Going away from home for the first time is hard. Especially when you have to give up the luxuries of home for the squalor of hostel life. It was the Pooja holidays, and it came around the time when I was still struggling with the reality that I had moved away from my family and that I was on my own. I missed everything, from the food and the people to even the place. It was during these desperate times that the idea for a surprise visit home sprung up. So I roughly made plans in my head and I got to know that a friend was also going back home, which is quite close to mine. Unlike my folks, his family was well aware of his plans. So we both booked bus tickets, a ride which covers over 1200 kilometres in 16 hours. I was excited and happily fibbed to my family that I would spend the next 10 days at the hostel, with friends and the terrible mess food. I must have been good because they bought it.

I could hardly contain my excitement as we approached closer to home. The long ride finally came to an end and we bid farewell to each other. I got into an auto and I couldn’t stop smiling. I reached in front of my Amma’s shop, asked the auto driver to wait and went inside. My mother and her assistants stood there, motionless and with blank faces. Amma took some time to regain her composure and was like “How? What? When?” I could feel that she was stupefied and couldn’t believe her eyes and I was extremely glad to see their reaction. After the customary chit chat I left the shop leaving my dazed mother behind. I went straight home and called out to my ammuma (grandmother) and my uncle. After the initial surprise, I was bombarded with questions that went around like this, “How? You said you would be there. How did you come? Were you safe? The guts you have. Oh my God, you travelled such long distance alone, just when there is trouble in Tamil Nadu after the apparent arrest of Jayalalitha, what if you were stranded alone there? Have you eaten anything?” Before I could step into the house, another auto came in front of my home and it was Amma, who had finally come back to her senses. Then, it was like any other good story, we settled in and ate food together and shared whatever happened at our ends. The rest of the family was out and one by one, everybody came and had similar reactions and so did my friends. Some had happy tears, some gaped, some laughed, some screamed and some smiled. The whole tiring journey was just worth it when I saw how everyone reacted. It was an excellent idea and I was quite proud of myself for having single-handedly surprised so many people and at the same time overjoyed about getting to spend some quality time with the people I love the most.