Here is what you may not know… (Trust me. The back story is important.)
As a participant of Quora.com, I was once asked whether Americans enjoyed Bollywood movies. I replied that most Americans were not even aware of Hindi cinema but that I was a huge fan. I listed my favorite Indian movies. As a result, several hundred people from India began to “follow” me on Quora.
When I announced that I would finally be visiting India as an “American Parent” of a bride in Kolkata, a few Indians on Quora asked me to write about my experience. Two days after we returned, I wrote a travelogue, “My Trip To India” and posted it to Quora. I was worried that Indian people might take offense at the humor infused in that piece. Instead, hundreds of people wrote to tell me how moved they were by how my love of India came through. Within months, I had several thousand Indian ‘followers’.
Some of them were ambitious enough to find and friend me on Facebook. We got to chat. I became quite close with some of them. When their lives became challenging, many of them asked my advice. Of course, I gave it. They were friends. Not just Facebook ‘friends’… those people you don’t really know but click “like” on each other’s posts… but friends that I have come to actually know and sincerely care about.
When we return to India in 2017, it will be to meet not friends but family… face to face. Young people, male and female, from ages 19 to 29, who call me “Baapu”, “Baba”, “Touji”, “Bade Papa”, “Angel Paa”, “Uncle Rick”, and “Dad.” My unofficially-adopted Indian children. The sons and daughters of my heart. Can you imagine how grateful and honored I feel to matter to someone’s life on the other side of the world? One young woman wishes that we could be there for her wedding someday. One young musician can hardly wait to play music with us. A young woman looks forward to taking Judy shopping. There are temples we must visit, families we must meet, foods we must try. I recently received an invitation to celebrate Diwali in 2017 (a huge and popular Indian festival and solemn family event) with a family in Jaipur. Add to this list my Pakistani ‘daughter’ in Indiana who makes me so proud, two dear Indian friends (Archana and Arun) in Atlanta, and Nipanjana and Raunaq (the Kolkata bride and her husband) now living in California, and you begin to grasp the extent of my international family.