I woke up this morning with a strange emptiness in my stomach. There was this inexplicable feeling of hollowness, and for no reason absolutely, I felt tears streaming down my cheeks. I lay in bed, not wanting to get up. I repressed the urge to take a flight and visit Kolkata. This is strange because I shamelessly admit that I never really miss Kolkata. I miss spending time with my family, yes, but I do not miss visiting India per se. After I moved to the U.S., it took me four years to visit Kolkata, and in these four years, no one in the family had visited me. Unexpected circumstances came up during my stay in the U.S., sometimes I was left without money, sometimes without time, and sometimes without a visa status that guaranteed re-entry. As a result, it took me four years to visit Kolkata. It’s not that I keeled over and died in pain. It’s not that I put daily Facebook crib updates about how sad and jailed I felt. I did pretty fine.
I enjoyed my 4 month stay in Kolkata, but when the right time came, I was ready to move on. It’s not that I cried at the airport while saying a goodbye. I didn’t hate my life in Kolkata per se, but I was pretty detached to it. I don’t remember my undergraduate and postgraduate days in Kolkata with great fondness, and with the career-related insecurities it brought me, I was convinced at some time that I will end up living and dying in Kolkata all my life, the life of a nobody that nobody would remember. I am still a nobody, but it took me a giant leap from Kolkata to the U.S. to fulfill all my career related expectations from myself. Kolkata and I never had any differences, but over a time, we had grown indifferent to each other. This time when I went back, I was glad to meet my family, to eat all the good food and enjoy all the attention. I was doing okay in Kolkata, but I was also planning a trip to Europe without wanting to spend those extra 2 weeks with family. That should tell you something.
For me, the concept of home has always been the place I live in. When asked where I am from, I always reply with the name of my current location, and not Kolkata. Kolkata used to be home once upon a time. Then I moved, and it no longer remained home. My home is where I come back every day, where my belongings are, where I wake up every morning. You get the point I hope.
Hence, I was somewhat unnerved when I woke up this morning missing Kolkata terribly. I had random images from the city in front of me, images of my grandparents’ place I used to spend my childhood summers in, images of the river Hooghly and Howrah Bridge, images of getting off the bus opposite Victoria Memorial everyday when I worked as a teacher, images of taking the yellow colored metro as a student everyday and images of the streets of Kolkata I no longer remembered the name of. I wondered if it was my inherent escape mechanism to avoid the travails of studying for the approaching statistics examination, but honestly, I have studied for more difficult exams before, and I never missed anyone or anything as an escape mechanism. I called mother and told her about the situation. I told her that I was confused about the sudden intensity of my feelings. It seemed something powerful and inherent had shifted within me, or maybe, something in the alignment of the stars and the universe had shifted. I had never thought of revisiting Kolkata this year until now, but now, I am no longer sure. I need to work out my financial situation and see how many days can I take off this summer. This means an unavoidable talk with academic daddy, telling him I need a couple of weeks off. This means changing a lot of plans for me, my work plans, my travel plans, my plans to visit Utah, knowing that I will have to sacrifice many other travel plans, recuperating from the financial dent a visit to India is going to cause me. But all this is besides the point. What I am worried about is why I feel the way I feel right now. It is okay if it is a short-duration nostalgia that can be cured by an annual visit to Kolkata. What bothers me is what if these are incipient signs of me wanting to move back in the long run. I have never thought of things on those lines, if I want to move to India, and so on. Being single and free of baggage, I have always wanted to keep my options open, work in U.S., and Europe, and wherever life took me. Homesickness befitted my plans for myself. Maybe I am overanalyzing things. Maybe the uneasiness in the gut was caused due to bad food. Maybe those were mood swings or hormones. Maybe it is that time of the month already. Maybe the feeling would pass.
I have always wanted to see myself as an independent person, independent not because I wanted to stay away from home and study in the U.S., but independent because I was free to choose the kind of life I wanted for myself in any corner of the world, and do well in life without familial forces pulling me back. Whatever this newly found feeling is, I hope I continue to be independent and free in making my decisions based on what I want, and not be chained by dreams and desires of my perception of what I think is best for me.