Life has a way of throwing little episodes that could seem straight out of an action movie or a horror story at times, but such is our resilience we continue onwards and upwards!
As many of us experiencing expat life in the Middle East will know, along with the NRI tag, which assures you of a life in comfort, where luxuries become basic necessities, there are many a things that the Indian diaspora long for that reminds them of home.
After a lovely week of holidays in the new home in India, it was time to return to the hearth, and what better way than with mom and dad accompanying her and son?
When the work pressure mounts, when the daily routine seems to suffocate, when she runs out of ideas for the lunch box, mom and dad’s presence is such a welcome respite.
When she leaves early each morning to work, mom and dad see her off, wishing her well in the day ahead, while the grandson is bid goodbye as he alights the school bus soon after. Grandma then scurries around to ensure the favourite lunch is on the table when the family returns, while guitar classes, basket ball practise and all the rest of the evening chores are granddad’s that he goes about with pride.
Thus happy days rolled into weeks and it wasn’t long before she noticed mom’s pace had reduced. There were longer naps in the mornings unlike the usual and although mom reassured that she was fine, the darling daughter knew better. A few probes, a few questions and some heart to heart conversations later, she realised that mom had not brought her daily dosage of medications.
As the years tell on you, as one becomes dependent on the miracles called pills, this is when you miss the comfort of the family doctor, the neighbourhood chemist who remembers your prescription and will even call to check if you have a stock of the medicines required.
Panic struck and she knows what the medication means to mom. Frantic calls to the family doctor and the news is not so great. Mom is on a double daily dosage , so the earlier she gets the pills the better. Mom and dad continued to chide themselves on how they could forget to pack the medicines, while son decided that there would be no teenage tantrums, he would be mommy’s best boy.
As if work was any easier that day, deadlines loomed and were like a noose around her neck, she could only think medicines. She was on roller skates through the motions of work, meetings and all the while her mind million light years ahead.
A quick check on anyone travelling from Bombay, phone calls to a zillion couriers (darn their protocols) and all the while wondering how she could arrange the medications. Her mind was racing and by mid afternoon, when there seemed no light at the end of tunnel, when all hopes were being dashed, she decided to send dad home to India to pick up the medicines.
I have always envied the airline boys and girls who traverse the world at the drop of hat, but today, I’m so happy she was able to find dad a seat on the flight.
She was in a stupor through the rest of the day. All she could think was the chores that awaited her after work. The to do list at work suddenly seemed like an encyclopaedia of what’s what, but that was for another day, she had enough at home this evening to think through the day at work.
While she whizzed through her list, mom and dad watched sheepishly. Each thinking their daughter didn’t need this now. Son took on the mantle of man in charge in his own way, every one rallied around to ease the atmosphere at home. This was one trip that didn’t need much of packing. All that dad was carrying was an overnight case with a few basics.
Before long, it was time to head to the airport which was 15 mins away (this can only happen in Dubai), however today was a weekend and it could turn out any other way. The week end brings the town alive and quite often, you could spend the evening in the car, her only prayer was that this is not her destiny today.
As she drove, there was unusually light traffic and she thanked her lucky stars. Rubbernecking she caught a glimpse oh the other side. The traffic was standstill on the opposite side, the red tail lights snaking for as far as she could see. At the ease with which she got to the airport, the first smile of the day creased her lips.
With a skip in her steps they proceeded to what is long trek across the terminal towards the checkin desks, dodging oversized bags , passengers who were late and running like they were out to catch a moving bus.
As she approached the self checkin kiosks, “dad, can I have your passport please”, she said. A moment of silence ensued. Each one looking at the other, I thought it was with you, said dad. The whole airport whirred around her as she tried to catch her breath, her world was in slow motion, while everyone else seemed oblivious to her predicament. She took a deep long breath, it felt like a bad dream that she had to wake up from. Pinch me/ slap me and tell me I’m dreaming her brain screamed. Her face was devoid of any expression, she hadn’t grasped the gravity of this.
Snap out of this she did, and glanced at her watch. She had an hour to checkin closing. She could do this but her heart skipped a beat when she thought of the traffic to get home. Barking orders she headed to the car. Mom and dad had no idea why this day was such, what had come of their little universe? In the meanwhile she was driving like a woman possessed, the car seemed to grow wings as she stepped on the gas pedal at every opportunity. Her only aim that night was to make it back to the airport on time.
