I still remember the last time that I went home. It was the December break. I was back from Delhi for the vacations. Boarding the Delhi—Dibrugarh Rajdhani Express I arrived Assam early morning. I de-boarded taking in breathful of the fresh early morning air. Looking around for a ride home from the station I saw that the sleepy little town was just waking up to glorious orange hued sun rays that cut through the thick and slowly dissipating fog.
Small stalls opened up in places around the station where the morning vendors brewed hot cups of tea. The smoke rising from their tea pots gave out an inviting aroma that nudged at my groggy senses; its effect was heightened by the crispness of the cold morning. As I journeyed through the highway I sleepily observed that the road on either side was punctuated with groups of men covered in caps and shawls huddled together a brightly lit bonfire. Some were rubbing their hands, while some others were sipping mugs of tea; around the sparks of warmth. Their animated conversations were made visible in vapours.
The last leg of my journey home from the station was made on a rickshaw. As I neared home I craned my neck to catch a glimpse of the place I so loved. The squeaking sound of the rickshaw, the cold air cutting at my nose and cheeks and the morning rituals of an early rising town like; shopkeepers opening their shop shutters penetrating the quiet morning with a metallic clang sound;the pujari cleansing the town with morning arati, sleepy eyed school children going for tuitions before school began and the sweepers who cleaned the roads; completed the morning scene.
The first glimpse of home after months of staying away is something that always fills my heart with an ecstasy that cannot be put into words. The anticipation of experiencing assured love grew as I made my way closer home.
Nothing can supersede the excitement of coming home, of meeting your loved ones after a long time.
And then, there it was!
I will never forget that memory of being at home. Maybe because that was the last time that my home was ever home.
Looking from the highway while still on the rickshaw I saw that at 6:30 am, the garden illuminated with an orange tinged yellow hue as the morning sun gently woke up the earth. The mist on the grass sparkled as the sun rays teased them. Half the house looked like it woke up to the sunshine while the other half still seemed to snooze under the fog. Coming closer I saw that the bougainvillea that adorns the entrance to our home over the gate in a gesture of welcome to visitors shone a pretty pink and green as the rays touched her softly. The dewdrops on them made each leaf and flower glisten with a freshness that only mornings can bring.
Deboarding at the gate I saw that standing in the veranda waiting for my arrival was my dad. As he saw the rickshaw approaching he came down the veranda steps with an eagerness and an enthusiasm that only a father can have for a daughter. Jogging steps and a welcoming smile exuberating the happiness that radiated from him. Ma stood smiling on the veranda.
As I got off the rickshaw, I passed by dad after the initial father-daughter reuniting hug. He stopped over to pay the rickshaw guy.
The conversation of him haggling in a friendly manner with the rickshaw guy and the birds chirping in the garden were the sounds that accompanied my steps as I carried my luggage inside. With each step towards home I felt like all the burden of existence that I held was slowly evaporating into thin air. I was home. The best place to ever be. As I approached the car porch, ma commented sarcastically-
‘I could make out that it was you from a distance looking at the red pants.’
I remember I had then been obsessed with the colour red and had come home wearing a black sweater and red pants.
Entering the house I took in a deep breath. Every home has a distinct smell. Our home always smelled of a mix of sandalwood incense and my dad’s old spice cologne in the mornings.
Unpacking I happily smelled in the aroma of luci bhaji (assamese for puri sabji). It was a tradition between me and dad that whenever I went home dad would prepare my favourite breakfast.As I freshened I heard ma and dad in the kitchen, each trying to outdo the other while trying to serve a warmth filled breakfast. Yes, whenever the kids arrive ma and dad wait to break fast with us.
Freshening up, I joined my parents on the lawn table. Breakfast outside on the lawn in winter was another family favourite. We sat for breakfast under the sunshine, catching up on each other with food that tasted like offerings of love.