Expat Diaries: What it means to not be able to head home for summer

Dubai - Our columnist Malavika Varadan ponders over how this summer will be an unusual time for the NRIs who like to fly home

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By Malavika Varadan

Published: Thu 17 Jun 2021, 6:22 PM

If you had asked me in March what my plans were for the summer, I would have told you that I would be home in India, eating too many mangoes for most of July and August.

Things have changed.

It’s mid June now and that Indian summer holiday seems unlikely. Even if the borders do open by then, I can’t imagine walking through an Indian airport and going home to my 70-year-old parents. I would not risk that again.

But I will miss it. So many of us will. And missing is never easy.

I will miss the excitement of booking those tickets and giving my family the news that I’ll soon be home. I will miss the frantic shopping in the days before — going from store to store buying everything from perfume to Panadol.

Piling my suitcase up with gifts and chocolates and knick knacks I’d been setting aside for months.

“MUM! This is available in India now. You know this, right?”

“Yes, but the Dubai one is better.”

I’ll miss the airport, and that traffic of human beings, and chatter in a hundred tongues over duty-free electronics.

I will miss that view of Dubai from the sky.

I will miss walking out of Bangalore airport and taking a long, deep breath. That’s when you really know a city — when you know its smell.

I will miss unpacking in the living room.

I will miss walking down the building corridor and knowing everyone’s name.

I will miss the Indian monsoon so, so, so much.

I will miss waking up to the sound of birds and honking, and the dishes being done.

I will miss watching ACTUAL television with my parents, the kind where you wait for a show at a certain time (What an absurd idea!).

I will miss eating mangoes with my hands and having it drip down my chin onto a stainless steel plate.

I will miss visits to aunts who will ask me about my life in the Gulf. In the Gulf, hah!

I will miss meeting friends who knew me long before I had a nice business card, and talking to them about nothing, and everything.

I will miss ceiling fans.

And reading in the afternoons and drifting off into a slumber and being woken up by my mother’s call for chai.

I will miss that chai, and that coffee — because somehow it never smells the same here, in our air-conditioned homes.

I miss home, and all that it means to go home for the summer.


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