Love and Garbage

This year, my seven-year old cousin came down to India from the United States for celebrating Diwali. He is a bright, adorable kid with keen observational powers who obviously loves being with his extended family (and our family is well extended, no doubt), people whom he meets only for a couple of weeks every couple of years. His mother stayed back in the US, for want of leave, while he cheerfully accompanied his dad to meet the garrulous crowd that was our family. The first two days for him probably sped in a haze of hugging ,cheek pinching and jet lag, and he obviously enjoyed being the darling of the crowd (who doesn’t?!). I met him as he pranced through the door of our house, excitedly showing me something on his arms. “Mosquito bites,” he declared dramatically, intently counting the red swelled spots dotting his skin, as my mom at once scoured the house for mosquito repellent and coil. He decided to spend the night with us, and throughout the night, he couldn’t sleep, with the mosquitoes causing havoc. The next day, bleary eyed, he solemnly declared to my mother “I wish God hadn’t created mosquitoes”. And I sincerely wished our civic authorities did something about the open sewage running in front of our homes and the big rain puddles that had popped out of nowhere on “roads” following the slight drizzle the day before and our people did not dump garbage right next to the empty garbage bin.
The next week sped by in a blur, and he became de facto entertainer of the family. We good-naturedly poked fun at his American accent and he made us laugh with his spot-on rendition of Indian English accent (I now wonder where he picked it up from). Toward the end of the trip, we were in our car, driving back home after yet another trip to meet our relatives, when my uncle, in a bid to stop his son from playing Gangnam Style that seemed to be on a neverending loop, asked him to spell out the major differences between India and the US. He thoughtfully pursed his lips for sometime and answered “traffic here is different”. I shrunk back in my seat, expecting him to say how chaotic the traffic is, how we never follow rules, and how traffic lights are just an adornment on the badly paved roads. He just said “the steering wheel is on the other side in the car”. As my uncle prodded him more, he was more forthcoming. “So many people in India!” he exclaimed, bobbing his head to Gangnam Style, and we smiled and nodded in agreement. My uncle tried to hide the phone blaring the catchphrase “Oppan Gangnam Style” every two seconds, and in a last, desperate bid to distract my cousin, asked him what else was different. He hesitated for sometime and then replied “It stinks here a lot”. My uncle (probably in consternation),shot back, saying it also stinks sometimes in the US. “But not all the time…” my cousin whispered to his dad. I fell back lower in the seat as an uncomfortable silence descended in the car. And as my cousin left for the US, only after extricating a promise from his dad that they would definitely return again next year, I wondered what his memories of this trip would be. Would it be the warmth and love of his grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins? Or would it be mosquito bites and dirty roads reeking of garbage? I wonder…

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2 thoughts on “Love and Garbage

  1. Ah, the memory of the Memories. I hope your cousin went away with a smile on his lips!

    PS: I vaguely remember that you are Chennai-based. It so happens that I’m visiting your town for a few days. Do let me know if you wish to catch up for coffee. (Do pass me an email id, couldn’t find it on your blog, (or maybe I just missed it due to sheer laziness)).

    • Ha! Lin, you do have a great sense of humor… Just so you know, I have been the sole reason behind the closure of several coffee shops across Chennai.
      P.S. Its the Kaffeine.

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