The weather changes overnight. The sun hides behind a tuft of clouds, swallowing with it all our weekend plans. Trails, waterfalls and lakes would remain unchecked on our to-visit list in Cleveland. What we do instead is cozy up in the living room of my sister’s house, and watch TV, drink hot milk tea, and munch on a plate of yellow banana chips. While the niece is asleep, we, a big fat family of six, take out a pack of playing cards, and engage in an intense game, that is stopped midway for food. Soft white cumin seed rice, hot and bubbling chick pea masala, and ghee-laden sweet porridge.
Night sets in. Eyelids heavy, the distant music from a chime outside lullabies us to sleep. In no time, we are woken up by the clatter of plates, creak of doors, and a stream of conversation just outside our room. My husband and I step out to see a long table arranged with an assortment of fruits, flowers, new clothes and ornaments, a stack of one-dollar notes, photos of Indian gods and goddesses, and a brightly-lit lamp — a quick vision of what prosperity looks like.
It’s the festival of Vishu. For people from Kerala, a State in South India, it’s our New Year. With the sound of birds chirping outside, mixed with groggy whimpers of my niece, and the frequent yawns by everyone else, the 5 am club soaks in the beautiful arrangement, clicks a couple of photos, and disperses. An hour or two later, the members regroup, this time in traditional saris and dhotis, and completely awake, to welcome the year with warm wishes, laughs, food, and photos.
On the next day, our tummies are heavy, so are our hearts. Three big suitcases stare at us ominously from the corner of the bedroom, where my parents slept and woke up everyday for the past five months. And now, the thought of an ocean’s separation between us and them, breaks the dam that I always thought was well built. Hot salty tears run down my cheeks, as I see them being taken away in wheelchairs, at the airport. My dad’s follows my mom’s. From between a curtain of tears, I catch a few quick hand waves from them at the security check. And then a last one before they vanish behind a grey wall. Just like the sun. The source of all the light and warmth in our lives.