450 yatris, taking up the entire station – it’s quite a site. Everyone is visibly exhausted from the early morning congregation, followed by day-long events to get us energized, ironically so. But the excitement is visible. A musician has started playing the djembe, and a group of girls are singing Bollywood to pass time. A circle is forming around them. People are getting re-energized as we all wait for the train that will transform our perception of the nation, of India. There is tremendous pride among the organizers on the history of patriotism rooted in the trip. It was started on the 50th anniversary of India’s independence by a few youth as they sought to experience the energy and diversity of the country. Since then, the program has slowly grown.
This notion of nationhood re-emerged as the directors spoke of the journey that awaits us. The discovery of what it means to be Indian, and what the country represents is very much present in the vision of the yatra. It’s one I hadn’t considered while thinking about my goals for the trip, though nationhood is an idea I’ve thought about often having split my life in two different countries. I understand patriotism and its importance to some extent, if only because I can call myself neither an American nor an Indian, yet I feel as at home in both places as I feel alienated.
As we introduced ourselves to each other, I managed to constantly confuse people. I was from Delhi, but my accent said I was from the United States. Yet, I couldn’t get myself to say I was American because my childhood was spent in India. So my fellow yatris had to ordeal listening to my life story and as I re-told it over and over again, I felt no attachment to either country. I felt at loss as to my identity. I know the yatra will show me parts of India I wouldn’t see on the fellowship otherwise, and expand my definition of the diversity present here. I don’t know if better understanding the country will make me feel more attached or less to it, but I’m eager to see how my feelings about being Indian change over the next two weeks.