Authors: Marisha Pink
Tags: #fiction, #spiritual, #journey, #india, #soul, #past, #culture, #spiritual inspirational, #aaron, #contemporary fiction, #loneliness, #selfdiscovery, #general fiction, #comingofage, #belonging, #indian culture, #hindu culture, #journey of self, #hindi, #comingofagewithatwist, #comingofagenovel, #comingofagestory, #journey of life, #secrets and lies, #soul awareness, #journey into self, #orissa, #konark, #journey of discovery, #secrets exposed, #comingofrace, #culture and customs, #soul awakening, #past issues, #past and future, #culture and societies, #aaron rutherford, #arun, #marisha pink, #odisha, #puri
He was met at the foot of the stairs by a
half-conscious Arthur and an excitable Aunt Ruby who, dressed in an
unflattering blue nightgown, hadn’t wanted to miss the opportunity
to wish Aaron well one last time.
‘All set?’ yawned Arthur, lazily rubbing the sleep
from his eyes.
Aaron nodded enthusiastically in response.
‘Look after yourself, won’t you dear? And make sure
to call when you arrive. And let us know how you get on with
finding Kalpana. And don’t forget to take the malaria tablets. And
remember not to drink the –’
‘For God’s sake Ruby, it’s too early for this,’
interrupted Arthur irritably.
She scowled at him and reached forward, pulling
Aaron into a tight embrace. Aaron stooped to accept it and returned
her affections with a gentle squeeze of his own.
‘I’m really going to miss you, dear.’
‘I’m going to miss you too, Aunt Ruby.’
Arthur rolled his eyes impatiently.
‘Right, let’s go,’ he barked, opening the front door
and stalking across the expansive drive towards his Land Rover.
As the engine roared to life, the white beam of the
headlights passed through the open front door, lighting Aunt Ruby’s
‘Oh Aunt Ruby, don’t cry,’ Aaron soothed, taking her
in his arms once more. ‘I’ll only be gone for a little while, and
remember my next big trip is to come and visit you in Australia,’
he offered reassuringly.
Unable to speak, Aunt Ruby merely nodded between her
sniffles and, releasing herself from his grip, shooed him out of
the door before her emotions engulfed her so fully that she
wouldn’t be able to let him leave.
Aaron waved goodbye to his weeping aunt and marched
purposefully towards the waiting car. He slung his bags across the
back seat and slammed the door shut, before clambering into the
front beside Arthur. He fastened his seat belt while the old man
reversed out of the driveway, and when the car swung out onto the
road, Aunt Ruby and the house slowly disappeared from view. Soon
they were winding their way along the dark suburban roads at high
speed, the dulcet tones of The Moody Blues’ ‘Nights in White Satin’
playing softly over the rhythmic chugging of the engine. Arthur was
silent, pretending to concentrate on navigating the twisting lanes
whilst Aaron stared impassively out of the window, unable to see
anything through the darkness. The car began to pick up pace and
when they turned onto the motorway the sun was just starting to
rise in the distance.
‘Looks like it’s going to be a nice day,’ said
Arthur, clearing his throat but keeping his eyes firmly fixed on
the road ahead.
Aaron turned to face forwards, nodding in agreement,
but unsure what else he could add. It wasn’t the most scintillating
of conversations, but he knew that Arthur would not be at ease
discussing what was really on his mind and right now he could think
of nothing else. He felt so anxious that he thought he might be
sick and the speeding car was doing little to calm the butterflies
that filled his stomach. Arthur opened his mouth to say something
further, but quickly changed his mind and instead reached for the
stereo to crank the volume higher. The pair continued to travel
along in silence, the fields lining the roadside slipping by in a
hazy green blur, and one by one the junction numbers steadily crept
towards a climax. Signs for Heathrow Airport started to appear more
frequently and before Aaron knew it they had reached the drop-off
point outside Terminal 3.
