Two things never fail to give me goose bumps. Jana Gana Mana, the Indian National Anthem and the first sight of India’s land mass from a couple of thousand feet above.
Today, was no different.
I was finally returning home to India for good, after a not so good two years in the United States; and anything that even remotely signified India – the airline, Indian ladies with embroidered kurtis and bindis, the food, the sight of the Indian flag hoisted purposefully on the aircraft’s tail, the imli sweets and even Hindi movies on the flight’s entertainment system – made me feel a gush of emotion, pride and love. And of course, the first glimpse of the motherland gave me goose bumps all over.
The general consensus among my friends is that I am a sucker, and I mean SUCKER, when it comes to India. And, I unabashedly agree. But, as I was gliding over the clouds in the darkness of night, just 10 minutes and a couple of hundred miles away from landing, I was pondering over whether I overdo the patriotic bit. I wondered, “Ok! So, India is a great country, despite its flaws, but then so are many other countries. What is it about India – apart from the fact that I was born and raised here – that makes it so special and why exactly do I need to get the goose bumps?”
I concluded that I’m probably just an emotional fool and in my head I promised myself to consciously pull back at the tug on my heart strings the moment the ‘I’ of India was mentioned.
When we finally landed, I rushed off the plane, skipped down the stairs, onto the tarmac and into the waiting bus which would take us to the airport for immigration clearance. As I boarded, I could already smell the musty air, feel the moisture on my skin and see myself relearning the art of standing in one square feet of space per person. And, even as I was feeling a strange excitement about all of it, I chastised myself for overreacting again. I lugged my overweight cabin bag into the bus and balanced it on my feet (which were precariously holding me up).
Rrrrrrrr...the bus started. I swayed. The people around me swayed along. And just as I was swinging back and forth for the nth time, I felt someone nudge my arm. I turned around and saw an elderly couple sitting on a two-seater. Both of them shifted towards the outside of their seats to make a small space and insisted that I sit between them.
Embarrassed, I thanked them and resisted (not once but thrice!) saying I was fine and that they should sit comfortably. They persisted, “You are like our granddaughter and we don’t want you to stand with your heavy bag. You must sit here.”
By this time, the people around me were obviously privy to the conversation and decided to add their bit. “Betaaaa, if elders are telling you so much, you must listen. Please sit.”
Reluctantly, I gave in and squeezed myself into the tiny space provided. And, suddenly I felt the goose bumps again.
However, this time, I just let it be. I let my heart rule my head, like I did before my needless pondering. I didn’t care if I was being an emotional fool.
THIS (the people), I realised, is what makes India so very special.
Thoughts as of: March 19th, 2009.