A few months ago, I took a train down to Bombay from the smallish town that I have lived in for the past three years. With me was a big pile of drumsticks, a couple of kilos of sweet potatoes still covered in mud, and fifteen odd elaichi bananas. All of these from my very own backyard.

I was heading down to the big city to meet an old, old friend of mine who I had not seen for perhaps half a decade. We had both been quite terrible at keeping in touch, and so there was going to be a lot to say and hear.

Our meeting turned out to be far too short; our words had to be rushed out to tell each other as much as we could. So much had changed, and so much had not. When it was time to leave, we lied to each other and said that it would definitely not be another five years until we met again.

I told her I loved her and missed her and handed over the drumsticks, the sweet potatoes, the elaichi bananas.

The evening train back started from what was once called Victoria Terminus; a haughty regal building with ceilings so high. I thought of my friend as the train rushed through the chaos of this vast city, blurring the people waiting on the smaller “local” stations for their own train back home. I thought of all that happened in the past three years, and all the lessons this time had taught me.

I have learnt that there are flowers that live but half a day, falling to the ground in the morning like a forgotten memory. That tomatoes, when perfectly ripe, will allow themselves to be plucked with barely any resistance. That the roots of a papaya tree can eat through concrete, slowly but with great determination.

I learnt that toads love to sneak into your shoes in the night, and that snakes prefer dark corners and cool floors in the summer. That stray dogs often attack small cats in the middle of the night, and that burying dead kittens can break your heart.

I have learnt that there are things which cannot be rushed, that no matter how much effort you put in, sometimes all you need to do is watch and wait.

I have learnt that, if you are lucky, every evening you will feel a soft, gentle breeze right when the sun has nearly set. And if you look up, you will see the last of the birds magically finding their way home.

Yes, the past three years have taught this city brat many lessons. And, now that the mangoes are in season, I pack them in little boxes filled with dried leaves, and make a list of the ones I love.


In a few weeks from now, I will begin my own journey as an international student. After being able to help others with their study abroad aspirations, I suppose now is a good time to embark on my own.

It is quite exciting.

But there is also equal bits of worry and fear. What if I am unable to cope with the now alien excitement of a bustling city, and the people who live in them? Will we have something in common to talk about, or will we be separated by a wall of incomprehension?

I worry that the past three years have changed what I want and desire, and that perhaps the education I seek may not sit too well with this change. That my peers have achieved a lot more in a lot less time, and that it will be difficult to relate.

What if they mock or worse, fail to understand?

I do worry.

At the same time, I know that the next year is a new chapter of learning, of unknowing and of change. That perhaps sometime in the future, I will join the friends I make as we pluck potatoes from the sweet soil, pointing up at the birds as they magically fly their way back home.