The pandemic of 2020 put a halt to our frequent family visits to India until 2023 when my husband and I ventured out to his family’s home in Kolkata. Emirates Airlines made it happen on the very same day that Southwest couldn’t. Masked and seated in an unusually roomy row, we felt good about things. It is a long journey and I can’t help but think about the not so distant future when a flight of this proportion may be just too much for an aging body. But not this flight. We arrived very late in the evening in Kolkata, met with perhaps the same chaos that Southwest passengers faced—only we were told there were no taxis! The driver we hired in advance informed us that his car broke down and he was busy fixing it. So we waited and fix it he did!
A very happy reunion ensued as my husband, myself and his 92 year old mother exchanged huge smiles and hugs all around. She has always been such an accepting and appreciative mother-in-law, even if I disappointed her by living on the other side of her world as a non-Indian, unfamiliar with the duties of a daughter-in-law — even more demanding than those of a daughter! Though she never shows it, I feel I may have let her down.
No sooner than when we got there, we were off to Chennai for my husband’s Sapphire Jubilee as a member of the batch of 1976 at IIT Madrass. An impressive turnout, as husbands and their wives committed to the three-day reunion, ready to party and sing! We enjoyed the adequate, even quaint, accommodations of the Taramani Guest House on campus where, for the next two days, we gathered over breakfast, lunch and dinner, birdwalks, lectures, and a tour of the impressive research center generously funded by the alumni. We were entertained by local musicians playing Hindi and Tamil soundtracks of the ‘70s on the roof top, accompanied by a glorious sunset, over dinner sharing a hearty display of single malt scotches that lined the bar.
The energetic party moved next day by non-airconditioned buses (this is southern India) to the exotic and lovely Raddison resort nestled in the sands of the Bay of Bengal, in Mahabalipuram. We continued our lively celebration of friendship through games, dinner, more drinks, and karaoke, with the beach as our backdrop as they sang along to the searing heart wrenching Bollywood love songs of their childhood!
Julie Gillern loves to travel now that she is retired from shaping the minds of her students.