A Hero’s Journey

I want to talk about a personal change I went through last week. After two years of captivity because of the unprecedented health crisis, I travelled from Bangalore to New Jersey. Transitions have always been very tough for me, small or large. While several think that it is great fun to visit the USA at this time of the year, my experience has been very different.
To describe my condition, I want to borrow the framework of ‘Hero’s two journeys’ by Michael Hague and Chris Vogler. The outer journey is physical on how I moved from Bangalore to New York. As the US gates opened for a visitor like me, there was a massive rush for tickets. The prices went sky high while the airlines were getting ready with their machines to fly. Covid mandates were changing by the hour-what would happen if I tested positive in Dubai, Doha, or any other chosen port. While two vaccinations are necessary, which is valid — Covaxin or Covishield? How many hours before the travel does one need to take a PCR test? Do I need to take a test before departure? I stopped visiting and seeing friends and relatives with all the questions in mind lest I contract Covid before leaving. Any slight cough and cold of my family members would send jitters in me.
I stopped going on morning walks. My regular Golf practice was out of the question. For all practical purposes, I isolated myself. My airline started sending me updates every day on the changes in COVID requirements. The fear of the unknown was chasing me for ten days before I travelled. I made a to-do task list by the day, which became longer by the day. I could check only a few items in the day. A different New Jersey would receive me, and Light Rail, Path trains, MTA trains and buses- I am sure the lifelines would exist.
I was thrown into a different orbit by the travel, which lasted for twenty-five hours. I found myself in cold weather in the single digits. Some challenges are already staring at me — time difference, food, extraordinarily doing ordinary things. Bagels and oats would replace ‘idlis’ and ‘avalakki’. Having lived in shorts, a T-shirt and chappals in Bengaluru, I needed eleven items to step out — a monkey cap, a mask, ultraviolet shades, three layers of inner wear, a jacket, a pair of gloves, woollen pants, a couple of warm socks and shoes. I always missed one or two items as I stepped out.
My inner journey was very different. Though I was unhappy with the two-year captivity, I learnt new painting skills-watercolours, acrylic painting, and impasto. I was able to improve my writing and meet two new people on zoom every week. I connected with my school friends after several years. My reading selection enhanced in the last two years, and volunteering with a reputed institution improved my business skills. Though my syllabus changed every day, I had a routine, though time became non-linear — sometimes prolonged, and a few times quickly.
My sister and brother in law took care of me with love and affection. I miss my 5 am ‘classic tea’ and his ‘jokes.’ Though my brother in law is a ‘teetotaler’ in a literal sense, he claims to make the best tea. I miss the reminders from my caring sister for sumptuous breakfasts and lunches. I miss my cosy bed and the little room where I stayed most of the day. I miss my friends at Golf practice as well.
In the morning walk in fabulous Bangalore weather, my friends who raised my energy levels with bits of exchange will not be there to greet me. A few words on the stray dogs and love and hate relationship with ‘black lulla’ will not be out of place. Finally, Vava, the cute little girl with her tantrums and the exponentially increasing English vocabulary by the day, is not going to be around. I can see her only on zoom. She will be very different when I see her next.
I felt like Tagore’s fourteen-year-old Phatik Chakraborthy heading to Calcutta from his village.

(Pexels- Ryutaro Tsukata)




…back to a time when I had time.

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Dravida Seetharam

Dravida Seetharam

Life long learner with interests in reading and writing

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