Country roads, take me home
To the place, I belong
- John Denver ,Take Me Home, Country Roads
I’m on a three-hour flight from Muscat to Mumbai. Years of visiting ‘home’ have prepared me and my brother for the drill. Two weeks before we leave, my mother insists on packing every variety of imported chocolate for my cousins, perfume bottles for the adults and customised presents for anyone who asks for it. A week before we leave, my father insists on packing our suitcases, triple-checking the passports and flight ticket printouts and giving me and my brother a rehearsed lecture on how we’re ‘supposed to behave’ in front of our relatives.
My mother always tells everyone we’re flying home. I’m an Indian and my home should be India, but it isn’t. It’s a place where I go on vacation. India is a two-month-long ritual I’m forced to follow. India is where the traffic never ceases to horrify me. India is where my dust allergy gets worse. India is where I cherish the lingering taste of pani-puri followed by a side dish of diarrhoea which, to say the least, I do not enjoy. India is a mild hangover which I dust off after two months, the moment the Oman Air flight lands back in Muscat.
Oman is home. Oman will always be home.
मुसाफिर हु यारो
न घर है न ठिकाना
मुझे चलते जाना है
बस चलते जाना
(Friends, I'm a traveller
I don't have a house, nor a place
I have to keep moving
I simply have to keep moving)
I’m on a three-hour flight from Mumbai to Muscat. Is Oman still home? I can’t tell anymore. I’ll be honest I haven’t been particularly loyal. Two and a half years ago, I moved to Gujarat for my undergraduate studies. It was in college that a variety of supposedly synonymous identities were slapped on my face- NRI (Non-Resident Indian), spoilt rich kid, the girl-who-has-it-easy etc. In my head, I was merely was a person who lived in Oman for the majority of her life. To others, I was an Indian who belonged to India and yet somehow, betrayed it.
The last two and a half years were confusing. India was like trying on a new pair of shoes. It took a while to break in but now, it has become comfortable. India is where I’m engulfed by the smell of galle ki chai. India is where even the unaesthetic beaches bring on a unique sense of calm. India is where the diarrhoea doesn’t stop me from engorging on the delicious street food.
Yet, India doesn’t feel mine. I feel like an intruder here. As the Oman Air flight touches down on Muscat, I wonder if Oman is mine either? Maybe now it’s just a place I go on vacations.
It’s been six years since I started living in India. I know it’s every nook and cranny and while it may or may not accept me, I’ve accepted this one-sided love. We fight and we have disagreements and yet, here we are.
Have I forgotten Oman? Definitely not. It gave me the first taste of hope and love. It’s something I’ll always carry. My identity will be an imperfect amalgamation of both my homes.
Oman is where I learnt to walk, India is where I learnt to run.
This work has been published in Beetle Magazine's July 2020 Issue
Illustration by Dhanashree Pimputkar