Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Stitch

Last weekend, Elise and I took the kids to a holiday party hosted by Sam's school at the Westin in Velacherry. We had gone to the same event last year and had a blast. We had arrived in India only a few weeks before. Everything was still new and we didn't have any of our own stuff yet. It didn't feel much like the holidays (Christmas is understandably not that big a deal in India) so were grateful for an international hotel with a giant Christmas tree and Santa's village set up in the lobby. We had also yet to fully realize that the international hotels were--not only the only places one could get a drink or a glass of wine in town--but peaceful oases among the chaos of Chennai.

We met a lot of other Americans living in Chennai but not affiliated with the Consulate community which was refreshing and a treat. (I am fascinated by the types of work that move people globally and how they make the move without the same support system my work provides us.) The kids got to decorate Christmas cookies and wrap presents. The food was good and there was mulled wine. They saw Santa, and Elise and I won a cake, a goodie basket, and a free date night in the raffle.

The week leading up to the party was especially hectic. Though Elise and I had a relaxing weekend in Mumbai without the kids, I had to stay in Mumbai for the week for work. When I got back to Chennai, we had trouble negotiating the fine ballet that is work, school and family. It seemed as though neither of us could catch our breath. Even the morning of the party, I was short with the kids, unable to get them to listen to anything I was saying without yelling.

But as soon as we started getting ready for the party--and especially as Sundar drove us to the hotel--our mood became more festive; we had all been looking forward to this evening.

When we arrived, I got a beer and Elise a glass of wine, and the kids immediately got started decorating Christmas cookies. A short while later, dinner was served and it was even better than I remembered from last year (they served beef tenderloin!). Like last year, too, we met new friends from the U.S. who had a young son Peter's ago who might be in his kindergarten class next year.

But as the evening wore on, we soon realized that there would be no Santa and no raffle. Though still fun, the evening wasn't quite the same as it was last year. We were getting ready to leave, and Elise was exchanging contact information with her new friend. Their son was jumping on the booth behind us. His dad, sitting at a table several feet away had just told him to settle down--something we constantly tell the boys to do at home so that we don't have to tell them the same thing when we are out. He jumped up and tried to grab a decorative metal divider separating the two tables, but the divider was not fastened to the back of the booth and he pulled it down on top of himself.

The divider hit him on the head and cut him on the forehead. There was blood everywhere. His mother became distraught. The boy was wailing in pain; and our kids went white. The wait staff rushed to attend to the boy, but didn't know what to do to help. The mother began to grow hysterical. She asked if there were a doctor on staff. The wait staff looked at each other. The manager shook his head. Elise got up to help, but there was little she could do.

"Do they have a driver?" I asked her to ask them. "They need to go to the hospital."

Meanwhile, still several feet away, the father had not moved. He did not get up to see if his son was okay. He finished his glass of wine while I broke out into a cold sweat.

When he finished his wine, he got up and walked over to the table where his son lay on the booth crying. He took one look and said, "Yeah. That'll need a stitch." Then went back to his table and sat down.

The wait staff finally carried him away. Elise consoled the woman, telling her how resilient children were and that he would be fine.

Someone asked the father if his wife would be okay. "You know how mothers are," he told them.

Elise received a text message later that night. He had needed a stitch. Two, in fact.

We were flabbergasted by the father's complete lack of interest in his son's welfare. Yes, he was going to be fine, but only if the dad stepped up and took control of the situation. I still do not know if he ever did. Elise wondered if the woman later kicked her husband in the nuts for his lack of response.

Our children had been well behaved all evening, and I told Elise that that couldn't have happened to one of our kids because we drill into them the importance of proper behavior when we go out. Elise corrected me, however. The boy wasn't acting that crazy, and the divider had not been attached; it could have very easily been one of our kids. I was grateful it wasn't.

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