We arrived in Hyderabad around 4 in the morning, exited the airport, and immediately felt the frenetic energy of any Indian city-- rickshaws beeping, people trying to help us with our luggage, families re-uniting, screaming, smells, morning prayers. This is my father's hometown, the now-bustling capital of Andhra Pradesh, and he and I were welcomed by my Auntie (his sister) and my cousin, Ritu with hugs and tears. I had such a mixed flurry of emotions and memories as we drove back towards my father's house, the sun just beginning to illuminate this land that was for almost two years my home (2005-2007). I feel excited to return to some of the spots here that have inspired me on my path and look forward to exploring new places with eyes of my father as well. I can feel how I myself have changed since I was last here, how my heart has become more open, and can already feel that this will be quite a different trip.
It is such a joy for my Auntie to have my father here, as he has only returned to India three times since he left for the States in his early twenties. We returned to the house where my father grew up and had a little rest before our morning chai. Since I have spent much time here in the past couple of years, my Aunti and I have a mutual understanding and thankfully doesn't freak out if I want to go outside the house on my own, make my own food, etc. Usually, as foreign guests, we are totally showered/overwhelmed with extreme amounts of attention. A little intense, to say the least!
Most of my time in the house is spent in the kitchen, preparing foods, cutting fruits or vegetables, etc. I don't know much Hindi, but have a somewhat decent grasp on the names of foods at least! Pops, Auntie, and I went for a walk this morning, and it was interesting to find out how much things have changed here-- there are only a couple of buildings still standing from his childhood. His family's house is one of the last single-unit family homes on the street, which has totally become crowded and commercialized. While the former houses usually had gardens and some green space, the new construction and apartments leave no room for this, and the road is now extremely dusty and gritty. Like many other Indian cities, Hyderabad is developing faster than the infrastructure necessary to support it. So the roads are overcrowded, garbage in the streets, etc.
It's the little things that occasionally pop up in our conversations, stories of his childhood, a tear as he talks about his father, that truly feed me. As an Indian man, it's difficult for my father to speak much about his feelings, yet over the years, he is slowly more capable of communicating a bit more about his experiences. And this is the nectar for me. To get to know my father more intimately-- and that means constantly remembering not to get caught up in the pervasive doing/planning mindset, but reminding each other what a rare opportunity this is for us to really feel/reflect/see each other outside of the external labels that are usually imposed on us all.