When children are abroad their annual or biannual homecoming is eagerly looked forward to by parents.
Plans are chalked out and a variety of lists are drawn up — places of worship to be visited and quick pilgrimages to be made, aunts and uncles and cousins to be looked up, jobs to be done — bank papers, loan applications, attendant documentation, favourite foods to be cooked, not to forget a quick holiday to some place close by where the youngsters want to do nothing but chill and, if of marriageable age, even a list of prospects is lined up. All this in a matter of 10 days or two weeks at the most — not counting jet lag and time zone adjustments. Homes are vacuumed and spring cleaned so that there isn’t a trace of dust for our children, even if raised in the dusty cities of India, can’t handle a speck of dust (brings on a volley of sneezes) once they have lived abroad. Mineral water is stocked up — not for them the dubious can water that we sometimes drink for who would want to risk stomach bugs and the like?
Prayers are said for an on-time landing without baggage losses because all that would cut into the 10 days that one has on hand. There is usually a scramble for going to the airport to receive the guest because that would mean a few more minutes spent together.
Once the guest is spotted the endless chatter begins on the drive home about how the cities have changed, about the journey and whether the youngster looks any different. Bags are unpacked and gifts distributed, grandparents who couldn’t make it to the airport are hugged — while becoming too misty-eyed and choked to speak. No one wants to retire for the night.
Then begins the execution of the plans. Arguments usually erupt because Gen Next has no patience for jostling pilgrims, long queues and wants to do things differently. Parents feel guilty. This was a holiday in which there weren’t supposed to be any arguments, right? Quick resolution happens (where is the time for cold wars now) after dinners at favourite eat outs and the countdown begins for the child to return.
Everyone is mixed up. The child loved the change but is looking forward to go “home”. The parents loved having the child over but can’t sustain the hectic pace for over two weeks. Soon it will be back to Skype and email. Photographs are clicked on mobile phones to recapture and revisit memorable moments. And the drive to the airport begins. It is much quieter this time except for the usual parting shots. “Call frequently,” “eat well,” “take care.” As one waves goodbye to the figure fading in the distance it is time to make plans for the next holiday.