The flight’s landed twenty minutes prior to its promise and I can smell last night’s forecast lazing around in the air as I wake up from my much needed, eight o’clock nap. I still don’t care much about how my hair looks after the heavenly slumber treat and trust my French braid to make me look stylish enough to pass off as today’s fashion. But, I subconsciously carry a comb in my bag because Ma liked to redo my hair and part it on the left as, I swung my legs three inches above the floor. I can feel a sting even today just at the memory. Especially today.
I’ve always hated carrying unnecessary handbag; there’s a reason why you have the option of check-in baggage. But Baba hated waiting at the belt and would avoid it at any given chance. The number of arguments we’ve had cause of it, regarding my red V.I.P trolley bag; leaving home became incomplete without him shaking his head in defeat, unable to understand my logic as I sat there cross-legged on the maroon rug, zipping up the suitcase with a firm no on my lips. Almost on cue, I see the familiar red approaching me on belt three. There, the sting. Again.
I‘ve walked out and I can see puddles and, eager faces and, a card here and there with the name of someone dear. I remember Dadu’s smiling face amongst those that would spot me before mine burst into a grin as I spotted him in his freshly ironed white shirt and, grey trousers that he wore with a brown belt. But I’m holding a slip in my left hand today and walk towards the familiar sea of yellow taxis. Monsoons are like a twelve year old boy full of energy, running around in the field at any given time of the day, returning home with green patches on his fourth new pair of pants, oily face, drenched where his sweat would announce his arrival before his still shrill, booming voice. And you; you are the mother. No matter how tired you get with his limitless energy, you’re the first to run after him while playing catch. Your heart sinks at the sight of the green patches on his slaughtered white t-shirt but enjoy his matches the most. Oh and the sweat. You’re shooing him into the showers the minute he steps into the house, but it’s a scent you endear as you cuddle him. Monsoon is like a childhood that you can never grow old of.
I roll down the windows as the taxi speeds off to the destination. I’m headed towards a five star hotel this time and not the two-storey house in the third colony, behind the pond in one of the older parts of the city, where a group of young men in their seventies wore cotton kurtas and discussed the state of the state, reminiscing the old days over their second cup of tea as their grandchildren played in the park , at the grocery store as someone would occasionally stop by and ask them how they were. I don’t spot those open shops here, in this part of the city. There are markets with sliding doors and air-conditioning inside. I plop onto the beautifully cushioned bed in my hotel room but the mattress is too soft, unlike the firm mattress of Dadu’s bed that I would takeover with my four feet five inches body as I snuggled by his six feet body while he narrated stories of princesses and parrots. The Room Service doesn’t have the mango pickle Amma made that I was currently yearning. Neither does their dal taste the way hers did. I walk out into the balcony devoid of the creepers and rose buds and potted greens to take in the monsoon my English husband doesn’t fancy. The air still smells of last night’s forecast, but with the stench of something’s absence over here. It is funny, is it not, how a home becomes nothing but a house without the family? How you become a stranger to alleys and streets fogged with memories, as you step into the home that died to become just a house now filled with strangers.