DD is obsessed with Holi. She can’t wait to be covered in colors and to dance to all her favorite Bollywood numbers.
And she likes to keep a tab of who’d be joining her in the celebration. You’d think she’d restrict her count to the people she knows personally. But not really. And if you’ve been reading this column, you won’t be surprised, either.
We were waiting at the bus stop today. As usual she was busy twirling her frock around and singing some song. But she stopped suddenly and came up to me and whispered in my ear, “Mamma, is he an Indian?” She was pointing at the man who had just come to the bus stop.
“Maybe he is. He looks like one,” I said. But no, the girl needs confirmation. And what better way to do so than to hear it from the horse’s mouth.
“Hi,” she said, tapping on the unsuspecting stranger’s knee. “I am from India. Where are you from?”
The guy was actually checking his watch and shifting on his feet. It was not a good idea for DD to go check with him. He was clearly in some hurry. “Hun?” he reacted.
“Where are you from?” she persisted, undeterred.
“I am from India too,” he said, finally realizing what was happening.
“Are you from North India or South India?”
“No, do you speak Tamil or Hindi?” DD clarified. “My Mamma speaks Tamil and is from South India, and my Papa speaks Hindi and he is from North India. And because I am their daughter, I am both South and North Indian.”
There was a visible change in the man’s expression. “I am from North India,” he said softly. “I speak Hindi.”
“Then are you coming for Holi?”
At this point the man looked at me. That was my cue. “DD, please let him be. I think he’s in a hurry. Let’s not … ”
“No ma’am,” he said. “If you don’t mind, can I talk to her some more? I am in no hurry. I just wanted to make sure she was here with someone.” I nodded slightly.
“I have no plans for Holi. Where do you want me to come?” He held her hand.
“Oh, it is in Seattle and we are all going. It’s very close to my birth date, so it’s also like a birthday celebration.”
“And what do you do on Holi?” he teased.
“Are you really from India?” DD got suspicious.
“Ji Haan. Main India se hoon,” he replied in Hindi, I am from India, allaying her suspicions.
“Then why are you asking me? Don’t you know they play with colors?”
“Oh I do. I just wanted to know if it’s different when you are a North and South Indian.”
The man suddenly seemed to be completely relaxed. I don’t know which bus he was waiting for, but for 10 minutes, and three buses, he did not budge.
“Um … our bus is going to be here in three minutes,” I said, checking the app on my phone.
“Ma’am, you have no idea how much this conversation with your little daughter means to me,” he said.
“Is everything Ok?” I asked.
“I am really anxious today as my family is going to the U.S. consulate for their visa interview to come here. I don’t know how it’ll turn out. It’s been six months since I moved here and six months since holding my child in my arms. She’ll turn 1 year old next month and has started saying a few words. Your daughter is the only child who’s spoken to me here. I … I just can’t thank you enough. And this will be my little girl’s first Holi. I’ve missed many of her firsts. God willing, she and her mother will be here to celebrate with me."
“Is that your bus?” he quickly said pointing at the next bus, even as he tried to wipe a tear away.
“Happy Holi!” DD shouted as we got on to the bus.
“Happy Holi!” he waved back. “See you soon”
Dear stranger, I don’t know if we will ever meet you again. But I am sure you now know if your family will be joining you here. I hope you have a great Holi with your little angel.
Picture Courtesy: Carlez/Flickr