The homeland visit as it concludes

In the Lahore Fort near sunset, with Badshahi Mosque and Guru Arjan Dev’s gurdwara in the background.

When you visit your homeland and family for a short time, every day, every hour is charged with emotion. This is amazingly rich, and it is potentially painful too.

So much is happening that never happens in my every life in the US. When I set out for Pakistan, I think to myself, “It’s going to be great. I’ll be the best daughter, the best sister, the best aunt, the best niece, the best everything, every day, all the time. I’ll do the best shopping and get the best outfits, I’ll see my favorite old sights and the sights I never saw. And I’ll spend the entire time, also, at my father’s grave, reciting Qur’an and feeling close to him. It’ll be perfect.”

But life is life.

Life’s a mixed bag. Some days I’m cheerful, other days I’m depressed, overwhelmed by grief, impending separation, the weight of my divided lives that make no sense here. Some days I revel in the old experiences, and other days I yearn for uninterrupted electricity, my car, the public library, and my entire wardrobe. Central heat. Some days I connect with everyone, other days I don’t get it, and nobody gets it. I am alone, I don’t hear them, they don’t hear me.

Some days we reminisce happily about shared joys, and other days I reminisce about times when I didn’t get my way. Some days I’m nice; some days I’m irritable.

Some days I say unwittingly hurtful things that fall not like a summer’s rain shower but a tsunami. Because there isn’t going to be an extended series of days, weeks, and months when you can make up for the irritability. Words land like arrows that fester. Will there be an opportunity to make up for meanness with kindness? Each hour is invested with too much significance for it to deliver.

Immigration is often seen as a process of addition. But there is the subtraction that is never counted. Because dollars and academic degrees can be counted; heartbreak is not quantifiable.

Mortality looms over us. Separations tower over us. The brilliance of these borrowed days in the homeland with family is blinding. But the burden of these days is heavy.

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