“I am dreaming tonight of a place I love
Even more than I usually do
And although I know it’s a long road back
I promise you
I shall be home for Christmas”
Shen roared, undeterred and unperturbed. The family, not wanting to face the ‘music’ covered their ears. After three years of isolation and separation, he was going ‘home’. At last!
“And here I come.”
“That’s not what the song says.”
“I don’t care who you are, what you say–as long as I am going home!”
“Anju, Gyan: Please leave your dad alone. He is hyper with the thought of going home! He missed his Goa so much.”
And why not? The sweetest memories of bitter-sweet friends, friendships, the nostalgic meeting places! With an exalted mood, he sang to the empty breakfast table.
At the airport, Saanvi had to calm him down.
“Hush, calm down. Everyone is looking at an uncontrollable, hyper senior citizen!”
Maybe if she had deprived him of sugary treats, he would have been calmer. Like she used to do for their children before the flight.
During the non-stop flight to New Delhi, Shen talked non-stop. Saanvi, saturated in his enthusiasm, thawed, and responded with equal gusto. And the planning started. How, when, where, why… Planning for thirty-five days in less than fifteen hours. Soon they landed on Indian Soil.
“Where’s your inhaler? Use the puffer–like the doctor advised you. Right side of your backpack.”
Shen inhaled deeply. And slowly. The paramedic, as also his yoga teacher, had imbibed the art of breathing. Yet his body raked with an uncontrollable, incessant cough. He gasped for breath and choked.
“It’s the pollution. And the dust.”
He sucked the inhaler. His light blue face turned to the normal dark shade. He clutched Saanvi’s hand and together they proceeded to the baggage claim area.
“You had forgotten about this, hadn’t you?”
“I thought I was past all this. I never used the inhaler even during the worst Covid season.”
He wrinkled his nose, took a deep breath.
“What’s that stench? Oh, don’t tell me. I know. Let’s get out.”
Their connecting flight to Goa was uneventful. Saanvi worried about Shen, who slept fitfully. She promised God several ‘prasaad’ once they were back to Vancouver–safe and sound.
And they felt safe and sound–sitting together on Miramar Beach. Facing the setting sun. Holding Saanvi’s left hand in his right, Shen scooped the sand with his left and drizzled it onto her hand.
“My love for you exceeds the sand particles on this beach and all other beaches in the world. My heart just leaps with joy – not on seeing a rainbow – but looking at your smiling face.”
Maybe it was the sun, or otherwise – Saanvi’s face bore a brilliant red hue!
“Flatterer–you are brilliant with your words. That’s how you won my heart. Now, what do you want?”
“You give me pennies for my thoughts. I give you my thoughts for your glorious smiles.”
No wonder Goa is such a good place. It made them fall in love again with the same gusto and vigour as it had had fifty years ago! In the enveloping dusk, they shook off the sand and nostalgia with it. They skipped back home.
The couple visited various relatives, friends and temples. After three long years, the pandemic survivors had stories to share. The births, the deaths, the marriages–everyone and everything had to be acknowledged and feelings shared. They travelled from one city to the other in search of an ever-elusive feeling of satisfaction. All they got was ‘deja-vu’.
Soon it was time to go back.
“I don’t want to go back.”
“Me too. But we have to. We both have jobs and our children need us. We can always come back here every year.”
“That’s not the same. I want to settle down here.”
“You uprooted us from here to settle down in Canada. We had no option then. But not now.”
“You mean if I settle here, I will be alone?”
“I will visit you every year.”
Shen grumbled and clutched Saanvi’s hand.
“We can always come here every so often. Remember that absence makes the heart grow fonder. The people have given you their time and place in the heart ONLY because you have come after a long time. Should you choose to be here, you will be like one of them. And then the same people may not have time.”
They recalled the early dark days in Mumbai. The poverty, unshed tears, hardships! “Social outcasts and misfits.”
“Do you want to go that way again?”
“Distance makes hearts fonder. The corollary is that the lack of distance will create more problems. Do we need those?”
Shen turned away his face to mask the emotions. Saanvi had hit the nail fair and square. With a deep breath, he resolved:
“We have many countries to visit. With a current score of twenty, which is less than 10%. Let’s plan to visit here every few years.”
Caressing Saanvi’s hand, he whispered:
“I don’t care where we are…
As long as you are with me!”