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Going home

Tomorrow I’m heading to India. A 12 day trip, all of it planned to be spent in Karnal. No plans, yet, of travelling, meeting friends, or spending any nights away from home.
Feeling a bit weird. It’s been a while since I did this, since I spent time there.

In 6 years since we moved to the UK, I’ve made a total of 5 visits home – once when grand dad passed away, then one to see F&F, next after our wedding, then for my sister’s wedding, and last for R’s sister’s wedding.

It’s almost 5 years since I visited to meet family outside of an occasion.
It’s been way longer since I stayed in Karnal for anything over a week.1

I’m afraid of flying.

Don’t know if this is me growing old, or an effect of the spreading extremism globally, but I’m just not as comfortable flying as I was a decade back.

A flight to Croatia or Barcelona is fine. But when it comes to flying to India, I’m just not sure. I skipped cheaper flights through Turkey and the gulf Emirates/Sultanates just to ease my fears a bit2, but the anxiety levels are still high.

Haven’t ever left Chewie alone with R for this long.

He’s way too attached to me, and we’re all unsure how he’ll take to my absence3. The hope is that he’ll adapt quickly, like he usually does to change, and that R will be able to spare more time, energy, and (specially) attention for him.

Let’s not even talk about how much I’ll miss him (and her). Wish I was as good at adapting to change as him :(

It’s crazy weather time in North India.

Temperatures e expected to in high 30s to mid 40s, with monsoon rains probably having already arrived.

Yes, I spent the first 30+ years of my life in these (and worse) conditions. But, 6 years of pleasant summers and mild winters have spoilt me. I’m not scared of the weather, just unsure – having forgotten how it feels like – of its impact on the body.

Mama. The main reason I’m going home.

Mama, my grandma, had a huge presence around me the first 17 years my life. She was one my biggest influences – consciously and unconsciously, for good things and bad, by force and on the sly.

She has been critically ill for a while now. She’s fast losing conscious abilities, and getting frail by day. I want to see her at least one more time. Spend a few moments around her. Even if she can’t hear me, can barely see me, and may not even recognise me. I just want to see her once more.

Pa & ma. The other reason I’m going home.

They’ve spent their lives in servitude. Serving grandma’s commands while she was young, catering to us siblings while we grew up, and then taking care of grandma & grandpa as they grew frail, and we flew the nest.

Grandpa’s passing was a shock to everyone. But specially for the three of them. Mama grew weaker. Ma grew lonelier. Papa grew sadder.

While grandpa’s death was a shock, grandma’s prolonged illness has been a stiffer test. Months of 24/7 nursing, with hardly any paid help to assist till recently, has taken its toll. Dad looks almost as old as his dad was when 20 years older. Ma, never having taken care of her health, has her own illnesses accruing. And we, the once little birds, are far away in a different land with our own lives.

Karnal. The town I loved, then hated, then ignored.

It used to be a small town where everyone knew everyone. And as the son of a famous teacher in the biggest school in town, I had no place to hide.

Yet, a boring small town with loads of time to spare, no friends, and an imaginative brain was probably also my biggest asset. I cycled everywhere, exploring several British raj era mansions and relics in forgotten nooks. I played hours upon hours of basketball with a small fellow group of bored kids. I created stuff – from models of molecules to large battlefield formations in my backyard. And I read. Lots.

Then I grew up, moved out. And the town grew up.

The Raj era buildings were torn down and replaced with ugly houses. The roads where I used to cycle got flooded with motor vehicles always in a hurry to get somewhere. Our big park with a tiny temple in a corner became a small park with a big temple. Mom left the school where she spent 30+ years, where we both studied, and which had a huge presence in our lives. The few friends I had left town, and the few elders I liked died, moved away, or became… weird. The dust and pollution went through the roof, and I… lost any lingering connection.

These 10 days will be my longest stay at home since that one year of commute to college. I don’t know how I’ll take to that town…. my town. I don’t know if the town will take me at all, once it discovers my real opinions and beliefs.

There’ll be more visits to my hometown, but this one feels like a rite of passage. It may be a final goodbye. Or, though highly unlikely, this may be a small rekindling of the bond.

I’m scared. I’m anxious. And yet I want to go. I have to go. I need to go.

I’m going :)

  1.  Left home at 17. Trips from hostel were relatively frequent – weekly in 1st semester, fortnightly in 2nd, monthly-ish thereafter. Even spent one year commuting from home. Trips from Delhi were monthly, turning into quarterly. Trips from Calcutta… 2 in 2 years. Trips from Bombay – 6 in 4 years. So, moving to UK hasn’t been much of a change in order of things, except for the perceived distance. 
  2. The attack at Istanbul airport, my planned stopover point, downing of jets in/around Egypt, and recurrent extremist violence around the middle east just emphasises the rationale behind my fears. 
  3.  He sits by our front window looking out on the street every evening, while I’m out for my post-dinner walk. No amount of calling & cajoling by R will get him to lose sight (or sense) of me. He’ll have to go from not letting me out of sight for 15 mins a night, to not seeing me for almost 2 weeks. Poor fellow. Poorer me! 

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