On my way home.
It has been more than a year that I was in my beloved Kolkata. A feast and sore for the eyes all at once. An assault on all the senses.
I feel the excitement of a bride to be. And of someone who, near death, fulfills every dream.
I am minutes away now from Lufthansa Flight 445 that will carry me across the Atlantic. Then, another jet that will sail over the gentle landscapes of Europe and the rugged terrain of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. My heart will beat faster as the flight trackers shows names like Varanasi, Patna, Dhaka. It will pound as the plane descends into Kolkata.
Below me I will see the dim twinkling lights of a city that operates on 25 watts, save the glaring fluorescent tubes that are off at this late hour.
It’s a feeling I have known for many years. Familiar and comfortable like an old pair of shoes that no longer suit me but stay in my closet year after year.
I used to think of my mother’s smile as the plane touched Kolkata soil. My father used to be waiting for me among the throngs of people. That stopped when my father became incapacitated with Alzheimers. I began taking a taxi in the dead of night, smelling the cow dung and the acrid smell of the Chinese tanneries as we raced our way to Ballygung on the Eastern Bypass.
Ma would always be waiting for me. At 3 in the morning, she was waiting. In her wheelchair. Her eyes battling the kind of deep sleep awoman in her 60s needs at that hour.
But she was waiting.
No one waits for me anymore. I pay the $300 for a rickety Ambassador taxi that takes its time meandering in the dead of night.
I rest my head on an unfamiliar pillow, in an unfamiliar room, sadness and excitement gelling inside to keep me awake. Sleep finally comes when the sun begins to rise and the horns of the Tatas and Marutis begin the city’s symphony of sounds.
It is still my city, I think. But not.