Coming back to this city always delights me. I revel in the familiarity that home brings; the comfort of amma’s food, the constant churn of people in the house, the amazing ability to imbibe copious amounts of cardamom laced tea. Even as I step into the house, the constant hum of the fan that tries to beckon an imaginary breeze, the incessant ringing of the doorbell and the annoyed calls across the house for someone to answer the door make me feel like I never left. And then I venture out of the house to be received by the sounds of a bustling city, and I beam at everything…the honking of horns that everyone knows are means of communicating rather than expressing anger, auto drivers convincing you that it does cost fifty rupees to go to adyar since petrol prices have gone up, the young men with sprouting moustaches who really think they’re going to get a response to “Howvaryoudoing?”…though perhaps my beaming at them could be a tad misleading.
And I do so love how busy everyone is. There is a sense of urgency here, with everyone in a hurry, perennially late, but always heading somewhere, and I can borrow their destination even when I don’t have one of my own, as long as I hurry up too.
It’s different in Palo Alto. People are still moving there…but quietly, efficiently and politely…almost unnaturally. It puzzles me how you can have a million thoughts whirring in your head and an urgency of purpose without allowing it to reflect in the sights, sounds and smells of your own little world.
That’s perhaps why I am thrilled by the chaos of my city, the aroma of filter coffee, the dizzying hum of voices…children pushing each other as they come back from school, men in cream shirts talking in low voices about that idiot boss, aunties chatting about the ridiculous price of brinjal and their very eligible sons in the US.
I don’t live in this city, at least not for now. My books, my job and a major part of my life belong to Palo Alto. But my spirit comes from Chennai, and that makes all the difference in the world.
A guest post by my sister, on coming home..
I was initially skeptical of Hamlet, arguably one of Shakespeare’s finest tragedies, being re-imagined as a comedy. In case you don’t remember the storyline, Atul Kumar (playing a clown who plays Hamlet), helpfully summarizes the plot for the audience at the beginning
Hamlet dies, Ophelia dies, Gertrude dies, Claudius dies
How could you make this funny? As it turns out, by the end of the evening, the audience were rolling in the aisles with laughter.