The smell of filter coffee and the hissing of the idli cooker woke her up. Home away from home. Where none of her devices seem to work. Internet was out of question, and the anxiety resulting from that was pounding in her chest. She does her little morning ritual of checking Whatsapp messages, and scrolling through her facebook homepage, trying really hard to stretch her hand in weird positions to get internet connectivity. She realizes there is no point of it here and quickly goes to the front yard– the verandah– to brush her teeth, where five different people try to engage in small talk with her, while she has paste in her mouth. She tries to smile at them, frowning internally hoping they’d get the hint, but also not get offended.
It had been her recluse since childhood- summers in her native. The constant she had never really realized. Through every move her parents had decided for her-new cities, new schools, new friends- the only constant was the Summers in her native. It was weird, really, how she didn’t understand why she was dragged to this place while the rest of her friends were in camp, or partying, or having road trips. She never really understood why she had to come here for a month, especially when she’d just gotten together with her first boyfriend. How can I live without talking to him for a month, she wondered. It angered her when her second boyfriend cheated on her the summer after that with that bitch she’d always hated. She blamed her parents for the fun she’d missed over the summers, as she’d blamed them for all the rashes and the condition of her hair after each summer.
It eluded her, as it eluded anybody her age, when one particularly important Summer when she was forced to come to this place, when it was time for another big move. She’d have rather spent the last couple of weeks with these friends she was sure were for life, and that crush she’d hoped would turn into something bigger. But no! Summers back home was what her parents wanted and it was exactly what she got.
But somewhere along the way, she grew up. And so did all her cousins. She wasn’t sure how far she could tread with them- was it okay to tell them she’s dating? Was it okay to tell them she’s had alcohol? Weed? Was it okay to joke about how she’d rather be a lesbian, because there’s only one guy in her class of 50? But she did, and it was okay. They laughed at all the right places and for the right reasons, and it was alright. They had had their laughs and Summers had just gotten brighter.
But this summer, it was different. She was too aloof. There was too much work she’d left behind and there was just no internet. Her guide was going to kill her. She had 3 conferences to prepare for and 30 undergraduate essays to check before she left. All her friends were cussing her because it’s been 3 years since she’s been away and she ran off to her native before she met them.
She was a bit confused, but she knew that if she didn’t come back here now, she just won’t be happy. She couldn’t live with the nagging sensation every summer brought with it-how could she tell her cousins that they would have to plan the reunion without her? How could she tell them that she couldn’t let her dream internship go, while one of their parents passed away? How could she tell them that yes, she wanted to come back, but just couldn’t afford it?
So, when the smell of filter coffee and the hissing of the idli cooker woke her up, she was happy to get over the stupid jetlag. She was happy to that there would be no emails, no Whatsapp, no Facebook to disturb the peace she always got here. She was happy to be home.