Shruti Swamy returns to Mumbai as a wife and a mother after many childhood trips to spend time with family. In a voice that’s evocative and lyrical, Swamy braves the dissonance that time and distance can impose on those who return and is rewarded with fond, newly minted memories of food and time shared.

I remember every inch of it: the mineral smell of the staircase, the daybed where I spent hours as a child reading piles of Reader’s Digests. The cool tile floor I’d lie on when the heat was overwhelming, the dark kitchen in which some of the most spectacular meals of my life were created. The almirah in the bedroom that held my grandmother’s starched, mothball-scented saris.

There is no city more beautiful and richer with personal history to me than this one—where my parents grew up, fell in love, and left in their twenties for America. And yet, there is also no city in which I feel more out of my depth. Growing up, I’d visit for weeks at a time but rarely see anything of Mumbai. Passed like a parcel between family members, I never touched money, never went anywhere alone, and spent most of my time in the rooms of my relatives.