Going back to Champaign last weekend was harder than I thought. I miss it so much! I keep saying I’m a city girl. I was born and brought up in Bombay and only left it to come to UIUC for my master’s program. Imagine that…from the biggest cosmopolitan metro of India to the cornfields of the Midwest! I wasn’t crazy about it at first, but it has grown on me…it feels warm, soft and cozy like a long-used comforter. I know the streets like the back of my hand. I know the buildings and the trees. Every corner holds a memory- a coffee, a great conversation, a good cry, endless hours of working on a deadline and dreaming about my soon-to-be-born child. I have met some of the most amazing people here and made awesome friends. I met my husband, and even had my child here.
I miss being in university, meeting great thinkers and learning from them. I miss that each year was defined by three semesters- fall, spring and summer. I miss taking classes, and I miss my research. Hell, I even miss Decatur! Maybe between one undergraduate and two master’s degrees, I’ve not known anything else than being a student.
We drove past our old house on Saturday, and I felt really sad. This was our home…we moved there for Aari. And though I complained about it being too big at first, it was perfect. Three bedrooms and a basement. A picture window and a dining room that flooded with light all through the day. I miss the way the sun would shine through as I drank my morning coffee, and how peaceful it felt at night. This fall, I will miss our street in all its golden and fiery glory. And next spring, I will miss the blooming of the magnolia tree in our backyard. The tree will shed to the ground a pretty pink carpet and we will not be there to walk on it.
I already miss my gang of friends here in Chicago…my junta, my gumbal! Sure, we keep in touch, but it’s really not the same. I miss the endless chai sessions, the weeknight dinners, the Friday night parties and lazy Sunday afternoons, our “Wire” marathon and our stupid overdone jokes…and that between all the leg-pulling and nonsense, they really cared. Unfortunately, they’ll all leave UIUC some day (some already have) and the Champaign I so fondly remember will cease to exist.
Home is where the heart is. Where is my heart? It is here with Aari and Chandu…largely. Some part of it is in India, and it beckons me back. But some teeny tiny part will be always be “orange and blue” and wander the streets of Urbana-Champaign looking for what was.