Open my bag; find things I never unpacked.
I'm ready to leave. Among the many learnings, one was the importance of family and support system. My family and my support system. I'm ready for them.
I look at my wardrobe, my bed, the floor. There are clothes, gifts, masala, everywhere. I look at my bag again. It seems tiny.
This is not the first time I've moved, packed all my belongings into a couple bags. Felt empty and full at the same time. Guilty for the things I didn't do, happy for the chances I took.
I look at the gift I got for my mum with my other mum. I hope she will like it.
This also won't be the last time. I convince myself that packing is a skill that therefore improves with practice. I've had a lot of that and therefore I should be just fine, right?
I start folding my clothes.
My mind is somewhere else. I'm subconsciously travelling to the last time I moved and trying to copy my moves, remember how to cope.
I find my favourite dress. I haven't worn it in seven months. It's not long enough.
Going home seems like an exciting idea. Until it doesn't. The concept of home has been reshaped multiple times by now. I'm scared.
I start putting things in my suitcase. The big ones go at the bottom. I try to use all the space, every corner, every pocket.
There are things I'm looking forward to. The "how was India?" question is not one of them. How do people expect me to answer that?
I grab a paper bag and start filling it with all the things I'm leaving behind. Kurtas washed uncountable times attempting to remove the chalk powder. Ripped leggings. T-shirts with sweat stains directly proportional to the weather.
My students. My kids. That was a hard goodbye. The first of many. I think of the many goodbyes I have ahead. In Pune, in India, in the US. But with those many goodbyes come many reunions.
I find the letters my kids wrote me. Thank you Didi. They have made of my name their own. Augustin, Audestina, Augastina. I put them aside. There's no space for them.
Being Didi has been hard. I wonder how many of them actually understood what I was saying. I wonder if those seeds I planted will eventually germinate.
I see my host mum coming. She asks if I need help. I say yes just to spend some more time with her.
My host family has been the best part of my experience. So sweet, so full of care. I think about the time they introduced me as "my daughter".
I find more things I can't take, I put them aside. Ashwini tries to convince me to take them. "It's just one letter! Why aren't you taking that t-shirt? This kurta looked so nice on you!"
My reasons, I think, are that I've learnt to not get attached to things. But this is just the beginning of packing, the easy part.
I decide to stop packing. I'm not leaving for another three days, I still have time.
More goodbyes, more "lasts", more hugs.
I now have to pack my second bag, I have everything folded, everything ready, it should be easy.
My eyes spend more and more time looking at every sweater I haven't worn in months, my hands touching every pair of pants, feeling the memories.
I start struggling, my second bag is almost full, but so is my bed.
It should be easy, I thought this through. But it isn't. I again try to remember how I did this before.
I look at my fingers and they're red from trying to close the zipper at least a little. I'm frustrated, but I tell myself I can't cry for a bag.
This happened last time I moved too, how did I solve it? And then I remember.
I sit next to my bag. Thighs are still everywhere. I question why I need all these clothes. Ashwini comes in again.
Last time I moved I closed my first bag, my second bag, and on the last day when I had to close the third one, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't fit everything. So I just sat there. My dad came, joked about how I had to learn and helped me. The time before that it was the same.
I look up and Ashwini is smiling, she says "come on, I'll press and you'll close it".
My bag is closed but it looks like it's going to explode. I smile with the corner of my mouth. I packed my pants, my memories, my feelings. I left my old kurtas, my old habits and some parts of me.
I packed myself.