When I read about the contest Expedia and Indiblogger is conducting, I was excited. This was because I am someone who loves to travel and who had written in her scrap book at the age of fifteen how I wanted to travel all over the world. But then it was the guidelines that got me stumped. I was to share a story about an exciting person I had met on one of my trips. You see, I am not really a people person and definitely not someone who would jump into a conversation with the next friendly stranger I’d see. So then I kept running through all the memories I had collected from the trips I had been to in all these years. I kept racking my brains to try and think up the most exciting encounter I had had. But then, in the middle of all this racking, what I forgot was about the family I had stayed with when I went to Calcutta recently for my friend’s sister’s wedding.
This was a trip I had decided to go on alone; it was my attempt to go on a personal adventure. I had planned about all the things I wanted to do, all the places I wanted to go and all those exciting adventures I would have. But the one thing I didn’t foresee was how homesick I would feel and felt the moment I reached Calcutta. My friend was busy with the wedding preparations and I felt a little overwhelmed in a city where I knew neither left turn from right nor the language.
It was with trepidation I entered my friend’s home and in an instant, it felt like I had gone back home. Of course, the language I couldn’t understand, the culture was definitely different, but the clamoring, laughs and the hullabaloo, definitely similar to what I experienced when my complete family of more than 50 close relatives came together for an occasion.
I have read somewhere a quote of George Bernard Shaw which goes like this: “I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad”. But on this occasion, when a small part inside me definitely wanted to go back to the warm security of my nest, it was this family who adopted me and treated me like one rather than as a guest. I made new friends, learned about rituals different from what we follow back home, and spent the time loitering around sipping tea and reading books, side stepping kids and running around with arms full of gifts, being a part of the bride’s party. I fondly remember how, by the end of my trip, my friend’s family would talk to me in Bengali and then follow it with a smile and a light tap to their forehead with “I forgot you don’t speak the language”.
I met aunts and uncles who ranged from absolutely conservative to completely modern, joked and laughed with cousins who are friends now, and enjoyed every bit of the attention that was showered on me.
What I have realized is that it is not the most interesting or the most exciting person who helps create a memory; but it is someone who makes you feel that you belong, people who give you the feeling that you have been let in on the secret joke only they share. This is a trip I reminisce about with my family even now, and it has definitely made me promise myself that Calcutta is a city I will go back to, not for the sights or the food, but for the people and the fond memories they help create in a wanderer's mind.