Spring Sonata

Spring, a season when flowers and folks arrive writes Radhika M B

Sometime in January, Ms X, a Bangalore resident now in her 60s, received a call from her old time cocky friend Ms Y who she earnestly avoids. Ms X is the kind who believes she is more well off than her neighbours, and will run friends down a great deal to feel proud of herself.

After the usual pleasantries, Ms Y went on to boast about her younger son’s wedding, which she did not invite Ms X to. On her part, Ms X too had not invited Ms Boisterous for the weddings of her sons, wary of the jibes she would receive.

“By the way, I have some good news for you!” said Ms Y.

“What?”

“I went to London recently you know? To be with my son!” Ms Y hoped to here a `Congrats’ tinged with jealousy and bask in it. After all, going abroad was an impossible dream till a decade back, when they lived in the same colony, and on the fixed salaries of their spouses. All they could boast about was the schools their children went to, grades their children got, clothes they wore or in later years, colleges and degrees they managed.

Ms Y felt a pang when Ms X expressed no surprise. Nor was there a jealous tone in her reply.

“Good. We are also getting ready to go to US, to meet my son and daughter-in-law.”

“Oh. Nice. To meet my dear girl! Nice.” What a tragedy for Ms Y, to have to remember that the de-glam next-door neighbour of a kid she had known was away in the States! And that Ms X was headed overseas too!

“For how long?” continued Ms Y, “I stayed for two months!” Big mistake. She hoped for a “one month” reply, forgetting that the normal US stay by seniors, is six months. As if, staying longer by a month or two makes a difference in your status.

“We will be there four months.”

“Oh?! Good. That is good news from you. You have God’s blessings,” was all Ms Y could manage.

“I always have God’s blessings.” Clearly, Ms X was the winner of the conversation, and felt happy to wrest the last word. She had already begun to revel in the `dream-to-reality is this close’ feel of visiting USA.

Let me elaborate about how Ms X is related to me, or why I say Ms. instead of Mrs. You will know as you read further.

Come to think of it – travelling abroad is no big deal these days. Indians travel in millions – to Europe, to South-east Asia, to US and even the Middle-East. But these conversations will continue, won’t they? The big American dream, rather overseas dream, is an eternal fixture in Indian psyche.

End of February:

We managed to park the car closer to Terminal 4. I race-walk between Dunkin Donuts, and the high-standing coffee table that my hubby has perched his chin on. Just enough eye-view between the heads ahead, of people craning against the railing so they can wave out to their just arrived families. Each time one of them spots his or her family, there is some frantic waving, sometimes even yelling, to get their attention.

“No point getting restless,” he advises. “They will come when they have to.”

“But they should have been out by now!”

Not just us. A few hundred others are eager not to miss their people stepping out with trolleys. A hall full of souls eager for reunions.

The last two months have gone by in endless Skype calls, e-mailing shopping lists, my family and friends going that extra mile to shop for me and hubby, and some of our friends too, checking documents, cross-checking lists.

Why? Is there a dearth of clothes and accessories in USA? No way! It is just that we are a `multiply-by-50′ lot who convert dollar to rupees at thought-speed, non-stop. Accessories like jewellery, craft items such as handmade paper, and the typical Indian-ware I hate to spend dollar money on. Pretense of frugality did you say?

The last two months have also gone by with friends in this part of States, eager to know when our elders will arrive. Invites to visit with our people follow. There are also those friends’ and relatives’ visits to finish up before the arrival of our elders, as we “will be busy for the next four months”.

Days before they arrive, we’re in a rush to fix extra bedding, stock up extra grocery in the fridge and google more possible visit-worthy places in New Jersey.

We spot them finally. The man that my hubby is often called the xerox-copy of, and his wife – tired from their maiden 24-hour continent hop. My parents-in-law.

Not without reason do they call Spring a season of senior arrivals out here! Just perfect, while the winter temperatures give way to warm, a little by little every day. Just right, when elders will not agitate as much as they would do in winter, having to stay indoors. Spring is at the doorstep.

At malls, shops and shop windows, it is Spring-Summer already. Clothes in bright summer shades, baby pinks, whites and yellows. Sexy gowns and sleeveless tops that cry `buy me’ to you, Dollar stores replete with party supplies, wholesalers Costco and BJ’s replacing Christmas trees with Gazebos, awnings and outdoorsy furniture… We are eager to show places to family – beaches, New York, museums, shops, everything.

“What time is it?” inquires my mom-in-law. “Morning or evening?” confused with the bright sunshine beaming into the John F Kennedy Airport arrival lounge after their long haul of bulbed up airport and airplane interiors.

“Evening,” we tell her, helping her with the winter coat, gloves and cap in the lounge. “I don’t need it. It’s so hot!” she protests, obviously fooled by the outside sun.

“Wait till you step out,” we say.

Needless to say, windchill hits their cheeks instantly when trolley out and their eyes water. They know now, what winter chill in US really means.

“So we’ve seen New York!” is my father-in-law’s remark when we pass through Manhattan sky-rises on our ride home – Empire State building, Chrysler, WTC, et al. Tone of a dream fulfilled. Of a reality that hasn’t sunk in yet.

If traffic jams of Bangalore are a daily norm, the hour-long wait before we enter Manhattan’s Holland Tunnel towards Jersey sets things straight. Slower than snails traffic that lulled them to sleep.

First week of March:

After jet-lag, comes the yearning to step out of home. “There is no life here. If I look out of the window, it is like a desert. No people outside,” remarks my father-in-law to my dad on Skype.

In another Skype call, my five-year-old nephew refuses to talk to them, silently wiping tears. On their part, they miss him and the other baby nephew madly.

Their four-months’ stay in USA has just begun.

Radhika M B

Radhika M B

(Radhika M B is a journalist, blogger and crafter living in New Jersey, US. Over her 12-year span in the field of news writing, she has worked in print and internet – The New Indian Express, Tehelka, Techyolk and The Times of India. Her work in print has ranged from environmental reporting and human rights, to politics and lifestyle. An aspiring writer and avid blogger, she blogs at www.cerebraltoothbrush.com, http://sandbythesea.blogspot.com and www.imprintshandmade.blogspot.com. She is currently Consultant Editor with The Thumb Print. The Bangalorean has lived in Mumbai and Chennai besides in Delaware, US, before moving to New Jersey).