“Aren’t those decorations looking nice?” asks a soft voice beside me.
Startled, I turn to find a young woman wearing a red-and-white sari. Her head and face are swathed in the folds of the sari, leaving only the large red bindi on her forehead clearly visible.
We’re sitting on a grassy tuft amid a large campus green. All about us stand buildings with signs in both Hindi and English. Atop the central building waves an Indian flag, around which workers are hanging colorful garlands, tassels and lights.
“It looks very nice. What is it for?” I reply in Hindi, feeling that my accent must betray my American upbringing.
I am a fourth-year medical student. Two days ago I arrived here in New Delhi, after a sixteen-hour flight from New York City. Today I will begin a six-month fellowship working in pediatric oncology centers. It’s a chance to gain clinical experience working in places where resources are scarce–and it’s also a way to learn more about my ancestry and, in the process, about myself. My parents emigrated from India thirty-seven years ago, and my last visit was at age eight, nearly twenty-five years …