I will look at everything and everyone
as if for the first time, especially the small things
that I have grown used to,
quite forgetting the magic
– Paulo Coelho
It’s dark – 4.27 am to be precise.
I can hear the clouds rumble, a soft pitter-patter of the rain fall outside my window. A peacock calls, happy to be alive in this north Indian monsoon. Outside on the road, a few trucks drive by, the sound of wheels ‘whooshing’ through the rain-washed asphalt.
I am in bed, eyes shut, wrapped in a cocoon of warmth and denial, harsh reality poking me in the ribs: in just a few days, I would be here no more.
No I wasn’t about to die. Literally at least.
But my life was about to take a one-eighty; another kind of death was foretold and I was about to step out of a bubble I didn’t even realise I had made.
How life change in the blink of an eye? How does one prepare for a permanent-type departure?
I mean, I would only have myself to look for advice for moving on since I’m an army-brat – a seasoned veteran after all – and I am used to ‘breaking up’ with places.
But I had spent my whole adult life in a city that I didn’t realise I was so attached to and now it was time to say goodbye.
“Departures are easy,” I try and pacify myself. “Come on, you’ve stayed in so many houses now.” But I don’t sound very reassuring.
Sleepless, I step out on my balcony to purview my ‘kingdom’: an old peepal tree, a few dilapidated apartment buildings and my ‘foster’ dog Blackie taking a snooze in the middle of the road.
I look up. Dawn is breaking. A soft orange-blue tinge has been lazily smeared all over the sky, clouds interspersed between. It is beautiful beyond words.
Eight years. Four houses – a lifetime since I’ve been in Delhi. I came here a young kid, scared and starry-eyed. Now this ‘big bad’ city no longer intimidates me; in fact there are so many things I hate about it – the humid summer, the polluted winter, its lecherous men, unnecessarily rude city folk, fat judgmental aunties…
But there are so many things I love too. My last week in Delhi is a constant montage of memories, of nostalgic sights and sounds; and trips to my favourites places with my favourite people in the city. I hardly eat at home, I hardly sleep in my bed – I am grasping desperately and want to take in as much as I can before I move on.
I stop and try to commit to memory the small things I am so used to seeing around me – worried that I won’t be able to remember anything. Worried that life in dilli will just be another phase.
And suddenly the last day dawns.
It is 8.40 am. Mom and I are squished in the backseat along with my luggage which is bound to be overweight. My brother is fast asleep on the front seat, his head lolling with every turn of the cab.
“Stop fiddling with your hair! It is such a bad habit.”
“Take your medication on time. Do your exercises everyday.”
“Manage your house well.”
“Study hard, keep up to date with everything in Europe.”
I don’t even have the heart to say my signature phrase, “Moommmmm! I am an adult, stop nagging me.”
I am going to miss this. So I belt out a few of my own mommy-concerns.
“Learn how to book tickets now on. Are you sure you know how to use the FireStick? Do you remember your credit card PIN? Please double check the doors before turning in. Don’t leave my bathroom tap on,” I scolded her.
But it was really ‘I don’t want to leave’ was what I yearned to say. The emotional fool in me is on the verge of bawling, almost making a scene at an airport I had been to so many times (I desist).
This time seems final. Here I am at the point of no return – till at least sometime in the distant future by which time Delhi would have donned yet another avatar.
“Departures are easy,” I mutter, slowly pushing my overflowing trolley as my family disappears from sight, trying to wave back as much as I can.
It’s embracing the unfamiliar that I’ll have to get used to.