In Winchester, MA, I had been the oddball kid who didn’t know the language. Therefore I was stupid. I must have believed it. I remembered crying under a tree during recess because no one would play with me. I progressed to not being included on any athletic teams in gym class. I did not look forward to the assigning of teams: one individual for both sides would be picked. Those individuals would pick the rest of their team. It was a horrible feeling being the only one left and ending up on the team that had to take me. I recall the team captain’s face as if he was just handed chopped liver.
Within two years after moving to the states, my maternal grandmother in Pakistan passed away. I had never met her, my maternal grandfather, or my paternal grandmother, all whom lived in a small village in the Eastern part of Pakistan. I had met my paternal grandfather when he visited us in India. My parents’ ancestral homes were somewhat close to each other in the desert town. Their marriage was arranged when they were in their teens and my oldest two siblings, a sister, and then a brother, were born in the village, in my mother’s home. Another sister and I were born in Bengal, India, after my parents, along with many other Hindus, moved to India. Since I had never been to Pakistan before, I had the privilege of accompanying my mother on the trip for her mother’s funeral. I guided my mother on the international flight, showing her which gate we needed to take, as she could not read English.
I spent most of my time in Pakistan with two maternal cousins, particularly the older one, closest to my age. We had fun camping out with cows and staying up to make cow patties for fuel. My grandfather would just shake his head at me and exclaim at what a girl from America was doing. He was the kindest, most gentle man I have ever known. He was a judge in his town and very religious. He spent much of his time while I was there meditating and praying at the temple in the house. He taught me how to make chai from scratch. Before we returned to the states, he informed me that he wanted to join his deceased wife and could not come to the US as I wanted. The connection and respect I felt for him enabled me to accept his desire and say goodbye. When we heard the news of his passing once we were the in the US, I did not cry. I did not feel that he was gone, but perhaps transcended to be my guardian angel.