I am home. But it only registered in that moment when I stepped from the plane into the immigration/customs' area at Delhi's airport.
In that moment, I felt home on my skin. In that moist weight pressing down on each pore, that warm density - a little shock against my neck and slipping into my fingertips. And the smell. The smell of damp earth. That smell of the promise of rain. That smell of mitti!
It wasn't raining, but it was going to. And I knew. Even before I stepped into the open air, I knew. That damp weight on my skin was telling me; that elusive almost-here smell was telling me. And in knowing this, I knew I was home.
It took two hours in the immigration queue. That too spells home. Queues. At airports. At railway counters. Everywhere. Queues. Filmi dialogues about queues (Hum jahaan khade hote hain, line wahin se shuru hoti hai). The eternal snaking lines in a warm, dense place. Home. The chitter-chatter of four-year old girls in long plaits. Mothers scolding 'tujhe phir kahin bahar leke nahin aaongi'. The one public telephone in the area lying disconnected; the wire torn off. Reliance being its unreliable self. (I'd paid three months' bills in advance, in order to stay connected; they disconnected me, anyway). Lines, crawling, sweating, murmuring, phone-calling lines.
But all I had to do was to switch off the discomfort and impatience and start thinking of the smell, the air waiting outside.
That smell of mitti that drives women to Dariba Kalan. The smell they try so hard to bottle up and sell in tiny vials of oily essence. The smell of hot June flirting with rich July. That smell of home.