At the dawn of my thirty-second birthday, I am about to ditch my bachelorette pad and my job as a lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area for a month of travel to the UK and India. This premise could have only been more romantic if I were recently divorced, white, and ascetically inclined (at least within the ambit of the mystical east) — but one thing I do share in common with the author of Eat, Pray, Love is the ability to decode what the modern-day English names of my destinations are obviously aiming to signify. Whereas Ms. Gilbert traveled to three countries that began with the letter “I,” informing her that hers was a consummate inward journey, I am traveling to the UK, then India, then back to the US. In other words, I am exploring the state of U, I, and US.
The UK has special theoretical significance to me as it is the land of my colonial forefathers, who spread their seed over both the United States, my country of birth, and India, my country of ancestry, leaving behind a lasting legacy of railways and repression. I’m quite stoked to visit my cousin and her family in Wales, meet up with another cousin and her hubs in London, and also meet up with two friends who are coming from other locations. It will be my first time there, and therefore it really will be like getting acquainted with U, a new person.
India is the place from which both of my parents hail, and where most of my relatives live. I am brown, I love spicy food, and I was a multi-year spelling bee champion, so there is no doubt that India is the land of I. However, with my limited first-hand exploration of the land, especially as a solo traveler, India in my mind has long been stagnated into a tableau that my parents have painted based on the 1970s India that they left behind. This will be a time to challenge and expand that notion of I, to have that quintessential “American-Born Confused Desi (ABCD) exploring her roots” experience, where I will discover that India is a land of startling contrasts. I am excited to reconnect with family members, some of whom I haven’t seen in years, if not decades. Several wonderful cousin-bonding opportunities and excursions are in the works. And I’ll finally get to experience a real Indian Diwali!
Oh yeah, while in India, I also plan to stalk the shit out of Bollywood. During my first week in Mumbai, I have booked a stay at a hotel in Bandra, for obvious reasons. To spell it out, some ABCD chick not too long ago started working out at Gold’s Gym in Bandra; today, she is John Abraham’s wife. Apparently, he was attracted to the fact that unlike many women he encountered, she was unfamiliar with his star status. I plan to work out at Gold’s Gym as well. While I don’t have the lack of starstruckness to offer as an area of novelty, I do have a body type that will be mindblowingly unique compared to the usual Bollywood offerings. I plan to leave India betrothed to Prateik Babbar and/or Siddharth Malhotra.
And finally, I will return to the US and try to situate and strengthen myself some more in the space of interconnectedness. This is where my individual history all began: family, home, friends, school, career, community, and countless blessings. But try and count them, I always do.