February 16th?! And so I ask, where has time gone? Where oh WHERE did January go? Time is flying by—I’ve been here exactly 6 months to the date. This is the longest I’ve stayed in India since my Pune days, circa 2008.
M has returned to the bitter cold weather of the tri-state. I hear from friends and family that this winter has been particularly awful; snowstorm after snowstorm with huge bursts of chilling wind and freezing rain. Sounds like a mess. A mess I am happy to not be a part of. Although Bombay has its flaws, the weather during this season is extremely pleasant, more so than any other part of India. It’s not humid nor is it too cold. The nights are breezy and the days are still warm enough to forget its mid Feb. There are quite a few people from the States visiting Bombay this time of year, many of whom I’ve met up with for a casual evening out. It’s nice because it lessens the pangs of any lingering homesickness I may feel. Lessens but doesn’t do away with. I came down with a hell of a cold a few weeks back—runny nose, congestion, facial tenderness, the works. I was so incredibly homesick. It came out of nowhere! Perhaps it’s the need for comfort in times of sickness that I become more apt to just let all types of emotions take over me. Homesickness doesn’t happen too often because India has sincerely become a second home to me—I’ve been traveling back and fourth for 6 years—and so it’s become second nature to dive right back into the ‘Indian ways’ once I arrive at CSI airport. I indulged myself in some good old-fashioned comfort foods and chatted with friends from home. Balance, it’s all about maintaining that balance.
I remember my arrival to Bombay airport this time around on August 16th and having the distinct feeling of “So…this is the new normal. Interesting.” The foul smells and broken streets no longer assaulted my senses. It wasn’t because the conditions improved at all but because I got used to it. A voice inside screamed, “This was never supposed to happen!!!” Balu picked Dad and I up from the airport that night and we arrived at a hotel, per usual. Everything we did our first full day out felt so very normal. I hated the familiarity of it all. I wanted to cling onto the idea of India as something else: a place that was removed from home, a foreign land. India as ‘the place I went to heal’ or ‘the land of spirituality and all things eastern’. [SHORT INSERT: I went to a party at Palladium Hotels’ EXO Lounge last month with a friend and I met a woman who worked at the Canadian Consulate. She did not hold back in the least in telling me how much she despised Bombay. She’d worked for the Consulate for many years and lived all over the place, she says. Rio was b yffar her favorite. But Bombay was not a happy match for her. Her job at the consulate is to help foreigners adjust to life in Bombay. What does that entail, you ask? “You know, most people come here to find themselves, seek out spirituality, all that.” I laughed because it was funny and because it was true. I was that person, I told myself. Her man-friend who also worked as a Consulate advisor for a country far more interesting than Canada later entered and I in turn exited to find my friend. END OF INSERT].
I didn’t want the feeling of everything being easy-breezy, plain, almost boring. The India I held onto and always brought back with me to America was becoming something of the past and New India was steadily approaching. This New India (or New Bombay, rather) where I would live and work just didn’t feel as special. It felt serious and dull. It wasn’t only the environment that felt routine to me but I found myself becoming inherently ‘more Indian’. Street beggars tapping at my car window no longer fazed me. I would stare straight ahead and disengage. I treated people differently than I did before; I always on the defense. I began to question everything and everyone around me. Part of my journey in carving out a space for myself here in Bombay clearly came with a large side of paranoia. Eventually I came to recognize it as such and stopped the craziness. I allowed myself to be comfortable with being comfortable here. I guess its safe to say I really started living in Bombay once I let that happen.