The journey from the UK wasn't as long I'd expected. A very comfortable seat on a very comfortable airline helped with the jet lag - almost none this time.
Familiar faces met me at the airport, took my bags, gave me hugs, filled me in on all the local khabbar* on the ride home.
Its been 3 years. Outwardly, the city has expanded. Buildings are taller and leaner and now full of shiny reflective surfaces that shine and shimmer in the noon day sun. There are more billboards and everyone seems to be sporting a cell phone; vegetable vendors and building watchmen included. The Bandra-Worli link is (finally) complete and rises majestically out of the Arabian sea - if you can even spot it through the city's thick smog that is!
Underneath though, much has remained the same.
The traffic is still crazy and chaotic, with everyone following their own version of road (non)sense.
The shops are still multiplying, and the people are still shopping with a vengeance. (what recession?)
The dogs still roam the streets, barking madly at anything and anyone that dares intrude into their territory.
The noise of the cawing crows still wakes you up at unearthly morning hours.
The clack-clack of the milkman's pails still makes a nice tune as his cycles down the street on his rounds. Now, not as many since most prefer the packaged product.
Hill Road in Bandra is still more of a Hell Road even though this is the first time it hasn't been dug up in almost 3 years!
And yet, after the hellos and the hugs and the kisses and the all important hug(s) to Papa; after the thrill of being back had died down, after I sat down in the living room and look across to where Nana would have usually sat, I knew that no matter how joyous my homecoming, it was not complete without her smile and laugh and her hand on my head.
*Hindi word for news