Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Longing for home in a distant land

There are millions of people working away from their families and their home countries.
| Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It was 4 p.m. on a Saturday when I received a short message from Amma, my mother-in-law, which read: “Moluammama has passed.” I called my husband, booked the earliest flight to Kochi, and rushed to Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi. At 10 a.m. on Sunday, we entered our home in Cheruthuruthy. Throughout the 14-hour journey, my husband barely uttered a word, lost in his thoughts.

My husband is a Malayali, who has spent the better part of the past 10 years working in Vietnam. He has been married to me, a Vietnamese woman, for five years. This was not the first time that he has been through a rough time like this, while being alone in a foreign land.

Over the years, he has missed countless family gatherings, rarely being able to celebrate Onam, Vishu, Pooram, or even follow cricket tournaments from Vietnam. Vietnamese do not celebrate the same festivals, and I doubt whether our TV channels even know what cricket is, let alone broadcast it.

While in Vietnam, he diligently maintains his routine, going to work, exercising at the gym, and calling home each night. Sometimes I feel as though he is merely surviving 345 days a year, living only during his 20-day stay in India.

When he is finally home, however, I see my husband getting restless, unable to fully embrace the precious time that he has with loved ones. He is always finding himself catching up on paperwork, servicing our long-abandoned vehicles, worrying about his job back in Vietnam, or as is the case at the moment, searching for the next job assignment.

There is practically nothing that I can do to help, being unable to speak the language or understand the way things work here. I can only silently watch him struggle and try not to be an added nuisance to him.

According to a UN report, India has the largest diaspora in the world. From my husband’s State of Kerala, somewhere around six million Malayalis are working in a foreign country.

I can’t help but think about the lives of these six million Malayalis who are working their lives away abroad, diligently sending home whatever pay they receive, leaving a minimal amount to sustain themselves. Are they constantly yearning for the next leave entitlement? Do they find themselves strangers in the very homes that they have been working so hard for?

I hope for a day when my husband can feel at peace and completely enjoy himself, whether it be in Cheruthuruthy, Vietnam, or another work location. I hope for a day when he no longer feels neither here nor there. I hope for a day when he can finally feel at home.

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