I am alone in the house, with our little kitten who is sleeping in my carry-on. Little does she know she will be in her carrier for 20 some odd hours, on her way back to Texas. My checked luggage is all packed. I need to take a shower, grab the few knick-knacks laying around and head to the airport.
I am heartbroken. Leaving India is breaking me. I will be back soon, as a tourist this time. I cannot leave this country without a game plan for coming back. I will surrender my residency permit tonight, and soon apply for a tourist visa.
Saying goodbye is never fun. We have spent the last week visiting friends, having lots of Vodka and salt soda, ate more South Indian food in great company. I have swallowed back my tears as much as possible. Our maid broke down this afternoon, touching my feet, sobbing. It’s hard to explain that although there will be distance between us, the connection will remain unbroken. That’s what WhatsApp is for. I went to give her some of our food and stuff at her house tonight, and her son was proudly showing me the brochure of the college he will be attending starting August 3rd. I was starting to tear up and she told me “No cry Madam, no cry, give tension”, which is our little inside joke.
How much can two people accumulate over the course of 20 months? A lot. Too much, way too much. Most expats try and sell what they have. We were too lazy, and also didn’t want to have to socialize with people who whine about the spicy food and the disgusting behaviors of certain men who use the town walls as a private latrine. I was not in the mood to hear others talk about repatriation as bitter sweet. It’s not sweet. It’s bitter bitter bitter. I only wanted to hang out with Indians (with the exception of a few close friends), soak up all the “Indianness” I could, until the last minute.
My husband left last night. Lufthansa changed its pet policy and there is now one pet per cabin only. See, I just wrote in Indian English, with “only” at the end of the sentence! Anyway, I will be flying in a few hours, with our little kitten. A lot of people have asked about the puppies. They are staying here. They are happy. They have 5 acres of land to run around, and Radha takes good care of them. Sathya is in possession of their health passport. All will be fine.
We have sorted through our clothes. E. has lost 50 kgs, so there are a lot of big shirts that don’t fit anymore. I have too many kurtas/tunics that will not be wearable back home. I gave a lot to our maid and our cook. We packed boxes and were ready to give them to a hospice or other charitable organization. They can use the clothes, or use the fabric. Three boxes have been on our front porch for a couple of days. This afternoon, Sathya was helping me with the overflow of food in the kitchen and suggested we should give it to the gardeners. He said one of them approached him this morning and asked him “Can I have some things in the boxes?” Bam, right when I am starting again to get a grip on my emotions and find a place where I can manage my feelings towards poverty, I get smacked again. We have given a lot to the people around us, but the other “invisible people”, those who don’t work for a family but for a company such as our compound’s maintenance crew, we had honestly not considered them. How can I not think about this old guy who every morning would ring the bell when pushing his garbage cart around the property, making sure we would give him our trash? How can I forget about the ladies in their saree and men’s shirt, scarf over their head, who sweep the grass and street every day? Yes, you read that right, they sweep the grass. They also cut the grass around the houses with scissors, the lawn mower being used for the large common areas only.
The owner of the house came to do the move-out inspection. That was unpleasant and left a rather bitter taste in my mouth. Switching to Kannada or Telugu to talk about me in my presence is rude. I stayed mad for a few minutes, then we went to the little school around the corner, with the pink walls, to deliver a few notebooks and crayons I had left. Sathya and I were instantly surrounded by a dozen kids, smiling, teeth as white as snow, dressed in their red checkered uniforms. “Mam, what is your name Mam?”. That’s all I needed to remind me of where my priorities lay in life.
I now have to disturb the kitten and finish packing. I am leaving India. India is not leaving me.