Today’s been a very warm kind-of-day. That’s true of the temperature of every place I visited today, but it’s far more true of the kind of feeling I’m left with in my heart as I head to bed tonight. There’s a variety of reasons for this, and considering how daily this blog has become since the start of this month, I guess I can spend enough time on it to explain why. I owe myself that much.
We left Pune today. Seeing my paternal grandmother wave us off brought back several memories because we’ve always left Pune this way. Most of my Pune trips have been with my dad, and I have a very vivid memory of us driving off to the airport in a cab/car and my grandparents waving us as we drove out the rocky roads of the colony they stay in. Every single time, my grandmother said the same few words, her voice quivering. “Come when you can, there isn’t any obligation. We have a phone so we can keep in touch.” Her sentiment, in it’s simplest form, was to make sure we weren’t going out of our way to see her. Or disrupting our “very busy lives” to make time for her.
While this made a lot of sense back when we were in the UAE, and we spoke on the phone every single Saturday, I haven’t been able to understand it as much since I’ve grown up. I never understood why she said it. She said it today as well, and it’s all I thought about as we drove down to Bombay. My thoughts are pretty simple: she doesn’t want us to think of her as an obligation. Plus, since my dad moved out after Grade 10, she’s always seen him as someone who comes home for a break (and to be pampered, ofc) whenever the “fursat” (freedom/time) arises. I think that trickled down to me as well – especially after I moved to college. To say the least, I don’t know how to make her feel like she isn’t an obligation for any of us, because going to Pune makes me feel at home in a way I can’t compare to much else. Gulab jamoons and all.
Driving to Bombay was another really fun experience. I type this out as if I was in the driver’s seat when I was honestly asleep for the first one hour. I woke up in Lonavla because my mom wanted to buy chikki. She called it a protein bar. We took selfies outside the small foodcafe thing they’ve built there, which is when it struck me that this was the first time it was just the three of us flying an international flight in 10+ years (June 2008 is the last one we can recall). That’s a ridiculous amount of time considering we each average about 8 flights a year (My dad’s stats have been deflated to account for normalcy). I know this reeks of privilege, but this means that as a familial unit (and I get this is horrible statistical phrasing), we have likely spent a fair amount of our time in different cities, or flying to see each other, rather than flying together. That hit me in my head, because I know how much my parents enjoy family holidays. As I grow older and begin to earn, I know that’s an experience I want them to be able to live out.
Then of course there was the matter of the pav bhaji. As we got to Bombay we had to decide what to eat. My mom got to pick, and her decision led to some route mapping to ensure we ended up in time for our next destination and got to eat some great Bombay food. I knew zilch in the area, so I called up my personal Bombay Yellow Pages, a very dear friend, whose enthusiasm upon hearing I was in the city was something I could sense on the phone. Honestly, I can’t quite understand why people get excited when I’m in their city, but it was so nice to hear that we might have been able to meet if I had more time. His suggestion was spot on and the food rocked. But what came before that, and all the navigation to the spot (Shiv Sagar, Bandra), rocked a lot more. Sitting in the car, my dad and I both recounted to my mom (who hasn’t spent time in Bombay) what our experiences in each part of the city were. My memories are raw, they’re barely six months old now. My dad’s proper memories of the city come from 2007-08, and before that, from the early 1990’s. The crazy thing was that he could remember landmarks and routes: despite living in and traveling to over 25 different territories since. I guess what I loved about it was the fact that my dad and I could both share in the commonality of our experiences from Bombay – it honestly is a city like none other, and it makes you feel that the minute you enter (mostly because of the sweat).
The day just got warmer from that because we got to spend time with Opa. Opa is my best friend’s maternal grandfather. He’s seen me since I was 6. My parents developed a relationship with him progressively, and naturally, and we knew we wanted to pay him a visit despite the short time we were in the city for. His proximity to the airport helped the logistics. Seeing him brought a smile to my face. He was overjoyed by the visit. The conversation was good: we just updated him on the small things in our lives and heard from him about his experiences in Europe. What I’m taking away from that entire conversation is how he was able to find something to relate to with each of us separately: my mom, my dad and I, and to find something to relate with all of us together, to tie in the conversation, if you will. I admire him for his personality and his graciousness with his time. Opa even had cakes and tea for us when we visited, a welcome surprise.
The last part of this overly warm-feeling essay is the fact that I’m in Dubai now and I flew with my parents. It comes out of the fact that we came “home” together – just as we departed for our home in Bangalore together in June 2008. I was up to the usual: irritating my mother for several parts of the flight, and getting looks of disapproval or extreme joy from my dad (because I irritated my mom successfully, or I crossed the line). I noticed two things: 1. My mom was more at ease with both my dad and I around, and 2. My dad really missed the company on flights.
You see, my dad travels a lot more than either of us – because of work. Several of these trips are solo trips, or with his colleagues, with whom he shares a primarily professional relationship. As a result, a lot of his time is spent on technology devices in-flight as well. Today I could see how much he enjoyed the flight because he was able to interact with his co-passengers, rather than sit through the flight quietly, alone. It’s the small stuff: pointing to the window and saying “look, there’s rain”, or “look, there’s Dubai”, and the big stuff: sharing a screen with my mom and watching a nature documentary without headphones on (because my mom’s headphone jack didn’t work). I know he loves his travel, but I can tell. Our presence made a difference.
And this is true for each of us. Traveling with my parents, for me, meant that I had to think a lot lesser about everything. Traveling with my dad meant I got lounge access in Bombay and used a very fancy washroom.
Most of all though, traveling with both of them meant I did not pay excess luggage, and for that, I am grateful.