I returned from my trip to India. It was wintry, dark and bleak when we landed. My house felt stark and empty and there was no food. I struggled to adjust to the cold, the dry heat from the radiators, the need to cook again.
I’m more homesick than usual this time. It’s growing harder to leave from the many households that I slip into in India.
The India of my memories is filled with noisy warmth and color and food that is startling in flavor. In reality, when I arrive in Calcutta and take in the smell of the gray smog, and find myself tangled in the snarl of traffic on my way home, and taste the new cook’s mediocre cooking, I wonder what I was missing. Then I see my grandparents and get enfolded in their warm embrace. There’s my mother’s beloved face. Even her two dogs do a customary dance around my heels, as though to say “where were you?” Agastya races through my mother’s house with the dogs. I can hear his laughter. My favorite aunt drops by for a visit. Endless cups of tea steaming with ginger and cardamom arrive on neat little trays. I cut into wedges of stinky cheese and pile them up on toast with my father at breakfast. My grandmother’s cook plies me with hot samosas.
The first few mornings are the ones that I treasure the most. I wake up early and gaze outside the window. The same trees have grown older and appear a little fuller. The boys are still asleep. The air is cool in December and the feeling of being home, of becoming somebody’s child again, wraps around me like a blanket. I’ve felt this way each time that I’ve returned. It’s been more than fifteen years since I left.