June 15, 2018| 6 pm
We had a four-hour drive ahead of us. But first, food. Hunger silenced us, as we inched towards dinner time. We pulled our car right over at Bollywood Grille and Bar in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and placed our order. Then came the inevitable long wait. We let our eyes wander aimlessly on the inverted glasses and yellow napkins on the next table, on the single bulb that shone light on our heads, and a wall lined with Bollywood movie posters. We attempted to guess the names. But couldn’t get past three. Soon, our table was filled with a plate of hot Indian bread with butter, and a bowl of okra gravy. Before we saw it, we smelt it. A rich aroma of garlic and spices. We devoured it. The soft buttery pieces of naan. Dark green pieces of okra doused in oil and masala. Old Hindi songs played in the background in an extremely low volume. You had to stop chewing to hear it. “Rasmalai,” we unanimously decided, once the main course was done with. An Indian dessert made with balls of curdled milk. It came in a steel bowl, cool to the touch. We dug our spoons, and scooped out a soft piece that had been left to simmer in the sweetened milk. Satiated, we got into our car, put on some loud LP music, and navigated our way to The Buckeye State, Ohio.
We spent last Friday night at my sister’s in Ohio. I slept next to my two-year-old niece. After she was done with a bottle of milk, she told me a story about a tortoise. I understood half, imagined the rest. Later, since she couldn’t sleep, she swiped through multiple rhyme videos on YouTube. At some point, she distanced the phone with a jolt. I looked at the screen, there was a dragon in one of the videos. We had to pacify her and rock her to sleep. Sometime past 3 am, I woke up to find her crying. Bawling, to say the least. She couldn’t catch her breath and wouldn’t let go of her mother. We switched on the light, and walked her to different rooms. My sister (her mom) started a story which she wouldn’t listen. Her grandma handed her a bottle of milk which she wouldn’t drink. She cried like she had just learnt how to. We were powerless. We watched as her cheeks soaked in tears. She wiped them with her hands and wiped her hands on her frock. 15 minutes later, she allowed us to put her in bed. And slowly, the monsters she had seen, vanished. Sleep and exhaustion crawled in, and she lay still for the rest of the night. The next morning, she had no recollection of the episode that had rattled the rest of us. I looked at her as she stood in the patio in her onesie, her eyes staring at nothing in particular. She looked so vulnerable, so tiny. I wanted to bodyguard her dreams, make her believe that life is like the pure white milk she drinks… until she grows up, walks beyond the little patio, and figures it out herself.
A 7-hour drive under a spotless sky
Off to see The Mistake on The Lake. A drive that started in the wee hours of the morning, is still on. With my husband behind the wheel, I at the shotgun, and a box of baked wheat crackers next to us, we have crossed many a mountain, carpets of green with match-box houses and rows and rows of trees that stand in strict attention, each competing with the other to touch the cool blue of the sky. The music has changed from the mellow Angus and Julia Stone to the more upbeat Daft Punk and then back to Agnes Obel mellow. Green, blue and orange boards whizz past us like confetti in a party, and the silver of the road stretches, winds, dips and divides like a snake made of clay. Eagles hover above like balloons let loose by mistake, and flies crash the windshield with the sound of mustard crackling on the stove.
…a couple more hours, before the journey ends. Only to start again a couple of days after.