Home found in India

William Cygan​​
University of Illinois, Chicago, USA​

Michelle Zoe Duffner

With the hustle and the bustle of everyday life, we often lose sight of what’s important. Workers are the backbone of this world⁠—be it the mailman, the fruit vendor, or your local librarian. Reflecting on the experience of yourself and others allows you to gain a broad view of the world and to keep an open mind.

To preface, my name is Will. I’m 20 years old and study Computer Science in Chicago. I’ve never traveled beyond the United States. This piece intends to highlight my experiences living in India vs. the US. India is a beautiful place, rich in culture and passion. You see things that leave you in awe and wonder how such a place can thrive. To begin, I recall the first hours…

Eyes crept up and down as I arrived at Kempegowda International Airport at 3:00 am. People stared because I was an anomaly to their norm. I pick my luggage up and head to the arrival gate where a taxi driver would be waiting for me, except they were nowhere to be found. I frantically search through my phone for contact information. Finally, I find the number and give them a call, however it doesn’t go through as my phone isn’t serviced here! Pacing up and down the arrival gate, I’m determined to find the sign with my name, but it doesn’t appear. I approach a warden and ask for their help. He calls my contact to no avail. Roughly 30 minutes later, the warden approaches to tell me he’d found my driver. Success!

The drive to Electronic City was eye-opening. At this point it’s 4:00 am and the city was still lively! Bus-stops were filled & vendors occupied the streets. We sped past traffic, honking at nearly everyone who we approached. If I were to drive like this back home, a cop would be on my tail within minutes! At last, we arrive at Infosys and I find my room in ECC. I try to close my eyes, but it just isn’t happening as I had to be present for introduction at 8am.

2 hours pass and I’m ready to head out. During the first day I met two people who would become my closest friends over the summer, Nigarah and Stuti. The three of us went on to travel to Hampi, Kolkata, Goa, and Lucknow together.

Our trip to Kolkata was my first time outside Bangalore – fortunately, we stayed with Stuti’s family for the weekend. They greeted us and hurried us into their home where food was waiting. Plate after plate, the food kept coming and didn’t slow down. These were dishes that I never imagined trying back home, and they were fantastic! For what it’s worth, I was the first and only white person they’ve housed, so I did my best to be courteous & easygoing (stigmas were shattered along the way!)

During our time in Kolkata we ventured to various parts of the city to meet friends & relatives, sight-see, and eat. We walked to a street market that was swamped with people. Admittedly, I felt overwhelmed at the market but I endured.

The following evening, we met up with a friend of Stuti and traveled south. Our first stop was a roadside shop that brought food & drink to your car. We bought Samosas along with a drink called Doodh Cola, which is similar to sprite mixed with vanilla.

My time in India brought new ideas & memorable experiences, those which I’ll always remember. I have friends in every corner of the world who’ve given me a taste of their culture, I’m forever grateful for this.