Old is the new New

2016, going on 1993.

 

In early 1993, I boarded the flight back to Kuwait after the Gulf War with such excitement that I thought I would be sick. My cousins, uncles and aunts came to receive us at the airport with loud squeals of joy and big jackets (we were travelling from 35 degree Indian spring to 15 degree Kuwait winter). I took in all the squeals and hugs and familiar Kuwaiti air. I shrugged off the jacket. I wanted to feel everything.

Through chattering teeth and quickly-freezing toes, I asked all the important questions. Were KDD juice boxes still available? Was Funny Face chips still the best? How soon could I get my hands on a Snickers bar? Were Hardee’s burgers still as big as my face?

Yes, yes, right away, yes.

I swear, I did not blink during the ride home. The water towers, Kuwait Towers, my school, our first home. They were all there.

We were all home, together.

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Photo cred: As always, m @rnanoj

When the war chased us out of our homes and lives that fateful August day, we thought we’d be back before the summer ended. That was innocence.

A few months into our refugee life, we accepted that was going to be our future. That was adaptation.

Two years later, in the middle of all the excitement that glorious cold, winter evening back in Kuwait, I knew that wherever my past or my future took me, I would never let go of the heart-aching happiness in that moment right there. That feeling of being exactly where I should be.

That was conviction.

Since then, I’ve loved Kuwait and hated her, I’ve left her and scrambled back to her, I’ve missed her and avoided her. I’ve moved, married and made a baby. But I never let go of that memory.

I went looking for new, and came right back to old.

We landed in Kuwait on a cold, wintery morning few days ago (M got a job! Yay! We’re working members of society again). All of the cousins and uncles and aunts were at work, but the phone calls were loud with squeals of joy. I took the jacket this time. Adult.

I got home to my KDD mango juice. Funny Face only comes in a multipack now, the only way to eat it (them). Snickers are not a rarity anymore, but I scoff one down, all the same. Hardee’s burgers are now as small as my palm. Budgets.

We’re all home together, again.

We left Melbourne in search of a new adventure, and I cannot think of an adventure greater than a second chance. Here we are, where I was born and raised. I know the people, the roads and the life. Now, I get to put aside everything I know and do it better and do it with my own little clan.

And if there’s ever a sign of weakness, I’ll always have that moment in ’93 when I sat on my uncle’s couch, shivering with excitement and from the cold.

Just like back then, I’m unsure about the future, but can barely conceal the blind faith that it is going to be the best days of my life.

To Chennai, with respect.

Many years ago, I moved to India with Bollywood stars in my eyes and a loud, strumming beat in my heart. For someone who was born and raised overseas, this was going to be my big Indian adventure.

But like in most Indian movies, first you’ve got to hate each other before you find true love.

I fell in love with my country reluctantly at first, and then in a mad rush.

The closeness in my grandparents’ small town of Nagercoil. The freshly washed sun in Kerala, every morning. The smoke and independence in Bangalore’s air. The feeling that someone hit the fast-forward button and lost the remote control a very long time ago, in Mumbai. The indomitable, infectious positivity of Chennai, through heat or rain.

About the time when I was crushing hard on India, I stumbled upon this ad.

 

 

I watched it every single day. Later, when I moved away from India, I watched it every time I missed her. It reminded me of an India we all dreamt we could be part of. One that was film-y enough to be us. One that seemed impossible and yet, something that could only happen in India.

One that we’ve been seeing over and over again for the last few weeks during the Chennai floods.

No vigils, protests or petitions. No time for controversy or negativity. No blogs, logos or inspirational quotes.

It has been action, action, action. Go, go, go.

Food, clothes and medicines are being handed out to the drowned by the drowning. Phone numbers and home addresses are being shared openly and urgently. You need a car, they have a car. You need a doctor, they’ll bring you a doctor. You need to charge your phone, they’ll take you to a clean, dry power source.

If power blackouts and dead phone & mobile lines weren’t going to stop Chennai-ites from helping one another, then what was a little waist-high rain and drain water. No one waited to see what the government would do; they were out long before red-tapism permitted it and will be there long after the media circus ends.

The Chennai floods have wrecked havoc upon her people, but her people have given themselves the gift of time and faith.

Through ruined homes, lost belongings and threatened health, the Chennai-ites have inspired the world with their unwavering and unstoppable fortitude.

It’s far from over and far from perfect, but this is humanity at it’s best. If there was ever a starting point for a better world, this is it.

It didn’t take a calamity for the people of Chennai to band together, they’ve always been that way – it’s part of the whole Tamil charm. But it did show the rest of the world how to move forward.

By getting shit done.