RETURN, TEARS, AND EXILE


The other life begins — sort of — after a long limbo. In fact, the limbo has just begun, the limbo of jet lag that only seems to attack me when I fly west. My first few days here are always rich with nostalgia for India. I say ‘rich’ because I am not prone to tears, and when they spring up it is an unexpected, deep plugging into my emotional self, which appears to have diminished as I age. I live with some other faculties. But I do love the feeling of tears, for they make me feel ‘normal.’ My mother and my sister, however, are full of them, and I am full of wonder at how the hell they can cry so much and so easily. The first day back my nostalgia touches the ridiculous: I find myself saving Indian recycled bags, useless old receipts, as if they were relics of a life from which I have been exiled. I call my mother, my sister and allow myself to say sentimental things. I can only do it with them, or my sweetheart, Ajuni, my six year old grand niece, with whom I have a tight connection. I find myself clinging to Payson as a life saver. In short, I experience an aspect of myself that I feel is dead for the most part.

It doesn’t last long, and perhaps that is why I cherish it. I have become — other than this brief lapse during jet lag — accustomed to exile. Exile is my essential condition not only in the US where my six-month visit has sifted down my friendships and connections, but in India also, living up in the Himalayas where there is no social life to speak of, but where nature and my dogs provide me with a deep sense of connectedness. As time passes — generally about two weeks — and my body/brain become used to another place, another way of being — I will get over it — and not merely. I will love my life here, at a level of solitude unimaginable in India. But after so many years of commuting between the continents, and observing myself in my life, I am wise enough to know that those aspects of myself that I do not normally experience (tears, nostalgia, sentimentality) exist in my deep substratum and only await an opportunity to surface.

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