By the time you read this, I will be flying over the vast North American continent, squealing like a 6-year-old about the excitement of being on a plane again, and singing Alleluia on repeat in my head.
As much as I delight in my Californian life–the brilliant weather, geographical gorgeousness, access to global culture, technology, and some of the brightest minds in the world, an easy, convenient life with so much of Home–there is no doubt in my mind that the Real America lies 6 hours east, on the highways of New Jersey, in the towers of Manhattan, in the madly rust-and-gold colors that bedeck Syracuse in my dream version of a wedding baraat, around the potholes of Scranton, amidst the knock-your-chaddis-off charm of New England, in the memories that lurk in every corner of Philadelphia’s University City.
America was my 20s. America brought me up. America took a still-naive 22-year-old, seduced her, taught her survival, chewed her up, spat her out, and sent her home a newer, stronger, bruised and burnished person, a care package of heartbreak and her happiest memories in tow. For all the years that I lived in Bombay after moving back, the East Coast was my America. In the 20 months that I’ve joyfully settled in California, the East Coast is still My America.
Even as I type this, I can hardly believe that we will renew our acquaintance tomorrow. Even as I type this, I can hardly believe it’s been a separation of 7 life-changing years. And even as I type this, I can hardly believe I’ve been to London, Paris, and New York in the same year. (Take that, Ali Zafar!)
Who was that girl from a decade ago? How much hope did she tote around lightly around her shoulders? Who is this woman going back to romance her yesteryears, revisit the life that once consumed her, introduce her partner, her new life, her new position in another societal slot and decade? Whoever she is, she’s going to be surprised. Because someone else is going to pop out screaming–and possibly shedding a few overwhelmed tears–when she first drives up University Ave and comes face to face with ghosts she left behind far too long ago.
Amidst all that is unbelievable about this journey, this I firmly know: loving your past is your best gift to the present, and at long last, my friends, it is finally time.