By Sheba Siddiqui
I was born and raised in Canada. I love the cold winters and look forward to strapping on my skis. I enjoy taking my children to their skating lessons and feel a sense of Canadian pride that my eldest son is so excited about learning to play hockey. Every winter, my husband and I take our three children sledding. Every summer, we are at the cottage in Muskoka, teaching them to fish, hike and canoe. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am a proud Canadian.
However, there is another place in the world that my heart belongs to – India. My parents emigrated from India in the 1960’s and my brother and I were born in Canada. While most of my classmates in school were going on vacations to Florida or Bermuda, I was off to India every other December. And I loved it.
Even at the age of 10, I knew I belonged there. I felt right at home. My grandmother’s house was home base for us. I have so many memories of delicious smells coming from her kitchen, of befriending goats in the street and of walking through the bazaars perusing the shops filled with bright colours and welcoming merchants who were ready to get me a ‘cold drink’ the minute we entered the shop. I believe those trips to India instilled a sense of pride and a love of travel.
British Airways recently launched their “Welcome of Home” campaign and asked me to share their video. I have so many memories of flying with them, especially the way they have always catered to families with young children on long-haul flights!
Chitra’s emotions in this video sum up exactly how I feel before I travel to this wondrous country.
Fast-forward to 2014, I am now a wife and mother of three and nothing has changed. I still love the anticipation of preparing for my trips to India and want my three young children to know their roots. Being of Indian origin has always been a strong sense of my identity. I am immensely proud of my heritage and it has taught me lessons in life that I will never forget.
I learned the meaning of family values through my trips to India, being greeted at the airport or train station by dozens of relatives holding fresh garlands of flowers to put around my neck. I learned that poverty is not simply a buzz word that is used to teach me not to take things for granted.
I learned that saris are some of the most beautiful garments in the world. I learned that there is no better pani puri than the one you get at a roadside stand in the middle of nowhere, to go with your perfectly-spiced steaming cup of chai.
My trips to India have now changed in terms of anticipation. As a mother, I want to show my children all the wonderful parts of India that stole my heart. The rickshaws, and better yet, the rickshaw drivers who speed uncontrollably through the streets. The cows, goats and stray dogs on every corner. The beautiful smells and colours as you walk through all of the markets. The temples and mosques that are sacred to all of the locals.
India has influenced my lifestyle in many ways. I remember the first time I saw a woman driving a motorcycle. I was in Mumbai and my aunt had come to visit us. She was wearing a beautiful sari and as she was leaving, we followed her out. She walked up to a black motorcycle, gathered her sari and hopped on, waving us goodbye while the delicate material blew in the wind as she zoomed off. I knew right then, at the age of 12, that I was going to get my own motorcycle one day.
I have a strong sense of nostalgia for the country my parents left behind and I love going back every time. I have so many relatives that still live there and I feel so much love from everyone with each visit. When I begin packing for my trip, I ALWAYS bring an empty suitcase with me as I know it will be filled with many of the wonderful fabrics, materials and foods that India has to offer, on my return home.
With the era of social media, it is incredibly easy to keep in contact with my family in India. We see each other every day, be it through pictures, messages or status updates.
My parent’s homeland is one of my greatest senses of identity. It has helped me to become who I am today. From piercing my nose at the age of 16 to getting my first motorcycle at 25 to dressing my daughter up in mini-versions of my Indian clothing and jewelry, India will always hold a special place for me.
I do know that on my next trip to India, with three young children, we are going to fly British Airways. BA has always been convenient, practical and so very helpful with all of my children when I travel, making the flights not only enjoyable but easy as well. I only hope that the continuous visits to this amazing country can hold a strong place in my children’s hearts as well.
British Airways is hosting a contest right now where you can win a trip home! They want to see pictures of your Welcome of Home. Just tweet your pictures here with the hashtag #WelcomeOfHome to be entered.
Chitra’s last line in the British Airways video sums up exactly how I feel. No matter how many years I’ve been away, home will always be India.
**I am a member of the British Airways “Welcome of Home” blogger program” and I receive special perks as part of my association, however as always opinions are my own. I only share products or brands I truly believe in and flying with BA is certainly one of them!
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