I stand stir-frying okra at the gas stove. It is past our usual dinner time but then it is a Saturday that also involved a solid two-hour nap in the afternoon. The smell of asafetida in oil, the heady scent of turmeric as it mixes and coats the now dry okra takes me back to my childhood.
I pick up my phone intending to call amma who is now at my brother’s home. The phone rings and goes to voicemail. I am bored. I am longing to talk to someone. The children are busy stripping their bedroom walls of decals featuring Frozen characters and replacing them with Narwhals and Mermaids of indeterminate origin. Their hand me down decals are now being ferried to the littlest one’s room.
I pick up the phone again and look through my redial list. It is short. The same numbers are on repeat. I feel a pang. I also am not surprised.
If my twenties and thirties were all about exploration and widening horizons, my forties have been about roosting and coming home. It is about seeking comforts from the things that are most familiar. The vegetables from my childhood that I may have loathed. The sandhanam and elakkai from my teens that now seem divine. The books I grew up on. The mellifluous voice of Subbulakshmi in the mornings. The pleasure in wrapping sarees at the flimsiest of excuses. The kohl-lined eyes and a simple saandu pottu to complete the outfit.
Most of all it is the people on my redial list. My amma. My sister. My cousin. My childhood friend with whom I lost touch and have now reconnected without rancor at having missed some of the darkest periods in her life.
Some days I dwell on morbidity of the human life and condition and I ground myself thinking of all the things I am blessed with. If the past two decades were about aspirations and moving forward, this time in my life seems to be about standing still and acknowledging the privilege and blessings in my life.
Books and movies often pontificate on the dreaded midlife crisis. I wonder if this is what it is all about, this wandering and coming home. The exploration and the returning to roots. This homing back to all that is familiar and known, this time with a stillness that comes from experience.