It had been 22 hours of traveling, three different flights, four different sleeping pills through 12 different time zones. I was a little dazed to say the least. As I walked out of the plane and followed the signs to the exit all alone, I tried to determine whether I was supposed to go through customs again. My not quite photographic memory attempted to bring up the conversations of instruction from days before while my phone remained lifeless and the chargers foreign. I passed through the gates unscathed all the while becoming increasingly gripped by panic, I had no idea where I was going and each step brought me imminently closer to the exit and with it a crowd of locals yelling in a foreign tongue. My brain reeled but it came up empty handed. I began to imagine all the worst possibilities.
That was when Anand, in a yellow shirt and kind eyes, lightly touched my arm and embraced me. With words of welcome, he began to lead me to the car. With new energy brightening my eyes and my needs met, I began to see, really see the India going on around me. We walked past all the energetic entrepreneurs searching for business to a quiet parking lot across the street. I heaved all my unnecessary luggage in the back and planted myself in the passenger seat with a sigh of relief. Anand shifted the small car into drive and handed me a ripe coconut, straw, and spoon. I immediately decided to like him. While we drove out into the hectic Pune traffic with no sense of rules or regulations or even street signs but yet an immense oversupply of honking, I got my first taste of India, sweet, delicious, and hydrating as it ran down my throat.
He proceeded to tell me about my Hindu host family, how they are close and share one bedroom, the daughters are shy, and I would live on their balcony. He honed in on their love of music and I could just hear the connection of myself and my new family through song. We recklessly proceeded through the carnal streets quite literally edging the car through three lanes of traffic coming from our left and right, narrowly missing motorcycles who swerved through the many cars and lack of lanes.
My first of many questions for Anand was how so many people can live in such close proximity and not go crazy out of their mind. He laughed, delving into the economic necessity and prowess of India as a nation, but added as an after thought, love. With love as rich as he claims it to be, I can handle some people entering my personal space.
If my first day, which started with being shaken awake by an Air India flight attendants for a meal of potato curry and ended with a bed is any indication, things are gonna be just peachy.