We spent a day and a half in a flurry driven process of getting Vikram and his Mom ready to leave for the United States. He knew what gifts he wanted to bring home to co-workers and friends, but had postponed shopping to the last minute. So Devika and I made the sacrifice (although not much of one because it fit in perfectly with me seeing and experiencing all the markets of Mumbai). In the end, we actually got him to accompany us and in a short while found the perfect gifts.
As usual with international travel, when there are family and friends on both sides, there is much packing of items supplied by and meant for others. Vikram has a veritable queue of friends coming and going all day yesterday with things to send back to the United States to loved ones. Luckily, both he and his Mom are light packers and 2 of the 3 carry-ons could be devoted to the gifts others were sending.
It also provided me an opportunity to visit with his friends and other family members and hear their views on life in India, the best things to experience while I am here and to share histories of our respective families. It reminds me that people generally have more commonalities than they do differences. We all value good relationships over most everything else, and regardless of circumstances we have a desire to seek out and nurture the important things in our lives. Concurrently, we all get caught up in the rush of our daily activities and encounter the difficulty of prying out time to experience the joys of life. I feel fortunate that Vikram’s friends made the time to re-establish their relationship with him and connect with their loved ones in the United States because it provided me another opportunity to encounter more personally the people of India.
Visually, the streets of Mumbai seem to be endless stalls, buildings and street vendors, looming towers of apartments and corporate offices. Within all this maize of people and structures, small neighborhoods are the building blocks of this massive city. Almost anything you need for daily living can be purchased by just walking in your neighborhood. Shopkeepers know their customers by name and keep records of their likes and dislikes. They extend themselves to meet urgent needs. Devika bought her Mom some almost ready to wear new blouses; meaning the pattern was set into the fabric but still needed to be cut and sewn to her measurements. The tailor happily created two new blouses for her in less than a 24 hour turn around. Not only is our ready to wear different, but the intimacy of the small neighborhood is missing in most areas of the United States I have lived in.
I enjoyed Tipsy Pudding made by Devika’s sister. It is very much like my mother-in-laws fruited custard except Manju’s includes a nice pound-like cake on the bottom of it. Why it is called tipsy pudding is a mystery as it is alcohol free. Although, a tiny bit of rum in the cake part might be a nice add to the recipe.
A big difference for me is ironing. I do not iron at home. Even when I worked, if it needed ironing, it went to the cleaners. Here, ironing is a must. No self-respecting person goes out unless they are neat and tidy including freshly pressed clothes. So, I have been taking an iron to my skirts and some of my shirts when necessary. Yikes.
This morning came not too early. We slept late after a very long day lasting well into the next morning. Vikram and his Mom were seen safely off late last night for their trip to America. Mom wore a western outfit of slacks and a sporty long sleeve Tee. It was a first for her to be out totally in nontraditional clothing. Devika took extreme delight in shopping with her for the new clothes. Even Mom, who is about 20 years older than me, took delight in the process. Never let it be said any of us are too old to change lifelong traditions or habits.
We have booked our travel plans this morning for the rest of my stay and have decided to concentrate on seeing 3 or 4 places well rather than seeing as much as possible. We shall spend time in Rajasthan, Delhi, Goa and back to Mumbai. So much history, architecture and culture to touch and feel in so short a stay in India.