India / Southeast Asia

Until then, I’ll be in India

As we near the end of the program, the familiar tug of homesickness gently nudges our attention away from India and back to the states. It reminds us what take-out pizza tastes like, what snowflakes instantly melting into water droplets on our skin feels like, what our siblings’ voices sound like when we lazily roll out of bed in the afternoon during winter break.

It has become so easy for us to succumb to that tug of homesickness. To countdown the days until we leave. To write up our lists of things we want to do and eat and see the second our plane touches American soil.

It’s hard not to. After three months in India a change of scenery and a return home will be warm and welcome. And I don’t mean to say that I’m not excited to go home–I’ve written my lists, I’ve dreamt of sleeping in my bed, I may or may not have cried imagining what the first trip to Chipotle will be like. But at the same time, part of me is not ready to leave.

Time goes by so fast. It seems like a few short hours ago we were arriving in Pune–completely and utterly confused by the sounds and the smells, barely able to cross the street much less order a meal at a restaurant or find our way home in a rickshaw. When I see us now haggling with the rickshaw drivers, giving directions in Marathi, dodging cars and motorcycles to cross the street, and ordering formerly unpronounceable dishes at restaurants I can’t help but smile at how much has changed.

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And maybe in some way this means that we’re finally ready to leave. That we’ve figured things out to some extent and we can go home now. But part of me is not ready to go and as the days pass by faster I feel myself desperately trying to soak up every moment–only now realizing that there are hundreds and thousands of little things about India that I will miss dearly when I get home.

Like…

-taking long rickshaw rides home at night, feeling the cool night air pick up my scarf in the breeze behind me
-drinking one of Tukuram’s cups of chai tea in the middle of an early morning class
-sticking my fingers into a plate of fresh, warm rice and eating with my hands
-smelling some of the best and worst smells in the world within one block of each other (from incense to urine, India is full of odorous surprises)
-taking my shoes off every time I enter a home or a shop
-making friends with stray dogs
-eating a masala dosa at Baba’s for less than a dollar in the company of no-longer-new friends
-and probably most of all, walking around the city on the uneven sidewalks, attempting not to be run over and trying my best to soak up all there is to see in the time we have left

When the time comes to go home in a couple of weeks I will welcome it. I’ll be ecstatic to see my parents and my sister again, to eat at my favorite restaurant and to settle in to my spot on the couch…but until then I’ll be in India. Homesickness be damned, I’m not going to miss a second of the time we have left here.

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You have to be always drunk. That’s all there is to it—it’s the only way. So as not to feel the horrible burden of time that breaks your back and bends you to the earth, you have to be continually drunk. But on what? Wine, poetry or virtue, as you wish. But be drunk.

And if sometimes, on the steps of a palace or the green grass of a ditch, in the mournful solitude of your room, you wake again, drunkenness already diminishing or gone, ask the wind, the wave, the star, the bird, the clock, everything that is flying, everything that is groaning, everything that is rolling, everything that is singing, everything that is speaking. . .ask what time it is and wind, wave, star, bird, clock will answer you: “It is time to be drunk! So as not to be the martyred slaves of time, be drunk, be continually drunk! On wine, on poetry or on virtue as you wish.””

-Charles Beaudelaire

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5 thoughts on “Until then, I’ll be in India

  1. Pingback: Ringing in the New Year | The Penniless Traveler

  2. Pingback: Reflections from Halfway | Penniless Traveler

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