Oishi will start college in a few months, and the grueling and nerve-wracking college application process has begun. She is very anxious and nervous about the process but not so worried about being far away from home because she, very wisely, decided early on that she doesn’t want to go too far from home.
I, on the other hand, was eager to start my independent dorm (or hostel as they called in India) life in Kolkata, a ginormous city compared to my little hometown of Hindustan Cables, for studying engineering. I didn’t pay attention to the little detail that Kolkata was far away from home and my parents did not own a car. I was enamored with the idea of living with friends and managing my life on my own, only to discover shortly thereafter how little I knew myself.
I was dreadfully homesick. I wanted to come home every week but couldn’t afford to do it. Sometimes I tried to come home once a month, but that was rarely possible. Ma tried to visit me once a month to hand me my monthly allowance for tuition, boarding, books and food.
There was no phone in my parents’ home. So I couldn’t call them and hear their voice when I felt distressed. Instead, I checked the letter box everyday. Baba was very good with letters and kept me updated of the tiny details in his long letters. But there were days when I just wanted to see them, relish Ma’s cooking and hear Baba’s soothing voice.
There were a couple of express trains from Kolkata to Rupnarayanpur, a railway station close to my home. Besides those, there were many local trains, which stopped at every station and were cheaper. I usually took one of the local trains to get home.
During one of the lonely (most of my friends visited their parents in Kolkata), miserable weekends, I decided to take the train and surprise Ma and Baba. Rupnarayanpur was not a well-maintained railway station because very few trains stopped there. People coming from Kolkata would get down on one platform, jump down on the railway tracks to cross (no one used the over bridge) and crawl up on the other unusually high platform. That weekend, I, weary from the long and arduous journey, got down from my train and had barely placed my hands on the other platform, when a warm voice said, “Maia, hold my hand.” I saw the hand and felt a lump in my throat. Baba was smiling, “I had been checking all trains since afternoon because I had a feeling you would come home today.”