By the time we took our most recent trip to India, our fifth, this radically different and magical place had become familiar to me. I am used to the color, the beauty, the tragedy and the chaos. I am used to the horse drawn carts alongside huge top-loaded semi trucks, free roaming livestock, and entire families on motorcycles all together on busy main roads. I am used to seeing roadside barbers and bicycle carts carrying anything you can imagine, including furniture, and the hustle-bustle of the street markets that photos and video can’t capture. I am used to seeing slum shacks and pigs and cows foraging in giant garbage piles in residential areas as women walk by wearing the most beautiful, colorful clothes. My husband no longer gets a sore arm from me hitting it every two seconds, saying, “Oh my God, look at THAT!”
Now habituated to this extreme sport of sensory experiences, I notice subtler things. On one of our side trips, we visited my sister-in-law’s mom in rural Punjab for a day. We had been there ten years before, and I looked forward to going back—it’s a peaceful place to spend time with lovely people. The first time we arrived at Auntie’s home, she had taken my hands and said, “You are a daughter here.”
On the outskirts of her village, my boys got to walk through the rice fields, see the irrigation system and the harvest happening via both combines and manual labor, and check out living rice grains up close. We went to the house, had tea, and then took a walk through the village, collecting children along the way. Every time we looked behind us, there were more and more kids following us, giggling and whispering at the sight of these strange, pale creatures.
When we got back to the house, the boys were tired and wanted to sleep. There was a bed in the corner of the living room where everyone was gathered, not unusual in India. Soon after the boys were asleep, a wave of exhaustion came over me and I went to lie down with them. I started to doze in and out. A question hit me, from where I don’t know, and I almost laughed out loud: How did I end up here, lying with my children in the middle of a remote Punjabi farming village, falling asleep to the background music of laughter and lively chatter in a language I mostly don’t understand? In my sleepy, amused state, I realized two things. You really never know what turns life will take. And where love is present, even in unfamiliar and highly unlikely situations, you can feel completely at home, happy and at peace.
© Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2015
3 thoughts on “Belonging, Where You Least Expect It”
Lovely write up. For those of us that have moved around so much, the sense of ‘home’ and ‘belonging’ is not easy. The more we travel, the more we realize people are all the same.
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Thank you, Sriram, and that is so true! It is an interesting paradox for me because so much feels so very different there, but yes, you do see more and more how much the same people are underneath all the different beliefs/customs. .