The Air Canada airline captain continued with his announcement:
“….. We have started our descent into Toronto Pearson airport…please have your Customs and Immigration papers ready along with your passports….”
An Indian flight attendant, who knew by now which passengers didn’t understand English, walked over to Nehal and his wife Geeta, and translated the announcement. His casual Punjabi attire with a loose turban and her bland Punjabi suit stood out among the mostly white passengers …a couple out of place,
He had already checked his passport and rest of their possessions. He repeated this ritual of self-assurance many times during the flight. It was his habit – to worry, to double check everything and check again.
“Look outside Geet”, he nudged his wife, probably 10th time in last 6 hours announcing the same observation, “We are flaying over the clouds.” He had always called her Geet, instead of Geeta. She did not like flying at all. Half scared and half asleep, she ignored him.
“I always knew our son will do great”, he said, trying to start a conversation, his voice filled with pride,
“What is great about dividing up the family across the oceans? We get together only when someone is getting married or when someone dies” she quipped
“Raj is probably waiting for us at the airport already,” he continued, ignoring her response.
Nehal, a middle class farmer had spent a better part of his married life raising his only son. He always wanted Raj to be ‘something big’, something that he couldn’t be – may be a doctor, or an engineer, or a captain…he could never make up his mind. His favorite time-pass was day dreaming, day dreaming about his son being a ‘big shot’.
“I hope he is in good health, he used to get so sick when he was little” Geeta said.
“He was always in good health; you just ran to the doctors even if he would sneeze.” He said with a chuckle.
“A mother’s heart…” her unfinished sentence was so complete; he knew what she meant, and how much they adored Raj as a little kid.
To this day, both of them remember all the doctors’ visits they made for Raj, when he was little, some in the middle of the nights. She used to pray all the time in the waiting room of the hospital; and he would watch the doctors, imagining a grown-up version of his own little kid. Most of the time he did not understand what the doctors or nurses said to each other; it was half English mixed with half Hindi. The diagnosis in the end always used to be something minor – a common cold, a simple rash, or mosquito bites…
“Thank God, for listening to my prayers”, she would always say after a doctor’s visit with her face toward the sky, speaking to the God directly.
“One day my son will speak English like that doctor, may be better” used to be a typical response from Nehal….
The flight landed at Toronto airport. They collected their luggage, went thorough the immigration interview and came out to the airport exit area.
They could not find their son, he was not there.
They waited. As a family from a village, they were used to waiting. They were used to much longer waiting at doctors’ offices for their son’s turn to be examined,…waiting at the bus stations,…waiting for the harvest seasons,…..waiting at the visa office of Canadian Embassy…
However, waiting for their son was not the same; the slow torture of time was much more aggravating!
Finally, after a long wait, their beloved son emerged from the far side of the lane where many cabs were lined up.
“You have lost weight!” was the first comment from the mother as she jumped him and hugged him.
They embraced and hugged as they walked out; they could not get enough of their son.
His cab was waiting in the back; Raj was a taxi driver. He had came to Canada for studies, but gave up on college after a few years. His parents did not know much about his occupation, except that he was ‘doing well’.
He started putting the bulky suitcases in the trunk while the parents looked at him admiringly– their son!
“What’s up dude”, shouted a cab driver, waiting in line behind Raj’s taxi.
“Hey Scott,” Raj shouted back after a pause, trying to avoid the conversation with the fellow cab driver.
“ Your parents?” Scott inquired, making a habitual small talk.
Raj waited, as if he did not hear him.
After a longer pause, he turned around, “No, they are some folks from my town in India; they work for my father in his farm… the servants.” He responded while closing the trunk.
His parents watched their son converse, even though they did not understand a single word of English. Pride gleaming from the father’s eyes and his voice breaking up with emotions, Nehal turned to his wife and said, “See Geet, how good English our son speaks, even better than those doctors in India!”
- The Tea Time
- The night before Babbu’s wedding
- Her first job in America
- Unmourned death of a mother tongue
- A lesson in American History
- The Arranged Marriage!
- NRI Tips: Commonsense guide for NRI marriages
- After-school daycare