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Strangers Becoming Family

By Elizabeth Decker

It’s an early May evening, hot and humid. Offices have closed, shops have opened and crowds overflow the sidewalk. People risk their lives using the edges of roads to maneuver around the press as buses, motorcycles and Ubers slow to a crawl, impatiently blowing their horns. The local tea stall is full of customers enjoying strong, sweet cha served in disposable clay cups, the ground nearby littered with broken shards but those will disintegrate with the first good rain. A “chaatak”, rain bird, trills, signaling the hope of monsoon. It’s probably still about six weeks away, but the bird’s song and the branches of the mango tree, bowing with ripening fruit are sure signs that the rains will come. The crowds are artists and musicians, café owners, and writers, living in this neighborhood of a familiar Indian city where I’ve rented an apartment.

It’s been eleven years since the death of my husband. Eleven years of learning how to be a widow in India. Eleven years of reviving old dreams. The decision is made. I have walked out of the mountains and back to the city. I’m so aware that I can’t go back to the days when my husband was with me. But I never imagined that I would give up the safety of my tiny hilltop cabin, perched on the edge of a Himalayan expanse, surrounded by friends who walked the rough, mountain roads with me and shared untold cups of ginger honey lemon tea at quaint roadside tables. I couldn’t imagine that I would actually have an apartment in one of the creative centers of this mega-city, that I’d walk these streets and lanes meeting and smiling at new faces. How could I have ever known, that a new season of creating capacity for artistic expression within a new community, would create capacity in me, to once again open my life, my table and my heart to strangers who are quickly becoming family?

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