Monday, November 3, 2014

The Homecoming

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We were a bunch of school girls fresh off the hook from the tyranny of XIIth board exams, when we first sighted him at a music camp at Nainital. It was hard not to giggle at the antics of this fresh off the plane NRI, trying to live up to the Utopia that nostalgia creates. When we went for treks and long walks, this strange creature would sniff appreciatively every time he spotted a clump of bovine waste he’d look heavenwards and exclaim in his most melodramatic voice – this, my friends is the aroma of Indiaaah! Had it been the age of mobiles, I’m sure he would have taken a selfie with it. Anything and everything; a humble plate of jalebi, the sight of a dilapidated rickshaw would send him into paroxysms.

I guess, he couldn’t contain the excitement of coming back as a tourist to a country he had been in such a hurry to leave. We found him plain annoying. He was the perfect example of what we didn’t want to become.

It’s been three weeks since I came back from Brisbane, a city that was my home away from home for over two years. It was not easy for a hyper Delhiite like me to fall for its quiet charms. A city so laidback that the driver of the city bus will happily stop to give directions to a lost tourist; the customer care executive will engage in a long leisurely chat with a guy looking for a good mobile deal while you look impatiently at the clock. Horror of horrors, no one honks, the raised middle finger is the height of indecency and the most action you’ll get is the sight of drunk kids puking.

I was horrified to be in a city whose markets pull their shutters down by six in the evening. Weekends were worse. You are thrown out of the mall by the time the clock chimes 4 and Sunday evening looks as if everyone is in deep mourning. The food was bland, the meats almost undercooked and my Indian palette was screaming for spices. And I’m not even going to talk about the shock of shelling out over a hundred dollars for a perfectly mediocre meal.

The news channels that covered forest fires, local accidents and inebriated men ramming their cars into private properties made no sense. Things became so bad that I even started missing Arnab’s histrionics! I knew I had to make friends, so I dragged myself to meet-ups and socials and mastered the art of small talk. I even tried mixing up with an expat group that preferred calling itself the network for American women, appalled that Australia is blissfully unaware of the existence of Philly Cheese Steaks.


When you are among women who constantly crib about things they don’t get, there comes a day you realize you’ve become one of them and it’s time to move on to happier pastures. Thankfully, I made new friends who introduced me to a few more and pretty soon Brisbane didn’t seem such a bad place.

The city embraces you when you are ready to embrace it. You realize that you cannot replicate your old life in new environs and you start unlearning your old ways and adapt to the new.

Strangely, I didn’t feel too sad when it was time to bid adieu to a city I had grown to like. It was like déjà vu for me – a replay of emotions when it was time for us to leave Gurgaon – a sense of relief to get away from the constant stress, frayed nerves and rage at a system that sucks the life out of you.

I guess the heart has its own ways of coping up with having to let go. Suddenly all that was dear to you starts losing its charms. You start finding faults with your routine, the people, the weekend ritual you cherished in anticipation of moving to the other side of the fence, where the grass promises to be greener, the skies clearer and its inhabitants nicer.

It’s another matter that it took me just a few weeks to start longing for the constant humdrum that I used to find so annoying; my friends and family and everything I’d taken for granted.

Sometimes you need to be away to realise how much you love it.

The homecoming was not as exhilarating as I’d imagined it to be. The weather was unbearably humid. My jet-lag made sure I would be wide-awake and bushy tailed hours before dawn and gave me a throbbing headache that lasted all through the day. My apartment’s balconies and ledges looked as if they had been carpet-bombed by generations of diarrheal pigeons. Leaking faucets, melted gas pipes, conked off appliances, temperamental ACs, and pretty soon I was my tearing my hair in frustration! My beautiful apartment had become a stranger to me.

With my to-do list was reading longer than the Mahabharat, I felt like Arjuna reluctant to go on war.

They call it settling down even though it is the most unsettling.

For days I refused to look at myself at the mirror, lest I get startled by the reflection of a wild-haired woman with a halo of dust, a dusting cloth slung over her shoulders, clutching on tightly to Scotch-Brite in one hand and cleaning liquid in another. My men, Ramesh, Suresh, Rakesh, Chandan, Prem were back in my life, fixing and repairing to bring a semblance of normalcy to Madam-jee’s life.

