Of all ways to describe my India, I see you as the swirling colors, singing bangles and sweet, beautiful melodies that make you real to me. This is who you are, my India, this is why I love you. The colors of my sari are the same shade as your sunset. Turquoise, gold and rose-speckled.
Today, let me wear the colors of your sunset, my India.
I feel so out of place, walking along your shores. There are so many people, too many people, flocking to Chowpatty beach. They came to see, they all say, but the truth in their words is only found in the things they buy.
The hope and wonder of which you give so freely, my India, so few receive gladly, if at all.
Water laps at my bare feet as I easily succumb to the lure of your horizon, wading in until the water threatens my knapsack. Your ocean voice is a mere whisper, Chowpatty, I cannot hear your answer, but I do beg of you. This is the diya of my dreams. I have lit it with the forever light of the passion within my soul. Guard it amongst your waves, carry it far for me. For I am leaving your beauty perhaps, forever.
The multi-colored diya is set in the water, but I cannot bear to watch it float away. The blueness of the water turns a dull, dismal shade as I shuffle to the tourist-filled shores. I feel the stares of those bold enough to look, but they do not understand.
I almost wish they did.
But I am hungry, so I become one of them. I wait in line to buy channa bhatura. I trust this food stall, because my cousin works here. He sees me soon, waving me to the side where my afternoon snack is free.
“Thank you.” I accept two shares. My cousin is wise. He knows I would never come here alone. My husband, Tariq will come soon, I know he will.
My feet carry me away, to a vaguely quiet spot. Why it is empty, I do not know nor care. I sought silence since the day began and am content to stay here. The food is greasy but filling as I know it to be. I will miss this taste of things past, present and to come.
America will surely be different, especially in cinema. I will miss my Indian movies. They are my only guilty pleasure. Fading sun touches my face and I am lost in thought as my sari slowly dries stiff. My mother would be horrified, but my father would only shake his head. He understands me, a little.
My ipod is found in the dry knapsack, and it becomes the second, important part of this awkward farewell to a country I yearn to remain in. The heaven-sent voice of A.R. Rahman soon spills through the earbuds. I close my eyes to enjoy it.
It will be awhile before I do this again.
“Neha?” Tariq sees the food, but hands over his package first.
“Thank you.” I rip through the paper to see the vibrant rainbow of new bangles shimmering up at me. It is seconds before they sing from my arms.
Tariq captures my hand in his, holding it out for inspection. “Beautiful.” He compliments, serious. “But not as beautiful as you.”
A cheesy line, but he succeeds. I laugh aloud.
We sit in silence until his snack is finished and I then offer one half of my headphones. His head rests on my shoulder and one earbud is tucked in his ear.
“You’re going to miss it, aren’t you?” His American accent slips in.
I nod, barely.
He squeezes my hand, gentle. “You’re going to love my parents. They can’t wait to meet you. It’s been years. I’m so glad your papers cleared so you can come over for good this time.”
I put a finger to his lips as Anisha Bakshi’s precious voice flows through into my head. My lips begin moving, mouthing the words to Jana Gana Mana.
A drop of wetness splashes on my shoulder. I turn to see a second tear fall, as his eyes closed. We sing the last line, together, in whispers. A moment forever burned into the soundtrack of my heart.
I love you, my India. Always.
Jana Gana Mana-India’s National Anthem
Channa Bhatura-fried garbanzos inside Puri
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