The life I have been living here in Sydney and the one I experienced in my extremely short trip to Nepal were constellations apart
Many had warned me that my visit to Nepal would only disappoint me, that the romanticized notion of excitement and inner peace which I had imagined about the visit would burst as a bubble. Firstly because it was too short to experience real beauty of Nepal, secondly because I was going after a long hiatus and I would probably be put off by the pollution and crammed suffocation in the city, thirdly because everyone is bound to treat visitors nicely and therefore it wouldn’t be an indication of how people would actually behave with me in a different long-term context. These were all valid points people had made. I braced myself for the worst and without any expectation despite a strong epiphany that this was what my soul needed.
Yearning for home
Much to my surprise and true to the warnings, I couldn’t wait to return home to Sydney in the first week of our visit. Bogged down by long haul flight, unthinkable pollution, too much noise, too many people, a cranky sick toddler and then myself falling sick to viral infection, I almost succumbed to the disheartening hasty conclusion. I’m so glad that the abundance of attention, affection and warmth from family restored not just our health but also my faith in what I had longed to feel.
The life I have been living here in Sydney and the one I experienced in my extremely short trip to Nepal were constellations apart. Yet the most prominent difference was the abundance of love and warmth bestowed by family. Despite the lack of sophistication of everyday living, despite the materialistic indulgence that I was so used to, despite the privileges of basic health needs I had almost taken for granted here, despite lack of finance and sanitized spaces, people in Nepal taught me about immense enthusiasm, genuine help, outstanding hospitality and unforgettable and irreplaceable love.
It’s nearly four weeks since I returned to my Sydney routine. Homesickness was quite evident in the first week of return as expected. After slipping into the normalcy of everyday convenience, work schedule and attending to a demanding toddler, it’s even starker to me why I had the epiphany about rekindling my bond with the country and fathoming new depths of kinship. It became even more evident that it wasn’t spurious to realize why I would keep missing Nepal and my family back home in months to come.
I felt the pang of pollution, overpopulation and disorderliness in the first week of my Nepal visit and that’s just the harsh reality of Nepal. But contradicting all those alarm bells is the abundance of love and warmth we feel in our homeland that pulls us towards it unmistakably. For us who have spent decades overseas building ourselves a so-called secure future and a nest, alienation comes back to bite. My epiphany about the soul-binding attachment to family is only getting stronger almost four weeks after coming back to Sydney. The ache in my heart constantly reminds me how Nepal is so close to my soul and why it will forever pull me despite its quirky imperfections.
There’s a part of me that wants to stay in the comfort of the nest forever, to be cuddled and hugged by the warm blankets of familiarity of life I’ve so carefully built in these decades overseas. Yet there is that other devil that longs for unknown experiences, the intoxication of a bit of risk, the feeling of long lost soul yearning for salvation. The part that wants to give up my almost two decades of life abroad and go for the unknown charters in Nepal.
It isn’t a rash impulsive thought to yearn for life in Nepal. People like me who live abroad have their own share of trials and tribulations when it comes to “family”. I distinctly remember the feeling of total helplessness and utter loneliness when many a time either I or my kids have been hospitalized. That gutted feeling of having absolutely no one by my side in such a vulnerable hospital stay, that total mental blankness staring at the hospital ceiling frantically trying to work out who to contact to look after my underage child when I was a single mother when hospitalized and that feeling of melancholy and depression upon realizing there’s no one who could keep few hours aside from their hectic schedule to come mind my child while I was in hospital. It’s the worst nightmare of anyone living overseas.
My children have been at phases where they have clung to me like I’m their lifeboat even in ordinary days. I recognize their security issues because for them there’s no one else apart from their parents who could be their sense of security. So remarkably different than Nepal. In Nepal, kids have family members like grandparents, cousins, aunties, or even distant relatives who have solid presence in their lives almost guaranteeing a sense of security and belonging. In times of distress like that of hospitalization, even busiest relatives would drop by. Nepal provides such sense of bonding and security. It’s a mental reassurance that is so well engraved in the daily lives of Nepalis that they aren’t even aware of it most of the times. Yet that very mental reassurance is highly lacking and terribly missed by people like me who have spent chunk of their lives overseas.
It’s not easy to give up my fortress of independence, financial security, my coveted career and convenience of life abroad. But everyone is invariably and undisputedly driven by their inner quest and everyone’s quest is not for the same. Some yearn for name, some yearn fame, some yearn for wealth, some yearn positions. I’ve always yearned for a strong family bond. To me, giving up the convenience of self created identify, career and own home here isn’t that hard because they were never really prized possessions to me. I didn’t put much importance to them, they just happened to come into my existence at their own predestined pace. I graced them. That’s all. So my quest was never for all these things to begin with. My quest has always been a sense of familial belonging. So no matter how difficult the transition and uncountable hindrances, as there will be for millions of reasons, especially as I need to neatly secure my almost-adult son’s remnant years without me in the vicinity, I am mentally and physically ready to deal with them patiently as they come.
Just like a bird can’t forever stay in a cage, no matter how beautiful the cage is, I open up the cage and allow myself to take wings. As I watch my fear within me, I step into my quest for salvation.
Despite unpredictable and unreliable internet, annoying delays in bureaucratic levels, being terribly unwell, sick child and being housebound, not being able to catch up with relatives and friends, we still had the most wonderful few days in Kathmandu. Coming back to Sydney was a much awaited homecoming for many reasons. Yet our heart is aching for real family that we left behind in Nepal. Until next time my homeland. You are in our hearts and mind.