The truth is, despite the hectic schedule, living out of suitcases, moving into yet another apartment, the stress of refurnishing it and unpacking 110 boxes, I’m loving the challenge of beginning again. The weather as if sensing my mood has cooled down considerably. The festive buzz is infectious and a prolonged absence has added the sheen of new to the jaded. I can’t stop exclaiming how green the bhindis look, how tasty the food is and how lively the crowded malls look. I have yet to start snarling at men who think it’s their duty to stare at cleavage.

I know the honeymoon phase will not last long. Pretty soon, I’ll start complaining about uncouth people, traffic mess, parking woes and truant maids. But right now I’m busy sniffing the November air fragrant with blooming Frangipanis and Shiuli flowers and grinning from ear to ear.

Thankfully, I maintain a stoic expression every time I spot freshly released bovine droppings.


56 comments:

  1. Hahah 'generations if diarrheal pigeons' ! Could imagine the chaos ! I hope you settled down. Now let's discuss about pollution and how noisy Diwali is ! :D

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    1. Taking one deep breath in Delhi NCR is like smoking a pack of cigarettes :p Breathing kills.

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  2. haha...I can imagine the condition of a closed flat ! You should be thankful there were no rat attacks! I was not so lucky and my new sofa had to pay the price..Ofcourse as a true jugadu Indian I have hidden the spots with cushions :D

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    1. Oops, that's so sad :/ Thankfully, we disposed off all our furniture when we left.

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  3. ohh....my house had been locked for 6 months and it had a case of diarrhoea-l pigeons too :P
    and yes...we do tend to miss what we take for granted sometimes. "Lived" in Germany for 2 months....and I missed it :P

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    1. You missed the pooping pigeons?

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  4. I felt the same when we moved to Bangalore for four years and came back to Gurgaon. I know what you are saying but you say it with amazing clarity and wit.
    Good luck with the Prem, Chandan and Rakesh's....

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    1. And, Madam aap 10 minute ruko, main 2 din mein ayaa!

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  5. I have been hopping in and out of Japan for years now and believe me I go through the same range of emotions as you every time ! For me the transition from quiet and orderly Tokyo to Mayhem in Delhi is the most jarring.
    Good to have you back Purba !

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    1. Thankfully, I didn't stay too long in Brisbane to get used to its serenity. I did miss Delhi despite its madness.

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  6. Good to see a post you, Purba after resettling! The weather now will help in calming down the frayed nerves! I have gone through this process so many times that I lost count but then that is how life is:) You make new friends see new places and keep enriching the life!!

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    1. What's more, every time you move to a new place, adjust to it, you evolve as a person.

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  7. I can't get the sight of wild haired Purba with a dusting cloth on the shoulders. I can only imagine entering into an apartment that has been locked for 2 years!!! I loved this idea of how heart has its own way of letting go. Have experienced it a number of times but could never find the right words. Hope you settle down soon so that we can hear you ramble about Gurgaon.

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    1. I hope so too, Jas! Life is still too hectic to get my creative juices churning.

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  8. Yes, this nostalgia hits me every time I leave a place I've lived in. I love to take off from home and I love it even more when I get back. :) But relocating is a huge pain. I hate the packing and the unpacking. I completely empathize with you. Hope the dust settles soon along with the dusting cloth. Good to have you back... to writing.

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    1. I have yet to get back to writing, Rachna. Just managed to finish the write-up that I'd started in Brisbane.

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  9. Ah... 3 cheers for new beginnings ! what would life be without them eh? :)

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  10. Haha, glad you stopped to smell the flowers err I did not mean the bovine offerings or the ones gifted by the diarrhoea-l pigeons - but stopped to blog about it. Hope the apartment is now ship-shape.

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    1. I moved to a new apartment, Ritu. It almost looks normal now :-)

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  11. Welcome back! Settle down soon and let's hear more of your pigeons and their diarrhoea ;)

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    1. Wherever I go, whatever I do, pigeons follow me. Even our new apartment has scores of pigeons.

