Thursday, October 9, 2008
This is what happens when you don't follow rules!
You remember the rule that you were taught at a very young age; "Don't talk to strangers!" Here I am...alone in a strange land, and thousands of miles away from the voice who ensured that such lessons were taught and stayed with me throughout my life.......and what do I do.....I talk to a stranger! Well nothing bad happened; as a matter of fact, breaking the rules, sometimes, leads to good things......especially when you are on an adventure! Meet my new friend Prem and his family. Prem and I just happened to be sitting next to each other on the airplane from Chennai to Delhi. It began as a typical flight.......minding my own business, seat back, and trying to catch a few winks of a nap.......then my meal came. If I hadn't mentioned this earlier, flying on any of the airlines in India is truly an enjoyable culinary experience, even in coach! Nothing at all like the US which typically gives you a free soft drink and a small bag of peanuts or pretzels......the airlines in India feed you a wonderful meal even if the flight is only an hour or so! And they even insist on giving you a choice: Indian non -vegetarian or veg.....kosher.....you name it and it is yours! But enough about that. What is important about the meal is that they also include, wrapped up in your real cloth napkin, a small package of the Indian version of after dinner mints......flavored seeds of all types, but you can mainly taste anise. They are candy coated......I think you know the stuff I am talking about. Well, I have taken a liking to these mints....and I guess I was eating them...out of sequence to my meal. My neighbor, Prem, decided to use my culinary 'Faux Pas" as a way to break the ice. He simply asked......you like our mints? I nodded and said "yes" and continued to fidget with my tray......straightening things up and just waiting for the flight attendant to come and retrieve it. Shortly after the Flight Attendant removed our trays, Prem went to the restroom and then so did the passenger to my right......I found myself alone in the middle seat. Prem obviously returned before the other passenger, and when I noticed when he returned he sought an empty seat in another row (the plane was not full). At that point, I unbuckled and moved to the window seat, and this time, I made a comment about "I think I will help us both get more comfortable since the seat next to me is vacant". That was it.....I stopped minding my business and the conversation started. Prem it turns out is on his way to celebrate his granddaughter's birthday, who was turning 4 years old. I won't bore you with our entire conversation, but Prem offered to help me search for a place to stay in New Delhi and he invited me to attend his grand daughters birthday (which I politely declined).....after we deplaned, he immediately started making calls to friends in the areas that I found to be desirable. We were waiting for our luggage and he would get a friend of his on the phone, talking in half English and half Hindi......and then he would say, Mr. Lloyd.....speak to my friend Mr. Banga. We retrieved our bags and were making our way from the airport where my driver was waiting......and I asked him how he was getting to the birthday......when he stated that he was taking a taxi, I invited him to use my driver. The plan was for my driver to drop me off at my "home/office" and then take him on to his destination, as his destination was beyond mine......but the conversation continued.....we talked about food again, work, family, travel, etc.....and then the topic of birthdays came back around. Knowing that it was his granddaughters birthday and it was also a "special day of Vijayadamshi", I commented that she must be considered very special to share a day of such importance with her birth. He explained that her Birthday and the holiday do not always fall on the same day each year, but that he too was born on a very special day according to their beliefs, and unlike his granddaugthers which changes, his always falls on the same day in August. I asked the date........and wouldn't you know it is the same day as mine, August 21st! Prem is a few years older than I am, he is 52 years old, but we do share the same day. Well......that was halfway through our hour and a half journey through the traffic of Delhi, so I wound up attending his granddaughters Birthday. I am sure that Prem and I remain friends for a very long time! Sometimes breaking the rules turns out well! Their names are as follows: Aarushi(the birthday girl), Rimjhim(his eldest daughter and mother to Aarushi), Anuraag (Aarushi's dad) and Anjali (Prem's wife)