After a noisy, restless 6 hours from New York on an aging Boeing 747, I’m enjoying some silence in London’s Heathrow airport, mercifully uncrowded on this first Sunday morning in February.
In the distance I see the steeple of a church. It rises so resolutely above what looks like the English countryside, directly to the south of where I sit.
According to my phone, I am in Hounslow, England, a London borough in West London that was created by an act of law on 1 April 1965. Its population is incredibly diverse: only 37.9% of its people are White British. There are also Indians, Pakistanis, Chinese, and Arabs, and quite a few others.
I imagine that, despite the burgeoning diversity in the cities, the English countryside remains unaltered. Seeing it fuels my wanderlust. How I would love to roam without agenda for a satisfying while in this place where so much has happened in the last few thousand years! Surely I could pick up some echoes from those years. Britain is, I presume, about nothing so much as it is about tradition, though these times seem hell-bent on diluting everything that was, every way the world has been for so very long.
Silence, simple quiet, is such a rare and precious commodity. Silence allows thoughts and emotions to rise from a more delicate part of the heart. Soon I will board another plane bound for Delhi and then another for Siliguri, and the silence of this morning will give way to the jangling chaos of the great land of India, where 1.3 billion people rooted in the most ancient culture of this world make their way in this world of nonstop change.
When I told JiThin Chandran, my friend from Kerala, that I was headed to India, he said this: “You are going home.”
That may be. I have not had a sense of home in many years. Though this journey will show me a lot, it will be just a small fraction of India. If I have time to write, there will be much more to come during this time there.