Massi’s maid brings three cups of tea for Dad, Massi and me. “Namkeen,” Massi says to the maid, who nods and returns with a bowl of katha meetha, a saffron colored sweet and spicy Indian snack that yellows my fingers. “I bought it especially for you,” Massi says and smiles.
Whenever Mom or Dad return to the States from their India stays, without fail they come bearing snacks, teas and a bottle of perfume for me from Massi. I think that is how you show love. Not in the mere act of buying things for someone, but buying the intimately personal joy creating things that another person likes, that only a close relationship would know. It strikes me, Dr. Froggy, Town and Country and Tapan don’t know these things about me. And more than not knowing, they have never inquired. It's like they really don't care.
We just about finish our tea when the doorbell rings. The maid goes to let Bangalore Cousin and Bangalore Niece (Massi’s daughter and granddaughter) into the flat. “Desi Girl!” Bangalore Cousin says excitedly. I get up and walk across the drawing room. “Hai, hai! How are you?” I ask and hug her. “Shoot man, you have lost weight! You look great!” Bangalore Cousin says. This is one of the many differences between Mom’s family and Dad’s. Mom’s family is kinder and more genuine when they use their words. “It happens when you live in a City where I walk everywhere and carry my stuff,” I reply and hug my niece. I guess she’s really not my niece, she’s my second cousin or is she my first cousin twice removed? I have never understood Western genetic mathematics. All I know is I have watched this 15-year kid grow up, I love her, her mother is like my sister and in my heart, Bangalore Niece, is my niece.
“You the last time you two got together an earthquake hit India. What will happen this time?” Dad says and chuckles at Bangalore Cousin and me. This is actually true. I was in India three years ago doing my brother’s wedding shopping, the precursor to my brother’s wedding, an experience that taught me, when I get married to not involve Dad. If you look at my brother’s wedding photos my mother never smiles because she was EXHAUSTED and Dad grins like a kid through the entire album because he didn’t do anything other than fund the fete. But anyway, the last time I went to India it was October, right before Bangalore Cousin’s birthday. She was coming to Delhi to meet me, do some birthday shopping and then Bangalore Cousin, Massi and I were going to back to Bangalore for the party.
I arrived into New Delhi at some insane hour like 1:45 a.m. and went straight to sleep. Bangalore Cousin was coming in later that day so our timing was perfect. Around noon I remember feeling the bed moving and so I opened my eyes and saw the lamp shake but I thought it was jetlag. I then turned over and saw the hangers on the doorknob swaying and remember thinking, “oh it must be an earthquake” and rolled over and back sleep. Mind you I had never experienced an earthquake living in Middle America and I have no idea why I thought that. Later when I woke up Massi said, “A major earthquake hit Jammu.” Now I am not well versed in my kilometers but Jammu is pretty far away and it was pretty insane that we felt tremors in Delhi.
After Dad leaves, Bangalore Cousin and I are unpacking my clothes and hanging them in the closet. I bought a few things for her and so I pull out her train case, a jewelry box for Bangalore Niece and the MTV tee-shirt I bought for Bangalore nephew. Hhhmm. This is odd, where is the perfume I bought for Massi. I open the other suitcase and dig around and find this perplexing. I bought two perfumes and two colognes before coming and now I cannot find any of them and I know I packed them. I am very OCD, Type A, perfectionist about EVERYTHING, except my train wreck of a love life.
I feel a little panic and empty both suitcases onto the bed and start throwing my things around. “What is it?” Bangalore Cousin asks. “I’ve been robbed. I bought a bunch of perfumes and they were in bag in Newark and now they are not in New Delhi. This sucks,” I say. “Did you lock your suitcase?” Bangalore Cousin asks. “We’re not allowed to lock our bags in the US because of terrorism,” I mutter. “Now, THAT sucks,” Bangalore Nieces pipes in from the corner of the room where she is on Facebook. Agreed. It is a violation of Punjabi commandments to visit relatives and show up empty handed and thanks to the thieves in Newark I am Gauche Girl!