My first piece of the year. I feel like a stranger returning to this space after a few months. Having been wrapped in the firmament of a long holiday spent among family and close friends, the words don’t come easy. Holidays can easily knock off your drive to do anything productive! But hey I am making some changes in my routine today. That’s a good post New Year resolution to begin with, I think.

As I was wrapping up my annual India holidays, everyone remarked how lucky I was to go back to a beautiful country which I now call home. I don’t disagree. Our plane touched down Melbourne airport in the morning. The air was as clean as we had left. As if I needed any more assurance but a chance reading of Australia having the third cleanest air in the world upped my mood! The friendly taxi driver gave us a low down about the weather and how a heat wave had gripped the state. I begin to think here is the metaphor of my life played out, I just left winters in India to embrace the summers here. A clear contrast. The smell of freshly cut lawns felt welcoming and as I opened the door to my house I realised I had missed the little luxuries of this cosy den including our comfortable bed in which we snoozed for the next couple of hours to beat jet lag.

When I overcame sleep and tried to fill the quiet spaces of the house and my neighbourhood, the withdrawal symptoms of a holiday well spent came to the fore. I was missing the smells and sounds of India, and most of all I was missing people. I wonder if having lived in a billion plus country adds to a certain loneliness that one brews in the mind. No I don’t suffer from loneliness or depression as such but I feel happier in a crowded place as if there is a certain security linked to it. My meeting with Camela yesterday corroborates my theory to a certain extent.

As I was coming back from university and waiting for the bus home (I have to mention here that I love public transport in this country and would rather use it or cycle or walk; my driving skills have probably rusted by now), I got talking to Camela who incidentally is from the same neighbourhood. She comes from Jaffna in Sri Lanka and when the war was rife in the late ‘80s, she lost her sister and her husband. She stayed unmarried to look after her sister’s two infants and migrated to Australia as a qualified Maths teacher along with the children in 1990. As we stood in the heat and spoke Camela was eating a ripe pear, her hand automatically going straight to her bag to offer me one as well. Some habits don’t die. Over the years, Camela visited her home country a few times but, “Everything has changed, the neighbours are not the same, my brothers and sisters have moved to different places. I feel bad, I cannot stop the change. I wish things were the same.” The visits are now few and far between. “I cannot handle the noise and traffic anymore,” she rues.

I then asked her if she was happy in Australia. She nodded. “There is a hole in my heart. I live a comfortable life here but something is missing. I miss yelling out to the neighbours or sharing a cup of coffee. I don’t know who lives next door, I miss the people,” she uttered. Bang on. I felt an immediate affinity.

Often I ask the man if he misses people, you know random people on the streets, parks etc., and he gives me a perplexed answer, “Why?” Obviously he has not known life otherwise. People like Camela and I have grown up with dozens in the family, hundreds in neighbourhoods, villages and towns that we suffer from people missing syndrome (PMS). I am lucky I have a wonderful circle of friends that I can cling to during a PMS state and a loving partner who understands my need – like checking out if there are enough people if we go to a beach – but for those without the support system there is a void. 

True, the grass is always green on the other side but as some wise crack said, it can be greener where you water it. 

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