Back home after an incredibly short but eventful trip home to India, I woke earlier than usual. Bustling in the kitchen getting ready to go back to work after a two week break, images from my trip played out in a continual loop in my head.
The fervent packing and the final drive to the airport to board the flight at a late hour. The girls too wired to sleep. The constant crying and a guilt that wrapped around me like a coil. The apologetic looks to co-passengers and relief as the wheels touched down at Heathrow. Frustration at the long lines and inept handling of baby stuff during transit. Sadness at the slumped forms of my babies in their umbrella strollers as K and I rushed to freshen up before our next flight. More crying and helplessness as we were trapped mid air with cranky, sleep deprived, food starved babies. Excitement as the plane began its descent over the warm air of Bangalore.
Rushing through immigration and customs to haul our 10 plus bags for a 2 week trip and hearts thudding as we scanned the sea of faces for that one bright eyed new uncle to our girls. Happiness as Cee almost leaps out of K’s arms into her Chitappa’s like she has known him forever. Hugs and smiles all around. The hour long drive in the pre dawn darkness into the narrow lanes of our temporary home. Excitement building all over again as the car stopped in front of the all too familiar huge black gate. Legs wobbly, hair unkempt, dry lips and parched throats. Singing hearts, bright faces, mile wide smiles and tear stained cheeks as grandpa meets grand-daughters and new parents for the first time. Aarathis, gifts and introductions.
Hot coffee, fluffy idlis and huge open suitcases. Shy babies, food, sleep and diaper duties. Catch up and more catch up. Cab rides, auto rides, train rides. Family and even more family. Karachi bakery fruit cookies, Krishna Sweets, Adayar Anand Bhavan bags crowd the dining table. Gold, silver and currency notes fill my bag. Impromptu shopping, glinting stainless steel cookers, ziploc bags full of sambar powder fill my now empty suitcases.
Time slows down. Kay and Cee blossom into social butterflies. They discover a new love for the open air balconies. Towering over them as they peer down the steel grille, I notice Life. The sounds of wet clothes slapping the stone. The smell of half cooked rotis, the pungent smell of garlic wafting through crevices in the huge complex. The cow ambling along the side of the road. The bikes weaving past the already speeding cab. The humungous mango tree that seems incongruent amidst the high rises. The huge moon that sends Kay and Cee into raptures at 4:00 AM in the morning. The endless tumblers of steaming hot coffee. The puran polis, the chaklis and the yummy pineapple cake. The girls turned two surrounded by extended family and basked in an abundance of love and affection. The unannounced visits from neighbors bearing gifts of coloring books for the girls and invitations to join an ad-hoc chaat dinner party. The iron-wallahs and crisp sun dried clothes. And the colors. Colors everywhere.
The mosquitoes, the unrepentant stares, the unadulterated curiosity. The head turns, the quizzical looks, the unasked for attention. The cheek caresses, the request for pictures and the questions. Oh! the questions. The swing, the slide, the carousel, the see-saw and the celebrity like status. The girls enjoyed every minute of it and lived it up like divas.
Sitting back in my seat on the final leg of our return journey, a sleeping Cee on my lap, I realized why this trip was so different. In the two weeks I was away, I did not once feel the need to check email, or read blogs. A hundred and one unwritten posts sat in my head chronicling our first trip home with the babies yet there was no compulsion to write it down, to record for posterity. No eating out, no shopping trips. Just days after endless days of being closeted with family. And tending to the immediate needs of my children.
A baby changes everything. Two babies definitely do.