As I tugged along my 18 month old baby in my arms, I sighed a heave of relief on stepping upon the expansive shores of the Golden Coast safely.
I was anxious about travelling with a toddler for the past several months. It was the first international flight experience for both of us and I was praying everything would go smoothly. And it did! No toddler tantrums, no crying and wailing, no lost travel documents, baby and me, no missed flights! Everything on point! Finally, we were here in California! All safe and sound! In one piece!
My heart leapt when I saw my husband waiting for us as we arrived. Here I was managing the luggage cart on one hand and keeping a watchful eye on my hyperactive toddler on the other hand.
My husband was thrilled to see us as he was living alone for the last 4 months. My daughter immediately sprung into his arms and kept narrating all about her daily ritual to him in her toddler language – ´Bath-Wataahh-Shoap-Shampoo-Poo-Poo´ with animated gestures and extrapolated expressions. My husband and I exchanged glances as we smiled in silent unison. It was just the three of us as a family in a foreign land.
When he left for office the next morning, I heard a knock on my door. I opened and saw a woman who introduced herself as the spouse of my husband´s friend. I let her in my house that day and later in my heart forever! A Kannadiga Brahmin lady! She was my first friend in California. Soon, she introduced me to the Indian community within the apartment complex and we all got acquainted to each other.
Living abroad has it own charm and perks. In the six years of my stay there, I have had a diverse range of friends – from the Indian diaspora itself and beyond. There was no one type for me. I could blend with a Kannadiga Brahmin with as much ease as with a Palestinian, Mexican, Vietnamese, Gujrati, Tamilian or Pakistani.
There was so much to learn from all of them. What I learnt was that underneath all that racial and cultural diversity lay similar human emotions that bonded us despite the obvious differences!
I listened to fascinating childhood stories from Palestine and the conflict with Israel from my dearest Palestine friend´s narrative as we broke and ate some home-baked buns. It was a spectacular experience being friends with a spunky, vivacious 50 year old woman and mother of 4 children who wore tank tops, mini skirts and drove her SUV like a dude. I slurped on the most heartwarming Vietnamese soups as my Oriental friend poured out her thoughts and heart to me. I will never forget our last day before we parted. She narrated a touching poem in Vietnamese to me and translated it in English, word by word, line after line! I drew the Catholic connections and traditions that I shared with my Mexican friend finding statues of the Virgin Mother Mary and The Holy Rosary displayed across her bedroom walls. I couldn´t help thinking how similarly decorated my mother´s home was back in India.
In the six years of our stay, we moved and shifted cities, states and finally returned to our homeland, India. What this meant was heartbreak time always when it came to muttering the dreaded word -´Goodbye´. There were tears, farewells, hugs, gifts exchanged and a nagging question at the back of our minds about the future status of our relationship.
When we moved to Wisconsin, it was a wholly radical change from sunny California. I found a wonderful set of bubbly, kind and cheery friends all over again. There was love, conversations, memories made and laughter, lots of them! When it was time to move back to India, it was the same story of tears, hugs, kisses, farewells, gifts and the doubt of the future of our relationship. It was heartbreaking to say the least. I did not want to part and I kept thinking on my flight way back home, ´Would I fit in and find such a wonderful mix of people with wholehearted acceptance and this much fun again?´
What I quickly discovered was that my fears were completely unfounded. I met so many new wonderful (and few ´not-so-wonderful´, actually terrible) people in this one year that have put all my unfounded fears to rest.
But the most important discovery was this! True friendship never dies! I met an old friend from college after a decade recently and it seemed like we had never parted at all. Nothing has changed at all between us. In fact, it has gotten better like fine, aged wine! We have our next generation of children as thick friends just like us . And, its been exactly the same case with my other old friends. Nothing has changed despite the time and distance between us in those ín-between´years.
My friends in America keep coming back to my mind often. And, while it brings a sense of sadness that I cannot meet them in ´flesh and bone´ all the time like I could, it leaves me with joy and a sense of gratitude as well – ´Of meeting them, knowing them and always having their friendship forever.´
People don´t remember what you said or did. But, they remember how you made them feel.These wonderful friends have always made me feel at home and like family. And, for that reason alone, I feel a huge surge of gratitude for them. You don´t need to explain anything to your friends. They understand you. Period!
Saving the best treasure for the last! I met my best friend on 5th August, Friendship´s Day. My eternal lover and dearest husband, Ryan! It is a nice coincidence for sure! Many people have asked me how I met my husband and my answer always is this – ´Divine Intervention´. It most definitely is! Like all the other friends who have come into my life. I firmly believe is by some unexplained (I would choose to simplify it by calling it Divine) intervention or conspiracy.
Friends come in all shapes, sizes, genders and hearts. All we need to do is hunt for these gems. It is a fun activity..this treasure hunt! The only thing to bear in mind before you embark on an adventurous treasure hunt is this wonderful quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson –
´The only way to have a friend is to be a friend.´
‘I am taking part in The Write Tribe Festival of Words #6‘
#writetribe #writebravely #Friendship