Since moving to the US in 1965, my Father has fortunately or unfortunately never looked back. Upon landing in Detroit, he not only took care of himself and eventually the rest of our immediate family, he supported most of his 8 brothers and sisters to come over to the "land of opportunity" as well. Inside of all of this responsibility, he never took the time to go back and visit his roots which in this case is his home in Kashipura, a humble farming village located about an hour away from Vadodara, Gujarat.
I remember visiting this village on my first trip to India in 2007. I had heard a few stories about my Father's childhood and was very curious to step foot in the same place where my he had spent the first 9 years of his life. My parents have raised me in a nice home near one of the most popular beaches in Orange County, California and I could never imagine that my Father could have actually grown up in a place like Kashipura which has more buffaloes living there than people.
The experience was surreal. I couldn't believe I was sitting in my Father's cow dung home which I imagine hadn't changed much since the 1940s when he was a bright and rambunctious child running through the village. I couldn't take enough pictures during those few hours, even knowing that pictures would never do justice to all that was going through my head and heart at that time. On that January 2007 day, I promised myself that I would ensure my Father returned to this village at some point in his life.
That some point came finally came 7 years later. It was incredible as my Father, Mother, Brother and many of my extended family members piled into a large vehicle and made the drive out to Kashipura. Upon entering the village, My Father transformed into a 9 year old child again.. Not only did he run into a childhood friend who remembered him, he began walking us through the village showing us all his shortcuts, special hideouts and even where he used to go to the bathroom near the lake. His face was clearly glowing and I could tell that his head was spinning and heart was full. We spent hours in the village until the heat got to much for everyone but guest of honor.
My Father had finally digested the shock, awe and beauty of returning to his village when we were on the rooftop my Aunt's Baroda home enjoying the annual kite festival. He shared something at that moment which I think I only thought could ever be possible which was that he was open to the idea of spending more time in the village during his retirement to give back to the place which shaped the great man that he is today....