I have done this twice before. The first time, it lasted for two weeks. I left home right after High School and went to Singapore for my undergraduate degree. It didn’t work out – I was back home in two weeks. Next, I went to Karachi – about 800 miles away from home – for my first proper job after graduation. This time, it worked for a little over five months.
So, here I am on a 14-hour flight to New York City. 14 hours in this uncomfortably crouched position. Am I anxious? Yes. But I can break this down into one hour at a time.
Goodbyes are never easy. For me, they are the hardest. To be honest, I don’t really shy away from shedding a tear or two. This time, it was no different. Mother dearest walked with me right up to the entry point at the airport. Just in that moment, I wanted time to freeze.
I wanted to talk to her, for hours on end. I wanted to tell her all about myself and know more about her. That new restaurant that I tried out recently, I wanted to take her there. Could I pamper her one last time with a gift voucher? I wanted her to tell me that I was, and will always remain, her favourite child. Could I hold her hand and talk to her about my secrets? I wanted to tell her that someone broke my heart. I also wanted to tell her I was scared about doing all of this. New place, new life, what for?
Seven years – that is how long Ammi Jan and I had been alone at home because Aba works in another city and my siblings were settled elsewhere. So I was saying goodbye to my mother, friend, housemate – lifeline basically.
I held her hand, she held mine. There was this occasional comforting glance.
“We will stay in touch, always!”
I did turn back one last time. The tear drops started forming. I just clenched my teeth and walked through the security gates. We will stay in touch, I am sure.
People find out about my graduate program (journalism) and ask if I will be the next famous TV anchor in Pakistan. No, thank you. Will I write? May be, yes. Why did I work in a marketing AND media role for a sports league before my masters? Because I loved doing it. So, what’s next? I don’t know! That’s okay, right? I mean I have my interests but who knows where life will take me?
I have always heard great things about New York. This city is supposed to help me explore things and find my true self. So I’ll just let New York handle this one for me. It’s done the same for millions before me.
The plane is making its final approach towards JFK. I am tuned into Junoon’s Sayonee, played fittingly at Central Park in New York City. Almost here. Let’s see what you’ve got for me New York!
Chayn aik pal nahi
(There’s no comfort at any point in time)
Touch down! Home away from home: Columbia University, New York City.