So, yes, I was finally coming home. It had been a long time. A really long time. 3 months, to be precise. That’s almost a year by Punjabi family standards. My dad sends me “I miss you beta” texts when I go down to get a band-aid from the shop across the road. So yeah, it’s kind of a big deal when I go 577 miles away. For 3 months. One whole term. Oh, the tragedy. Their little girl living in a college campus all by herself. “Haay, mera sher puttar “. If you had looked into their almost-teary, angst-ridden eyes on the first day of college, you would think I was crossing the seven seas to fight a brave battle with the Spartans on the other side.
Well, I was back now; wounded, victorious warrior, coming home to a hero’s welcome to spend the summer at home. I stepped off the plane, momentarily glancing at the cold airhostess standing at the doorway. Her pancake face did not so much as deign to smile back at the passengers. I missed those days when airhostesses used to be the epitome of class and grace. As an ingenuous 8-year old I had always fancied how absolutely swell it must be to fly around the world wearing those chic uniforms, with a ready smile on my face. Airhostesses were amazing. Airhostesses could do anything. I would tug at my mom’s sleeve every time one of the imperial ladies would pass by in the aisle, and would whisper rather indiscreetly into her ear, “maa, mujhe bhi air hostess banna hai”. Clearly ambitions were easier to choose back then. But now as I saw the airhostesses stand there, their fatigue ill-concealed with the plaster of make-up, I couldn’t help but feel disenchanted by the whole idea. Airhostesses stopped being amazing for me. I had nothing against them, but I just didn’t see them the same way anymore. I stopped believing in the magic of air-hostesses. And with that, drifted away a small but significant part of my childhood.
I guess that’s just how it is; growing up, I mean. It’s just a long-drawn out process of ceasing to believe in most or all of the things that once caught the flights of your imagination as a child. When I was a kid, the Sun was a little brighter, the world was a little bigger, and life was a little more wonderful. As I grew up, I became wiser, more rational, logical, and complicated. I started thinking more and living less. I once believed in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. I lived in a world where hollering “maaaaaaaaaaa” was the solution to every crisis. I believed in dragons, and wizards. I lived in a world where nimbu paani was the zenith of gastronomical delight (okay, I still do). I lived in a world where life was perfectly satisfactory without having any major achievements ( though I did pride myself on doing the best back flip in the society playground… all I can manage now is an awkward tumble with my spastic limbs). I believed that the world was made for my delight.
And then, sadly, the inevitable happened. I grew up. But like Peter Pan’s proverbial Never-land, there was one place where I would forever remain a kid. One place, where time would stop and I would never quite grow up. A place where there were free hugs and laddoos, all mine for the asking. A place where everybody loves me for everything that I am, and despite everything that I am not. A place called home.
This article has also been published in the magazine, Efiction India , Vol.3 , Issue 12