It is January 1, 2010 and I start the new decade with a “leap of faith”, boarding a plane to India, leaving my husband and three children for two months. I am lucky to be bumped to first class on the first leg of the trip and am able to relax, study my Bengali and fall asleep.
We land in Frankfurt and I have a 6 hour layover and take up my husband’s advice to shower in the lounge, so I start out to find the Lufthansa lounge and I remember my friends warning that this airport is confusing and huge. No problem I think, I can do this! But it does take me 3 trips around the terminal and about an hour of my free time. I also go through security 4 times but finally arrive at the lounge. There I do take that shower and emerge refreshed and ready for the last part of the journey. Boarding the plane I am once again put into first class (I can get used to this) and fall asleep for the entire flight. We land, my luggage is waiting for me – hurray! – and I walk out to find a smiling face holding a card with my name on it; he is the driver who will take me to Shamlu Dudeja’s house It is 2 AM.
This time my car ride is eventful. Cars, rickshaws, pedestrians, cows, dogs, bikes and trucks all competing for the same 12 feet of roadway. There is no rhymn or reason – one way streets become two way streets without warning, no dividing line in the middle of the road, everyone is swerving to avoid (or not) the sudden oncoming traffic and even at this time of night everyone is honking with or without reason. Traffic lights are ignored as are any road signs, it seems anything goes. I am jet lagged and realize there is nothing I can do so I laugh the whole way to my destination.
Arriving at Shamlu’s home, I am greeted with open arms, tea and biscuits and lots of huge licks from her Black Lab, Bobo. Shamlu and I spend a few hours talking well into the morning, then turn in for the remainder of the night. Tomorrow will be a big day and I can’t wait.