Earlier this evening, a strange realization hit me. It has been more than 2 years and 2 months ever since I have come here, and not once have I visited home. It's not that this was news to me, but as it started to sink in, I was engulfed in a train of thoughts. Before I came here, I had never left home, not even to live in hostels or visit relatives in other cities, and once I left home, I never went back. During the end of the first year, as I was planning a trip in the summer, I ran out of funding and had to spend the entire quarter running around and knocking doors of professors trying to help me earn and sustain myself. Soon, a visit to India became a distant dream. During the end of the second year, I contemplated another visit during summer. This time, my greatly venerable academic advisor threatened to not sign my thesis unless I finished certain chunks of the project. These chunks happened to be bigger than the iceberg that hit Titanic, and soon all my plans of visiting home had sunk. Eventually she did sign my thesis, and I am all free now, but I got into this thing called OPT where people tell you horror stories about how other people they know tried leaving the country and were never let in again. No one of course knows who these people are, but everyone knows another person with a sad story like this. Needless to say, visiting home is not an option anymore. not at least for the next one year till my OPT ends.
My passport looks pristine and spotless, with not a single stamp every since the last one was put at the LA airport. Every year, I see people excitedly pack and leave to visit homes, taking pounds of American chocolates and expensive perfumes back for people home. I see these same people come back after weeks carrying pounds of Indian goodies like puffed rice, jaggery, and sweets. They animatedly discuss the latest developments they witnessed in India. People are attending weddings, convocations, and anniversaries. I on the other hand am celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving.
I wonder if my parents will look older and grayer when I see them next. I wonder how much has the price of goods increased ever since I left India. I wonder if the walls adjoining our building have the same graffiti of vote for CPM scribbled all over as they always were. I wonder if the maid tells the same old stories about the same old people she works for to my mom. The kids from our community must be in high school now. Suddenly, everything is vivid and clear to me, the font of the letters painted on the letterbox with the name of my dad, the different music it played every time someone hit the doorbell, and the familiar sounds of the vendors selling stuff outside the apartment. I wonder how much of it has changed.
Sorry for the extremely sentimental post. As usual, I am just thinking aloud.