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  12. I know what you mean since we are settled in a place that closes at 6 in the evening. Just imagine the horror after spending six years in places like Mumbai and Pune. I wanna run back to India the earliest. I didn't know Brisbane close down so earlier..ma best friend born in Mumbai is there..Gosh! How the guy is surviving!!!

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    1. Lol, your friend must have become used to it by now.

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  13. I am glad that you are now ensconced in your cocoon,but what a lot of trouble it must have been.How different Brisbane was from India--shops closing at 6 pm--so much of leisure,no signs of hurry and scurry.No wonder you fell in love with it's unique charm.

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    1. I didn't fall in love with Brisbane, Indu. It was beautiful and all that but home is home.

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  14. Welcome, welcome, welcome! Now, when do we see your selfie with a bovine with gigantic horns?
    Lovely essay on homecoming!

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    1. My next essay will be on how expensive Gurgaon has become. 48 Rs for a kilo of potatoes - O Maa Go!

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  15. Only you could write with so much wit and humor. :) It happens to me everytime I move. Hopefully, next month would be my last move in the U.S. No one knows what's written in our destiny though. I am eagerly waiting for that rant post now :) Hope you settle soon...

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    1. Hahaha...the rant post will follow soon. I'm back to my snarling ways :p

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  16. Can't wait to see what you'll write about your old/new city a year from now. Wish you all the best with settling right back in.

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    1. Thanks, Khoty. It does feel great to be back.

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  17. Oh but smile at least... for fear of bovine retribution!

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  18. extremely well described feelings ! superb !

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  19. So this was why the tweets about frantic unpacking and barely any time to rest...

    Given a choice (and of course, the right to crib), where would you rather settle? Gurgaon or Brisbane?

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    1. Ahh, I made full use of Twitter to vent.

      Almost a month in Gurgaon but I haven't missed Brisbane. There, you got your answer :-)

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  20. " I felt like Arjuna reluctant to go on war. "

    I DIED...
    Welcome to Humara desh!
    You can complain...it makes us who we are Madamjee!!!
    Relocating truly sucks.

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    1. It certainly sucked the life out of me. But change is always exciting, infuses you with energy :-)

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  21. Welcome home, Madamjee :) There's no place like home, is there?

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  22. Welcome home Purba..:-)

    ...and please don't utter a word against bovine droppings....they're sacred ..:-P :-D

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  23. Have you been gorging on street food because you missed it? And......and your pigeons missed you....awwww

    Also, settle in fast...there are parties to be planned. People from both the blog world and twitter world have remained quiet because you were clutching tightly to a scotch bright and refusing to let go. :)

    P.S. We will be judging you on how much of an NRI you have become in two years. *evil laugh*

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    1. I have yet to gorge on street food. Yes, I've been that busy :/

      But now it's time to make up for the lost time. Bring on the beer and butter chicken!

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  24. All I know is that you must have gone a couple of years for better prospects,raising your professional bar and may be for consideration of saving a bit when you convert your Dollars back home into Rs.
    Obviously,you enjoyed your stay there....Time to enjoy your stay back home.
    Purba,Welcome back.

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    1. Sir, it was a new post (let's call it promotion) in the company my husband works for.

      And thanks. It does feel great to be back.

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  25. That's a wonderful descriptions of both the angst of leaving as well as the pleasure of homecoming ! Enjoy the honeymoon while it lasts before you start snarling at the dust, the traffic, the chaos and the men :) Welcome home !

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    1. I have already started snarling at men who think it's their duty to check out a woman's cleavage :
      /

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  26. Well, you did wax eloquent about the pigeon droppings....:P

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    1. They are my constant companions. I see them having orgies outside my bedroom window :p

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  27. Home is most sweetest place in the world. I love the sweets, pakoda and pani puri. I am missing my home town.

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    1. Chatpata food that you only get in India :-)

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  28. I felt the same way when I moved! Good one… I watched a video of TATA AIA about dad n son relationship.. this is the video -www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fd_gbV66lUI Hoping you will write something on this beautiful relationship.. I have read about mum n kids but never about dad n kids.. Looking forward to reading more posts from you!

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    1. I have written a few posts on mother-daughter relationship :-)

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