SO! what is it like to re-visit a certain place where you have lived long enough to start thinking of it as home at some point of time? I had no idea what I was supposed to feel about coming back to the US in round two, as a short-term visitor after three long years that were spent reminiscing, complaining and finally accepting the new reality of the choice I once made. Sometimes in my conversation with friends, I have often contemplated about my reactions/emotions about coming back to visit places where memories were made – New York, Chicago and Columbus( not necessarily in that order), and I thought I would cry at our reunion. Even if wasn’t going to be that dramatic, I knew it was going to be special reconnecting because I tend to live in my memories and past is always a glorious place to visit, when you can choose what you want to keep.
And yes, last weekend it happened, I took the longest flight of my life to land in the city I had once bid farewell to America from – Chicago. Unfortunately after a travel time of 24 hours, in the quiet night of the midwest, there is really only room for one emotion – fatigue, so any observations about our reconciliation had to wait till the next morning in the city. There were no tears the next morning, in my walk across downtown, but yes I know I smiled through the entire afternoon, taking pictures at spots I have walked past a dozen or more times, volunteering as the tour guide to first-timers, eating at all my favorite places (and people who know me know how I have sometimes craved that burrito bowl on certain days in India) and just being a tourist in the country that I had once begun to think of as home.
Somethings came rushing back almost immediately, streets, spots, tastes and smells and yet some things remained foggy, some streets almost unfamiliar. The experience wasn’t very different from that of meeting an old lover where you still recognize them from a distance from their stride, yet forget how they took their coffee. When still have shared experiences and memories and yet so many gaps to fill from the lost years. So Chicago opened up to me, one street at a time, revealing it secrets to me only gradually, knowing that though once I was once of its own and could be trusted, now I am really just a tourist. And as a tourist, there is a risk of oversimplifying the chaos, the complexity of a city. The risk of seeing and not understanding hence I am going back in the city again, because I need a reminder of why I loved Chicago so much beyond the tangible untill we meet again.