I was home at last - after almost two years!
The flight from Tampa to Chicago was more or less spent reflecting on my last images of Chennai I had on 8th August, 2005. From Chicago to Frankfurt was more or less spent with good sleep and some food in between! The moment I landed at Frankfurt, I wanted some kind of a time warp which would take me to Chennai that very instant. It was once when I actually liked a one hour stopover! After a nonstop marathon from one terminal to another, an almost 90 percent Desi waiting area awaited me. The 8 hour flight was pleasant in more ways than one - one was for visiting home and next, was that the next to seats to mine were empty which meant I could stretch my legs and sleep on the 3 seats! At Chennai, the hour long wait in the immigration queue felt like a few minutes.... And finally, I saw my family and I think that would be one of those unforgettable moments in my life!
Chennai had changed cosmetically - more "coffee" shops with the "hep" youth, Shopping Malls catering to the suave, Honda "City"s choked up in the wee roads, Pulsar 200 CCs zipping around (Vivek's dialog - Appan paisa epdi pogaya poguthu parthiya?).... Chennai had definitely changed into cosmop. of truly bigger dimensions....
The only thing left unchanged was my family. It was good to be with Appa, Amma and sister after almost two years. To be honest, the thought of food being ready with no effort on my part was in itself a glorious feeling! People who have had the (mis)fortune of staying alone in the US would definitely be kindred souls! I was almost ecstatic on the first day when my mom woke me up with coffee - whew! Nice to be back home.
The first 3 - 4 days were more or less slept away... I slept during American time, Indian time and whatever other time there was... the first place. Finally Saturday was spent with me up and kicking.
Sunday turned out to be a day on the road as we went to our "Kula" Deivam at Vaideeswaran Koil and my village - definitely, the roads had changed since I was last there and the reach of cellular companies / marketing agencies was astounding.
My sister had become a high school student and seeing her study very hard really made me guilty as I reminded myself of how I'd spent my 11th standard holidays. In fact, to be honest, if I had put in at least 20 percent of my sister's efforts, I would have ended up in a much better position than where I'm now. But as thalaivar says, "Dhatham Gatham"!
And the other thing which was really good was my father staying with me throughout the trip. Ever since my father was transferred outside Chennai when I was in 10th standard, this was perhaps and the longest time when I was with him for this long! And as is the case with all father-son combo, we spent the major portion of MY non-sleeping hours in arguments - starting from Tamil(me)-Hindi(appa), iyer(me)-iyengar(father) to what not! It was fun arguing, except that mom and sister almost always had a headache due to our haranguing.
Had some time to catch up with my old friends from SVCE, most of whom had joined a software company and were rolling in the "$tuff" (that how it seemed to a Poor Indian Graduate (PIG) like me). Everybody was driving a car and the MotoRazr I was carrying looked a relic from the previous ages! And when I actually had a long chat with Nirmal, I understood the "nuances" behind escalating land prices and the increasing number of divorces!! A trip to Besant Nagar beach with Dushyanth and Hari was good too - a replay of my UG days. Actually, B.Nagar beach had undergone such a "sea"-change, that it was astounding to say the least.
The next event on the calendar was a trip to the seven hills, where, sadly things are ruled more by money than by God! VIP passes, seva tickets and what not, to take the rabbit's leap over lacs of devotees coming in Darma Darshan queue, spending at least about 16 hours in the D.D queue. The crowds there were literally choking with me getting the effect of having been through a roadside sugarcane juicer!
May 4th loomed large and it was time again to do the "US shopping" - sambar podi, vadaam, shirts, t-shirts, medicines, books, souvenirs for american makkal back in Tampa... whew! took a major portion of my time. In the midst of all this, I did find time to goto the popular CitiCenter, on RK Salai - seemed exactly like those malls which yu find in the US - complete with underground parking lots, centralized air conditioning and escalators. INOX theatre looked kewl and the shops there exclusively catered to those with money, not knowing how to spend it - cell phones were costing 30,000 INR, when the phone I was carrying, which had cost me -$50, meaming, I was paid 50 bucks for buying the phone, cost a kewl 5 digit amount there! One bad thing I found was the way the Indian youth were dressing - the trousers-half-way-down-the-legs-and-show-your-jock was the norm, unaware of who wore it like that in the US and for what reasons!!! Ayyo Ayyo!!
May dawned and so did my impending trip half way across the globe. Lat minute packing and weighing and hurried farewells with relatives... Felt really really bad for leaving my family - I wish my parents and sister could come with me. I had not seen my sister grow up from a kiddo 9th standard to a 12th std high schooler and now, I didn't know when I'll see her next. the trip back to the airport is the one where reality hits you hard - and its a wonder how I managed to control my emotions. Cut. Airport entrance - as crowded as ever - and checked in my baggage and was talking to my parents and sis - separated by a railing - wanted to stay there as long as I could and talk to them - some "advice" to my sis about 12th std exams (what if she asked did you follow these when you did 12th?), chit chat to parents about what would happen as soon as I was back in the US and the call came for passengers barding LH759 came and I started the weary walk to the gate, to leave behind 3 people who love me unconditionally and to whom I owe everything in life. Now, I wasn't able to control the tears welling in my eyes as I went up the escalator and things were better by time I got off the escalator... made a mental resolution to get a job and invite my sister as soon as possible. I had come to America when I was too old.. at least my sister should see places like Disney, Busch Gardens, Universal before she is too old for them, God Willing.