They say you can never go back home. ‘They’ weren’t standing at Exit C of Mumbai domestic airport with thirteen years of their lives crammed into a trolley. Beads of sweat trickled down to my elbow and I straightened my spine trying to compose my face. I wanted to make a good first impression on my mother: we had met last when I was four.
Aimee arrived breathless in a standard-issue floral print and a, “You’re looking so tall, Alia!” squeal though she had visited me just last year at Dune’s school.
I looked past her beaming face at the expectant faces of people in the arrivals waiting area. A tiny prick of tears started up in a corner of my left eyelid. I bent down to fumble with my bag irritated with myself when a uniformed man darted forwards and took my suitcases and shoulder bag away.
“Your mother is waiting for you at home,” Aimee said quickly, “and your father is in Delhi on a very big shoot,” her voice hushed to a whisper, “it is like that only when you’re…” she looked around suspiciously. “Come come so much traffic.” She waved ahead.
A shiny black Hummer was boorishly parked right across the exit.
“At least we’re not blocking half the road,” I said.
But Aimee was already making a beeline for the Hummer, so it was just as well she didn’t hear me.
I blinked to clear the tears from my eyes, but could not focus in the heat. The Hummer had come to a screeching, rubber-skidding halt and there hung the body of my grandmother sprawled across its grille, clinging to it as if she’d just hopped on for a ride, the hump of her backside jutting out like a . . . hump.
“Aimee.” I bawled until my face was crushed into a musky madras shirt. I couldn’t breathe. I thought I heard her. I thought I saw ‘them’, as I pulled my face away, slinging her over the luggage on their cart.
“You can’t go home,” someone said, and I knew him for one of ‘them’. The sweat was really running off of me now, flooding down my legs.
What made ‘them’ so elusive one could capture their words, but nothing more? Words instead of a home, security, family, instead of love. For thirteen years ‘they’ had waited, probably camping out in my old room, just to dismantle everything, just to be sure there would be no home for me to go back to. And now 'they' had Aimee.
Opening: Karishma Attari.....Continuation: anon.