Archive for the ‘India 2010’ Category

Chapter 1

Posted: October 4, 2010 in India 2010

Chapter 1 – Coming to India

Sometimes the best gift you can give someone you love is a good surprise. My poor mother almost passed out when I showed up unannounced in her kitchen after two years. That look of astonishment together with pure joy is something I’ve rarely seen on anyone’s face. It was the most honest reaction I could’ve asked for. It was perfect.

My USF sweatshirt wasn’t quite welcome in India. After having travelled for over 24 hours, I eased out of my groggy state and got out of the freezing aircraft only to be greeted by Chennai’s infamous heat. Did I complain? Of course not; I welcomed the familiar feeling of forthcoming dehydration making its sticky way down my back. I knew I was smiling but I couldn’t help myself. Two years is a long time for someone who sometime owned the very streets she was about to step back onto.

My smile disappeared. Authority in India is something I don’t do very well with and immigration was giving me a cruel little smile as its long, decaying fingers beckoned me right around the corner. After scrutinizing my passport and giving me the once over several times, the officer informed me that my rather “sharp” appearance had led him to believe I was working for the police. I was tempted to pull out my FBI badge and flash him, but I reminded myself that I was undercover and kept my cool. It wasn’t easy.

As I exited the airport without customs raiding my luggage, I thanked God and prayed that my ride was close by; for a small person two bags weighing 28 kilos and 8 kilos, respectively, along with a backpack, does not spell comfort. I trudged along, out the exit and a little into the foyer when I heard my name. My cousin and co-conspirator, accompanied by two of her friends, were there at half past midnight to pick me up.

The plot was set in late March. On my last visit to India, I had set my mind to stay away from the country and all else involved for reasons I don’t quite care to share. When I decided it had been long enough, I also decided that the family needed a little excitement in their lives, namely me. So I enlisted a few people in the master plan; my cousin Ayesha Aapa, a few friends and almost everyone in the U.S. The stage was set and my actors played their roles to the tee. Among all the hustle of keeping mum, what was most difficult was keeping my mother in town. I was to visit Kerala and wanted her to go with me, but unaware of the near cardiac arrest situation that she was about to face, my mother was making plans of her own. Which is why it is always advisable to have someone on the inside. Enter Ayesha Aapa.

Living with my parents was the best decision Ayesha Aapa could’ve made. Well, for me atleast. She managed to convince my mother that she may have to go abroad during the exact same time that my mum was planning to visit my grandfather in Kerala, sabotaging her plan and setting mine back on track. The plan was unfolding just as I had hoped it would.

From the airport, Aapa drove her friends and me to Springs, a 24-hour coffee shop. Having been out of the country and off the roads for so long, that first drive out of Chennai International was everything but pleasant. I quietly nursed my terrified heart and kept it from jumping out of my mouth and onto the street when we cut someone off every 30 seconds. After coffee, we proceeded to Aapa’s friends’ place. In the early hours of the morning, I was five and a half minutes away from mum and could hardly contain the excitement. Six hours, five hours, four and a half…I simply couldn’t wait for the sun to rise.

After forcing myself to sleep, I woke up at 6 o’clock, showered and got dressed. I took one more look at my watch. And then it hit me, I was still on U.S. time. In India, it was only 3:30 AM. I smacked the back of my head a few times hoping to beat the jetlag out of my system, got under the covers and went back to sleep. A little longer, Ma. I’m almost home.

Seven-thirty. A quick cup of coffee later, Ayesha Aapa and I were out the door and on our way. In the car, we planned the last part of our little adventure and a short video camera lesson later, we were ready to strike. Once the coast was clear, she gave me the signal to come inside. To my surprise, none of my five canine siblings uttered a whimper. They just stared, no bark, no wag. I reached the back door and slowly snuck inside. My unassuming mother dearest hadn’t strayed from routine. It was a quarter past eight and as always, she was in the kitchen making tea. I made my way behind her.

I couldn’t think of a better gift to give my mum. As vain as this may sound, I mean the world to her and she’s always made every effort to let me know it. Her face when she saw me is an image that I will never allow myself to forget. That morning, I truly felt that my life in this world was worth something. Her disbelief and unfathomable happiness to see me, to hug me was more of a gift to me than mine was to her. The whole time that I was planning to surprise mum, I didn’t realize how much I would get out of it. As always, she gives me more than I can ever imagine. Like I said, perfect.