The second Sunday of May is upon us. It is observed as Mother’s Day in Japan and India. This day has special significance for me despite my lack of enthusiasm for such events.
Your school calendar included a 50 day summer vacation starting from first Sunday for seven weeks. After spending first few days of your vacation preparing for your journey abroad, closer to the weekend, I would find you arriving at the Narita or Heathrow airport! The second Sunday of May would then be our feast day after you had dealt with your jet lag and travel fatigue not to mention some local food shopping because my bachelor accomodation did not stock any decent food.
You got friendly with a Japanese lady who did not speak any English during your first visit. Both conversed in sign language adding a slow, loud soundtrack to what should have been a silent movie with faint hopes that foreign words would somehow seem familiar to one another. Do you recall my joke about confidently talking to her in Hindi instead?
The second floor tiny studio divided in three parts with flimsy partitions to separate kitchen, storage and living area welcomed you on your first trip abroad. It was the site where I prepared the only meal for you ever. I had serious plans to give you some time off by taking over the kitchen during those six weeks. You have always appreciated my efforts irrespective of the quality of outcome. That meal may perhaps be the sole exception. You informed me in no uncertain terms that I should not try to pass off the atrocity I cooked under the guise of edible food. OK, I exaggerate! After that it was your kitchen and I always stayed a few feet away. It could have been further but I was primarily restricted by the size of the abode.
Three weeks later, we moved to Shin-Nakano to a slightly more spacious studio on ground floor. You shook hands with your Japanese friend and somehow conveyed that you planned to stay in Tokyo a little longer but were leaving that area.
You visited Tokyo twice and lived at three different places. The final choice met your approval. A two bedroom apartment with our own furniture, a bedroom where you sleep on a conventional bed with a bye bye to futons.
We followed a routine in those 12 weeks. Five days of work followed by routine shopping-n-sightseeing around Tokyo on Saturdays and travel to nearby locations on Sundays. You had Indianised the Japanese names like Ikebukuro, Akihabara, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ginza, Asakusa, Ueno etc. Once we visited Tokyo Tower. Neither of us knew then that a few years later we would visit Eiffel Tower too. A large picture of Mona Lisa purchased in Japan used to be a part of our living room wall in Pune. Did we ever imagine a visit to Louvre to sight the original? I remember the surprise on your face as you saw that tiny version guarded by security. You expected it to be at least as big as the one at home!
We visited the beautiful shrines of Nikko and the Buddha statue at Kamakura. A visit to Hakone included riding train, bus, boat, cablecar and ropeway on the same day. At Tobu World we took your picture against several landmarks of the world. There was a visit to Hakkeijima where we saw our first dolphin show and an aqua museum including a sharp drop from the Blue Fall and some traditional park rides. Then we visited Tokyo Disneyland for some more rides. A Jungle Cruise, a Railroad, the Riverboat, some island rafts, the flight of Peter Pan and a peek in the haunted mansion. I tried to keep you away from the scary rides but once you enjoyed the Splash Mountain, I queued for the Big Thunder and Space Mountain. But the highlight was the final ride on that day. The one you wanted to cover all day and I kept hushing you to avoid. It is the ride, I feel, which your grandson is likely to enjoy today. Till date, it is the most adventurous ride I ever had. The ride as sweet as the Second Sunday of May, “Dumbo, the flying elephant”! You keep teaching me how to live my life. Thanks for persisting that day. That final ride encapsulates all those years in Japan.