Adventures in India with 8-Year-Old Fearful Flyers
In June 1997, my father called one Saturday evening and said, “In your mother’s and my ongoing effort to spend your inheritance, we’re taking the family to India for Tony’s wedding.” Tony’s real name is Rakeesh, and he comes from Amritsar. He is the brother-in-law of my father’s partner in medical practice in Ohio. Tony was then living in Cleveland and was to be married in Bombay. We would all be there: My parents, their five children, and their assorted spouses and grandchildren – 14 people in all.
We had known our Indian friends for more than 20 years, and they had become a part of our family. My parents had made a couple trips to India, and I had dreamed of going, but was resigned to just dreaming. Now it was happening.
The trip was a jaw dropper, filled with incredible sights and sounds: the opulence and squalor of Bombay, the Taj Mahal and the onslaught of beggars in a foggy Agra train station, timeless Jaipur and the Rambagh Palace Hotel, a cozy guest house and a round of golf at the Delhi Gulf Club on Christmas Day, and finally, a long delay when we got fogged in at Delhi Airport trying to leave. Mind-bending.
My twin daughters Erica and Alexandra were 8 years old in 1997 and had never even been close to an airplane, let alone flown one halfway around the world. During the six months between my father’s announcement and departure day, they alternated between excitement and dread. When dread began to get the upper hand, we had them write lists of their fears. The top four were: starving to death, “Indian guys,” turbans and flying.
Starving was ridiculous. They had eaten Indian food with our friends many times and like it. We pointed out that “Uncle” Tony and many of our other good friends are Indian guys. And turbans are just special hats.
The only real challenge was helping the girls overcome their flying anxiety. My mother came up with a great idea: She wrote a step-by-step first-flight manual. The manual defined dozens of terms, explained terminals, customs, and preflight instructions, and, in general, provided a great introduction to the air travel experience.
The girls obviously studied well. Erica turned to me on our way from the gate to the runway and announced authoritatively, “Dad, we’re taxiing!” Both greeted my mother the first morning in Bombay with, “Grandma, we loved flying!”
Most Sincerely Yours,