Leaving the engine running and without saying a
word, Arthur quickly dismounted and began to wrestle the backpack
out of the rear passenger door. Aaron climbed down from the car and
walked round to the driver’s side to relieve him of the bag, but
Arthur retained a firm grip on the straps. Travellers rushed all
about them, zealously loading their suitcases onto trolleys and
wheeling them off towards the terminal building, but the pair stood
across from one another immobilised by their awkwardness. Arthur
looked everywhere but at Aaron, struggling to find the words to
express himself, and Aaron wondered how long he would be forced to
stand there before he could prise the bag from his father’s fingers
without seeming ungrateful or impatient.
Seeming to sense that he was running out of time,
Arthur cleared his throat and began to speak.
‘You … you will come back soon, won’t you?’
‘Yes, Arthur. I’ve already told you about a million
times that I will,’ responded Aaron, somewhat exasperated by the
Arthur looked pensively at his son for a moment and
then suddenly lurched forward, flinging his arms around Aaron’s
neck in an action indistinct from the one that he had chastised his
sister for earlier that morning. He hugged Aaron long and hard
before quickly withdrawing and retreating to the safety of the car.
He kept his head hung low while he fastened his seat belt, refusing
to meet Aaron’s astonished gaze, and within seconds the Land Rover
was speeding away from the terminal building.
Aaron stood rooted to the spot, bewildered by
Arthur’s odd impromptu farewell. Often detached and unemotional,
yet seeming to care deep down, the old man's behaviour had become
increasingly unpredictable and erratic since Catherine’s death,
particularly when it came to Aaron. It was a concern that he had
shared with Aunt Ruby out of an old sense of duty, but in truth it
was something that he was glad to escape from. It was awkward and
unfamiliar, and he had neither the time, inclination, nor patience
to try to comprehend the inner workings of Arthur’s mind.
He shrugged the odd episode aside and realised to
his delight that he was alone once more. He picked up his backpack
and, slinging it over his shoulders, started confidently towards
the terminal building, a nostalgic smile plastered across his face.
Less than four months before he had stood in the very same spot,
full of enthusiasm for his African adventure and committed to
helping orphans find the loving families that many thought they
could never have. Now he was focused on only one thing; helping
himself to find the family that he’d never known he could have, and
that, he mused, was a very different kind of adventure indeed.
SETTLING himself into his seat, Aaron couldn’t help
but to stare in awe at the other passengers boarding the early Jet
Airways flight to Mumbai. He had never been surrounded by so many
people of the same colour, his colour, and far from feeling out of
place, for once he felt that he could actually blend in. Oblivious
to his fascination, passengers were leisurely tucking their
belongings into the overhead compartments, strapping in excited
children and confused elderly family members, and requesting
everything from extra pillows to different seats.
All about him loud conversations in tongue-twisting
dialects were taking place, while the cabin crew desperately tried
to usher the crowd into their seats so that the plane could depart.
Men on opposite sides of the aircraft shouted across to one
another, gesticulating wildly in what Aaron initially perceived to
be aggression, until both fell about laughing jovially and he
realised how crucial an understanding of the language and culture
was going to be. There was a palpable buzz on-board the flight and
the energy fed into Aaron’s own excitement, rendering him even more
impatient to arrive at his final destination.
When the plane finally eased into the sky, Aaron
felt a wave of fatigue wash over him. The restless night, the early
start and the exchanges with Arthur and Aunt Ruby had exhausted him
and, though he tried to fight it, within minutes he had drifted off
into a deep sleep. He remained that way for the duration of the
flight, stirring only when the attendant shook him awake for
drinks, meals and snacks, his sleep consumed with vivid dreams of
Catherine that he struggled to recall on awakening. He was a young
boy and then a young man, but Catherine never seemed to age at all,
remaining just as she had looked before he had left for Africa. In
so many of the dreams she seemed close enough for him to touch her,
but whenever he reached out she was always just beyond his grasp.
The dreams left him feeling disorientated and physically pained on
awakening and by the time the pilot announced that they were coming
in to land at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Airport, Aaron was
grateful of the opportunity to escape the confines of the
The plane descended rapidly and Aaron felt his ears
painfully begin to pop from the changing pressure. Wincing, he
covered them with his hands and wriggled his jaw in an attempt to
initiate a yawn.
Apane kana ko ahata kara rahe
’ said the elderly
woman sitting across the aisle to his right, a genuine look of
concern on her face.
