Return

by Gabriella Sonabend

I sit in a tall building overlooking London, it is a grey misty day like any other. It has been months since I left Kashi and still I am struggling to process what happened there. I am struggling to understand how rapidly I became drawn into another culture and another way of being. I am shocked at how tethered I thought I had become to that world, to the extent that I truly believed that I did not care if I died there. It was a reality so potent, yet not one that I belonged to.

January and February seemed to disappear, the rhythm of city life drives forward and there is the endless pressure to show progression in one’s life. There is the endless feeling of isolation. I leave my house and spend days walking through the streets, long hours pass where I neither make eye contact nor acknowledge another passing body. I disappear amongst the concrete and the shop fronts and in some ways I revel in this invisibility, it is a welcome change from the conspicuous state of being a white women in India, but at times the introversion of the city is despairing and everything feels utterly hopeless. 

I try to hold on to the feelings and knowledge I gained in that other world but there are no funeral pyres to visit in London to remind me of life’s stark realities and intense beauty. Everything in the city is an attempt to shield, to cover, to obscure; superficial signs and interactions, but I am hopeful yet. My walk has slowed, my watch remains at the back of a draw, I try not to panic every time I am asked what I am doing with my life. I do not dream of Kashi. I do not dream at all. I do not judge the world around me, or try to assert myself in it; instead I just allow my life to happen in both its extraordinary and mundane way. 

I walk beside two men as they cross Waterloo Bridge, one of the men is American (California) and the other Eastern European (I cannot place his accent), the American is telling the other how fortuitous their meeting has been. He talks about how they had met the day that he was made redundant and how their meeting had changed everything. He talked about the cosmos and karma, fate, serendipity and every other word for chance and he was exhilarated as he persuaded the other man of the brilliance of their meeting. I walked beside them and smiled, it was an amusing exchange, the other man did not share his friends enthusiasm in the slightest but politely nodded his head and looked out across the river to the east side of the city. I followed his gaze, the light was fading and I accelerated to walk beside another group; French tourists who enthusiastically snapped pictures of the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament. It is a spectacular view. 

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