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Fifty days. I have fifty days here this time. It is meatier than the paltry two weeks that we’ve spent here in the past. But the heart is greedy. Time here is never enough.

We’ve been on an airplane for twenty hours, traveled across oceans and the International Date Line. My body is here in India, but my brain hasn’t caught up. It’s 4:00 AM. I’m biding time, waiting for the rest of the family to wake up. No, I’m waiting for my mother to wake up. I want the rest of the family to wake up later.

I guard my time with her fiercely. As the eastern sun rises, the city bathes in the heady fragrance of jasmine and bakula flowers. A cuckoo announces the morning from a faraway tree. People are already up and about on the streets. Vehicles honk as if in a concerto. Does this city ever sleep?

Later, I plant myself on the cool kitchen floor, while my mother potters around the marble counter top, her hair in a low knot, pouring my hot coffee from one steel tumbler to another to make it frothy, just the way I like it. I’m like her in so many ways. We’re both grumpy in the mornings and we cannot function without our morning coffees.

She sits next to me, cross-legged on the floor with her cup and we talk. About writing, motherhood and family gossip. My dad sits in the hall with his newspaper. I know he is listening to us talking. The rest of the family is cozy in their beds. If this isn’t bliss, I don’t know what is. If there is a wicked witch who can turn the world into stone, I want her to come now. This is the moment I want to be frozen in forever.

Later in the day, I venture out. To familiar places. Familiar places which I almost don’t recognize. My childhood haunts are a shade of their old selves. Some have aged gracefully, some try too hard to compete with teenybopper coffee shops and burger joints.

I hesitate to cross the road. I’ve forgotten how to dodge approaching vehicles. Vehicles don’t follow discipline here. You have to be as erratic as the traffic to make it to the opposite side. The noise and crowds on the streets confuse my jet lagged brain. Angry drivers honk at my indecisiveness.

At airports and bus stations, I reel from the lack of understanding of personal spaces. I almost jump out of my skin to guard my toddler from strangers wanting to pull her cheeks, much to their surprise. The calm and sense of belonging I feel at home with family vanish into thin air. The city has burgeoned beyond recognition. I feel unmoored, like a feather flying in the wind. Do I even relate to this place anymore?

A few days pass and I find my sea legs. I meet friends who are doing wonderful things at work and in life. Our regular vegetable vendor at the roadside market smiles, his eyes twinkling in recognition. He gives me a new recipe like he used to, this time with radish greens. He proudly shows me his new smartphone and an app which helps him accept mobile payment from his customers. We talk about the recent currency demonetization in India. He doesn’t mind the long lines outside ATMs, he’s optimistic about the future of this country on the brink of change.

Teenagers hanging out around the block rush to help my mom and me with grocery bags, offering to carry them up to the third floor without being asked. The sense of community and the smiles on people’s faces despite their hard lives gets me every single time.

India and I are like childhood sweethearts. We’ve moved on to different things, but there’s a special corner in our hearts for each other. I don’t have to choose. Both India and the US are home.

101 thoughts on “Home

  1. Danielle Dayney

    Hema I was so excited to see that you were back on the grids! And what a great piece to come back with! I loved all the description, especially the part where you described yourself as a feather flying. I felt like I was there with you in India!

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thanks, Danielle! I wasn’t too confident about posting this piece! The first week here is always such a weird feeling, the feeling of not fitting in 🙂 With Trump winning, we’re also scared about how it’s going to be when we get back. Feathers in the wind 🙂

      Reply
  2. Suchitra

    Oh Hema, what a descriptive piece. I was right there, with you, visualizing everything. You are right. We don’t have to choose. We can live with two hearts.
    Also, at least for now, it’s life as usual. Don’t know what the new year will ring in though.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thank you, Suchi! I don’t even want to think about 2017. I know it’s going to bring change and God knows I don’t accept change easily 🙂 So much to talk to you about! I miss you guys. Hope you’re all doing well!

      Reply
  3. dreamy_bean

    Aah !! I am already short of words here, am overwhelmed reading and imagining every little snippet. Can’t wait to get back home, until then, I decide to make the most of “now”, here.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      I am! Let’s catch up some day. Have to tell you all about Singapore 🙂 Thanks for your help. It was a really good trip!

      Reply
  4. Cyn K

    I loved your opening paragraph. It drew me in. I also like that this isn’t about all 50 days you will be spending in India. You picked moments to illustrate your metaphor of childhood sweethearts. Well done.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thank you! The first few days here are always an adjustment, a lot of things have changed and a lot hasn’t changed!

      Reply
  5. d3athlily

    So glad to see you back onext the grids this week! Missed you a lot! Heheh This definitely painted a great picture. Both of how places change us and change themselves. I wonder if and when I return to Texas, I will feel the same sense of familiarity and hesitation at the same time.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      I missed you too, Melony! I couldn’t wait to get back on the grids 🙂 It’s always a mixed bag (haha!) of feelings when we land here.

