Groggy and jet-lagged, I tip-toed downstairs to the kitchen. Grabbing a cup of coffee to beat the tiredness, I looked out through the window. The backyard donned a new look. The camellia bush and cherry blossoms were in full bloom, signaling that spring is on its way. It was a bare landscape just a few days ago when I left home. My 22-year-old son, getting ready to go to work, sported a different appearance too. With his overgrown hair which he never bothered to cut, he was obviously not looking prim and trim. Quite a bit had changed during the three weeks of my absence. Yet why did I feel that time had flown by in a wink?
Good times pass faster as we get drowned in the magic of those hours, minutes, and seconds. I went on a mental excursion and revisited the city I had just returned from. Something that has remained intact over 27 years is my bonding with this place where I grew up. In fact, as the phrase goes, absence has made my heart grow fonder. In silent retrospection, I scanned through those moments I experienced. I recapitulated segments of my visit to my family.
It was my first stay in the house after my father passed away. Yet his presence loomed large, and it felt as though he was with us and watching every activity of ours. The guiding influence of our elders never ceases to leave us.
Having settled down in the United States, I have made an extremely close circle of friends. They have been there for me through thick and thin. But what strikes me every time I visit my home town is how much I have missed out on by being 10,000 miles away from my family. I yearn for the old nest from which I had flown out. This trip was not any different from others in the past. The laughter, the endless conversations pepped up with sugar and spice, the scrumptious meals prepared with love, they all make joy overflow the brim. And how fortunate I was on this visit to enjoy my aunt’s birthday and also see my brother-in-law and sister-in-law celebrate their 34th year of wedded bliss!
An otherwise hustling and bustling place created on my first morning an atmosphere akin to one generally experienced in the country-side. I had woken up in the wee hours when it was still a little dark and the light of dawn had not yet spread around the sleepy city. Breaking the pin-drop silence, tweets and chirps from a multitude of birds rented the crisp, cool air. The rooster in the house behind my parents’ place played the role of the alarm clock as it cried out, “Cock-a-doodle doo”! It was a rather unusual feeling of bucolic charm. Later, my brother jokingly pointed out that I should not be misled by the revered bird because by nature, it always crows several times during the day and was therefore not necessarily announcing sunrise for me at that particular moment!
Meeting friends in several get-togethers was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. We have all walked through different paths in our life, have developed our own distinct personalities, but have managed to meet at the crossroads where the edifice of friendship stands.
It was a pleasure to meet people outside my circle of family and friends that I have known for years. I happened to casually bump into them during my stay. They have maintained the same lifestyle for decades. The only changes noticeable are their signs of aging. The guy who sells flowers in front of a local temple, the tailor who runs her small business in the corner of a narrow street, and the salesperson at the bakery all exchanged pleasantries. Like always, they reaffirmed my belief in the principle of how happy we can make someone simply with a smile.
Sometimes, we get to taste a slice of wisdom by looking at some very simple, unassuming individuals. In total humility, they unknowingly impart those lessons that make us look at life in a different perspective, appreciate the blessings showered upon us, and not fret and complain about trivial things. I met Farzana, a mother of three who does menial jobs in several households to make ends meet. Her youngest child is visually impaired and stays in a school for the blind. Comfort and luxury do not figure in the lexicon of her everyday world. Yet with all the hardships she undergoes to keep her family going, she maintains a cheerful disposition and happily comes to work. If this is not one of those shining examples of positivity, I don’t know what else is!
A couple of incidents gave an interesting finishing touch to the travel back to the United States. A plan that I came up with did materialize when a close friend flying in from Kathmandu joined me in the longer of the two international flights. The boredom usually induced by a fifteen-hour journey was eased to a considerable extent when with our seats next to each other, we endlessly chatted about almost everything under the sun. Also, up in the sky, I owed my debt of gratitude to the WhatsApp founders when, as my better half later commented, I “flew high with wi-fi” and exchanged messages with friends and family. With two of my besties in two separate cities in India and me in the clouds above some European nation, we stirred up an exciting conversation and explored the possibility of an all-girls trip to some exotic place in the near future.
There are some things in life which we just can’t get enough of; a trip back home is one such gift. Tenderly nestled in my heart are the bits and pieces that weave a basket of those memories that are deeply engrained in the core of my existence. And as I fight my homesickness and dwell on the uncertainty of when I might see my folks again, I ponder on the lyrics that ring in my mind:
There’s always tomorrow to bring us a smile,
Maybe we should borrow that thought for a while.