Last bit on the road, with Ram Narayan, my driver. On the one side, I can’t wait to be in Jaipur because it has been 5 years since I left the city, tears in my eyes, in my heart and pains in the belly…and wonder how I will feel being back there again, and having missed the place so much and for so long, if I will recognize it or not, and on the other side, leaving lovely persons found on my path is not the best part of meeting new people…
Ram Narayan is from Jaipur and once we reach our destination, he will have 5 or 6 days off and will spend this time with his family at home. We stop one last time before arriving, having a chai (Masala tea) together. I told him the background of the story and he knows this is an important part of the trip for me. As soon as we arrive, he says: “Welcome to Jaipur!!!”. It comes from a local and it is all the more valuable!
I settle in the guesthouse where I will be staying for those 8 days (friend of a friend’s house) and well, I am now a few miles only from my Indian Family’s home, who I was living with five years ago. I have waited for that moment for so long…and now I am a little stressed about how it will go. I wouldn’t want to start crying or even having tears in my eyes! Self control is needed! But anyway I have to go now, they know I arrive today in Jaipur and they will expect me to come…and from the bottom of my heart, I want to see them NOW!
First thing, jumping in an auto rickshaw direction Apex Mall in the Lal Kothi area. It is only a 40 rupee-journey (yeah I wouldn’t know the distance in km…maybe 2!). Just saying my destination to the tuk-tuk driver, I felt I was telling him “I am going home!”. Sitting in there again is a wonderful sensation, rushing between the cars and motorbikes, feeling the vibrant city all around you, that you can actually touch!
Apex mall has not changed at all. I start walking the usual way to my family’s home but there are so many houses that have been built in 5 years that I get lost. I ask a local where number D31 is and he gives me the answer me in Hindi but believe it or not, I understood the directions! Yeepee! Happy days! 🙂
When I finally get there, at the end of the street, there is the blue shop (part of the house) where they work and the house where I lived. I am there again, after 5 years. I made it! Sudeep sees me outside and smiles at me, making a sign that I should go inside. Sushant, my little Indian brother, is waiting for me, and smiles at me. He seems to know who I am. He was only 5 years old and now he’s 10, it’s half his life, I would understand if he didn’t remember me…I ask him, he smiles and says he does remember me. My heart drops.
He goes in the back room, calls my Papaji (Papa = Dad, Ji = a postposition showing respect, in Hindi), his grand father (Dadaji – in Hindi they differenciate the grand parents from the mother’s side: Nana & Nani and the ones from the father’s side: Dada & Dadi). When I see my Papaji appearing behind the curtains, I can’t prevent myself and call “Papajiiiiiiii!”. “Haan betiii” (yes, my daughter) is his reply, and he takes me in his arms, which makes me feel emotional, as physical contact between a man and a woman is not that common in India, in public I mean. That tells me how special this moment is.
News from him, I have had, all the time, every week since I left him, during those 5 years, but seeing him again, in front of me, with all the wisedom I see in this man, and his pure heart. The house has more light then before because they have painted the walls in light green, and removed the cyber cafe part they used to have. So definitely more space, very nice! I sit, and there, I am lost between the past and present. Am I in 2008 living here and working in the slums, or in 2013 visiting and on holidays?
He asked about my trip beginning in Mumbai until I arrived here: how was the weather, what did you see, was your stomach okay with the food, do you bear the heat, do you sleep well at night…the same, still worrying and taking so much care of me as usual!
I ask how life is around here, what’s new and he tells about his relatives (some of them I have met), stories from the NGO I was working for, and a few volunteers staying with them, some spanish guys saying they would be back home at around 11pm and not there until 2am, when my Papaji is waiting, sleeping in the living room to open the door as soon as volunteers are back, some mad Norwegian sick with fever, making a mess to train on his skateboard in front of the house, pretending if he does not practise, he will forget all about it *smile*, and putting Sushant on the damn thing, a mother and daughter who left after a few days only because the daughter was missing her boyfriend, etc…so many stories of volunteers, …my fellow volunteers…
But also nice stories, all Ireland-related, a coincidence, I am not sure 🙂 … such as Sara Mc Murry, an English woman married to an Irish man, living in Ireland who I was lucky enough to meet at the EIL network week-end in Cork last year (November 2012), a very nice woman indeed, who came back several times in a row to Jaipur volunteering and then learning Hindi, like me, or Emer Jackson a lovely Irish woman who was also staying with my Papaji, who I also met at the EIL network week end but the previous year, in November 2011. I had taken a picture with Emer, and one with Sara to send to my Papaji, he was so surprised that we had met miles away from his house, in Ireland! And he also told me about a nice fellow, Irish guy (of course !) called John if I remember well, who works in a jail in Dublin. I don’t know him but from what I heard, I already like him!
After a long chat, poor Sudeep, who had worked all day at the shop with his wife, took me home on his motorbike, through the noisy streets of the Pink City, as they thought I was not safe enough taking a riskshaw back to the guesthouse. I insisted that I would be grand, but when your Indian Papaji says you should do something…you’d better do it, and discussion is over. So off we go, my hair flying all over my face, being part of the mess on the road, together with the locals, belonging for some time to the Indian chaos…I could not be happier!