I ask for my macchiato. The barista signals that it is a small espresso cup. I nod in agreement. It is 7.30 am and Berkeley Espresso is running full. I pick my coffee and ask for honey. Pat comes a ‘honey’ joke. It is more common than you’d think. This time the guy goes ‘I always have honey, honey’. Depending on how well versed you are with double entendres, I leave this to you for interpretation. As far as I am concerned, I like them. So I top it off with another joke, put honey in my coffee and take my seat by the window. I am carrying three books. Don’t ask me why. If you have known me for some time, you would know that two books is a bare minimum for me. Sometimes, even for a bio break. I feel insecure otherwise. The crowd around me is endearing. There are two old ladies sitting in front of me, reviewing scripts (I think). Overheard that they are writers. Judge me if you will, but I like overhearing conversations. My life on its own isn’t that interesting. People around me are reading paper books, making notes and some are even talking to each other. I have decided that I like this place. I am almost fitting in here. I finish my breakfast and eat my medicines. Which brings me back to why I am in Berkeley in the first place.
Two days back, I ended up with a fairly big gash on my left foot. Six stitches and a swollen, bandaged foot. So, the medicine. Berkeley because Irene is here, and I needed some home-like pampering. Also, I am a big baby when it comes to visiting doctors on my own. The accident happened in Patna and the stitches were done in front of a solid audience of at least 30 people, with a steady influx of advice, horror and pained expressions. It is a far cry from the indifference that is America. 🙂 I remember falling off a bike in LA long back and ending up with a bloody knee. Not a soul had stopped by. I had brushed off the dust, bought some first aid and cycled back to my studio apartment. Indifference is a fairly bitter pill to swallow. Also, to think of it, I do keep running into injuries fairly often.
My two weeks at home flew by. My Bengali parents have as always, outdone themselves in the food department. Food is the prime measure of love in my family, and your ability to eat probably is the nicest form of reciprocation. You already know how well I reciprocate. In two weeks, I have consumed copious amounts of chai, Parle G biscuits, kosha maangsho, pulao, ilish maach, all other forms of maach, in different kinds of gravies, keema paratha, Indian chili chicken and kebabs. I barely ventured out of home this time, barring my visits to Thakuma. She is not doing so well. Age and other things. Every goodbye seems like the last one. Every flight away from home seems a long one. The distance, insurmountable.
Every trip back home seeps in a new enthusiasm to do more. If you ever underestimate your abilities, a visit to the parent set always helps. Their innate ability to see you as a much bigger person gives perspective. At the end of the day, you will always be the sum total of your loved one’s beliefs and aspirations for you. As far as I am concerned, I am looking forward to the volunteering program that starts this week. The marathon in July. I am thinking of studying some more. Taking a creative writing course. Travel plans with my now stamped visa. Photographs with the new lens kit. Maybe you should smile a little more when you are around me. I am told that I capture smiles very well. I capture the twinkle in your eyes too. 🙂
I should go back to my book now. The book on Vietnam war that I am re-reading, now has a Vietnam boarding pass as a bookmark. I think it is cool enough to make a note of. The stitches seem fairly pain free right now. There is a promise of an ugly battle scar, once it heals. I have been told that scars are beautiful as long as I have a good story. Well, mine is not a cool story but it has daddy, his Vespa, Patna roads, Doctor daadu’s clinic, concern of random strangers and an infinite amount of pampering in it. I think it’s a keeper.