After a 24-hour journey, we arrived in India and things are going well despite the very hot and humid weather.
The flight to Hong Kong was uneventful. We watched many movies, ate every single meal, and slept some. I finally watched Frozen and Gravity as well as six episodes of Big Bang Theory and three episodes of Elementary season 2. By the time we arrived in Hong Kong, it was 4am PDT. Fortunately, Hong Kong is such an efficient place that from the time we exited the plane to the time we got to see my dad, it only took 15 minutes.
Reunion with my dad was so sweet. He was his usual self, warm and caring. We had dinner with him and chatted for about an hour before we headed back to the terminal. He handed me a little thermos that he thought I could use in India. Apparently it can keep beverages hot for over seven hours. He also bought me books and magazines. I really missed my dad and was so happy that the flight was on time.
Not so lucky with the second flight. Good news is that it was a direct flight. However, it was delayed. By the time we arrived in India it was already almost 1am. We had no trouble this time with our female immigration officer. It was a joke last time when we were questioned by a male immigration officer of the reason we were staying at a hotel and not at Bob’s parents. I was shocked that we had to explain our life to a stranger that had nothing to do with us. He even turned his head and gossiped with the officer across from him. Luckily, we were not subjected to any of this nonsense this time.
After we went through customs and picked up our luggage, we headed out and were greeted by staff of the hotel where we’re staying. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see such a stranger holding a sign with Bob’s name at 1:30am. All I wanted to do was to take a shower and crash. The airport was a lot calmer than the last time we were here. I couldn’t get over the image of all the people crowding the arrival hall after midnight. This time, there were only a few people.
The room is very comfortable, just like how I remembered it. Breakfast was great.
It was a combination of South Indian food, plus some Chinese, and some Western style breakfast, with a cup of Indian filtered coffee.
We took a taxi to Bob’s parents’ place. I vaguely remember the roads. Everything felt so familiar. When we rang the door bell, we were received warmly. This was so unlike the last time we were there. During our first visit, I was told not to go visit them at their place. This time, instead of being told not to go visit them, my mother-in-law this time repeatedly expressed the desire to have us stay with her. She asked me several times why we decided to spend the money on a hotel room. I just smiled and told her, “Next time”.
It was a lovely first day visit. My in-laws were genuinely happy to see their son. It warms my heart to see the bond between Bob and his dad. They pat on each other’s shoulders and smile. They chat about various different things, the kind of interaction exists only between a father and a son. I can’t help but wonder if Bob will ever get to experience that kind of bonding time with his own children in the future.
Compared to the first day of my first trip, the first day this time was much more manageable. In 2012, my MIL came to the hotel room on the first day, took us to the most crowded local street for shopping, took us to her sister’s place for a visit, and finally sent us back to her apartment at the end of the day. It was one very tiring day full of cultural shock, jetlag, being bombarded with questions by salespeople at the first shop about Bob’s marriage with me, and smiling to relatives who were strangers. This time, we went to my in-laws’, had lunch, took a very long nap, had dinner, and called a taxi to go back to the hotel. So much better.
One thing I missed the most was my mother-in-law’s home cooking. It is so tasty:
The biggest change this time was her attitude towards me. Last time she was courteous but guarded. This time she clearly sees me as family. After my nap, she took out a bunch of jewelry and offered them to me… so unlike last time! She did not offer me anything last time. Whatever she gave me, I took. Here they are:
Of course my mother-in-law is still upset about Bob marrying me. But offering me jewelry is such a huge step forward. I have no complaints about that. My father-in-law appeared more open this time. He still doesn’t directly talk to me though, which is fine by me.
It is really hot and humid here. I rarely wear my hair up in a ponytail. After I washed my hair last night, it became so frizzy that I couldn’t tame it without tying it up. We walked ten minutes to the train station in the heat and took the train which cost only 10 rupees each way. See the train without doors?
People just hang out there without the fear that they’d fall out of the train.
When we arrived at our destination, we had to take an auto rickshaw to my in-law’s. By now, we know the drill. I stay behind while Bob goes to negotiate for the fare. He got very good last time with his Tamil and was able to bargain for the local price of 30 rupees. The drivers raise their price when they see me. However, this time, he couldn’t negotiate for lower than 40 rupees. He definitely needs more practice on that.
In the evening, after another three-hour nap, we braved ourselves and went to the most crowded shopping street here.
I also know exactly what kind of clothes I want to buy this time. It felt so nice to walk into an air-conditioned department store. Although where we went was very local, I didn’t get too many stares today. I searched through racks and racks of clothes with a saleslady standing very close to me, waiting for me to make my choice. I am not used to that but I am okay with it. What I am not okay with was the second place we went to. You stand in front of the counter facing a ceiling-full of folded, plastic bag covered shirts. You rely on the salesperson to pull shirts for you and you keep on shaking your head. Nope. Didn’t make a purchase there. I did buy two shirts that I liked from the first place. It was quite an experience trying on clothes when my body was super sticky.
We had dinner at one of the chain restaurants that we frequent in the States. This is going to be one of the handful of meals that we would eat at a restaurant since we’ll most likely be fed by my MIL most of the time. Food was very good though:
All in all, it has been a very lovely visit… but also very tiring. All the people, walking, stickiness, crazy frizzy hair, thick air, jetlag, understanding my MIL’s English… Two days done already. Seven more days to go.
Finally, here is a glimpse of the night life here:
So far so good. Will be traveling to Pondicherry tomorrow, which is the town featured in Life of Pi. Thanks for reading. Good night!