Returning Home

In a book I’ve recently read, there’s this passage that describes a young Indian man’s return home after severals years in the States working in the kitchens of various restaurants. I liked its sensuality and found it personally relevant as a (homesick) international student. 

Biju stepped out of the airport into the Calcutta night, warm, mammalian. His feet sank into dust winnowed to softness at his feet, and he felt an unbearable feeling, sad and tender, old and sweet like the memory of falling asleep, a baby on his mother’s lap. Thousands of people were out though it was almost eleven. He saw a pair of elegant bearded goats in a richshaw, riding to slaughter. A conference of old men with elegant goat faces, smoking bidis. A mosque and minarets lit magic green in the night with a group of women rushing by in burkas, bangles clinking under the black and a big psychedelic mess of colour from a sweet shop. Rotis flew through the air as in a juggling act, polka-dotting the sky over a restaurant that bore the slogan “Good food makes good mood.” Biju stood there in that dusty tepid soft sari night. Sweet drabness of home – he felt everything shifting and clicking into place around him, felt himself slowly shrink back to size, the enormous anxiety of being a foreigner ebbing – that unbearable arrogance and shame of the immigrant. Nobody paid attention to him here, and if they said anything at all, their words were easy, unconcerned. He looked about and for the first time in God knows how long, his vision unblurred and he found that he could see clearly.

The Inheritance of Loss, Kiran Desai, p 300.

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