When I left India for the first time to pursue my Master's in Canada, we had an orientation program at the university for international students to get over the initial culture shock, which was quite useful because indeed my country's culture is hugely different than that of Canada. At that point I literally laughed seeing an option for students returning back to their countries to attend a workshop on what is called as Reverse Culture Shock. Ya rright! Like I need to be trained on how to feel home at home!
It has been more than 3 years since I have been living outside of my country, and I have known every single time that I come back what the term means. When you step into an unknown land you research so much and you gear up yourself for the worst scenario, but when you go back to your own home, you relax and assume things would be the same as you had last seen. You are caught completely unaware when things do not go as you plan.
Every year I look forward to December as thats when I travel home but the trip always leaves me pondering and confused to some extent. India is a chaotically progressing country. As I take the ride from the airport to my house, I see yet another fly-over construction, the tripled traffic in narrow pathways, the bizarre situation of a bullock cart, pedestrians and a Mercedes traveling on the same road where lanes are drawn out just to be criss crossed, some religious ceremonial song blasting on a loud speaker, men still urinating on walls right next to public toilets (why, why, oh why?), several big chain stores bull dozing on the smaller community markets and familiar neighborhoods gone to pave way for huge apartments. Once being a joke among friends that our neighborhood was more like a village, the progress now is to the extent that I am actually terrified of crossing the road swelling with vehicles.
As I enter our home, I do an initial inspection to see what has changed. My mom eagerly looks on and challenges me to spot the differences. As soon as I am done with that I always crack open my suitcase to show them the gifts I bought, even if it is 2:00 in the morning. As few days pass, I somehow feel sad that so much has changed without me being a part of it. The weddings I missed, the friends and family I am unable to see as they have moved elsewhere, the latest news and gossip which I am somehow unaware of, a kind of impatience with how things work very differently in India and most of all with how I always seem to fall sick when I get back home no matter how cautious I am.
Well, I have most certainly improved on preparing myself when I travel back home. I start on some of my medications right from day 1. Nobody wants to fall sick for half their vacation. I make special efforts to bug and bother all my friends and family and try my best to catch up with them. I listen more to whats going on on their side rather than going blah blah on Netherlands..:). I have realized that my city was perhaps the same even 3 years before. Mostly its my attitude and expectations that have changed.
And some things actually do get better. Home cooked heavenly food everyday, visiting favorite hang outs, watching Indian commercials (I know that sounds silly, but they are darn good), pampered by frequent visits from a chunk of family that lives 10 minutes away, friendships that get deeper and stronger, a few new ones and towards the end always the thought of never returning back. Does everything depend on the way you look at things? Then I chose to look at the beautiful marigold...:)