The smooth flow of cars on the highway, the towering trees flanking our roads, the ease of exit from the immigration all made me wistful. Returning from over three weeks of travel in India, the contrast was stark.
We (our family of five) left to India early June. I had a spreadsheet filled with all the things I wanted to do, foods I wanted to eat and the people I wanted to meet. Three days into our trip, a bad bout of cold and flu fell us all. After an initial scare of covid, we hunkered down and coughed and sneezed away in my mom’s home in Chennai. The bout of sickness cascaded and I canceled plans to travel to Kerala. Also a casualty of sickness was attending two upanayanams which we had been looking forward to.
What did happen were the following:
Early morning visit to the Marina beach for some time playing with the waves.
Temple visits galore and soaking in the timelessness of the divinity there.
Fruits of all kinds.
For me personally, this trip was a pilgrimage, a journey into the past selves I had left behind in Chennai and Bangalore. As I traveled through roads and neighborhoods I had grown up in, I remembered the girl I once was. The images were hazy, the way old photos often are. My mind rushed to fill in gaps that the eye could not reconcile. The smells that wafted from other apartments, the oppressive humidity, the hawking of wares from the streets, the mad traffic on the streets, the loudness of it all was a comforting hug. I felt home. I felt seen. I felt understood in this land.
Each evening, my kids and I took to the open terrace enjoying the sea breeze that offered a bit of respite from the heat and moisture still in the air. The rains each evening were gloriously wild. Each morning, I woke to a cacaphony of birdsong from the Asoka trees overlooking the balcony. The AC was on more often than not.
Today, I sit in my study, the silence beautiful but disconcerting. I slept well in my own bed but woke up disoriented forgetting for a brief moment that I was no longer in India. I caught up with Amma, filling her in on our air travel while she walked me through her day. In a week, this trip will be relegated to memories, to the photo album on my phone I will pore over when I am homesick.
Today though, the remembering is an active process. As I cook, clean, unpack and put away memorabilia, I will go back to the moment in time and remember the tactile realness of it all.