Summer of ‘78

England 1978

With the brunt of the winter over, England is a riot of colour. The roses and tulips interspersed with grass patches are a sight for sore eyes. Women have shed their overcoats and furs for bright skirts. As I slit open the envelope marked Air Mail, the colours around me congeal into black and grey. It is a six by four inch photograph. The veins are prominent, the skin like age old parchment. To me each wrinkle defines a trauma and each thinning grey strand, a tribulation. The vacant eyes evince hope but the loneliness and suffering is evident.

***

Chandigarh 1968

1968 heralds in slices of joy accompanied with dabs of sorrow. My memories as an adolescent are of pot- bellied, balding men, guttural laughter, obscene remarks, empty bottles and the bruises on my mother’s face. I have to get out. It is stifling – this life. I have wings, I realise, but they do not have the strength to fly. Not just yet. 

My mother and I being the immediate victims of prolonged suffering and anguish, find companionship in each other. And then, my father succumbs to a lifetime of alcoholism. Suddenly, it all comes to an end.  

A few months later I get accepted into Oxford University. My mother having just crossed sixty, is the epitome of ageless grace, beauty and energy. She bustles in carrying gram-flour sweets, savouries and pickles. “This can’t last for five years, I know,” she smiles at my dismay, “but it will help kick-start your stay in an alien land. Very soon you’ll be back!”

***

England 1973

1973 earns me a ‘summa cum laude’. I am now an Oxford graduate with the highest honours. I gaze at the poster on my wall, ‘Don’t dream your life, live your dream.’ I am living my dream, I whisper. I do a little jig around the room. I am living my dream I shout. All childhood demons are vanquished. Occasional letters from my mother convince me all is well. 

Professor Cowley calls to tell me, I have been placed in Simons & Simons as their corporate lawyer. Take a survey God. “Isn’t mine a charmed life beyond compare?” A young girl of twenty five with a history of an oppressed childhood from a small town of India, finds it hard to contain her sheer joy. 

***

Delhi 1978

The photograph clutched tightly in my hand, I alight on the tarmac, flinching at the first onslaught of the Indian summer. It has been a decade. The aroma of gram- flour ladoos fills my nostrils. I have to yet cover 245 kms to reach home. Was my mother at the Delhi airport? With freshly made sweets? I shake my head and move slowly towards the Uber counter. Ironically, an Oxford law graduate has just realized that love can traverse hundreds of miles to take on a tangible perception. After all – Home is really a person you go back to!

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