Coming Home: India trip – I

India Series I

Last Saturday I landed in Mumbai after 4 years. Before my trip I was very anxious because I felt I had been out of home for so long I had forgotten the ways and manner of Indian living. But I could feel tears prickling behind my eyes when I saw the twinkling lights of the Mumbai skyline as my flight started descending on the Mumbai airport and I started looking forward to seeing the sea of Indian faces.  On landing, the immigration was a pleasant surprise as it has been really streamlined with lots of counters and the international terminal has been completely revamped. While I didn’t find it absolutely rave worthy, it is definitely lots of steps up from the previous terminal and at least on par with the international standards.

Being at home initially was a very surreal experience, you know when you don’t believe where you are sort of a feeling! For me it felt as if I had never been away, everything that was familiar to me was still the same, and at the same time some things felt so very different. As long as I was home it was familiar, but stepping outside, I couldn’t remember some of the street names with the new constructions and new streets cropping up everywhere.

But the best part about coming home has been celebrating Diwali in India; spending time with family, gorging on good food and meeting people I hadn’t seen in years. Though there was a brief moment of panic when I couldn’t remember one of my relatives’ name, thankfully though my mom was next to me and addressed her by name so I could save my face!! Other best part was wearing all the fancy Indian jewelry and sarees which I hadn’t worn in a while and what better occasion to wear it than Diwali.

Though I am trying not to feel nostalgic, it is difficult to avoid the memories when you come home after a gap of 4 years and have been away for 8 years. I am going to avoid my blog posts from becoming maudlin so will be doing a series of posts on my India trip, from my initial impressions, to changes, to travel and food posts. This will also help me get over my nostalgia because sometimes memories serve no purpose other than to bring you down and ruin your present.

Happy Diwali

As far back as I can remember, Diwali has always been my favorite festival. Diwali- festival of lights is one of the major festivals for Hindus, of course all the festivals are major ones for Indians! Diwali traditionally celebrates victory of light over darkness signifying victory of good over evil. In India it is also one of most commercially profitable festival, with everyone splurging over sweets (desserts), clothes and gold.

As a kid I remember waiting for Diwali throughout the year. Diwali meant 3 weeks of vacation from school, new clothes, lots of farsan (delicacies) and sweets and of course lots of lights and crackers. I remember that anytime I pressed my mom for new clothes her common refrain was, “we will buy this during Diwali!” It was a magical time for the youngest kid living in a joint family with a gaggle of older sisters. The main Diwali day means laxmi puja- praying and sending appreciation to Goddess Laxmi for the wealth that she bestows upon us and the other main day for gujaratis is the start of new year as per the Hindu calendar which is celebrated by wishing everyone Saal (year) Mubarak (happy). All throughout my childhood I remember my parents waking up early so that they could start the new year by visiting the temples early in the morning. New year celebration for me meant waking up at 4am to burst crackers and then visiting all the relatives so that I could ask them for blessings, gorge on good food and collect monetary gifts (in form of blessings) from all the elders of the house!

Even though there is Diwali celebration in US it does not hold candle to the extravaganza and festivities which happen in India during that time. This year I am home for Diwali after being away for 8 years and I had almost forgotten the fun, magic and good food available at home during Diwali. The sheer noise, energy, festiveness and good will is amazing and exhausting. I had forgotten the enjoyment and satisfaction of spending time with family, wearing beautiful Indian sarees and jewels! Needless to say, it makes me feel that moving back home might be a good idea and that all the thrills of the world cannot compare to living close to those whom you love the most!