Now, April, 2011, I read back over this letter I wrote to my family four years ago, and I am flooded with the desire to head back to Kalimpong once more. Kalimpong was the first place that I lived out of the US to which I have really returned: a place where the culture and more than that, the people and specific relationships drew me back and continues to draw me back. I do not know when I will get back to Kalimpong again, but it calls to me. Even now.
Dear Mum, Dad and Mandla,
I am in the Kalimpong bazaar at my old email-lekhne jagaa (that means, the place where I write emails). My Nepali is coming back as fast as I can talk. It’s not quite as good as it was before, could use a little brushing up, but it’s conversational and my accent is still good. I am so happy to be here! It feels like coming home. My host family is all very well and very happy to see me. Smile. It’s wonderful to be back. It’s going to be really hard to go back to Vellore, I think. I’ve been thinking and I’m just not in a very happy place there right now. I’m not sure what it is or why, but I’ve just not been feeling very fulfilled. I miss living with a family. I miss being in a wider community. I think about my bhauju (host brother’s wife) here and how hard she works and how she never complains and it never shows in her face, and then I don’t know. Pannai just doesn’t seem to be a place that’s filled with love. Or I’m having a hard time finding it.
I’m also struggling with food and body image and not feeling good about that as well. I don’t know.
But here, I feel so happy. Granted, I also just got here, and I’m only here for a short time. That can make a difference too. It also helps being able to talk wtih people on the road or in the bazaar. I struck up a conversation with a woman in a shop today and then walked with her for maybe 20 minutes helping her carry her bag and talking. It’s just nice, you know. I guess it would help if my Tamil were better.
Anyway, it’s really good to be back. And Tanya (the friend I visited in Thailand) is here and with her family and really really happy. And it’s so good to see her! She and I are going to go to Darjeeling for a couple of days next Wednesday, so that’ll be fun. We can hang out and talk and catch up and walk around then. I’m looking forward to having that time with her. She’s hoping to come and visit me in Vellore as well, which would be nice.
I was thinking it would be wonderful to have you, Mum and Dad, come here to Kalimpong while you’re here in India! It’s so different from Vellore! And you could see the two places that I’ve lived here in India and meet my family and everything. My guess is that if we came, we’d want to fly from Chennai to Kolkata and then take the overnight train from Kolkata to Siliguri. If we did that, it would take about a day. We’d leave Kasam early in the morning and take the train to Chennai, then fly from Chennai to Kolkata that same day and that night take the train to Siliguri. We’d arrive in Kalimpong around noon the next day. Coming by train the whole way takes about 2 1/2 days. It was pretty easy and comfortable, but that would be 5 days of your time here in India. I’m not sure about the cost of flying, but I’ll look into it. I traveled in the sleeper class of the train – three-tier beds, bring your own bedding, not compartments. The nice thing about that is that the train is open. However, in December, it’d be pretty cold. Anyway, what do you think? If you don’t want to come here, we could travel around Tamil Nadu and Kerala a little bit. Let me know your thoughts.
Please also give me some advice about being in Vellore. My last week or so before coming here, I was feeling out of sorts and a couple of times I did a really good job of choosing to do things that make me feel good. Maybe it’s just a matter of doing that more. I’m not sure.
Anyway, I love you all very much! My family here sends their love and hellos to you. I brought some things with me that you’d sent from Australia to share wtih them, and they say thank you very very much. They’re so wonderful!!!
So much love and peace,
your very happy and at home daughter,