Josna Rege

525. Back to India

In Books, Britain, Immigration, India, Inter/Transnational, Stories, travel on January 20, 2023 at 2:26 pm

  luggage tag of yesteryear

Andrew and I are going to India again after a very long time—too long. For Andrew, it will have been 30 years—a whole generation—and for me, eight and a half. As we work through a seemingly never-ending To Do list, I try to calm, to name, and to claim the complicated feelings coursing through me, preventing me from concentrating on anything and keeping me in a constant state of anticipation. Eager or anxious anticipation? Probably both. But when all the items on the list have been checked off, when the bags are packed and, duly masked and seat-belted, we have finally taken off, the worries will start to slip away. And when we touch ground in Mumbai (for me always evocative of Saleem Sinai’s joyous “Back to BOM” in Midnight’s Children) and emerge from the glittering new Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport onto the streets of the city, the reality of actually being in India will hit me at last, and I will be overcome with a tremendous sense of relief.

First there will be another homecoming of sorts in the form of a nine-and-a-half-hour stopover at Heathrow Airport. As always, all sorts of emotions are bound to crowd in as the plane dips below the cloud cover and the familiar patchwork of English fields first comes into view. Nine and a half hours is a tantalizingly long time to sit at the airport. It’s long enough to tempt me to attempt traveling into London to have a quick lunch with one of my cousins, but not realistically long enough to enable us make our way through customs, check our carry-ons at Left Luggage, buy a one-day Travelcard, and race into London and back only to go through airport security all over again. Instead, I will have to content myself with browsing through shops like Boots the chemists and Marks & Spencer, buying the latest copies of The Guardian and the New Statesman, stocking up on Quality Street chocolates and my favorite English sweets (Jelly Babies, Wine Gums, Fruit Pastilles, Crunchie bars), and finding a place to eat a full English breakfast where I can read the papers at leisure, tackle the cryptic crossword, and wash it all down with copious amounts of tea.

From now until we leave, spurts of frantic energy in which I check item after item off that To Do list will be succeeded by hours of total lethargy in which I cannot make myself do anything but drink tea and wait for the date of departure. And when, Inshallah, Andrew and I arrive at last, and are assaulted by the sounds and smells of India and the sights and smiles that tell me I’m home, I know from experience that all impetus to act will be replaced with a contentment, simply, to be.

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  1. Great news ! India certainly engages ALL our senses and tickles memories that it is hard to put words to. I will be with you in spirit as I cherish my own memories of India and will anxiously look forward to a report when you get back. Don’t forget to take a few videos along with cell phone snaps. Movement and sound can add a lot.

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    • Of course, Gloria, you and India go way back. I will definitely report back, along with photos and, I can manage them, a few short videos to convey a fuller picture. Just landed today, and resting now. Love, J

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  2. Looking forward to hearing how it all goes, so hope it’s a safe journey and joyous stay!

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  3. Hari OM
    Oh, how exciting! You had me with the thoughts of Mumbai airport… sigh… I have been entertaining travel again since the year began. Not sure it will be this year quite yet, as so much has to be organised – but the time is coming. I wish you all happiness for this trip and that you remain safe, well and free-spirited in it! YAM xx

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    • Thank you, YAM. I know what you mean about how much has to be organized! It seemed impossible at first, especially after the long period of lockdown. There’s a lot that will just have to be left undone, but at a certain point I just decided that we had to go, and booked the tickets. Once there was a firm date of departure, it became clear what had to be done by then. x J

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  4. safe travels, and safe returns, and enjoy everything, and store the delights in your hearts. you will be making memory for the next years to come… hugs s.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, dear. Trying to get as much as possible done before leaving to that we can just relax and be there fully once get actually get there. x J

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