Saturday, June 05, 2010

First homecomings

The summer of 2001 is a period in my life I will never forget. Having woven together tediously elaborate fantasies of life overseas, I had, after a rather lucky sequence of events, finally managed to spend my first year abroad. It had been a weird experience for me after I had landed in Bangalore after a 20 hour journey all the way from South America. My parents, red with pride and affection, my close buddies (and the then girlfriend of one of them) and a relative – all of them had descended at the good old HAL airport to greet my blessed self back into the house. A giant bouquet was presented to me as my brother excitedly offered to pull my luggage trolley for me. I remember feeling so weird shaking hands with my friends in such a formal manner after so many years of friendship but it just seemed like the right thing to do somehow! They stretched out their hand with a grin; I accepted it with a smile and shook it. It was all so surreal. The scent of the trees, the hint of rain in the breeze, the din of the morning traffic and the cacophony of voices and faces. Ah – it was as if I had landed in a place I had left eons ago.

The weeks that followed had been equally interesting. After a couple of days of pampering, everyone had gotten busy with their lives. My friends went back to their planets of girlfriends and bosses. My brother went back to his world of books and boredom. My mother went back to her kitchen and maid-related issues while dad – well, he just returned to his newspaper. All that was left was me – walking around the garden and looking at life hazily puff by on the street. A random banana wallah here, a carefree newspaper wallah there. It seemed like life had returned to normalcy after the slight disruption of a couple of days. I – as I then painfully realized – had been that disruption. A momentary distraction. A passerby with a bag of tricks. Now that the brief period of curiosity was done with, they could move on.

It has been almost a decade since that summer. Over time, I have learnt several things the easy way and most things the hard way. One among those various tracks of experiences is the fact that when one chooses to be an NRI, one chooses to be an eternal guest in his/her home thereafter. All connections that are generic – of friendship, of love, of affection and such – remain intact but the vein that connects a person to the daily grind of things, inadvertently, is lost. My folks had gotten used to living without me so if anything my opinion on the daily transactions would always be seen as an invalid one. And it was true too! I didn’t live there, so I didn’t know it. Simple. Every whine, crib and complaint I’d have would be seen with ridicule since it was obvious that this ‘ordeal’ of mine was temporary. Hence, I had no right to talk about the bad roads unless I was going to do travel on it each day of the year. My take on the water supply issue was ignored since I now lived in a country with round the clock drinking water. My frustration on the infinitely grueling power cuts was irrelevant since I had to put up with it only for a few weeks unlike before. It was almost like a woman forbidding a man from having a take about child birth. No uterus, no opinion.

As the years flew by each one of my homecomings thereafter were transformed into Herculean life lessons. With time (and a lot of reminders) I stopped trying to compare the West and my home and began accepting her as she was – full of issues but brazenly original. It was after such realizations that I wanted to erase all memories of my first homecoming when I had made such a fool of myself by trying to connect dots that didn’t exist. Complex lessons learnt in such simple journeys.

I was reminded of this first homecoming since my wife is now set to embark on hers in a couple of weeks. Armed with a million ambitions and an infinite supply of genuine goals, she excitedly awaits her return to her roots – her beloved Mumbai. She just cannot wait to re-indulge into 'khidki vada paos' and 'poli bhaaji'. She eagerly looks forward to her local trains and evenings with friends in Dombivali. She is constantly reminded about the priceless joy she is bound to experience when she spends invaluable time with her two year old niece. Yes – she just cannot wait to re-discover herself back in her nest.

All I plan to do now is sit back and watch her go through the experiences that came to me a decade ago. This time, fortunately, I hope she is less surprised given my feedback about the same. But nevertheless, I am excited for her since I know it will be a journey she will never forget. A hundred more journeys back home might happen but it’s the first one that always stays.

First homecomings – an experience we never forget but ironically, become spots we’d most like to move on from sometimes.

4 reflections:

mouna said...

u once told me, that there are many firsts in life. i didn't realise it then. now i do, not many, but many many.

ShaK said...


:) Thank you. Glad to know life's priceless lessons are coming to you. And yes - there are an infinite amount of 'firsts' in life. One can only hope that regardless of their nature, we continue learning from it and moving on.


L'Étranger said...

I can sooo identify with the whole post... the first homecoming back in 1999 after being away for over 4 years, getting edgy over every small thing, picking fights with strangers, in English because I didn't speak the local language, and getting ridiculed as a phirangi, becoming irrelevant in the family, and still fighting for relevance, even after 15 years of being an NRI, etc. etc. If you ask me, one of the biggest prices you pay for being an NRI is the loss of relevance in your own family.

ShaK said...


Thank you,mate for the gracious response. Indeed - nothing more ironic than the criminal alienation that takes place on the home front in our attempts to blend in with other cultures.A price, as I have realized, that can be quite daunting with time. Hopefully we will muster up the character to pick up the lessons that matter and continue appreciating the best of all the societies we are exposed to. Thanks again for the words.