The subconscious has an extraordinary memory. Yesterday I walked through traffic, bargained with three rickshaw wallahs in broken Hindi until I found the right price, all the while wondering how the hell I'd got there and how I'd dodged several motorcycles, a dog and a cow without more than half a glance. The strangest thing about being back is how very simply and nonchalantly I slipped into a world I could barely remember just a few days ago.
It's been a little over two years ago since I left India, three since I arrived wide-eyed, bemused and mystified by everything I saw. I keep having flashbacks to the first time I saw each part of this home. (Our water comes from a clay pot? How am I supposed to eat rice with my hands? I just touch my relatives' feet to greet them, wait you mean just bend over and touch their feet?). It was a very long and incredible year that left me a new person by the time I came back to America in June.
I have changed since then in ways I am only now starting to see. According to my family I am weaker (meaning that I lost the 10 kgs I gained on too much good Indian food). I have a high school diploma and a semester at a liberal arts college under my belt, as well as a refined vocabulary of car sounds and distraction strategies from nannying a sweet one and a half year old boy for the past eight months. I hadn't been planning on coming back to India so soon. I reached a point though where I desperately needed the color and chaos and majesty and ridiculousness I've only found in India.
I left on the 19th of August. After a rushed goodbye to my family owing to a punctual and grumpy bus driver, I left my beautiful city and rode to Seattle, where I had a lovely time with my uncle, driving around and savoring the pastries, evergreens, grocery stores, and good talks with relatives I'll be missing this year. I had a very easy flight to Dubai, all the while thinking that there must be something to stop me from going, surely there'd be some delay or accident or paperwork I was missing, perhaps a stern matron popping up saying, "Now listen here young lady, you can't just drop everything and go to India with your main plan as coming back sometime in spring." Somehow though, I managed to get myself in the right place and end up half way around the world.
There is nothing quite like flying, the way glaciers look from above, the way clouds shade different parts of the land and roads parallel rivers. How very small our little patches of settlement are and how unbelievably prevalent they are. The way the desert looks just the same as the beach after the tide goes out. And then there is the more mysterious phenomenon of looking up and seeing rows and rows of closed windows and movies playing. As we took off, a woman behind me sang a very long and desperate prayer, and I think I must have been praying as well, probably for different things. I'm pretty sure she was hoping we wouldn't crash; I kept hearing little gasps and exclamations in Arabic as we went through turbulence.
I arrived at three in the morning to humidity and the wonderful surprise of my whole family coming to greet me at the airport. The sleepy ride back to Nasik was my first glimpse of my old home, and I found myself with lots of excitement, but not much surprise at the erratic traffic, cow herds, and people slowly waking up, gathering around chai stalls, relieving themselves in the trash-strewn roadside. It felt far less strange and exalted than returning to America had felt. Somehow my mindset doesn't seem too very much changed from the one that left Portland. This time around there is not the same awe and mystery to catapult me into a new self all at once. I wouldn't want it any other way. The drive was beautiful, mist covered, and green, and we finally reached our flat at 6:30am.
It doesn't seem possible that this is only my third day here, all of the relatives and old friends I've seen, all the walks I've been on, and all the time with no work to be done. I will leave some of the things I've seen already to different posts. I am always honored and a little surprised to see how many people like to follow my journey. If you ever have the chance, please write me at firstname.lastname@example.org, tidbits from afar always keep me going.
Jai ji nendra,