The kids and I flew back to Vancouver, Canada this week for vacation. We flew via Hong Kong and on the Hong Kong - Vancouver leg the kids sat together and I sat behind them. I was surprised when an young Indian woman travelling alone came to sit next to me. She wore a beautiful blue and red sari with copious amounts of Indian jewellery: elaborate earrings that wound up over her ear to the back of the her earlobe and dangled almost to her shoulder; gold rings; and red, blue and gold bangles on both arms from wrist to elbow.
Great, I thought, we have something in common - we both live in India. We'll actually have something to talk about. So I asked her right away, "Where are you from?"
And she said..."Canada."
"Oh." darn, that's boring, I thought.
We didn't say much after that and I couldn't quite figure her out. She ordered a special meal - veg Hindu and when the rest of our meals came (mine was chicken) she put a scarf over her face and looked like she was going to throw up.
After that I filled out my immigration card and then she asked if I would help her. I realized her English was limited. But this is a good way to find out about someone. It turned out she was from India but going to live in Canada with her husband who was already there. An arranged marriage? - not sure. Had she even met him? - I never found out. But we went through the questions which I felt a little weird asking.
"Do you have any weapons or firearms?"
She gave me a quizzical look.
"Guns, do you have a gun with you?"
Another strange look and she said, "No."
"Have you been on a farm or going to visit a farm?"
This produced a blank stare and I thought that must seem like a strange question if you don't know the basis for it. Then I thought of a line one of my friends in Bangalore said once, "India is like one big uncontained farm - look at all the cows and animals running around loose!"
So we left a few questions blank, I figured an interpretor would be best.
By the time the second meal came I had a stomach ache and couldn't eat anything. She nibbled at her veg Hindu meal and the smell made me feel worse. But when the mass of sausage and bacon was served to everyone else the both of us held our scarves to our faces and tried not to throw up.
Just before landing she got out her compact and rebraided her long hair. She looked like an Indian bride except for the color of her sari (blue instead of red). I couldn't imagine what her situation would be like, to travel to Canada alone and make a new life with a new family.
"Welcome to Vancouver," the pilot announced when we landed. She and I looked at each other and she took a deep breath and gave me full smile.