In the year 1970, when Maya got a full scholarship to graduate school in America it was considered special. They had no choice but to let her go. Her entire family, and then some, came to see her off at New Delhi airport. They carried garlands, sweets, books, cards and gifts.
“Study hard and you will be back in no time,” Papa said.
“We love you,” mama dried her tears “and make sure you remember to eat.”
“Bring me chocolates,” said little Tinku, not letting go of her shawl.
Grandma rolled up her wheelchair, put a tilak on Maya’s forehead and said “Here, hold this marigold in your hand. Later you can put it in your purse.”
Uncle, Auntie, baby Mira, even big brother Arun, handsome in his uniform, took special leave from military academy to be there.
“So proud of you,” they said laughing and choking at the same time.
Maya hugged, kissed and cried but couldn’t wait for the goodbyes to end so she could get on the plane.
When Air India Flight 308 landed in JFK, on time and in its usual runway there seemed a stillness to it. Maya, got out and looked around. Not one single familiar face. No one said “Hello! Welcome to America.”
“Excuse me, ” said a kindly looking old man.
“Hey, wait in the corner. You are blocking everyone.” This woman was in a hurry, the New Yorker Maya had read about.
Maya pulled out the admissions office letter. She knew it by heart but it gave her something to do. “From JFK, go to Penn Station and catch the Long Island Railroad to your university stop” it instructed.
No paper could have prepared me for this thought Maya. Anonymity at best, annoyance, even rage. Everybody hurrying past, unconcerned, uninvolved.
It’s as if there is lead in my feet. When there is nobody keeping me here, I cant get myself to move, so opposite of Delhi where surrounded by loved ones, I couldn’t wait to leave.
But, 10 minutes later, Maya walked confidently to the curb and waved her hand.
“Taxi!” she said.
Assignment – Give and take – write about opposites using dialogue