…and hurdles we have had…..but I’ll get to that in a minute… first, I feel like I need to address the big pink elephant in the room. Why India?
Now I have to admit, this question irritates me. In the past 2 months, whenever I mention we are going on vacation, and someone in the room says “oh yeah? Where?”, I excitedly say “INDIA!!!” and it is met by one of two reactions. Sometimes I get the, “OMG that’s AWESOME!! That’s going to be such an experience!”…but more often then not, I get….”INDIA? Why India???”…… and a stank face akin to if I had just told someone I’ve decided to get a tattoo of the Big Mac Secret Sauce recipe on my cheek. Like, you kind of want to know someone who has that …so at parties, you can be all-I KNEW THIS GIRL ONCE….. but also, you think its ludicrous and the last thing on earth you would ever do unless forced at gunpoint.
My usual answer to this question is-“because I want to go to everywhere.” And I usually get , “yeah….but…….”. But the truth is, India was a vey deliberate destination. Much like China in 2017, this is somewhere we’ve always wanted to visit. The Muppet’s take Mumbai just has a ring to it you know? ….besept we’re not going to Mumbai, but whatever.
Nicole and I had this talk the other day, “what started our obsession with India?”… Nicole said it started for her with our neighbor Carmel and her affinity for all things Bombay Company, also the Jungle book. For Gary it was the Indian friend he had as a child in 1912-kidding- he said it was because he said he was terrified to come. This was the one place that felt the most uncomfortable for him- therefore- when the opportunity presented itself, he was all in. I love that about him, outside the box is his preferred zone. For Chris it was because I said so. But for me it started with our magical small town family Dr. when I was a kid. Dr. Mary Joseph (side note, for a long time I thought that wasn’t actually her name….I thought that my grandfather was always mad at her and was cursing “Jesus Mary and Joseph” style….but it was actually her name…). My belief that she was a magical Indian unicorn started when I was 4 or 5 and had bronchitis. I remember my mom taking me to her clinic, I was having trouble breathing and must have been quite pale, so when I went in, Dr. Joseph said she had a trick that would make my skin pretty pink again-and put me on oxygen. And it DID! I watched as my skin changed color and I felt better within minutes. What a woman. I remember also, the time I was around the same age and dad was digging in our back yard because our sewer system had backed up. I went out to see him, and came back in chewing gum…..gum I didn’t have when I went outside….gum that turned my mouth white and induced vomiting. Again, after being yelled at for hours by my mother (no judgement. I would have murdered Desiray for anything near this level of insubordination) and laughed at by my sister, I was shipped to Dr. Joseph Monday morning who didn’t find this the least bit upsetting. She simply gave mom a pill, told her to make me take it, and I would be mouth crap free by tomorrow. Problem solved. She almost looked at me like, “I like this kid…she has spunk. Zero craps given-she goes her own way…” I mean most likely she was thinking, “they should be keeping this one in a cage.”….but she didn’t make me feel that way. And although my mother could never understand her accent, I always did…in I remember going with my mother to appointments just so I could let her know what was wrong with her when we left- she never understood a thing dr. Joseph said.
But then, the cement that to this day makes me think she is some sort of angel on earth, was the day I came home from kindergarden to a house full of people-all my favorite relatives….something was wrong. I didn’t realize how serious at the time, and no one seemed to want to tell me, but I overheard, my dad had been electrocuted at his job and was barely hanging on to life. In between my mom trying not to let me see her cry and my aunt Sandy handing me food and telling me everything would be okay- I heard it. The magic. The only reason he was alive was because Dr. Joseph “brought him back”. He was dead when she got there, and she refused to stop “working” on him-doing CPR the entire way to the hospital until she got him back. And that did it, I was sold. She, and clearly all east Indian “come-from-away-s” were a higher form of human. I believed she brought him back for me and my mom and sister-like she had these powers but only used them when she saw a fierce need. And we fit that bill, so she used her powers for good. And when I say I believed this, I’m not kidding. Whole heartedly. 100% certified Dr. Joseph Zealot. I didn’t even remember how much I thought of her in this way until years later when I saw her in my new hometown, shopping at winners like she was a normal human. I ran over and said, “hi-remember me?? Rick Drover’s daughter?? You saved his life.” And proceeded to burst into tears while she most likely pretended she remembered me and we hugged. I felt so in awe of this woman and as an adult, I saw her as more then just a Doctor, but a woman who left her country and came to Canada to save my dad. It was staggering how much this woman had shaped my life and future. And to me, it was a testament to the country she came from, the culture that taught her to value life and save it at all cost, and serve-in whatever capacity, a race of people she’d never met. To this day when I think of her I’m filled an overwhelming feeling of calmness and gratitude and just plain pride that I was her patient. So yeah, India-I’m coming to say thank you in some way, and to grab some of that humanity I’ve had chipped away over the years.
