By Ruth Madison
Copyright 2011 by Ruth Madison
Priyanka spent most of the flight from Bangalore to Boston, stopover in Germany, silently observing the people around her. She had never been on a plane before and she didn't know anyone, but she had learned that if she stayed quiet she could figure out what to do. There were plenty of movies in Hindi and she brought a book, but she found the people much more interesting.
The man on her right was taking notes while reading a Bible. In the row ahead was a couple with a small boy. The girl she presumed to be the mother was very young, probably younger than Priyanka herself, and she wore western style clothes, but with a small red tikka mark between her eyebrows. The stewardesses spoke German to one another and Priyanka tried to guess at what they were saying. The German language was more clipped with hardened sounds, unlike the rush of jumbled sounds of Indian languages like water rushing over stones.
After the stopover, different people joined them. The Indians became fewer, now most of the plane seemed to be Americans. For that flight Priyanka slept with her head in her arms on the open tray table. She woke as they started down toward Boston.
Suddenly she was nervous about how she looked after sleeping. She made her way to the bathroom and finger combed her hair for a few minutes and re-plaited it. She smoothed the pleats in her sari. Her aunt had insisted that she wear a sari on the flight, to look her best when she arrived. What she meant was to look traditional, like a good girl who wouldn't cause any trouble and that's exactly what Priyanka had always been.