I doubt if her car came to full stop when she got to the parking lot, she had jumped out and in all these years of living here, never once had she attempted what she did today. Not waiting for the lifts, two steps at time, she was raising up the stairs to her floor. The key turned in the lock and she barely flicked on the light switches, her eyes scanning the dining table. There sat the passport in its holder, like nothing ever happened. If she let herself, she would have collapsed in a heap, but she couldn’t , next was the race to head back. Stairs again as they seems to raise up to her whilst in descent.
She has no idea how she did it, she seemed to fly past signals and before she knew it she was at the airport. While she ran waving the passport madly, she found three glum faces staring at her. Mom was close to tears, dad was stoic, while son was simply staring past her. She was a few minutes late. The gates were closed and as it was a full flight, there was no point in cajoling the checkin agent for any favours.
Disappointed alright, but if this was gods will, so be it was her approach. She ensured that the tickets were reconfirmed for the flight next morning- 0430 am on Friday. The drive back home was silent. One cant describe each of their thoughts. She wondered why she hadn’t made sure before she left home. Dad and mom were in their own world bleeding in their hearts to see their beloved daughter stressed.
It was just past 11pm Thursday night and they knew they had to rise early. The alarms were set and as she said her prayers, she hoped for the best the next day. Exhausted as she was, she fell asleep immediately. It has been no less a roller coasters for the others at home, and soon, all were in deep slumber.
It felt like a few seconds into her sleep, she was woken up to a commotion. Loud voices, banging on the door and it felt like an army had invaded her peace. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. She couldn’t believer what she saw, this just seemed so unreal. It couldn’t be happening, but she knew it was. The alarm had been set, but the clock face showed the hands at 0330 am. There was no need to rush knowing fully well, that dad couldn’t have made it on time to the airport for the 0430 flight.
She opened the door of her room, leaned against the door frame, teary eyed but a smile on her lips, while her waist length hair fell in curls around her pretty face. Dad, mom and son were shocked to see the cool calm and composed persona. What else’s can we do she asked, as she put the kettle on to get the coffee going. It was too early for breakfast, but never too early to ask what each wanted!
A few discreet phone calls, the matter was settled, dad would take the 1130 flight that morning. The delay only meant that mom would now get her pills much later. A few mental calculations, the expected time of arrival, the distance to home giving dad very little time in Bombay. This was a blessing in disguise as this meant dad didn’t have to bother much about the house.
She could clearly see that the events of the past 36 hours were definitively taking a toll on dad. Mom looked more frail and fragile this morning than last night, she must get her pills and quickly.
As she went back into her room and sank into her comforting bed, she longed for a strong pair of hands to hug her tight and assure her everything would be ok. In a moment of weakness, she yearned for a companion who would be there to face these hurdles that life threw on her path.
She was strong, brave and the rock of Gibraltar for dad, mom and son, but she could do with one too. As hope glistened through her tears, the sun shone brightly, and she lazed to catch a few more winks of sleep.
Soon after , all the breakfast dishes were done and it was time to head to the airport. This time around, dad, mom and son asked her where the passport was! If only this had been the case last evening she thought as she drove leisurely to the airport, with the tumultuous events of the past replaying in her subconscious mind.
She let out a sigh of relief when she got the call from Dad, that he was onboard the aircraft and Bombay bound. A few last minute phone calls to family and friends in Bombay who had kindly arranged to buy the medication and have it ready for collection. Details of the arrival in Bombay had her fretting about the office hour rush traffic in Bombay (Dubai could be dwarfed in comparison).
Constant phone calls and updates were the order of the day in Dubai. All those who mattered had come to know of the episodes of the past two days. Meanwhile in Bombay, the medicine rally had been very effective and dad had picked up the medicines for his beloved. With no time to spare, no shopping for grandson, with a heavy heart he was homeward bound!
The hustle and bustle of Bombay, a city that ever sleeps, did very little to soothe his frayed nerves. There was a wee bit more drama that dad had to endure. The flights out of Bombay, are always a touch n go situation. He was prepared for the worst, but hoped for the best.
As the minutes ticked on, the restlessness at the checkin counter was obvious. Soon, dad was told to checkin his luggage and collect his boarding pass. This was a moment that will forever be etched in her memory after the octane high velocity over the week end.
Dad settled into his business class seat, and as the aircraft taxied out onto the runway, dad closed his eyes and said a silent prayer to thank The Lord for all the blessings he has had in his life – his lady love, the years of marriage made stronger by the trials and tribulations not only in their life, but in the lives of their progeny, the grandchildren they are now proud off and the many small things that make life worthwhile.