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First Impressions

After a twenty-one hour uneventful flight, we arrived in New Delhi, India which welcomed us with 30 degree celsius and 80% humidity.

The first thing you notice is the sheer number of people, many of whom play a part in what I believe is unnecessary over-employment. Unnecessary for me, necessary for them. At midnight, there were probably fifty people manning a duty-free shop that could have done with ten. The second thing you notice are the smells. India is a hot country where condoms and deodorants are rarely used. So what has happened is 1.3 billion people with body odor. The Universe has a perverse sense of humor indeed.

By the time we boarded a pre-paid taxi, I was mostly drenched in delicious local sweat, all my own. Air-conditioning inside a moving vehicle suddenly seemed like the greatest human invention ever. While the luggage tags on the suitcases tied to the roof of the car were dancing to the wind, I was enjoying the nice cool air from a machine.

After a night’s sleep, I felt hurried to make India my new home. I wanted to know the name of the Indian Finance minister. I wanted to know the price of 1kg of tomatoes. I wanted to be able to order food on my phone. I wanted to drive without a map. I wanted to be able to recommend restaurants to anyone who was visiting. And then I realized, I’m the one visiting and I can’t be in a hurry to make a home.

Luckily for me, all I have is time. I’ll take my time to find home. Right now, I’m still in transit.

I woke up to the sound of a bicycle hawker selling something in a language I mostly don’t understand. As I waded through the day, everything in India reminded me of my childhood. And anything that reminds you of your childhood can only be a good thing. Right? The crowds, the dirt, the aromas of street food optimally balanced with the odors of open sewage, the persistent honking, sightings of overcrowded bikes and cows retaining their bovine right of way. On the one hand, these sightings, sounds and smells can seem foreign, curious, and even unacceptable. On the other, they can be sentimentally familiar and deeply comforting.

How long does it take for nostalgia to fade? And what does this nostalgia get replaced with?

Published by Arun Muthu

In 2019, I relocated to India after having lived in California for more than two decades. These scribbles attempt to capture my observations at what I call home through a foreigner's eyes.

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