The days preceding a trip are always punctuated by screaming matches (him + me), sulks (me), moody glares (him), sudden interrogations (him), impatient explanations (me) and a haunted, stressed expression on her face as she tries to soothe both of us. "Him" and "Her" referring to my parents.
He asks if I've taken care of all the bookings- tickets, accommodation, transportation, I say "Yes" through clenched teeth. I make the mistake of saying we wouldn't be booking a hired vehicle to take us around because auto-rickshaws are cheaper and as convenient. She gives me a, "Why do you taaaalllkkk?" look as he starts to rant on and on about girls being abducted right off the street and raped as they wait for autos. I interrupt him mid-flow to say that, fiineee, we'll book a vehicle to take us around. She quickly uses the momentary lull to tell me that my safety's more important than saving a few rupees. He moodily mumbles, "She'll say yes, but she won't, and she'll use the money to buy useless stuff".
How well he knows me.
Of course I protest at the lack of trust he shows me, eventhough he's totally on the mark. Before things get too heated, she asks me to go boil tea, while she soothes his ruffled feathers.
He tells my sister to call me back after I've gone back to my room. I shuffle back resentfully, acknowledging my mom's silent plea to be patient. He pontificates about the procedure for booking a room at Mizoram House and I say, frigidly calm, that yes, we're aware of the procedure, and that we had taken care of it a couple of days back. He nevertheless calls a colleague of his who has a contact at Mizoram House to confirm our booking. He catches a glimpse of me sulking, and turns exasperatedly at my mom, asking how the hell they managed to spawn such an unorganized daughter as I. I splutter to her that I had already taken care of all the bookings, and my poor mom, caught between the crossfire, accidentally (on purpose?) spills her tea over herself. And then he fusses over her, as I quickly mop up the spilled tea, our little fracas forgotten.
Our flight leaves at 3:50 pm. He tells me that he'll tell the driver to come at 1pm, and to be ready by then. "But that's too early! It takes only an hour to reach the airport, what will I do there?" I wail. "Any thing can happen on the way! Better to arrive early than late" he hollered back. Instant flare-up from both of us. I realise unwittingly then how much I take after him. She interjects, "How about 1:15?" We both agreed.
He paces back and forth. "The driver drinks sometimes. What if he stops for a drink on the way and they have an accident? Or if the delay causes them to be late?" And she says, "When he arrives, we'll have to tell him firmly not to drink or stop on the way, then".
He resumes pacing. "Today's a holiday. We should both drop her at the airport".
He then turns to me, "You never think things through. Now I have to cancel our planned visit to the farm". Before I could protest at the unfairness of that statement, my mom again assigns me some task to take me out of the way.
In my room later, I hiss at her- "Why does he always have to behave like this when I go somewhere? I'm 29! And he treats me like a child! He says I'm irresponsible, but how am I ever going to become responsible if he keeps on treating me like this!? That's it, I'm not going. In fact, I'm going to get married and leave you all!"
"Just be patient for a while longer. The ordeal's almost over and then, when you get there, you can buy lots of books and clothes and eat all those roadside food." And like a child, I am calmed by my mom's promise of books, clothes and food.
Before we set off (at 1:30. She has a wonderful way of creating subtle delay tactics), she sat us all down for a little prayer. And there, she gives vent to all her unspoken complaints and fear. She chats with God about my dad's tendency to be over-protective, and my inability to respond calmly. She then tells Him of allll the dangers that could befall me, and asks Him to protect me from all those- traffic and aircraft accidents, misplaced luggage, forgotten items, thefts, rapes, cold, muggings, squabbles, indigestion etc. All the while, dad's impatient foot-tapping was echoed by mine.
On the way he tells me for the nth time to not go out after dark, to not open our room to strangers, to always lock the door, to be careful from theft, to be always aware that I was travelling for research purposes and not for fun etc.
I sighed in relief when my plane finally took off.
Then I glanced down at the ground and thanked God for my father who continues to always look out for me, and for my mom for managing us both so wonderfully.