the last goodbye : transitioning from india to us in the summer of '17

The moment I was dreading was finally here.

It was a few hours before my flight back to the United States, when the awful feeling of leaving home started to sink in. I could sense nostalgia creeping in. I tried hard to distract myself and not think about my incredible summer that was now a thing of the past.

I had left home last year too, but this time something was different. I never felt so deeply attached and grateful to a place and its people before. Maybe I had been taking my relationships, and all the opportunities I’ve had in life, for granted. It’s one of those things that you don’t realize until it’s gone, or about to be gone in this case.

But as luck would have it, I kept having flashbacks of moments spent with family and friends, in my home country.

The summer just flew by. A part of me rewinded to thinking about the first hello, while the other part of me immediately came back to the present moment, the time to say my last goodbye.

Someone rightly said, the last goodbye is the hardest. And I couldn’t stop imagining what mine would be like.

I could feel major separation anxiety. It was like I’m drowning in an ocean and there’s no one around to save me. The separation was not only from my family and friends, but also from my country, and all that had become familiar to me once again. It was time to uproot my life all over again after being in my comfort zone for the summer and move to a place that somehow still felt new and nothing like home. It’s a strange feeling when you’ve lived someplace for a year but it doesn’t quite feel like you belong there. That’s how I felt about the place that wasn’t home. Home was my safe place, where I was leaving everything behind, to start my life over. I couldn’t stop drowning myself deeper by thinking about everything I was going to miss back home in these coming 9 months and 4 days. It went way beyond family, friends and culture. It was more about the familiarity, comfort, security and love. It was about what I could proudly call my own. Even if it wasn’t perfect, at least it was mine.

In that moment, I started thinking about the things I once disliked about Delhi. I always got frustrated and complained about the loud honking, the berserk driving and the jaywalking. Not long ago, the hustle and bustle of the big city life, being around too many people, the feeling of being lost in the crowd, annoyed me. Now that I wouldn’t have any of this, I felt like I would do anything to spend just another day at home.

Something in me had changed. I learned how to stop complaining and start appreciating the small, imperfect moments that made my life perfect. Whether it was my daily commute in the metro or haggling with the autowalas with broken meters, I enjoyed it all. It made me realize how these small things were an inherent part of who I was and where I came from. Every morning I woke up with the call of the sabziwala, the aroma of mumma’s cooking and the fragrance of papa’s prayer agarbattis in the house. Family rituals included morning and evening chai sessions, late night television shows, weekly visits to nani house and going to the movies every Sunday evening. As I reminisced these moments, a tear rolled down my cheek, and I couldn’t control myself from sobbing. Before I could get myself together, I heard a voice calling out to me, ‘Sachee, it’s time to leave, we’re getting late’, he said.

And just like that, it was time to say my last goodbye.