The car door opened and 3 smiling people emerged after my excited daughter. She dived down to cuddle the surprised and wriggly dogs, leaving this smiling trio to their own methods to meet/greet me. Carlos from Columbia, Monika from Lithuania, and Solon from the USA introduced themselves and thanked me in the same breath. They had travelled the 400 odd kms from Delhi to spend 25 hours in this little hill town.
My daughter’s instructions had been as expansive as the sky..” keep bottles of mineral water, rolls of toilet paper and fresh towels”. Beyond that, it was all left for me to plan and prepare. I had planned to let things unfold at their own pace and keep meals and plans simple. What I had not planned for was the way the guests just merged into our home and became family.
They drank our usual ginger-elaichi tea with slices of that chocolate cake and took in the balcony and the pine forest.” The air is lovely, the silence is refreshing and the pine-trees and mountains—such a change from the noise and chaos of Delhi!!”. Evening walk with the dogs, evening drive to watch darkness settle over the valleys and forests, evening Maggie snack at the local vendor—they enjoyed it all thoroughly. Dirty Biskit was given a good bath after she had splashed herself brown and muddy in the forest stream. Enthusiastic bathing-and-drying-wriggly-wet- dog seems to be fun all over the world!
It was our evening which melted my heart completely. My Dad, 87 years of sharp memory and keen questions, joined the living room conversation. He was delighted to hear about countries which had only figured in news channels and dry political essays. “Lithuania?, Columbia? Where exactly are they situated? What is their capital city? How far from India? What food do you eat? Can you show me on the map? Is there an atlas in the house? “All questions were answered in detail, all countries shown on Google Maps and on the atlas, all reminisces about my parents Europe trip (5 decades ago) were listened, appreciated and applauded, and Baba was on top of the world.
A bottle of red wine was found, sherry glasses were extricated from the cupboard, and wine was savored with board games and laughter. The boys helped in the kitchen, served buttered toast to all the “stew slurpers”, swept the crumbs and hovered around to anticipate my next command.
For one evening, the home was filled with this large lovely family –beaming grandfather, glowing mother, amazing adult children and two happy dogs…stories of diverse traditions, celebrations, childhood and travel were swapped around and no one wanted the evening to end.
The magic continued through the forest walk at dawn, the noisy dosa-and-chutney breakfast with Solon making his first crisp dosa for his delighted teacher, the fond send off to Baba as he started his return journey to Delhi, the pleasant tour of old Ranikhet , the monkey photography session, and the sari shoot. Monica chose the family favorite sari from my collection. It has been worn by all the family members (dogs excluded) at various times and still remains my favorite.
The 25 hour visit ended as quickly as it had begun…Lunch, a game of Uno and the cab was at the door. Hugs and thank you and come again and bye bye doggies and have a good trip and come again and then they were gone. The unshed tears in my daughter’s eyes, the bewildered dogs at the doorstep, and the final hugs stayed with me. The car rounded the bend and took four of my children to the railway station in the plains.
I kept standing and thinking that regardless of where we take birth, the language we speak, the traditions we follow, there is this strong thread of decency and love which ties all human beings together.
We may not know each other’s language, and we may not be aware of each other’s customs, but we can reach out with love and affection and respect. We can make and live in a world full of laughter, tolerance and caring. Thank you Monica, Carlos and Solon for sharing a much needed lesson of life!