“I can’t believe foreigners are in our apartment!”
“Won’t they think India is dirty?”
Her face wrinkles in concern as she eyes Ammu and Pattu as they soar on the squeaky swings. I look at them too and answer the girl in front of me with questions of my own. We trade replies and she runs off to join a group of girls on a mini carousel. The evening passes slowly as Saathi and I take posts on either ends of the small park and our three children try one equipment after another.
Snatches of conversation reach my ears as the girls want to know who the newcomers are, where they came from, which flat were they staying in and whom they were related too. Ammu seems unfazed by the attention as she deflects or leaves questions unanswered. Pattu strives to keep up and gives up mid way not knowing how to handle so much attention. Eventually, they settle into an unlikely comradeship linked only by play and very little chatter.
The women dot the fringe of the park and I stand a bit apart. I watch as they murmur amongst themselves. One lady breaks the silence and remarks on how pretty Laddu is. I acknowledge and move a little closer. We do the relationship dance and end up exchanging details.
It is only day two of twelve and I can see how we can fall into a pattern. It is exhilarating and disconcerting at the same time. A part of me wonders if my children will make enduring friendships or if these trips will be hazy memories that form a panel in their nostalgia collages.
We troop home to leftover food and loud TV. As the kids toss and turn with the occassional vehicle sound from the street, I am wide awake. Sleep eludes me and I reach for my phone. Scrolling through the pictures from the evening I realize it does not matter either way, my children have already been altered by these experiences. That in itself is reward enough.