Today, travel across continents is commonplace, but 20 years ago, the arrival of a guest was a time of breathless anticipation and adventure, and more so if the visitor was coming from the United States.
We were in a flurry of excitement because my best friend from school was planning a visit with her utterly adorable twin daughters, aged 8 or so. My son, at 10, was his usual apathetic self, interested only in his Xbox games and the beefed up World Wrestling Federation heroes. Girls weren’t even on his radar, and he couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about. He considered them bores and whiners, with their silly games, dolls and the tendency to squeal on him, if they got hurt.
I had been trying to get him to start conversing in English but to no avail. He would refuse to utter even a word, choosing to talk only in Hindi or a smattering of Punjabi. One day I caught hold of him and told him in a serious way that the twins from America wouldn’t be able to understand him, so he should start speaking in English. After pondering a while, this precocious brat came up to me and said: “It’s their problem, not mine. I can understand English. Tell them to learn Hindi! Touché!”
They arrived, the two most gorgeous little girls, amid enormous suitcases, cuddly teddy bears in tow, laden with chocolates and gifts, and my little boy was smitten.
Though the twins were not identical, it was hard to tell them apart. With inkblack curly hair, dimpled cheeks and frilly frocks, they were a treat to behold. He would peer at them from behind the door, listening to their adorable chatter and curious questions in accented English; and was soon very friendly with the two. To impress them, he showed them a somersault he had just learned in school.
Before we knew it, the twins, being junior gymnastics champions, were on a roll. They cartwheel-ed across the garden, did the handstand, and back flipped, much to his open-mouthed astonishment. My poor boy, with only a month into the sport, was left stunned at their contortions, speed and finesse. So much for his attempts at making an impression!
Being a Sikh household, we were all accustomed to preparing the men’s turbans in the morning, by pulling them from both sides, before the cloth could be wrapped around the head. For the little American twins, it was something new and intriguing.
On their second day, they watched, goggle-eyed, as I helped my husband with the turban, and then they enquired in all seriousness: “Pallavi Maasi, why do play tug of war with Uncle every day?” We all burst out laughing at their innocence and original take on a routine job. They charmed the entire family but for my reluctant 10-year-old, it was love at first sight and heartbreak three days later when they left, the house still resonating with their delighted squeals, giggles, and charming conversations.
The writer is a Jalandhar-based freelance contributor firstname.lastname@example.org