My recent trip to India wasn't the best I could have asked for. To start with, it was short. Very much so. All of two weeks. And no matter how much I had prepared my mind before I even left for home, I felt the shortness. I felt the clock tick away fast. Immensely.
Secondly, the heat, and the pollution. Even if you have lived in Bombay all your life, spend fifteen months away in an essentially colder and cleaner place and come back. You are bound to take some time to acclimatize yourself to the change. Most of my time was spent preparing for a cousin's wedding, the reason I made this short trip in the middle of my semester. Shopping for gifts, clothes and attending elaborate pre-marital functions hardly left me any time to spend the way I would have wanted to. Calling it hectic would be a gross understatement. On top of that, I had to keep in touch with my classmates and colleagues at my university to keep pace with homeworks, projects, updates, announcements,instructions from my professors etc. that were taking place in my absence. Water and plumbing problems in my old, can-collapse-if-someone-kicks-a-wall-hard-enough building did not make my stay any more comfortable, and the less said about internet connectivity problems, the better. I couldn't spend enough time with my parents and with my best friends and couldn't even meet a few others. And all my pre-trip dreams of the desi goodies that I miss while I am in the US and was going to gorge on during my stay at home were brutally crushed by an upset stomach.
Yet, for all the above laments, did I wish to leave home and be back here? Heck, no! It is home! Home! The most underestimated word in the language. The place that has the power to attach its inhabitants to itself in a bond that neither Newton nor van der Waals can explain. One small, single place that means the world to most of us. One word that incorporates everything - parents, siblings, friends and childhood; school, college and education; gully cricket and exam fever; crushes, sweethearts, growing up and breakups; love, closeness, comfort...and life.
It might be your first trip home since you first left, or it might be your tenth. It might be a three-month long, comfortable stay, or a two-week long, hectic and bumpy one, as was mine. The pain of leaving at the end of it all, is unmitigated, intense and inescapable.
Yesterday, as I was trying to locate my Delta Airlines connecting flight from JFK on one of the electronic schedule charts at the terminal, my eyes inadvertently fell on the DL16 flight scheduled for Bombay at 10:05 pm, the one I had taken two weeks back. A crazy idea struck me. Could I somehow hoodwink the authorities into letting me on this flight? Having just arrived from Bombay, what if I took this next flight back to where I had just come from? Fourteen hours...just fourteen hours and I would be home again! What a pleasant surprise for Mom and Dad who must still be sad from having to see me leave! Alas! Sense prevailed and all I could do was longingly stare at the people gleefully making their way to Gate # 4 (that's where the said flight leaves from), wishing I could join them on their flight.
As I type this, I reminisce my first day in school. My very first day. Kindergarten. A two-and-a-half year old me being led away from my parents for the first time in my life, by complete strangers my parents told me were 'teachers'. As I was led into my classroom, I bawled loudly, not caring if my tears were seen, not caring if other kids laughed, arms outstretched, pleading to be united with my parents. Any moment now, my parents would come running and snatch me away from the evil teachers. But they just waved. My arms remained outstretched. Open.
I want to do the exact same thing right now. Cry. Bawl out loud with my arms in the air. It didn't work then. It might work now. I want to shut my eyes and sleep. Sleep. And open my eyes to find that it had all been a dream. That I am still on my bed at home. I wish to be anesthetized so I don't feel the pain of being away from home, don't feel the longing to fly back to where I belong, don't feel the envy when people I know here go back home in the near future. I wish to be anesthetized so I don't feel...anything.