And this is just one of the reasons I want to see India with these eyes. I remember reading Paul Bowles as a stary eyed artist teenager-he was a bit of a dirt bag , living mostly in Tangier over indulging in drink and writing, his passion-a far culture away from England where he was born-a ballsy move by any standard-and I just thought he must be the bravest man on earth to go chase his dream. And the one quote of his that stayed with me my whole life was this:
“I’ve always wanted to get as far as possible from the place where I was born. Far both geographically and spiritually. To leave it all behind….I feel that life is very short and the world is there to see and one should know as much about it as possible….
And my favorite part:
“one belongs to the whole world, not just one part of it.”
That stuck. It still sticks. And I often wish I could tell that teenage girl that she will see the world. And she’ll know happiness that she can’t even fathom. And she’ll like her sister-and feel privileged to do it with her-and feel so much love for her brother-in-law she’ll count down the days until she can travel with him again, and she’ll make a lot of bad decisions, but the one that matters most-the one when she chooses the man she will do this life journey with-she’ll get that right. Very right. She’ll be Mrs Keddy…..And she’ll go to India…… And she’ll remember to be thankful for it every day.
Okay….I’ll stop with the overindulgence of hearing myself wax poetic- and get to the trip so far.
SO, in perfect muppet fashion, the time came for our trip and the crap hit the fan. Well, actually its been internationally hitting the preverbal fan for Like, 2-3 months. First of all the Max 8’s started falling out of the sky randomly. And we were booked on max 8 flights…so that changed the itinerary. Then, India and Pakistan decided to pick a fight with each other and start to throw nuclear weapons threats. THEN we find out that there is an election in India while we are there, nothing like a political riot situation to get the blood pumping…or spilling or whatever. OH then there was the cyclone-although that is far enough from us that we don’t need to worry. Then one of the airlines that we were booked on went bankrupt-only getting sorted out the day before we left. But then…..home decided to crap the bed. I was sitting at work when my boss walked by at about 9am and said…”oh no…what?” based on the look on my face…. I got an ominous email from Nicole- “Have you heard about Sophia?’. Sophia is their dog and reason for living- and she’s new and spunky and full of beans and a complete and utter savage. So I couldn’t even imagine what she may have done….well. she’s been telling me for weeks that their cat Speckie (killer cat. Total jerk. Diabolical) has been trying to kill Sophia. Keeping in mind that sophia will eat ANYTHING that you put in front of her….it appears speckie decided to use this to her advantage in the death war and slap shotted an ear-ring into Sophia’s mouse (china for mouth). and Sophia quickly said “thank you-don’t mind if I do.” An earing. Less then 24 hours before we leave on vacation. They rush Sophia to the vet and 2 hours later she’s in $1200 surgery after her x-ray lights up like a Christmas tree. Then, while sophia is in surgery I get the call from my congestive heart failure mom who has been nursing a cold for a few days that she’s having chest pains and cant breathe. Off to emergency to see the Doctor. Like honestly. Nicole is pretty near in tears by the time her work day is over. Sophia is going to be fine and mom will too. Just lots of bedrest for both.
So the trip morning comes and all the dogs are shipped to mom and dads. Sophia with her cone of shame, my murphy dog with his list of Meds that he has to take 4 times a day, beds, toys, pacifiers, special foods and lists of instructions. We are literally off like a turd of hurdles.
We take the 2 hour flight to Toronto and then board for Zurich for the 7 hour overnight haul. I have come to actually like these overnight euro flights- I come prepared with computer, netflix, ipad, phone, book, noise cancelling headphones, snacks, movies, lists of my hopes and dreams, origami for dummies kit, and basket weaving. And then fall asleep within 5 minutes of takeoff. Actually in all honesty….i spent the better part of the flight working on the Mamma Mia video from 4 years ago-I will debut it in a few weeks…its epic. Trust me. Lots of Gary and Chris in drag- white people dancing. It’s a whole thing.
During the flight I notice that Gary is messing with his carry on bag. Searching and searching for something. For about 15 minutes straight. I’m near ready to punch him in his curry hole on account of the noise, when I hear Nicole crying…..I start to go into “I’LL KILL WHO EVER HURT MY SISTER” mode and turn around to check on her-only to see she’s actually crying laughing. And gary has stopped rooting in his bag. It seems Nicole asked him to get the “blue ticket folder” out of their bag about 20minutes ago- and he’s been searching ever since- only to finally scream, “your going to have to find your own ‘fine tooth comb’. I don’t think its even in this bag”……. Yeah. If it isn’t bad enough that every time I say “hey siri” to my phone gary says “what?”, now the hearing loss has reached stupid level….where he can’t deduce that no where in any lifetime would Nicole ever ask him to “find her fine tooth comb” randomly on an airplane. Did he think she’d found some lice she needed to take care of? Or perhaps she needs to scour though some legal documents? Seriously.
