My name is Fileona Endoxa Dkhar. It is supposed to mean love and glory. The amalgamated derivations from the ancient Greek language and my parents’ own varying dialect leave my experiment of a name lost in literary translation. I was born on September 4, 1993 in Bangalore, India. Although I belong to the matrilineal Khasi tribe of Northeastern India, I doubt I am much of a feminist. Despising indifference of all sorts, I like writing more than I have ever liked using my voice. This is my homecoming piece. For what it is worth, it is a chaotic recollection from a place I call home. But, a home that treats me… indigenous, aboriginal and tribal… like a foreigner.
By Fileona Endoxa Dkhar
The airport door slides open. A surge of enervating hot air. It tickles my skin with a humid saltiness I had somehow forgotten. A buzz of motorbikes, then a putrid smell. This was home.
A mere gasp of air before the buzz: “Madam, I take you. Good Hotel. Madam, Cheap!”
A swarm of taxi-drivers. Before I could recognize faces, the most silent of the hive flocks forward. He widens his eyes, assures me with a smile, then bobs his head and says, “Welcome to India. Madam.” He takes my suitcase and leads me to the left, a less crowded pathway. The swarm stays on, awaiting other arrivals.
But where is she? Maybe she forgot.
The driver’s hospitality feels foreign. His uniform was familiar: daubed sweat on a khaki colored bowling shirt with matching pants. Characterized by the temperature of his post-petrol-hike Ambassador taxi cabs, these were the kind who modestly dwelt on hospitality. The motto, the clause: No air conditioning in vehicle but hospitable character. Good hospitality meant an occasional stint as the foreigner’s “official cabby.” This was to be achieved only if one adhered to the following charter: Don’t overwhelm, treat them well, they like you, they take your phone number and you’re insured for at least a week.
Apart from the occasional swindling( a desperate, dishonorable taxi-wallah’s stint), these were the kind to take good care of an arriving foreigner.
At least his kind is quiet, I decide to go with it. After all, we were at “International Arrivals.” We walk past gate C, two gates away from my arrival point at Gate F.
Where is she? There is no way she could have come.
The large taxi stand was right by the corner of gate A. So we keep walking by the swarms situated on each gate. Then I saw her walking down, she passed me by a few feet. She did not forget.
In her usual attire of pajama-pants and salwar suit, she looked confused and sad, rushing towards Gate F. As usual, she was late.
Relieved, I stop pretending. In the most perfect Hindi I could muster, I tell him to stop. RUKO. He looks startled, he could not believe that I shared the same national identity as his. Perplexed, he asks in English, “What Madam?” I reply in Hindi, “Bhai Saab, it’s alright. I do not need your help. I am from here.” His narrowed eyes now roll in contempt, he might have been thinking, “Only these kind pull pranks. Everything is a joke for these kinds. Drinking, smoking, pretentiously western, promiscuous types. Tribals.” But who cared about his political affiliations anyways? I did not. I take my bag and thank him.
I yell out: “Ma! Maman! BEI?” A few more yells before she finally turns around. I run towards her with my suitcase. I hug her, she hugs me back. In that language exclusive to us and that moment, she says, “Welcome home! Sorry I’m late khun.” We walk towards her burgundy colored van.
Driving past the familiar chaotic terrain of lanes. A few cows, the rickshaw, the crowded bazaar. I went back to the poor taxi-wallah standing there, pissed that I’d duped him into treating me like a “Madam.”
Ah Sali! Bitch. She pranked me. I thought they only arrive on Domestics. Chinky tribal. Here comes another Madam, she’s at least white.
Back to the swarm. Buzz: “Madam, I take you. Good Hotel. Madam, Cheap!”
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