Quick update: I'm home from India, and I'm sick. Boo. I was keeping illness at bay successfully the entire time I was away, and I was doing really well until the final flight from Heathrow to Newark. I have a cold, no big deal, but then I was stuffed up on a plane and my sinuses are not happy about all that.
I'm happy to be home, though it feels surreal to be back where everything is the same. Everything I saw, and did, and experienced has changed me, and I almost have reverse culture shot. Food tastes bland, colors seem dull. Of course, my nose is stuffy so I can't smell, which makes food taste bland, too. So more sleep and Sudafed Sinus for me. My phone is dead; my charger still packed, and my ability to talk about everything with Joel is faltering. I'm trying. Meanwhile, here's something I wrote on the plane shortly before starting sneezing...
That's how much battery power I have left on my laptop. It's an interesting writing challenge. How much can I tell you about India before my laptop dies? I got on the plane with best of intentions. A fully charged laptop. Work to be done. Stories to tell. Photos to edit. But Aristu, my friend Hema's 3-year-old, was his sunny chatty self. He is bright, chatty, polite and inexhaustable. You add in a non-stop dose of attention from his grandparents, great-uncle, doting cousins and a cadre of India house servants who ADORED him nonstop... Aristu was smothered with love given from the purest place in everyone's hearts.
You multiply the cacophony of a traditional intergenerational family home by the logistic nightmares of a five-day wedding for 400 guests elevated to the power of Diwali in a culture where children are hand-fed until about age 5 and factor in jet lag and breaks in routine and by the time Aristu reacted to his 3-year-old cousin Tilli stealing his stuffed crocodile by biting her (not hard enough to break the skin), I was completely and totally not surprised.
For the record, I bit P@trick M!iller when I was 3 after he stole a block from me at playgroup. Last I heard, he was a drug addict. I'm not saying the two events were related. Just FYI.
The bottom line is that by the time Aristu barfed in the cab just outside the airport in Dehli, his parents both really, really needed a break. This whole international travel thing? Is a whole new ball game with a child. To use the language I've been carefully censoring for two weeks: Hol-y Shit.
Aristu really, really, really- and I mean REALLY needed to watch Ice Age 3, and my laptop was the only place that was going to happen. I handed his mom my headset, an eye mask, a travel pillow and said, "I've got this. You're on a break. We'll talk somewhere over Western Europe." She laid her head on her husband's shoulder in a row of their very own, and Aristu was my buddy for the first 8-hour leg of our 18-hour journey home.
Two showings of Marmaduke, half of Ice Age 3, a 90-minute nap, one mad dash to a ladies room while the rest of his family still going through security, one round of "Let's make a Deal: The Picky Eater Pre-Schooler Version," four imaginary shark sightings, a failed attempt at a puppet show sponsored by the Virgin Atlantic Standard Issue Red Airplane Sock Repertory Company, three potty breaks, and a modified English/Urdu semi-game of Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes with a little Sikh kid later, I didn't even mind when he puked in my lap during the landing, somewhere at around 71 Bottles of Beer on the Wall.
There is a time when this would have set off my gag reflex without mercy, but not anymore. That is how I now know I will be able to change diapers without puking on Joel's and my hypothetical future child. If you've every heard the horrible, involuntary retching that I'm capable of, then you know how big of a milestone this is.
For the record, there was also a stunning solo performance of "The Wheels on the Bus" that went on for an unprecedented 13 verses, including the improvistional and ground-breaking debut of "The Nani on the bus says, 'Eat some ghee'" with a "'Tilli on the bus says, 'Don't bite me'" encore. To the passengers of VS Flight 030 from Indira Ghandi International Airport to London Heathrow, I am so, so sorry you had to hear me sing.
Anyway, Aristu's projectile vomiting is also how I now find myself wearing $135 Juicy Couture sweatpants from Heathrow's Harrods stall. There were literally no other pants to be purchased, except for more expensive items at Chanel, Burberry or Prada. Dear Heathrow Duty Free: TRY SELLING SOME INEXPENSIVE PANTS, FUCKERS. There was one bright shining moment when I lunged hopefully at a set of Hello Kitty pajama pants, only to discover that they were dishtowels. The Juicy Couture sweatpants are courtesy of my extremely grateful, well-rested friends, with a promise from me to try to sell them on eBay and give them whatever I get for them.
For sale: Geniune Juicy Couture sweatpants, size L/XL,heather gray, worn only once on airplane. My laptop power is now at 3 percent, and I still don't know how to start talking about India, except to say that the puppy that I saved from being hit by a car at the engagement party GOT HIT BY A DIFFERENT CAR FOUR DAYS AGO.
Jesus Christ. The pup was bark-screaming in the middle of the road while twelve men stood around awkwardly staring at the mama dog alternated between pacing, licking her offspring and HOWLING at the sky. The puppy lived because the car only hit his paw. There's no such thing as a run-in-of-the-mill vet in India. I tried. Oh, believe me, I tried.
The mama dog at least let me get the puppy out of the middle of the road. He whimpered in my arms while I ran my hands over his hips, ribs and ankle joint. He only bark-screamed when I touched his paw. For the record, if I never hear a dog scream again, that's fine by me. My hosts think I'm bananas, but I checked him every day since. Finally yesterday before I left, he was putting weight on the injured paw and seems reluctant to come out from under the makeshift plywood bench, which means he's not in the street. Definitely a good thing.
Now, I need to see about some more medicine.