Anyway, Landing in Switzerland is beautiful. We NEED to come back here for a proper trip we decide-its mountains and green fields seem very homey, and for a minute we are all tempted to stay- what can be bad about a country that’s claim to fame is cheese and chocolate and neutrality? Nothing. Upon landing we realize that its 7am…and the bar is open. The freakin Swiss man. They get it. So we pull up a chair and Chris and I have boujee mimosa (which we didn’t realize until after ordering was $61CAD…) and a waffle while Nicole and Gary have Nicole and Gary size beers-for $4. Its like every beer here is from Costco- just in case it might be your last beer ever. Or you need to have enough beer for your other 15 friends. And we just sit and people watch and talk about how we aren’t sure if we actually want to leave—what are we in for?
After the refreshments we slip to the bathroom to freshen up. Let me tell you- want to make some money in Switzerland? Come introduce them to Dry Shampoo…because apparently that isn’t a thing here. We start to spray our hair and all 15 women in the bathroom stare at us like we’re monkeys at a barrel party. Like, They all STOP DEAD and gape…like really? This is weird…but having a 48 ounce beer at 7am didn’t get us one strange look? We’re tempted to hold an impromptu lesson on how dry shampoo changed our lives-but decide just to just go with it. We might as well get used to it. From what we’re told, this staring thing is going to be a major part of the next 3 weeks. Plus, our hair desperately needs that powdery holy spray. So we embrace the stares and keep going, proud of our hair clouds.
We board our Swiss Air flight to Delhi and see that it is only partly full-which is really nice-no fighting over overhead space. And lots of personal attention from the Stewarts. We get settled and are served lunch pretty quickly- to our excitement- CURRY CHICKEN! And its AMAZING. Delicious and spicy-served with warm rolls and wine and strong like bull swiss beer. And little packages of ribboned Swisscheese. Its like the best of both worlds! The drink service is strong-she is through about 4 times in the first hour of the flight, giggling every time the Canadians order more beer and wine. We are in and out of sleep for what we think is going to be a 7 hour flight-but turns into a 8.5 hour flight. Not sure why-but our pilot comes on and tells us we’ve had to make a fight path change-and we notice on our screen maps that we’ve been diverted around Pakistan- not sure what has happened while we’ve been traveling, but for some reason flying over Pakistan is a bad idea right now? It’s a little disconcerting…but also feels a little safe.
Landing in Delhi is very cool-what a huge city. Its 2am by the time we get here and even at that time the city is lights for as far as you can see…and haze. Its 38 degrees here at 2am. Sounds delightful…….
We get through customs and already I can see it. I’m Indian crack. I’m all the rage in India. I’m fat and entertaining, and wearing very little clothing compared to the rest of the women here. Yup. This is gonna be the year of the Karen. Our customs officer is so sweet to me-giggling and flirting with me. I could get used to this. We grab our luggage (it all made it!!!! YAY!!), meet our greeter, and head outside…bracing ourselves for the noise and heat and smell-all the things we’ve been told will assault our senses when we arrive here. But you know what? They knew we were coming….right outside the door we take is a KFC…all we can smell is that sweet secret herb and spice fried chicken. As for the heat…oh yes…its hot. Intense heat. Between the chicken smell and the humidity, I feel like I’m being smothered to death by used KFC napkins. And I can’t say I hate it. Its doable. We board our transfer shuttle and off we go. About 15 minutes to our hotel through streets I wish I could see better through the dark. Nothing to shocking-all very much as expected. Crowded even at 2am and a vehicle free for all-made even worse because they are driving on the other side-UK style. The hotel is lovely! Very much as expected with comfy chairs lined with more pillows then anyone needs-but everyone wants. Gary and Chris are greeted-and Nicole and I are smiled at and bowed to…until nicole takes over at the counter- clearly she is in charge of our requested room upgrade and making sure we get what we want-they are very accommodating and kind-although you can certainly tell they are very much out of their comfort zone to be dealing with the woman in the family, not the man. We decide that’s a battle for another day- and just go with it. Get to our rooms and then meet at Nicole and Gary’s for the ritualistic first night drinks and giggles. We spend some time reminding ourselves of the things we want out of this trip, and the reasons we came-the words of our travel idol Anthony Bourdain mentioned- “travel isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes travel should be uncomfortable and even heartbreaking- that’s the true experience. That’s when you get the sweet stuff.” And we decide that even though we’re excited, we’re also very far outside our comfort zone…and sometimes the fear doesn’t go away. Sometimes, you just have to do it afraid. And reap the rewards.