Dear Ezra and Lian,
Every time I think about that photograph, I chuckle. There’s Auntie Beth and our friend Sarah. They have these crazy, forced, embarrassed, awkward smiles. They each have a garland of flowers around their necks. They are being welcomed by the local dignitaries from a small town near Nashik in Maharashtra. You see at that exact moment, there is a huge express train with about 2,000 people on it. They were travelling from Bombay to Calcutta. People are sticking their heads out the doors and windows looking to see why their train hasn’t been moving for the last 20 minutes. They are staring at Beth and Sarah. They are staring at me and Mommy. They are staring at your Grandpa, a bunch of police officers and dignitaries dressed all in white. On the train platform, there is a whole little ceremony taking place.
Since your Grandpa was then the Inspector General of Police for the Nasik region which included this town, he and his family had to be properly feted and welcomed. He was there to say goodbye to his recently married daughter and son-in-law. They were travelling to Mizoram. The whole time, the train conductor is pleading with us to get on the train. I am worried that the train will leave without us. Grandpa’s right hand man says a few words in Marathi to get the conductor to hold the train for us. The train doesn’t move and around 2,000 people have to sit and be inconvenienced by this ceremony. The Canadians were dying of embarrassment. That is India. Time is not as important as it is here in Canada. “Important” people have a lot of power and common people make way for them and their kids (that is, us). Ceremony is very important. No one ever stops a ceremony, parade, festival, wedding, funeral or party because it’s too much of an inconvenience, too noisy, too late, too big, or too unsafe. Everyone just steps around it.
There was nothing for me to do, but grin and bear it. I was garlanded. I gave my “Namastes”. I posed for photographs in my sweat-stained white t-shirt and dirty brown khakis. I felt sorry for the people on the train. There was nothing I could do for them, but board as quickly as we could once the ceremony was over. This is India. Anything can happen.