We may have chosen to permanently leave our country in search of better pastures, or we may be on short term assignments/ educational sabbatical for a better life. We come back year after year, to our roots, our families. Some people find that rather glamorous, and sometimes, we may want to play along. We are asked about our imagined exotic lives. We politely oblige. Sometimes we also enthusiastically show pictures of that ´exotic´ land. And sometimes, we get blank stares followed by rapid blinking of eyes followed by the question, ¨Which country did you say you live in? I have never heard that name¨. Before we came here, we hadn’t, either. We understand.
Coming back home with a rather curious and constantly excited child, who was too young when we left home, makes for interesting observations. What we have taken for granted are suddenly noticed, and we realize we are bringing up a child in a different world altogether. The assault on their senses is total. While we take it in our stride as our normal, we suddenly find our children asking pertinent questions about their country. Why are there so many people? Why is there so much noise? What is that smell? Why is it so hot? Why can we not live with the cousins forever? Why doesn’t our organisation start a branch in nani’s city? And then, they change from what they have been used to, to adapt to the new normal, although for a short while. Sometimes, the adaptation is so quick and complete that you may fail to notice they’re out of their comfort zone – but probably in a new comfort zone. The language and accents change, and you notice new additions to their vocabulary. Their dietary preferences change with the preferences of their favorite cousin or aunt, and for that period, they are independent with their own gang, forgetting they have parents who they need to report to!
We have so much to catch up with – especially if living in a country as remote as we are. We have to gorge on the variety of street food and have our fill on maa ke haath ka khana; we want to catch that latest blockbuster in a theatre – in our language and without subtitles, and we want to spend quality time with family; we have so many friends to catch up with, and then we also have to attend to a multitude of calls and visits – some a source of joy, and some we would prefer to avoid. We meet people we haven’t in the longest time, starting from where we started. We try to fit in as much as possible while the clock is ticking by. We pick some, we drop some, meet some and miss some, reveling in the joys of a real hug and kiss in this emojified world.
We reminisce. We recount. We reconnect. We rejuvenate. We see that old house we lived in when we were very young. We show our children the places we frequented ´when we were here´. We tell them stories of our playmates and the weird games we played with them. We remember instances, we recount incidents. How our school bus took a detour to pick our friends who did not live ´this side of the city´ – and notice how that same place has now become the center of city. And as we travel through the city that was once ours, we relive ourselves in a whiff of nostalgia. We also realize how, with the passage of time and the intervening distances, some relationships become deeper, and some fall apart.
As the time to take leave draws near and we start saying our goodbyes, we realize we may not see some of those people the next time around. The ticking clock takes its toll. But we take our leave with a lump in our throat. We are strong, practical people of the world. We have built our houses and lives in faraway lands. It is not like we are unhappy – we have a circle of friends, we have a social life, we settle down in our schedules. We are happy. But every once in a while, we find our way back to what will always be home. Like homing pigeons.