Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Almost a month after my visit to Goa, I am left feeling as though I'm standing with a foot on either side of the world.
My visit to Goa was long overdue, to say the least. Although the trip to Goa itself was quite uneventful, (aside from the minor customs mishap, the nine-hour transit in Mumbai, the sketchy porters from the international airport to the domestic airport, and the questionable food on the domestic flight) the three-week experience is something I could write an entire novel on.
As our pilot announced our arrival into India over the intercom, I couldn't help but think of one of my favourite lines from Elizabeth Gilbert's book, Eat, Pray, Love... "People always arrive and leave India under the cloak of night."
It wasn't until the end of my trip that I realized how true that statement was. our transcontinental flight arrived in India around 8 p.m., touching down in Mumbai at 9:30 p.m. It wasn't until 6:30 a.m. the following morning that we were able to catch our connecting flight to Goa.
Now you have to understand, Goa is a 45 minute plane ride from Mumbai. So the idea of staying over at an airport for over six hours for a 45 minute plane ride is something a lot of people won't even hear of. However, short of going to a hotel for 3 hours, this was our only option. Goa only has flights from 6:30 a.m to about 8 p.m.
We arrived in Goa at about 7 a.m the next day, to no fuss at all. Although I should mention that I had left Toronto in a jean jacket, scarf and jeans... all of which came off by the time I found my suitcases in Mumbai... In a speed unknown to me, I fished out a pair of shorts and a thin t-shirt, that I subconsciously packed. Something told me this was going to happen. It was close to 40 degrees overnight when we landed.
At the Goa airport, we walked from our 50-seater flight to the terminal that overlooked the belt, which carried our luggage.
While I stood at the belt, waiting for what seemed like eternity, I glanced to the waiting area and passenger pick-up area, to see if any of my family had come.
With one look, I saw the only person that mattered at that moment. My aunt. The lady who was the source of all things wisdom and beauty to me. It was at that point I realized, that the exhausting 48-hour journey meant nothing at all, because it had led up to this single moment.
My aunt... 72, strong, beautiful and poised stood at the doorway to the airport all by herself - despite sickness and age, because she wanted to see my mother and me.
I can't even begin to describe the emotions that passed through me in those few moments. I took it all in... her frailty, her shinning eyes, my mother's sadness/joy, my aching back... everything.
Aunt was holding flowers that looked like they were clearly plucked from a garden.
"These are for you," she said. "St. Anthony's flowers - the smell of Goa."
My aunt later explained that she was looking for something significant to give me, when she first saw me after over a decade. Then, being true to herself, she realized that the best way to touch on anyone's emotions was to play with the senses.
I remembered the first time I inhaled the heady scent of these simple white flowers (I was 4)... I remembered the feasts where we adorned the altars with these flowers (every year)... I remembered the garden in my grandmother's house where there was one bush of St. Anthony's flowers, strategically placed in the centre...
And it was in that moment that I realized... I had actually come home.