Country roads, take me home ... to Goa!

Navigating through the emotional turbulence of saying goodbye to home, time and again
The gateway to the world, airports, have so many unheard stories to share.
The gateway to the world, airports, have so many unheard stories to share. Photo: Gomantak Times

A tale as old as time, very often, the city that we’ve spent our entire lives in starts feeling monotonous and stagnant. And, we, like the flowing river, wish to move to someplace better.

But of course, with the promise to return back home before the sun sets in on us.

The gateway to the world, airports, have so many unheard stories to share.
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Because, let's face it, no matter where we go, there is nothing more comfortable than sleeping in your own bed and no place like home – the people of Goa understand this too well.

After all, the thought of moving thousands of miles away is all fun and games until you’re eating beans out of a can, wishing that it was Mama’s delicious feijoada instead!

The thought of moving thousands of miles away is all fun and games until you’re eating beans out of a can, wishing that it was Mama’s delicious feijoada instead!

While some move out of choice, most move away by compulsion and in the hope of landing well-paying jobs and a better lifestyle. And, who can blame them? Living in a different currency is sometimes the only way to make ends meet.

Like every year, December 2023 brought home so many Goans to celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. But soon, January came as an alarming reminder that the holidays have ended and it’s time to disperse until we meet again.

This meant that all the roads led to the airport.

The gateway to the world, airports, have so many unheard stories to share.
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I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the airport. The deciding factor was simple, it depended on whether I was standing at the arrival or departure gate.

Despite never having caught a flight until I was in my 20s, my obsession with airports and spotting airplanes in the sky goes way back, I just never really understood why.

I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with the airport. The deciding factor was simple, it depended on whether I was standing at the arrival or departure gate.

Maybe it was because the airport was the magical portal that brought my loved ones back home to me, or its unspoken beauty.

Right from watching promises get fulfilled as lovers reunite two years later, to simultaneously listening to the silent sobs of grown men who don’t want to leave home, but have no choice but to do so – the walls of the airport have heard some of the most sincere prayers and watched some of the most heartbreaking goodbyes.

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It’s a weird feeling, really. When I was younger, I would make my way to the airport to wish Papa a safe journey more times than I wanted him to go.

Holding back my tears was a skill that I was yet to master, but I did a pretty good job regardless, and looking out the window at the fast-moving taxis was the best distraction as my vision got blurrier with the weight of the tears that I was not letting leave my eyes.  

The gateway to the world, airports, have so many unheard stories to share.
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The taxis would zoom to the airport with passengers in the backseat that trusted them to get to the airport with time to spare, just as much as the speeding drivers trusted the thin, plastic rope that had made way too many rounds around the suitcases that were strapped to the roofs of their cabs.

It all happens in a flash! One moment you are 12 and in the backseat of the car dropping your dad off at the airport, and the next you’re 24 and holding your tears past the immigration officer and his ruthless interrogation.

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It is in this exact moment that one part of you feels like running back to exactly what you thought you wanted to run away from, while the other collects your boarding pass and walks to gate number 2 of the same airport that you spent your entire life admiring only from the outside.

In retrospect, I always thought that out of sight meant out of mind. And, so, I naturally assumed that the person getting onto the plane had it way easier than the people who had to drive back home with one empty seat in the car.

It all happens in a flash! One moment you are 12 and in the backseat of the car dropping your dad off at the airport, and the next you’re 24 and holding your tears past the immigration officer and his ruthless interrogation.

Maybe it was their broad smiles as they consoled us, or the emotional intelligence that I lacked at that age that did not prompt me to see the pain in their eyes instead of their smiles.

The way I reasoned it out was that the place that they were flying to was a new blueprint, not one haunted by us.

In retrospect, I always thought that out of sight meant out of mind. And, so, I naturally assumed that the person getting onto the plane had it way easier than the people who had to drive back home with one empty seat in the car.

But, for us, going back home without them was always a blow in the chest when returning to find that the very same well-illuminated room where we last prayed together for the safety of their journey, was now, somehow not as bright as before.

As for who has it easier, it was only once I was inside the airport that I realised the act that people on this side put on – we smile, wave and try to focus all our attention on the trolley that wheels away all the little parts of home that we’ve stuffed into two suitcases. And, finally, we walk away.

The gateway to the world, airports, have so many unheard stories to share.
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Having now been on both sides of the spectrum, I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t really matter which side you’re on, leaving is never supposed to be easy.

But, somehow, fighting the tears from inside the airport is a little easier; I am yet to figure out how.

Some days, we look back to catch one last glimpse for as long as we can, and on other days, the best thing you can do is to not to look back at all.

Having now been on both sides of the spectrum, I’ve come to realise that it doesn’t really matter which side you’re on, leaving is never supposed to be easy.

It really is the littlest things that make us realise how home is more than just four walls and a roof. They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. But, how come nobody mentioned that being ‘fond’ of something had its own price to pay?

As Irrfan Khan quoted Yann Martel in the movie, Life of Pi, “I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go.”

This January, as the glitz and glamour of the holidays comes to an end, and its time to say goodbye to the bike rides, thalis and sunsets at the beach, let's remember that no matter how much time passes us by, Goa always leave the porch light on as a reminder that it is waiting for us to return home.

And, likewise, we Goans, are always hardwired to come back home.

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