relative distance

It is ten days until I leave for India. I keep looking at my blog, wishing there were more exciting things I could post, but it’s been nothing but packing up my apartment, dealing with random clerical things, and having the occasional meal with my friends here.

Is it weird that I’m not at all nervous? I don’t feel like India is really that far away, or that there is really much that is so foreign that I should have cause for concern. Last time I was there (the first and only time), I remember leaving the airport in Bombay, and as we were driving through the streets in a taxi, thinking, “I could definitely live here. This feels like home.”

Moving to another country really means a different thing than it did 20 or 30 years ago.

My mother left home for college in her late teens. Home was Mombassa, Kenya, and she won a government scholarship to study in New Zealand. While I can’t help but think how amazing it must have been to spend six years surrounded by the natural beauty and kind people of New Zealand, it was probably even more remote then than it is now. It took five connecting flights to get from Mombassa to Wellington. There were a smattering of fuzzy, unintelligible phone calls from public phones at odd hours. Letters took weeks to arrive. She went home only twice in those six years. Her family had friends who didn’t even realize she existed and were surprised to find that her family had another daughter.

My father left Pakistan in his early twenties for the States, to do a second MBA at the University of Central Florida. He spent almost a quarter of his life savings to get a cab from the airport upon his arrival. A few years later, he met my mother (who had, by then, also moved to Florida to work). Neither of them had ever met each others parents when they got married (which is a particular difficulty in a culture where many marriages are arranged). My father’s parents didn’t meet my mother until three years after their wedding, when they went back to Pakistan for my uncle’s wedding.

I remember, even as a child, getting the rare call in the middle of the night from India: someone in our family had died. Someone who I didn’t know, and to whom I didn’t understand my relation. My grandparents were living with us in the States by then, and I saw how removed they felt from their own families: their siblings passed away, and they were not present to bury them. They could barely even hear the voice over the phone that bore the news of their passing.

Yesterday evening, when I was bugging my father to set up his skype webcam, it occurred to me how different things are for me. This September, it will be ten years since I’ve lived in the same city as my parents, but I barely feel the distance. My mother knows almost everything about my life, from my daily schedule to the contents of my fridge. Sure, there will be a couple more layers of distance, considering I will be out of the country and in a different time zone, but I don’t think it will be any more extreme than that.

So all this to say, my main concerns are clerical: Do I have enough mosquito repellent? What if I forget chargers for my electronics? Will my iPhone end up working in India? What if there’s traffic on the way to Newark Airport from Vermont? These kinds of things.

I think the rest will fall into place.

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