We always say, Riyadh is home.
It is and it will always be.
Though I was born in India, Riyadh was the place where I metamorphised into what I am(was). It was a witness to my childhood, my moments and experiences. That dry place with the glorious blazing sun has a record of my successes, joys and distresses. That was the place that made me a person, who I was proud to be. It shaped me into a person that I loved.
You know, when I stepped out of the flight to the Indian land, one and a half years back, I was completely strong and determined to live my life, to fight for my passion and settle in to a beautiful life here in India. But what I dint know, was that I was stepping into a rollercoaster ride. A ride that cost me my own self.
I was always that pestering kid, who tailed my dad telling him the merits of a city in Kerala that I loved because I hated my home place (i.e. my dad’s home place) in Kerala. I still remember looking up residential places (villas and apartments) in Calicut, and showing it to my dad, so that we could settle there. Let me tell you, even at that small age, I would have made an awesome sales person for those construction companies because that’s how much I canvassed my dad and coming to think of the result, at that point of time, he seriously considered buying one (because I am sure my dad wouldn’t feign interest just to satisfy his daughter’s weird behaviours). But in the end, there was always this dialogue that he would say in a wistful manner (and that I hated with a passion) – “Our home place will always be our home. And that is the place that we will settle, no matter what you say or do.” That put an end to my efforts. I just let it be and accepted it (though I came up with another plan 😉 ) At that point of time, I realise now, Riyadh was not home. It never felt like home then. We were expatriates who in the end, dreamt of settling back in God’s Own country’s beautiful backwaters and breathing mountains. Riyadh was just a desert. A desert whose oasis was put to a good use for sustaining lives like ours. But eventually, as I grew up, as I lived my life, Riyadh slowly became a part of my identity, my character. I do not know exactly from when it became home, but eventually it did.
People ask me about home, I say – ” I miss home. I miss Riyadh.” And amidst the gasps of surprises and confusions about my home place, my mind drifts back to the desert. The desert that cocooned me from the evils of the hearts and taught me to appreciate my surroundings, because green was rare, rains were a blessing, winds were a guest, winters were a bliss. There, sun was an enemy, the clouds – a companion and the stars- twinkling friends.
That was all about life. Because nothing was in abundant. These simple things were rare, unique and a treasure. Once I settled here, I thought Riyadh was home because my family was back there. But then, I was wrong. I realised that family was not the only thing that was home. It was the place that made it home. When my family moved back to India, that was when I started missing home more. That was when, I understood, those rooms that I always thought as a curse, was my real home. Whenever I was tired and wanted to relax and go for a vacation, no exotic places came to my mind. I just wanted a ticket to Riyadh, my haven. Those four walls, my books, the sunshine that lightened my room, my quilt, the cold air from the AC, a fruit yogurt in my hand – that sounded like a perfect vacation. What I wouldn’t give up, for that. Sigh.
There is this peculiar smell to all that you bring from home. The chocolates my parents sent, had that smell. The pencils I bought from Riyadh, had that smell. The clothes and every damn thing never exposed to the Indian environment, have that smell. And when I would miss home very badly, I would sell them. I know it sounds crazy.
The next time I went to Riyadh I bought my quilt along, took it with me to the hostel, never let anybody else touch it for a long time because it was my connection to my home and I just wanted to feel home. I still have my uniform safely hidden away in my bag, to take a whiff of the smell that my home is.
I live near the airport. At times, I walk to the airport and just sit there for sometime looking at everything. I see people hugging their dear ones and bidding them goodbye. I see others whose faces shine with excitement and joy of meeting their loved ones. I see passports, tickets and check-ins. And it makes me miss Riyadh all the more. The very sound of an aeroplane taking off makes my heart long, puts an image of me in that flight flying home. Why more? The very mention of a word like Immigration makes me sad and miss home. I keep telling my aunt (who is an airport official) to restrain from using such words when am around, just because I miss home. And yeah, she still teases me for it.
I have always heard that, students of Gulf expatriates who did their complete schooling in the Gulf, finds it very difficult to adjust back in India when sent for his/her studies and I always scoffed at that. It sounded stupid that one couldn’t adjust to the Indian atmosphere, because India was ‘eventually’ our home country. But I lived through that and let me tell you it was and is difficult. Very difficult. You always start comparing everything with what you had back there, you end up being a snob infront of your current friends just because you tell them about how much you miss things there. you start telling your friends that this was how you did something back there and in the end, You always wish your school friends were around, wish that you could go back in time, relive those carefree school days, a simple thing makes you nostalgic, a picture brings you to tears and you think of a time, when finally you will be able to catch a plane and leave the damn place. You wish you could just wear the abaya and skip the dressing up bit. You wish you could wear the abaya and the niqab and walk around without being stared at. This is how a” so-called” NRI student’s life will be.
This was how my life was and still is. Even after 1 and a half years. A hard truth. But to my clones who are about to settle back in India, let me tell you, you will live through each and every thing that I have stated above(okaaaaay, maybe not to the extent that smell becomes an obsession- people do tell me I am crazy) because it is not home. But like me, if you can’t still get over it after a year, understand that, it’s a waste of time. Do not make the mistake that I made. It can lead to depression and eventually you will forget who you were and will not recognise yourself.
It is a waste of time wishing for things that are never going to happen. Riyadh may be your home, but it was just a phase. It’s over. It was a beautiful phase. But now, live your life. Stop comparing, take it all in and start breathing. Nothing is going to come back. Nothing is ever going to be the same again. Be strong enough. I know of many people who had to drop out of colleges halfway because they couldn’t cope up with their life here. Do not be one of them. Adjust. Adjust. Adjust. Life will put you in different places. Just think about how you will adjust then. So know that, it’s all for the good. This is your life now. This is where you will be living from now on. So, Discover. Conquer. And Move on. There is yet more to come. Remember it’s a journey. And you are never going to move ahead, until you start walking.