Yesterday afternoon, Leila woke up from her nap in a cranky mood. The kids are sharing a room, and so when Leila woke up, Reuben also woke up, and far too early at that. We needed to pass the time somehow, and decided on one of our (meaning JP and Katy’s) favorite late afternoon pastimes: taking a short walk down the street and back. While Reuben tends to kick back and enjoy the ride in his stroller, Leila has not caught on to the simple pleasures and surprises involved in this little 10-15 minute jaunt. Leila drags her feet and whines most of the way, wanting JP to carry her on his shoulders. However, being the gluttons for punishment that we are, we took our cranky three year old out for her least favorite activity in India.
Things went mostly like usual, except that we decided to stop at a little shop on the way back to purchase some pretty paper stars. (These stars pop up everywhere this time of year, making Indian shops and streets appear even more festive than usual.) Being that we really haven’t decorated for Christmas in any way whatsoever, I figured the stars were a perfect and natural solution. The shop had a small selection of about six stars which made it easy for my typically indecisive self to decide on a red one, a green one, and for Leila to vote for a gold one.
In the short time that it took for me to choose my three pretty stars, my two pretty children- without even trying- made a HUGE impression on the young woman and school age boy running the shop. This is a common experience for us. People love our children. If I may take the risk of making a blanket statement about Indian people as a whole, I would say that they are a baby-loving culture. Add to this “fact” the exotic looking nature of little Leila’s skin tone, and the adorable charm of young Reuben, and suddenly we find ourselves surrounded by clucks and chirps, winks and pinches, (plus generously given cookies and free pieces of candy) all designed to capture the attention of one child or another. Though I’m never quite used to the effusive adoration, I have learned to smile graciously, and take it in stride.
Now, regarding the stars… as often happens in India, when it came time to pay, we did not have the exact amount for our purchase, and there was no money to make change. The young boy was promptly sent hither and yon, to all the rest of the shops on the street, to find smaller bills and some change for us. Two things happened while we waited- both very normal things. First, a wandering cow paid us a visit. As far as I can tell, the “wandering” cows do actually stay in about the same general vicinity all day, and make their way “home” to be milked in the late afternoon. I’ve seen this particular cow on our street many times, and I rather like her. She has a very lovely bell around her neck, fastened by what JP tells me is a “regular cow bell chain,” but I seriously thought it was some sort of motorbike chain. She is also adorned by a simple, but nice, seashell headband. (I tried to find her today for a glamour shot, but she wasn’t around, sorry!) She came close enough that I really wondered if she’d kiss Reuben in his stroller. Leila watched the whole thing with a good deal of interest.
And JP, Leila, and I stayed down below, waiting, and wondering what sights he was seeing and what snacks he might be given. We heard happy chatter from the women above, and then, a minute or two later, the cries of poor Reuben who suddenly realized his family was down on the street. I guess the good news is that when your baby cries in India, they quickly find mom and return the baby. Soothing is momma’s job.
Around this time the boy returned with our change, and we happily returned home with three new stars, and a handful of new friends. It pays to shop locally, I think. This time it made me remember (and hopefully helped Leila learn) about how different (but fine) the normal things are here.