On the backwaters of Kerala in the southwestern region of India, Alleppey locals live a chosen life of constant rebirth. Every monsoon season, the waters flood and destroy their homes and take all of their personal belongings in its wake. This moment of supposed grief and loss is viewed more as a normal yearly occurrence and, like clockwork, the locals rebuild their lives and start anew until the next flood arrives.
When my grandfather passed away this October, my mother told me that she felt as if a part of her had been ripped away. She and my father stayed in my grandfather’s hometown of Roorkee and prayed for 13 days to ensure that his soul would peacefully travel to the next life.
With the fresh loss looming quietly over us, my parents, my sister, and I took a trip together to Bangalore, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and Dehradun in late December. Having been brand new to South India, we reset and restarted in lands that felt almost foreign to us despite being in the country of our origin. We began a new life, a new year, through interactions with Alleppey fishermen, Munnar tea harvesters, Kathakali dancers, Madurai temple-goers, Bangalore locals, and family in Dehradun. This is what we saw, and this is what we felt.