The cabin lights dimmed, silencing the chatter, and leaving only the hum of the engines. Sporadic infant cries occasionally rang out as the plane shook from mild turbulence. For once, Melody was not among them. She had already fallen asleep in the bassinet attached to the wall, and I thanked God for the rest that was overdue. We were at the halfway mark on our second and longest flight, an amazing feat, for our journey around the world. I clinked plastic cups with my husband over a job well done. “Cheers, to our success so far!” I said deliriously as I ushered for a flight attendant to refill my cranberry juice, and barked “to keep them coming!” (clear fabrication, I can’t manage to bark at anyone). Somewhere over the Arctic Circle, Melody’s clock was up and it was time for the next 100 laps around economy. Little did my daughter know, that the sun had only begun to set in our destination, India.
*Side note: I wish they awarded a badge for every parent that crosses 10,000 miles non-stop with an infant. Purple hearts, marathon winners, and myself now share a similar circle of accomplishment. (dramatization implied).
We waded through droves of people to finally find the familiar faces of Jai’s family. They had waited hours outside Arrivals while we navigated customs and found delayed baggage. My 11 month old could hardly blink as she took in the scenes around us. The air was thick, the people looked different, the sounds, the smells, Good Lord the smells! We were back in India!
But for Melody, it was the first step into a world that hadn’t existed till she landed right into it. Her head whirled around as she was passed from person to person. She marveled at the cows crossing the road, the people stoking trash fires on the sidewalk, and the unison call to worship from passing mosques. These once commonplace novelties have taken on a new life as I watch the effect they have on my daughter. She loves the animals that roam our city streets, as if the pictures in her storybooks have leapt off the page. She has a new fascination with nose rings, grabbing glimmers of gold that hang from any nostril in reach. She also discovered the best of hiding places, often venturing into the bottom folds of women’s sarees. “Peekaboo!”
But for every humorous situation, there is a frightening story to match. Instances that create wrinkles, heart palpitations, and turn your hair white, all at once.
Nothing, not time, perspective, or Xanax, can calm you down after seeing your baby speed away on a motorcycle. She’s straddling the seat in front of her dad, trying to reach the handlebars, and I’m unconscious from my horror. Reading this you may think, “Whoa! That crosses my line, not a good parenting move, Sarah.”
You may want to stop reading.
India crosses all your lines.
Which heart stopping story next? Oh yes, the stairs. Each step conveniently sharpened into a nice blade. Thank you Indian stair makers. It’s a delight happening upon my daughter three or four steps up, clinging to the edge like a circus performer.
I am happy to say that Melody loves the indian breakfast, Idli…and that’s about it. Idli is on the menu all day and all night! That may be an exaggeration… she has become a fan of catching and eating the ants on the ground. I support it, and believe it elevates her pallet. Not the red ones, what kind of mother would I be? but the large black ones that appeared in the terrible Indiana Jones remake. (sarcasm intended).
To travel the world with your precious children, you must be brave. To travel to India with your children, you must be brave with a side of absolute crazy. That’s right, I said it. It’s a special calling for a foreigner to do family life here. Clinging to the ways of the west as they slip out of your sweaty exhausted fingers. We may not always be comfortable, put together, or honestly, safe. It’s the hope that my child will be stronger and better for it that gets me through each day. That she will balance life’s obstacles the way she balances on a motorcycle and sharp stairs. That she’ll hide herself behind sarees and not her fears. That she’ll crave adventure like she craves Idli and ants. So for now and for always, our family will stay brave… and crazy.