I told Dad there would be no issue in finding me. While I peacefully mind my own business and watch the Continental ground staff load my bags on the scales, from behind I hear, “Beta! How did you get here before me?” Dad startles not only me, but the ground staff as he wheels his cart to my side. “Sir, you must stand in queue,” the Continental staffer says. Dad seems deeply wounded and I quickly interject, “Oh this is my dad, he is taking a KLM flight.” The attendant seems a little bothered with Dad and allows Dad to stand to the side.
"I thought for sure I’d beat you here, Dwarka is closer to the airport than Alaknanda,” Dad says. I nod and say nothing. I am sure Chacha; Dad’s brother was the issue. That man is constantly behind the times. But Dad gets irritated when I say anything against his brother, which I can respect. I would not tolerate ill spoken words against my brother. Then again, my brother is not an annoying, uneducated lazy slug like Chacha. I know it is very bad Hindu of me to speak poorly of my elders. But I find it hard to respect a man who took advantage of a widow.
After we finish checking my bags in, I take Dad to the KLM counter where Dad waits in a VIP line. Unlike me, they don’t really care how much his bags weigh and hand him a pass to the lounge. We arrived well in advance of take-off time so we slide through customs with ease and head for the lounge. “I don’t think they will let me in,” I say to Dad. He shrugs, “It’s India and you’re my daughter, they won’t separate us on principle like they do in America.” Well, okay, then and I follow Dad into the lounge.
Once inside Dad selects a couch and stretches his legs. I sit down in an oversized, over-stuffed chair and cross my legs. I should actually find a couch and take a catnap since unlike Dad I won’t be upgraded to Business Class. Dad gets up and gets some snacks and tea. What I want is a glass of wine but Dad is one of the few Punjabi Sikhs who doesn’t drink. In fact, Dad and Mom have never drank socially in their lives – they are true teetotalers. So I prefer to drink behind his back.“How do we know when they begin boarding?” I ask Dad. “They come tell you, I told them your flight number and mine."
An hour later I check my watch and wonder why they have not announced departing flights. This begins to make me nervous and I grab my bag, “Dad I think I should leave for my flight.” “Have they called it?” he asks. He must see stress building in my face and he gets up. “I’ll leave with you."
We walk down the stairs and into the terminal. My Continental flight is in its final boarding phase, which upsets me for two reasons. What if I missed my flight? And two, what if there isn’t space for my bags in the overhead bin? “Okay Dad, I gotta go. See you next week,” I say and hug him fast. My niece, his granddaughter, turns one in 10 days and I am going to for her birthday celebration.
I rush to the gate and wait. As the line moves along there is another security screening check point. However it is segregated. This means I move to the left and the men move to the right. Luckily the ladies queue is three times shorter than the gents and I board the flight quickly, stow my carry-ons and belt into my aisle seat.
I inhale deeply and suddenly feel exhausted by my thoughts and feelings. Unlike my flight into Delhi, I close my eyes and feel thankful to have 16 hours to sleep, detox and leave India behind. When I open my eyes, I hope I will be free of Town and Country and ready to re-enter my new life.