Saturday, June 24, 2006

in exile

Nothing had changed. Everything had changed.

I had planned for this trip and booked the tickets about 2-3 months in advance. It was supposed to be a 2 week vacation. But everything changed after I got an interesting offer from a company in Bangalore. I came to Bangalore, joined the company, cancelled the old flight tickets and booked new ones. The 2-week vacation became a 3-day trip; I was going to be home for about 24 hours.

My sister’s wedding, and I was going home after 7 years. Many of my friends asked me, “Do you still know the way? Haven’t you forgotten it already?”

And I ACTUALLY forgot it as I came home from the airport, all alone in an auto. I forgot the lane on the left, the lane that led to a place called home. Once upon a time, there was this rice mill on the left side of this lane, and it was the landmark as far as I could remember. But so many shops had come up, so much had changed and I missed the lane. I asked the auto driver to take a U-turn and finally reached home.

There was this long line of kids standing near the steps, right in front of my house. Something like an identification parade and I could hardly recognize any one of them. The last time I was here, most of these kids were waist-high, some were playing in my lap, and some hadn’t been born yet.

I saw Joshua for the first time too, my youngest nephew, the one I named. Cute and small, and with all the answers in the world, he clung on to me like a long lost friend.

And then I saw my brothers and sisters, 4 brothers and 2 sisters. I’m the fifth in this main series and the fourth in the male sub-series. As I look at them, something else dawned on me. All 7 of us were home together for the first time in 13-14 years. 2 brothers and elder sis at home, one brother in Chennai, kid brother in Pune, and little sis in Delhi.

I met cousin N too, the closest cousin I ever had. We grew up like brothers. The eldest son in his family, he was an old man even before he entered his teens. I could only nod my head when he said, “R, I try so hard to make life better for everyone in the family – parents, brothers and sis, wife and kids, myself - but you know something? Something or the other comes up and snatches everything away. And it’s so much worse when everyone in the family depends on you, for almost everything. The money I bring in? It’s never enough; it’s never enough for the whole damn family.”

Tales of another broken home, another case of parents screwing up the lives of their children. It was not fair. It was the same story with a lot of my friends; they would have been leading reasonably good lives if their parents had been more responsible. They have fought and struggled, fought and won the battles on their own, and all they do now is pay for the sins and laziness of their other family members.

Oh, I revisited Calcutta too. For about 10 hours, I was there in that warn humid city; a city so full of noise, and so full of life.