Priya came to the door without the caliper on her leg.
Using one arm, she dragged her withered leg across the floor. She opened the door with her free hand and remarked through the cold, “You’re a day early.”
This place was to be my home for the next two years. I went to sleep that first night not knowing what I’d gotten into. Was I even wanted here?
What could a 60-year-old Kenyan-Gujarati woman who had survived polio and cancer possibly have in common with a 23-year-old American from Rome, Ga., who knew little about that kind of suffering?
God is so creative. And sometimes, cultural differences come together in beautiful ways.
Our friendship was not forged overnight.
We spent countless hours together at the dinner table. One year before my arrival, Priya had survived a serious case of throat cancer, after which she could eat only with great effort. Some of our meals together would take upwards of two hours.
She kept telling me to go away, do something else, stop waiting for her, no one else waited for her. She hated me waiting at the table, but I couldn’t go.
I was taught growing up that you don’t leave the table until everyone is finished eating. I remember sitting at the table for hours listening to people talk. That’s just what you did.
When I moved to London, I did the same. My mom’s voice in my head wouldn’t let me leave Priya to eat on her own, and I am so thankful for that.
I wouldn’t trade our meal times for anything.
It’s because of those times that I get the stories that few others do: the story of her childhood in Kenya, her struggles with polio and cancer, and her years in India. It’s in those times that Priya went from being my landlord to being my friend.
I now know that the woman who met me at the door years ago was in no way weak – she is by far the strongest person I know and one of the first people I run to when I need advice or care.
She has become home to me.
After two years of living with her, a visitor looked at myself and Priya at the dinner table and asked, “Is that young lady your daughter or your niece?” We laughed.
“She’s my sister,” Priya replied.