Sunday, May 31, 2009

Home sweet home

Now that we're back in India after our stint in the West, the whole colourful spectrum of life here has so completely filled us up that we haven't spared a moment's thought to our life back in the United States, where we first started our lives together. But lately, nearly a year after being here, we find ourselves now and then poignantly remembering details of our life back in America.

A sudden flash of memory of driving down First Avenue in Fresno on the perfect large curving road, mission style red roofed buildings on either side, with palm trees spreading against the crystal blue California sky. Going to gym at Bally's. Long weekends away in the wilderness of that magnificent land - vast pine-laden mountains, lakes that seem like the sea, tall noble trees shooting straight up from the earth, feather quilt sky, air crisp and clear as an icicle. Big bold furry grey squirrels the size of a rabbit, strangely(at first!) missing the stripes on the back. Interesting uncommon cloud formations you can study every so often. Lingering rose and saffron sunsets gradually fading into subtle tintings of apple green and mauve, and finally into a starry dusk(twilight is so much shorter in tropical India). Bronzed maple trees in fall. Snowflakes feathering down to the earth in that curiously still manner, soundlessly transforming the entire landscape into a white wonderland.

Beautiful large free libraries where you can order any book on the face of the earth and happily go to fetch in a couple weeks. The different moods of Lake Washington - dull grey on cloudy days, fresh azure on clear days, sometimes leaden and flat, sometimes navy blue and brooding, diamond sparkles dancing on wind-ruffled wavelets on sunny days. Darling houses that look like they appeared out of a dreamy picture book. The mountains in the distance, always visible even from the heart of the city. Cheerful nods from people you encounter. Sincere close-knit divine Sai centres that are a home away from home, the like of which I will probably never find again.

Breakfast now and then at Judy's Doughnuts - our standard fare of chocolate-iced doughnut and coffee, so utterly satisfying. Fries to die for at Rally's. An occasional veggie patty sandwich for lunch at Subway whose toasted cheddar and oozing mustard and mayonnaise I can still vividly taste. Blueberry green tea frappuchino at Starbucks, the tastiest drink I've ever had, and during Christmas season, delicious gingerbread with hot latte. Spicy cheesy bean chalupas at Taco Bell for a quick evening snack. Custard drenched tiramisu for dessert at California Pizza Kitchen - a slice of heaven on earth.

The painstaking attention to detail that is given to every aspect of any work. The typical American penchant for quips and one-liners on every occasion and the hearty readiness to laugh at any attempt of a joke, however corny. Mellow country music playing on radio in the car as we roll over endless freeways, past golden hills and grassy pastures. The scale of everything - everything is big big big - the trees, the roads, the ice-creams, the malls, the cars, and last but not the least, the friendly heart of the American people that is as open as it is big, bless them.

These things will always be a part of us. A beloved part of our memories. And yet, with all this, what was it that inexplicably drew us back to the land of our birth, even as the wild geese that are mysteriously guided homeward on their long flight?

Poet Kathleen Raine said about India, "The worst of going to India is that afterwards everywhere else is a kind of exile." You only realize the truth of it once you've left India and soujourned afar for a few years. It is an organic visceral mother love whose pull you always feel at the center of your soul, no matter what sights and sounds other lands might dazzle you with.

Swami Vivekananda was asked by an English friend on the eve of his departure from the West, "Swami, how do you like now your motherland after four years' experience of the luxurious, glorious, powerful West?" He could only answer, "India I loved before I came away. Now the very dust of India has become holy to me, the very air is now to me holy; it is now the holy land, the place of pilgrimage, the Tirtha." It is worth the years spent away from the native land just for a shadow of this kind of realization.

In high school, one of my favourite poems in my English textbook was Rabindranath Tagore's "Motherland" which I thrilled to even back then. But I never dreamed how much inspiration and fuel it would someday provide me to turn my footsteps onto the path back home.

Blessed am I that I was born to this land
And that I had the luck to love her
What care I if queenly treasures is not in her trove
But precious enough is for me the living wealth of her love.
The best gift of fragrance to my heart
Is from her own flowers,
And I know not where else shines the moon
That can flood my being with such loveliness.
The first light revealed to my eyes
Was from her own skies,
And let the same light kiss them
Before they are closed for ever.

We are grateful for our experience of the West which has vastly enriched, deepened and expanded life for us, and will always treasure the experiences and friendships that have been woven there into the tapestry of our lives. We are also very grateful and happy to be Home at last.


  1. I'm at work, so I'll browse through in greater detail later :), but I loved the anecdote about Swami Vivekananda (I am a big fan of his in general). It blew my mind, because it is just what I was thinking yesterday :).

    We'll be in touch :).

  2. Loving your thoughts, your writing, the people you quote (many of whom I have quoted on my blog too :)), the poetry content, the spirit of enquiry. Please keep writing :).

  3. Serendipity, gotta love it :) Thanks for the kind words!

  4. I cannot read that poem without tears welling up in my eyes...

  5. Wrt the quote 'everything else is an exile' I wonder why this eludes so many people (whom I know) who feel horrified at the idea of ever coming back here :)

    Of course there are good hearts in good people everywhere as you've noted open hearts of Americans, I also found in Germany etc, but I dont know what is special about India. Initially I used to wonder whether I'm just dramatising it, or whether if I was a Martian visitor with a completely unbiased view I'd still feel the same, but then over time I think your post really makes a lot of sense.

    House is a place of bricks, home is a place of hearts - welcome home! :)

  6. Sanjay, thanks. I guess what's special about India is the passion for the Divine it has always stood for since the dawn of time - it has been the laboratory of spirituality down the ages. At least, that's what the poet Kathleen Raine loved about it :)

    Home is partly where you're born and partly where your deepest self finds resonance, and if the two co-incide, then nothing like it!