I sit on the concrete steps leading to a makeshift park. Ammu swings, a blur of green against the brown. The bright green of the moss at the bottom of the AC unit is disconcerting. The hum of the compressor, the plinnnck plinnnck of the swing surrounds me as I sit in silence, ruminating on the changes I see. My earrings feel heavy and I absently touch them. I realize I have my wedding studs on. I remember the night before as I stood packing and took a minute to remove the weightless necklace and earrings for a solid pair, the soft clink of bangles on my wrists. I remember the moment as I hesitated between a conservative salwar kameez and my comfortable capris and a soft used tee for the train next day.
The world around seems softer, a picture out of focus. My FIL, a sharp image in my head seems expansive in person, the reactions slower, his banian whiter. I wheel in my huge suitcases, attend to the three children after a rather tedious six hour train journey to Bangalore. We eat in companionable silence punctuated only by the scraping of ladle against vessel. The radish sambar is fragrant, the curd tastier. I clean up and unpack against the background noises of cousins playing.
I stack our clothes on a shelf I clear, shoving odds and ends to the bottom rack. As I heft the empty suitcases and line them up along a corner, I feel a certain sense of home settle on me. I look around the room, the sheets straightened on the bed, the cotton mattresses on the floor for the children and feel satisfaction.
Each visit brings with it a familiarity and a certain sense of discord. As the first few days jar and jostle us into routine, I see it as life on a parallel universe. A life that could have been mine. I measure and gauge and compare and let the feelings stew. The yellow of my sandals brings me back to the present. I heave myself up and call out to Ammu so we can head home to loud serials on Sun TV and hunger inducing smells of food.