I always heard that no matter how wonderful a time you’ve had in India, when you’re sitting on the tarmac, ready to leave, you’ll no doubt be glad of it.
It’s not true.
On July 5th, Kyle and I sat in our Dragonair seats with tears rolling down our faces. The customs officer had stamped red ink into our passports, “Departed Kolkata” and the only Indian soil left for us to stand on was the monsoon mud clinging to our soggy sandals. Our hearts were throbbing with sadness as our nine-month adventure was coming to a final close.
We had to say two goodbyes — one to Mizoram and one to India.
Back in February, when we drove away from Aizawl to visit Malaysia, I looked back on the hilltop city from a distance, imagining it was my final goodbye. I truly wondered if in five months I’d be sad to leave or not. We had been living a cramped, kitchenless life, full of cultural adjustment, and it was just plain hard.
But leaving now, in July, instead what I saw was a colourful city of beauty and love. I looked back this time to think of the beautiful people we were leaving — our warm landlady with the sparkling eyes; the papaya vendor who gave me the Mizo name, Partei (little blossom); our neighbour, the baker, who carefully iced our farewell cake in the shape of a Canadian flag. I could almost see my favourite cat, the one we named Claude, basking in a sun ray, waiting ready to rub her face all over mine.(Pi Khumi was our landlady and one of my closest friends in Aizawl.)
As we drove away, our driver, Hminga, noticed my teary eyes and started teasing me about being ‘lungleng‘, a Mizo word for the feeling of longing for a place or person at a distance. Hminga was mostly referring to my long hug with Claude the cat. Claude will be lungleng as well, he said, “Meow meow meow. Meow Meow.”(I love Claude!)
We had spent a wonderful last week in Mizoram, solidifying our relationships, enjoying goodbye teas, and doing as much last-minute shopping as we could fit in. It had become completely impossible to live without Lopchu tea from Darjeeling, sugarcane candy stirred by ox-power, and tiny dried, red chillies that could make you cry. So we had to get some to bring home. We looked afresh at familiar sights, appreciated our beautiful home a little extra, and simply enjoyed to the fullest that last week of our Mizo life.(Pi Ruati, Zampuii, and Hriati — friends from the Baptist House, where I used to spend a lot of time.)
The once cold city was full of love and warmth when I looked at it for that last time. It took time and effort to get to the point where I would feel sad to leave, and I’m so glad I did.(Pu Hminga and Pu Jessie dropping us off at Lengpui Airport.)
Already lungleng for Mizoram, we hit the streets of Kolkata — just two days before heading home. It’s monsoon, and the rain was intense. Giant puddles form, ankle-deep to cover half the road at times. The humidity is so high that my glasses fog up just exiting a building to the outdoors. Everything is damp. But everything presses on. Green-and-yellow auto-rickshaws fill the streets with passengers’ umbrellas hanging out the sides to cover the exposed doorways, protecting themselves from the rain; hand-pulled rickshaws are still used, the operator soaking wet while the passenger sits behind him, covered in a tarp; and pedestrians hop the puddles, some soaking wet and giggling, others taking temporary shelter under the eves when the rain is heaviest. The whole city had transformed since we last saw it in December.(Watermelon season!)
We had a wonderful time shopping and eating our last bites of paneer tikka, chana dal, and tandoori naan. We savoured every bite. Even with only two hours left in the country, we were still filling ourselves with mango lassis and veg pakoras. India’s cuisine is truly unbeatable.(Getting fitted for a sari blouse.)
It has been an unforgettable adventure. I’ve fallen in love with India, and while this may be the end of a chapter, I see myself returning many times over. It’s a place of possibility and flexibility, it’s quirky and crazy, it’s beautiful and it’s hideous. Really, India is everything, can be anything, and I am thankful that bits of it are everywhere in the world, part of it with me now, in my heart forever.