We flew away from the desert and Dubai on the 31st, just in time to quietly celebrate the new year in Cochin. It was a quick 4-hour flight from Sharjah to the city on the southwestern coast of India. As we flew beneath the clouds, I caught my first glimpse of India. Rolling mountains of greenery and rivers. The sun setting over a beautiful coastline.
We landed in the evening and stepped off the plane to be greeted immediately by intense humidity and heat—it felt like Georgia in the middle of summer. Everything became sticky. The fact that I was wearing pants and a proper blouse didn’t help.
Passport control was quite easy and our luggage came eventually down the belt, although we worried for a few minutes. I was the only foreigner on a plane of 150+ people.
Just past the luggage was the customs barrier and a small room, for those awaiting arrivals. You had to pay 50 INR (1 dollar) to come into the air conditioning. Most people stood outside and waited there. But inside, waiting to pick us up with the driver, was the sweetest and funniest man that I had yet to meet.
We could see him pacing back and forth, hands behind his back, wearing khaki pants and a polo shirt, his almost-white hair combed carefully atop his head. His vision isn’t so good as it used to be, or else he would’ve seen us across the room. We skirted around the edges of the barrier, to Duty Free and to exchange money, so he wouldn’t see us just yet.
It’d been four years since Anish had last been to India. Four years since he’s seen most of his family. I couldn’t even imagine it. 6 months is too long between visits to my own Grandma.
Finally, we were done and ready to walk through customs. Anish could hardly stand the anticipation. We walked through together, pushing our huge cart piled with luggage. Anish ducked past, heading straight for his grandfather’s arms.
It was one of those Hollywood moments. The ending of a movie. The coming together of family that hadn’t been together in years. And this time, it was real life. And the tears welling up were real, and the laughing and hugging were so real that it was almost too much. My heart felt so happy to see these two together. Anish, who looks so much like his Appapa. Two peas in a pod, I could tell already. Together again.
After a hug, Appapa told me, “I’m deaf. I’m blind. But I’m not dumb!” Just the type of wit, I’d been expecting. With a hoot of laughter, he headed outside into the heat of Cochin leading the way toward the car and driver.
We followed his infectious laughter, the three of us stumbling over each other to talk to Appapa and listen to what he’d say back. He’s endearing, and you can’t help but be drawn to him. He’s a distinguished fellow, always dressed nicely with a very warm, welcoming manner. He’s always telling jokes and stories in his comforting deep voice, with a hint of a British accent.
We piled into the car, cranked up the A/C, and pulled out of Cochin International Airport, heading towards town and the Cochin Yacht Club. Heading home to another very important person, who I’d been waiting to meet and Anish had been dying to see…