The kids sleep in my old bedroom. I sleep in the guest room. There are rooms to spare and we spread our things across the house knowing it will take hours to find them again when it is time to leave. My parents get up in the morning and do the same things they have always done. Dad’s arms sway up and out and down to the floor. He stretches to get the blood flowing. Mom lights the candle on her altar, says a quick prayer under her breath as the kettle sings its insistent song. “I am ready! I am hot!” She makes the first of three cups of morning coffee. Each one will be left in an unknown location in the house, two-thirds full, stolen away by the coffee elves. The kitchen smells of incense, and cumin, and burnt toast. The floor is cold. My kids run around, and around, and around from the kitchen, into the hallway, into the dining room, and back into the kitchen. Outside, I hear leaves rustling, acorns drop, birds twitter.
For the first week I am groggy. Day is night and I cannot keep my eyes open. I have never been good at dealing with changes in sleep. The air is thick with the smell of dust, and sun, and people. Vendors sell vegetables and hot chai. They sing their insistent songs, “Hot chai! Ready! Good price!” I roll out my mat to sleep on. The floor is hard, but I soon become accustomed to sleeping this way with my cousins nearby. I wander the streets during the day, to market and back. I am absorbed into my uncle’s family. We catch auto rickshaws to go to see a movie. The roads are jammed with people and cars and motorbikes and animals. I can hardly hear myself think.
The sun pours in through our windows into our living room, amplified by the yellow of our walls. It is a cozy apartment. Living room bleeds into dining area into kitchen. Two tiny bedrooms tucked away at the back of the apartment hold all our things and all our dreams. High shelves keep cherished books away from tiny hands. On nice days, we choose which playground to go to. Our playground? The school playground? The far away playground? On rainy days, the children roam the hallway in our building, imagining worlds behind doors. Outside, birds, sirens, hammers, helicopters, and neighbors all shout for attention. “We are here! See us working!”