I returned about a fortnight ago from Kolkata, where I grew up, went to medical school and where my family of origin still lives. It was a difficult trip home, with two kids and a husband in tow, revisiting after the death of my father from complications related to diabetes, while he was only 64. Like most children, I have things that I feel guilty about- not keeping in touch, not being there for my family and feeling that now, I will never get a second chance for a do-over. It was so good to be home, hold my mother who feels so alone now, and talk to my brothers who had to do all the work and go through all the stress of having to take care of a seriously sick parent. Apart from spending time with my family, I enjoyed walking the crowded streets, teeming with people. I drank tea in an earthen ware container, called a 'bhar'; went on a local train, on a ferry, visited Belur Math and Dakhineshwar. Went on a road trip to Gangasagar with the children to say goodbye to my father. My kids, brown and American were freaked out by the crowds and the begging naked children and the younger one who is two, bawled out "Never, ever, ever again".I took this to mean, he was not enjoying the ferry ride.
Inspite of all this and maybe even because of this,it is always good to go back home, especially when you can go back to your usual life soon enough. Calcutta has amazing energy, the streets are crowded, people are milling about, there is no sense of personal space; people jump ahead of you in queue all the time- and so would I if I were there all the time.I went to College Street Coffee House; I visited our 77th medical school reunion, a school that my father also went to. I dragged our kids everywhere. I wonder what my children think of India- I know that they are interested in the language and the music which is great, but what else do they learn? I will find out soon. Hopefully, I will be listening.