‘I’m sorry?’ replied Aaron, utterly confused.
Maim pucha raha hum agara apane kana
ko ahata kara rahe haim?
’ she said again, this time nodding and smiling at
‘She’s asking if your ears are hurting?’ intervened
the gentleman to his left.
He was a middle-aged, dark-skinned Indian man with a
large belly that his shirt buttons were struggling to contain.
‘Oh, right,’ said Aaron, turning to nod in answer to
the elderly woman’s question.
‘I take it you don’t speak Hindi?’ the gentleman
‘No, not exactly.’
‘I’m Prakash,’ he said, extending his hand
‘Aaron,’ he replied, accepting Prakash’s sweaty
‘So, what brings you to India? First time?’
‘Yes, it's my first time. I’m here to … visit
family,’ he explained. The words sounded strange coming out of
Aaron’s mouth, but Prakash seemed to accept them without question.
‘Business trip. Trying to finalise a huge
construction deal. Can’t say too much about it though; all very
By the time the plane touched down on the tarmac,
Aaron had become entirely engrossed in his conversation with
Prakash, listening intently while the well-groomed man offered him
tips on surviving his time in India. It was refreshing to hear
someone talk positively, yet frankly, about his native country, and
a relief to enjoy a conversation whose topics did not include his
mother, Arthur or Kalpana. There was a long delay whilst the plane
taxied to the terminal building and waited for a stand to be made
available, but once the seat belt sign had been switched off, the
on-board chaos that had typified their departure quickly
It was a full hour before Aaron and Prakash were
able to disembark from the plane and after a prolonged, yet
agreeable conversation, they were finally forced to part ways
inside the terminal building. Mumbai was Prakash’s final
destination, whereas Aaron was in transit to Bhubaneswar, from
where he would be able to catch a train on to Puri. The two men
shook hands amicably, feeling more like old friends than strangers,
and in a gesture of kindness Prakash offered Aaron his business
card in case he ran into any troubles during his visit. Grateful to
have at least one local contact, Aaron eagerly accepted it and when
Prakash disappeared in the direction of passport control, he found
himself alone once more.
He had been so caught up in the conversation that he
hadn’t taken stock of where he was. Though he had not yet stepped
outside of the airport, after weeks of planning he was finally in
India and the thought filled him with a small sense of triumph. He
followed the signs for passengers in transit and seemed to tour the
whole airport complex before finally encountering a huge crowd of
people, all vying for the attention of a single airline attendant.
A formal queue seemed to be absent with people pushing and shoving
their way to the front of the small airline stand, desperate to
have their documents checked and to progress through security.
Aaron politely joined what he thought was the back
of the queue, but he was quick to realise that this strategy put
him at a disadvantage. Passenger after passenger simply entered the
fray wherever they could squeeze in and he found himself being
forced further and further back towards the direction from which
he’d come. He was hugely agitated by the disorganisation, but the
agitation soon turned to anxiety when a cursory glance at his watch
revealed that there were only two hours remaining before his next
flight was due to depart. He had no idea what gate he needed to be
at or what lay beyond the airline stand, to say nothing of the fact
that it would take him at least an hour to reach the front of the
ever-expanding crowd. Grudgingly he decided that he would have to
be a little more ruthless, and a little less British, with his
queuing strategy and surreptitiously he began to inch forward
through the swarm.
Despite his best efforts, it was still almost an
hour before he reached the desk. Friends and family members had
appeared out of nowhere, joining their travelling companions ahead
of him in the throng. Families with small children and
wheelchair-bound passengers had been fast-tracked through, and a
further three flights had landed adding their passenger haul to the
commotion. It was a lot to contend with when he simply wanted to
change planes, but there was nothing he could do to expedite the
proceedings. When he finally reached the front of the congregation,
the diminutive airline assistant issued him with a security tag,
informed him of the gate number from which his plane would be
departing and promptly sent him on his way without so much as
blinking. Her efficiency was astounding and it left Aaron mystified
as to why he’d had to queue for so long. He began to relax, feeling
less panicked about catching his next flight, but the feeling was
short-lived when he caught sight of the baggage scanners and metal
detectors, and a second, equally dense, queue for security.