I had experienced India with my family, I didn't want to experience it without them. Finally, as I sit here with 6 days left before I leave back to the US, I couldn't be more excited. Because I got a small taste of what it was like to be with the people who love me most in this world after existing so long without it, and I've been craving that feeling ever since. And I can't help but wonder if it would've been better to just have spent these last couple months in ignorance.