      Reply
  6. Lisa Shaw

    “As the eastern sun rises, the city bathes in the heady fragrance of jasmine and bakula flowers. A cuckoo announces the morning from a faraway tree. People are already up and about on the streets. Vehicles honk as if in a concerto. Does this city ever sleep?” <— I love how that sets the scene so beautifully. Your relationship to your mother is lovely. It seems so warm and cozy and safe. What a gift for both of you.

    Reply
  7. anusrini20

    I really enjoyed reading this, partly because you’ve expressed something I’ve felt often. I couldn’t wait to be back when I lived in the US, but it’s so different and difficult once back. Some things feel better wrapped up in our memories maybe. 🙂 The childhood sweethearts description was apt.

    Reply
  8. lvictormoya

    amazing how your feeling about india compares to my feeling about my home, the Dominican Republic. How wonderful to call both places home though they are so very different.

    Reply
  9. itsmayurremember

    The way you described your morning routine is just the same as mine. I want tea the first thing in the morning and everyone is the same. I am sure I have forgotten how to cross roads without signals .

    Thank you for writing this

    Reply
  10. May

    I am happy I stumbled on you post. I know the strange feeling of belonging but not completely to a place you cherish in your heart. I love the image of childhood sweethearts. Would you mind reading my post about a recent trip to Tunisia? It’s called Deep Breath. It would mean a lot to me. ☺

    Reply
  11. Alok Singhal

    I am kind of closer to India though I have been in the US long enough now. And I would want to settle down there too (a reason why I declined GC request from my firm last year and would be moving on next, not to India for now though).

    Have a great time there!

    Reply
  12. Devz | The Savorist

    The opening sentence showed up on my WordPress reader and brought me here hoping for a piece that shared my current head space. I wasn’t disappointed.

    Husband tells me I tend to romanticize India. He is probably right. I think I took a mental snapshot when I first left and now the place exists for me, frozen in time. It’s still home, and so is the US.

    Reply
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  14. Indrajit Suaro

    Awesome writing style, especially i like the details of facts. Nice way to express the love towards your mother, which reminds me of my mom. And it’s good to hear that inspite the changes due to demonetization peoples are happy.

    Reply
  15. Parul Thakur

    Hema, this is the best piece I have read in over a week. Absolutely loved the finesse, the crispness and those vivid descriptions. Congrats on being discovered and this post is really worthy of all accolades.

    Reply
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  17. Beverly Blaine

    I love the way you write! Very descriptive and really paints a picture of what it is like to go home. I too live away from where I grew up, although for me, it is a six hour drive away. But some of the feelings you brought up feel familiar to me too. Thank you for writing this!

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thank you for taking the time t read this, Beverly! No matter where you live, going home is always a special experience 🙂

      Reply
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  19. nedliz

    Thank you for a beautiful post! I’ve moved a lot and my home is also in many places. You really captured the feeling of being lost in a familiar place and the sense of community that makes you feel at home again.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thanks for letting me know! I got this picture from pixabay and I chose it because it went really well with what I was writing about.

      Reply
  20. Wordyqueen

    Wanting more im sorry my phone is glitching but olaz follow me back id love your support youre such a great writer! And please let me know once you publish your book because i wanf to be there this is soo narrative it really takes me to where you are…

    Reply
  21. kochuramblings

    ‘Home’ has left me yearning for all that represents home. Mum pottering in the kitchen, Dad sitting with his morning coffee, and some more. Moved so many places that there is a bit of home everywhere l left behind. Thank you for sharing such a lovely piece of writing.

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Yes indeed. This coffee snob won’t have anything other than filter coffee! Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  22. vandybandy

    Love the fluidity in your writing just wish I could even write like that. I stay in India and do understand the chaotic traffic movement. But believe me things have changed, we do follow traffic rules. I remember visiting my parents place and except the coffee my parents and I would follow the same ritual. Love those times. Do comment on my post too.

    Reply
  23. shanayatales

    I couldn’t have articulated this better. You speak for all of us. That last line especially – so true. I can’t choose, I don’t want to choose. Both these places are home for me, with very different connotations of-course, but home. 🙂

    Reply
  24. wheninathensblog

    The “wicked witch turning that beautiful moment into stone” is one of my favorite lines read ever! Such an effortless read. I understand the love affair between where one grew up and where one is currently living (I’m expat-ing now in Athens, originally from Texas). Two different worlds… but I love the differences. Thanks for such an enjoyable read!

    Reply
  25. wheninathensblog

    The “wicked witch turning that beautiful moment into stone” is one of my favorite lines read ever! You have such a enjoyable, effortless voice in your writing. Well done. I understand the love affair between the home you grew up in and the country you currently live. I am originally from Texas expat-ing in Athens. Two different worlds… but I love the differences. Thanks for such an enjoyable read!

    Reply
    1. mixedbag Post author

      Thank you so very much for reading and leaving me this lovely comment! It’s always such a good feeling to know that someone relates to what you write 🙂 Texas and Athens! Wow, I’m sure there are gaping differences, but isn’t it funny how similar we all are despite the differences? I’m always pleasantly surprised by that!

      Reply
  26. tingalingtee

    What a pleasure to read this— the themes and little scenes you’ve created in this piece really give me a bit of nostalgia in the way I feel about U.S/China. Thanks for writing this!

    Reply

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