Rediscovering Home in India

Henvi PatelMarch 4, 2024Crisis & ChangeHelping Hands

Artwork by Om Kakkad, age 16

In the tapestry of life, sometimes we find ourselves unraveling in unfamiliar landscapes, struggling to weave our threads into the fabric of a new reality.

Such was my journey from the sun-kissed landscapes of South Africa to the vibrant mosaic of India. Little did I anticipate the challenges that awaited me, nor could I fathom the transformative power of a helping hand that would guide me through the labyrinth of adjustment.

For 15 years, I basked in the beauty of South Africa, surrounded by cherished friends, a picturesque home, and what felt like a perfect life. Embracing my Indian and South African roots, I cherished the varied landscapes of my homeland. But then, everything changed. At just 15, my family decided to move to India for good, fearing the looming threat of crime. In an instant, my world crumbled, and the comforts of home slipped away into the past.

The first few weeks in India felt like navigating an intricate maze, each twist and turn posing a new challenge. As the novelty of the bustling streets of Ahmedabad replaced the familiarity of my South African hometown, I found myself grappling with the stark differences in culture, language, and lifestyle. The warmth of the people was palpable, but I felt like a stranger in a foreign land, a sense of homesickness gnawing at the edges of my consciousness.

The abrupt shift in school curriculums and syllabi proved to be a formidable challenge. From being a top achiever in South Africa, I found myself barely managing to just pass exams. My once vibrant and sociable persona now morphed into someone uptight and easily irritated. The language barrier added another layer of difficulty, as my South African accent became a source of amusement for some, further isolating me in this new world.

Amid the chaos, a glimmer of hope appeared in the form of a friend at school, Pooja. She extended her guidance with a warmth that transcended words. She was not just a classmate but a confidante who understood the struggles I faced. One day, she took me on my first metro ride, patiently explaining the intricacies of the system and alleviating my fears of getting lost in the labyrinthine stations. The rhythmic clatter of the train became a comforting melody, a soundtrack to my newfound sense of belonging.

In the world of chemistry jargon, she became my translator and motivator. Even though she was not an expert, her unwavering encouragement and refusal to let me give up hope transformed the daunting equations into solvable puzzles. Her guidance was a lifeline, pulling me out of an academic abyss and restoring a sense of competence and understanding.

Pooja became more than just a guide; she became the architect of my revival. She helped me rediscover the person I once was – outgoing, responsible, and unafraid of the unknown. Her hands held mine, not just metaphorically, but literally, as she guided me across the streets of Ahmedabad, showing me the art of hailing fair-priced rickshaw rides instead of overpriced Ubers.

Her impact went beyond the practicalities of daily life. She taught me the ways of India with patience and understanding, sharing the cultural complexities that transformed the unfamiliar into the familiar. Through her eyes, I saw the beauty in the chaos, the richness in diversity, and the warmth in the hearts of the people around me.

In the mosaic of our friendship, I found not only a guide but a true companion who helped me navigate the labyrinth of change. Her help became a bridge between the person I was and the person I needed to become in this new chapter of my life. The laughter we shared, the challenges we conquered, and the moments of vulnerability we embraced all wove together into a narrative of resilience, friendship, and personal growth.

As I look back on the chapters of my journey, the invaluable lesson resonates – the importance of having a friend to lean on and, in turn, being one whenever possible. The significance of mutual support became evident, a realization that the strength of a community lies in the collective embrace of its members. In the dance of life, we are not solo performers but part of a grand ensemble where each kind act contributes to the harmony of existence.

With a heart full of gratitude and a spirit rekindled, I recall the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, "The only way to have a friend is to be one." In the symphony of life, the melody of friendship and the selfless acts that accompany it are the notes that elevate our day-to-day living, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Pooja played the lead melody, orchestrating a harmonious blend of friendship, guidance, and compassion that echoed through the corridors of my heart.