For the first time in sixteen months family matters have beckoned a return from India, back to the United States. Perhaps the contrast would appear less dramatic if the destination were a place other than that which I spent my childhood. Perhaps it is the perfect location for a homecoming.
Scores of densely clustered villages dance along the distance from Varanasi to Delhi by train with the scheduled four stops developing into four times that, delaying the arrival by two and a half hours. Dropped at the airport and walking through the check-in process leaves just enough time to step up to the back of the line upon reaching the gate. Thus continues a perfectly succinct succession of events set into perpetual motion.
Landing gear deploys and in a striking contrast to the multihued Eastern disarray just left behind are groomed monochrome towns gaining in size through the portals of rapid descent. Roads cross and cul-de-sacs loop, with rows of orderly homes, carefully manicured lawns and automobiles, pulled into uniform driveways. Street lamps poised to light the night sky and signposts at each intersection mark the transition into an organized world of symmetrical proportion.
The enduring appeal of my charming hometown juxtaposed against the assorted carnival of the city I’ve departed only days ago, presents the most extreme of contrasting landscapes and a nonplusing question. Is the surreal dream revealed within the erratic and vibrant mayhem of India or is it found in the comforts and measured security within the luxuries of the country I grew up? Perhaps the answer is neither. Just as the two can never simultaneously face the sun, the same is true of a mutually exclusive answer. It is time that serves as the veritable dream.
Projecting hallucinations into the peripheral distance, blurring vision and obscuring sight, time reflects a tomorrow that never arrives and a yesterday that will forever remain in the shadow of today. Stretching the reverie of past and future over the current moment, this shrouding continuum casts layers of tinted imagery, further deluding the truth. Only now may be inspired by our attention and only effort will bring this about. No matter how often we retrace the steps of yesteryear we cannot touch the experiences and no matter how we plan a more fruitful forthcoming, our minds cannot grasp beyond what is in directly front of us. All else is an illusory notion.
So, which is the dream? Decidedly, whichever is outside of my direct sphere of engagement.
In two weeks time, a swirling mirrored déjà vu finds me on the same train, traveling the direction opposite. The same four scheduled stops have developed into four times that, and the same inverted scenery is every bit as enigmatic viewed through an eastbound looking glass. Loosely hanging nostalgic threads of tasks left unfinished have, upon returning, morphed into a trimmed sense of remaining purpose in this country.
It’s good to be back; but then again, it could be said I never left.
~ by Christine Fowle