Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tuesday in India

I was back at the airport again. After an hour ride in the backseat of the cab through a maze of roads and alleys,beeping horns and fast driving,  I was ready to plant my feet back on still land. Accosted by the heat as I stepped out, it took me a minute to catch my breath. People piled into a single line at the doors of the building. When I use the word 'piled' that is only a tip of the chaos. Still new to the culture of this land, I couldn't understand why people pushed, nudged, elbowed, and hit their way through. I'm not kidding. Here in America, there would be fights and charges pressed for this behavior. No one seemed distubed or bothered by the behavior, or lack of manners...except for me. 

Finally inside the busy terminal, things were no different. In the States, we take this time in between arrival and boarding as "relaxation" time. A moment to catch our breath, grab a bite to eat and read that magazine we haven't had an opportunity to skim yet. The atmosphere is calm, except for the corridors buzzing with people walking to and fro. Not in India...the environment is still tense and moody. I will learn later, understandably, why these people are this way, but for now, I had no clue. It put me on edge. Everyone staring at me, whispering...sitting on the edge of their seat...talking in quick, exasperated tones. By the time our flight was called, I was already agitated. Everyone seemed ready to dodge an attack...

Here comes the free for all. I wondered why my friend said to, "Stay close." I mean, after all, we were just going to board our plane...

Everyone swarmed the entrance door. Although there was plenty of space in the lobby for people to spread out, for some reason everyone crowded together. I immediately lost sight of my 'personal space.' The circle grew closer, and tighter. I could smell the woman's perfume in front of me. The man's breath next to me. The fumes flowing in through the door from the engines of the planes. And then when the band was about to snap...the line moved. I was beginning to learn that if I didn't nudge back, I would be pushed to the back of the line without a thought from anyone. 

The event wasn't even close to being over. We packed into a bus. Pushed, prodded, sardine in a tin can...get the idea? Off the bus. Pushed, prodded, sardine in a smaller tin can. Ten minutes standing in the sun...we load the airplane. Pushed, prodded, sardine in a cooler tin can. Thank heaven above...Goa...we were on our way.

Cooling off, I finally felt my blood pressure dropping and I enjoyed the scenery around me. What else would I be doing but staring at the people around me? They were wonderful...absolutely wonderful. I loved the flight attendents dressed in their uniforms. I really didn't want to stare, but I couldn't help myself. They were stunning. Everything about these ladies was identical to each other. From the black eyeliner rimming their dark eyes, skin tone, pale lips, dress, to the style of hair...which I can't be sure, but I can almost guarantee were wigs with attached hat. Am I the only one who thinks this is interesting? 

In all of this chaos, I saw something that touched me. The love these people have for their family, especially the children. Mostly by the amount of tenderness and affection these fathers give to their children. I'm not saying that here in America this doesn't happen, I'm only saying that a father in this culture has a somewhat different role. When a child cries, an Indian father is there first to cuddle. When a child needs to go to the bathroom, he is there immediately taking him/her. And playing...these fathers play with sincere delight on their features. 

I felt a sense of warmth spread through me. I liked sitting here, in this atmosphere. I enjoyed the differences. I liked hearing the chatter--though I had no clue what they were saying. And I had yet to get a friendly smile or gesture from anyone except for the flight attendants who seemed to find me as interesting as I found them. Until...

I happened to be struck with the feeling...you know the one, where you are being stared at? I looked around and then I saw him. A young boy, I'm guessing about 13 years old, was catching a peek at me. He'd see me look and then he'd back away quickly. And then, he lifted himself up from his seat and boldly made eye contact with me. A large smile spread over his face...a smile of welcome. A nice, warm smile that was innocent and sweet. The first smile I had gotten with true sincereity since I'd arrived. I'd never see him again...but thank you. In the heart of a child to make a stranger feel welcome.

I closed my eyes in peace. 

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