Saturday, January 23, 2016

An Expat's Querencia

It's been a while since I let words bleed on paper. Maybe it's the fear of an uncontrolled fission reaction happening deep inside or just the insecurity of a closet-writer: not making much sense. Or the most unconventional one: making way too much sense and not being able to take it from there.

Do you have days when you get to a point where you know you have to move a muscle but you are too tired running all the scenarios in your head that you just throw your hands up in the air and grab the blanket and hibernate for what seems like forever only to wake up more tired than before because you slept too much? Welcome to a writer's block. This is a terrible, terrible place to be in but with unlimited coffee and colored papers strewn around it just might be your Google office for the Lazies.

"How does it feel like to be away from everything you have known and everyone you love?", I have been asked. "How's it gonna be this time?", I ask myself when mid-air, when no land owns me and thousands of feet below, the frigid waters of the Pacific rage. It's a vague void, for starters. You try so hard to put a finger on it but nothing defines it well enough. Vacuum state would be something like this, certainly not empty but not enough energy to carry on with day-to-day living. It only gets better. You wake up one day, put your jammies for laundry, dress in something lady-like, put on some red gloss and there on it's more or less 'God bless your phone's selfie album'. You fluctuate in these two states for days that turn to months, sometimes, and one day you get up and take charge of the situation. "I am going to fight the dementors", declares your inner Hermione and you actually stay sane for that week. Kudos starfire! And the whirlpool shifts back and forth. Days begin and days end. Sometimes you sleep, sometimes you don't.

"How are you guys handling the distance?", some ask. I smile. That's what I do to basically pass the question to Time. It better have some good excuses. Every time you see him on the other side of the world, trying to make you laugh with all the funny faces he possibly can make without tearing up, is a treat. He witnesses all your cooking experiments wishing he could grab a spoon and taste it for once or when your phone dies and you are incommunicado, he flips through your pictures wishing you were around. Every home karaoke session is a default dedication to him and all the couple holidays are pre-decided Skype dates. And then there is also that once in a fortnight 'leave me alone' *slams imaginary door* scenario that doesn't matter when you clearly know that's not going to happen. He is the screening process for everything new in your life and you are the overseas Mogambo he has to keep khush, come what may. Songs from 2007 suddenly seep into your play list and while the Bose speakers are crying for a change, you practically hum Maula Mere Maula all day long, bathing cooking dreaming.

Home calls are an every day thing. "Is it foggy yet, Papa?", "Did you have boiled egg today, Mumma?", "So what am I getting to distract ma-pa from the Internals result topic, Bhai?", "You remember the pen drive argument Anu, or the time when Mansi won't stop laughing when were playing along a lie we made up?"... Your name twin would just message out of no where, being all sentimental and when you ask her what's going on, she would bombard you with emotional question bombs while you try and talk her back to sleep. And then are some friendships you would rather let be intact in silence than wink and lose in a blink because you can't ever say goodbye to her. One of your girls is new to the whole Away from home world (read: wedding gift) and you just want to make sure, off and on, that she is keeping well.

The biggest thing that happens is that you cling to the little things in life. These tiny babies become the foundation atoms to a whole new you. You keep screen shots of something touchy Mumma said, voice mail from Papa asking you to take care and sleep on time, picture collages your best friends made as a farewell gift, miniature bottle of the cologne from your novio's favorite collection and countless memories where you couldn't breathe because you were laughing too hard. "How lucky I am to have known somebody and something that saying goodbye to is so damned awful.", wrote Evans G. Valens. Truer words were never written.

And life does pick itself up, day by day. You spread your wings and soar towards the sunlight. You meet like-minded people, chat a little and eventually sign a lease together and an 800 sq ft. apartment becomes your home away from home. Thanks to your roomies, Saturday mornings you wake up to the aroma of Rajma Chawal and they make you feel like the next Master Chef when the Chicken curry you cooked is devoured by smiling faces. Sometimes you can't sleep and they stay up to troubleshoot your turmoil over one of the Bournvita sessions and tuck you to sleep. You work in a place where people greet you in a very different pronunciation of your name that you somehow end up liking. Sometimes you come across strangers who are interested to know more about your country or you meet a few who enthusiastically tell you about their vacation in Goa. There are days when you binge watch Bollywood movies in a Cinema complex where people are queuing up to see Star Wars. You bike to Starbucks and spend the day at Barnes & Noble store, trying to find your new curl buddy. And in no time, you are already booking a ride back home.

And here comes the FRIENDS reference I was waiting to fit in somewhere; Survival 101 by Monica: Welcome to the real world! It sucks. You're gonna love it!

© 2016 Neha Choudhry

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