As I walk the streets of Pondicherry, I am reminded of another existence from two years ago. A familiarity in the town I’ve never before visited, the lingering of shadows of the distant past.
A hint of recognition as I pass green SETC buses emerging from littered bus stands being swept clean by ageing ladies wrapped in striped cotton saris, as I watch twin nose rings glinting on either sides of dusky faces, as I see simple women on the streets selling red roses and jasmine, their own hair adorned by the same.. The good natured smiles that greet my hesitant eyes.. The loud uncouth remarks that are part of regular merriment on a public bus ride.. The gentle breeze that prevails through the day, weaving its way through neem trees to bring me news of the sea calling..
Unknown to me, I have returned.. to a land I vowed never to. Thoothukudi. Tuticorin. The shore of love, devastation, and my deepest regrets. I wander as in a dream, through the strange streets, and encounter the ghosts of others well loved at a time. A place that brought me nightmares and bitter memories, like sweetness that turns sour overnight; like dark bile that creeps up one’s system even as you pretend to push it down.
I had made peace by making myself believe in my hatred for everything about it. But now, as I encounter Tuticorin on these new streets, I realise she is but an old friend. I feel comforted and welcome the memories that I’ve fought too long. I cry in her arms and smile in the warmth of her glow.
I am no stranger to this land. This is homecoming.