Homecoming

What is worse than spending 14 hours cooped up inside an airplane? Spending 14 hours cooped up inside an airplane alone with two grumpy kids. How I wish I could throw a fit, stomp my feet and bawl my eyes out because that is what I wanted to do at times during that 14 hour flight.

What makes those seemingly unbearable 14 hours so worth it? Coming home, seeing my brother in person after three years, being with my family, just being around them.

It is 5:30 am local time. I have been up since 2:30 laying in my bed listening to traffic rumbling by, the Azaans from a nearby mosque, a stray dog’s occasional barking; and it feels like the last piece of a puzzle falling in its place.

The eternal desi dilemma

We came here proclaiming we were not here to stay forever, that we would return and repay the debt we owed our families, our society, our country. Our sense of responsibility towards our roots seemed to magnify manifold when we were far away from them. We promised ourselves that we would not stay beyond a certain point in our lives – it could be when we had made a certain amount of money, or our kids reached a certain milestone, or our parents back home were of a certain age.

When people gave us examples of other desis who also resolved to leave before their oldest child started school (so the kids could have an “Indian” upbringing) and how said kids are in college now and they are still very much here – we thought proudly to ourselves that we could never be one of those people. We were way more determined than those people, we knew our priorities, knew what we wanted from our lives. Until we didn’t.

Time passed by and we started getting comfortable. Started enjoying the nice things our new country of residence had to offer – more space, bigger homes, less smog, endless opportunities to indulge ourselves in a world of materialistic pleasures. The list goes on and on.

We constantly make comparisons with our country of origin. We keep telling ourselves that we should stay for the sake of our children. For their better future and well-being. We even give up on the idea of an Indian upbringing. It matters less and less each day that our children do not speak the language we do. They proudly declare who their favorite (US) president is but do not have the slightest idea who was the frail looking old man with a stick and no shirt on whom we called Bapu. Things that matter so much to us, would not mean anything to them. And that would be alright by us. These are the sacrifices we would make for the success of our children. All of these reasons we give others, and ourselves, are completely valid reasons, but they are definitely not the only reasons we want to stay. The complete truth is that we would miss the life of convenience. The idea of waiting in long lines to get our driver’s license renewed, spending insane amount of time stuck in traffic while commuting to and from work, getting home at unearthly hours long after the kids are tucked in for the night scares us now that we know that we have other options.

On the other hand, we hate the feeling of not belonging where we live. And we also know that even if they grow up here, our kids will never belong either. We constantly worry about our folks back home. Phone calls at odd hours from a number with a different international code scare the bejesus out of us. We miss celebrating festivals with our families. We ache for the colors, sounds and smells of a place we once called home. So we start fighting the battle with ourselves. Trying to make the decision that we thought we had made long ago. It is not an easy one to make, we get that now. Definitely not easy to uproot ourselves from a place that has become home in its own way, a place that is the only home our children know,  and make a new home somewhere else. But we need to accept that we cannot have the best of both the worlds. The decision must be made before it is too late, and either way, we must learn to be happy with it and make the best of it.