The irony if part-time teaching is that while the husband with a full-time job could take off for a two week vacation without much thought, I couldn’t swing that much leave. For one, I had an exam to invigilate and grading to do so I couldn’t take off early. And if I was teaching the next semester, I’d have to prep for that so I needed to be back early.
Not that I was gutted about this in practice. This is the first year in which going to India did not seem to matter as much as it used to. I want to see my parents, but I don’t need to see them in India anymore. Ditto to friends, most of whom are not in India anymore anyway. I feel a sense of detachment, which has been my general state of being for about six months, exacerbated by the stress of the past few months. But I think also that my rootedness in Hong Kong has grown to the extent that I feel a certain detachment from India itself. Of course, there is a connection that can never be severed with the place one grew up, but it has become that to me, a past.
So I bid farewell to the kids, my helper E and V as they left for India five days before me. I have to say that I had not been dreading this moment. For one, I had a ton to do. But also I was looking forward to the peace and quiet. It wouldn’t be an entirely empty house as our helper J was staying back. But basically, I’d be left to my own devices.
For a person, who a decade ago learnt to dread solitude due to a stint of too much of it, I’ve come full circle. I found that the stretches of time empty of much human company initially a bit weird and, then, nice.
I did have a social life and I could order it as I pleased. The night everyone left I met a couple of friends for dinner and drinks. One of them told me I was free to join her and other people for dinner the next night, but I wasn’t really keen. As it happened, someone else asked me to dinner, but had they not, I would have been fine. The next night, I caught the latest Star Wars flick after a traipse around the mall (and discovering to my horror that Gap and Mango had disappeared from their usual spots) and a quick bowl of noodles for dinner. I’ve long ceased to see a movie as a social event, because really you can’t interact during a movie so what’s the point in company in a situation in which safety in numbers doesn’t apply? One day, I had lunch with a friend who I owed a lunch treat.
I found time to exercise. V joked that I was making a last ditch attempt to get in shape before India and part of that was true, but basically, I finally had the time. The thing with kids (and husband) being around is that the time I have to work is unpredictable. Anything could and would come up and disrupt my plans, not to mention the general claims on my attention. Now, I blank days to order as I wished.
I also gained control of the TV remote and watched a programme of my choice on the TV after ages. Season 2 of The Crown if you must know.
I cooked! Mixed results, but an improvement overall. Stuffed mushrooms with garlic bread that was lip-smacking if I may say so myself. An Indianized version of Thai curry that was not. And a pasta with marinara sauce out of a bottle, but I added accoutrements that made all the difference. So I can indeed survive on a desert island.
I did miss the kids, but mostly, it was a revelation how I enjoy being on my own. This is a big change for me, one that I’ve been sensing but that has not really been confirmed till now. Again, I do make plans with people, but I know that the silence does not spook me anymore like it used to.