When you are all alone, unmindful of where you are heading, and in dire need for a way home — that’s when you understand the cardinal importance of family.
Throughout my life, I had lived for an extended period of time in several states of India and foreign countries. My dad worked for an IT company and traveled often. This had me and my family reallocating to different houses and communities, experiencing cultures of India and countries like Germany, Singapore and the US. For this reason, I am immensely grateful to my father, as because of him I got to experience numerous places at a young age. This also helped me to adapt faster to my surroundings — giving me opportunities to learn from my mistakes as well.
During the summer of 2007, my father had to temporarily settle in Germany for work. Instead of him staying alone for two months, I, my sister, and mother would accompany him. This would be our first time out of India and soon we had moved to our new home in Frankfurt on 6 Altafasheinm Street. Neither did the people speak Hindi, nor did they all speak or understand English, and soon I realized myself as an ausländer, a foreigner. From the magnificent infrastructure, to seeing old men fishing near the lake and wishing them “Guten Morgen,” Germany was astonishing.
One day, my family and I decided to go shopping. I was excited as I would get to explore more of the city. In the early morning we took the Stadtbahn, the tramway, and went to Konstablerwache which is the central shopping area of Frankfurt. Upon reaching we first entered a formal footwear store. I wandered from my parents and went to see the other sections of the store. When I retreated to the same place to find my family, I could not find them. I walked around and saw a narrow spiral wooden staircase and thought they might have gone upstairs. I climbed upstairs, only to find they were not there either.
I glanced around for a while and decided to walk out of the store, surmising that my parents would have gone outside. A few stores down was another footwear store and I entered that, and without any luck, did not find my family there either. What caught my eye next was the German lady in the street who sold these huge, mesmerizing helium balloons: a light blue dolphin, SpongeBob SquarePants, Hello Kitty, and many more. My parents never got me one as they thought it was too expensive. I saw a boy around my age approach her, asking for a balloon. She showed him five fingers and said, “Five Euros.” I thought I would try my luck and so I approached the lady. I pointed to one of the balloons but I received the same answer as the other boy.
In an attempt to find my parents, I started walking further away from the initial place I split from my parents, exploring and being awestruck from my surroundings. It was a busy weekend and people were everywhere. I walked by different stores, street vendors, some buildings under construction, and went on an endless journey, thinking I would eventually find my parents out of the blue. All this while, no one seemed to take notice of a six-year-old boy walking all alone.
The next thing I remember, I was away from the market area and in a quiet street. I do not even remember how I had come this far. Over at a bus stop, I saw a German mother who was with her son and they hardly seemed to take notice of a boy all alone. Seeing them I started to realize my own situation. I was lost in a foreign country, not knowing where to go. My parents were probably looking for me and anxious. At that moment, I tried to remember the name of the street I lived in. Maybe I could catch a bus from here and meet my parents back home. Although I had no money on me so I continued my journey, not having a clue where I was headed.
It was noon and the sun was shining bright. I was near a busy street, walking on the footpath. In front of me, I saw a group of adults approaching me and they looked like they were in their twenties. Seeing them I was paranoid as I suspected that they might cause harm to me, following which I decided to enter the main road. I was walking near the divider on the street, going with the traffic flow. Cars were zooming past me but they were not honking. I do not know how long I continued this journey for, but soon a white and green vehicle in the shape of an ambulance approached me. It stopped a little ahead of me and a blonde lady in a green uniform stepped out of it. I was taken inside by her and made to sit. I still remember her smile and the benevolence it carried with it. To my surprise, the lady did not ask me any questions. She opened a hatch on the top to retrieve a teddy bear in a plastic bag and gave it to me. It was a soft brown teddy with almost a square face, small ears and a half smile. She said something in German on the radio and we waited in the van which remained in the middle of the street.
Soon a polizei car came and I was escorted by the men in the car. I was very nervous sitting with the police officers. I was still clutching the teddy the lady had given to me. I did not clearly understand English so well, neither was I fluent in speaking it, but the police officer driving the car asked me what I had decided to name the teddy bear. I replied, “Teddy” just like Mr. Bean had named his teddy bear. They did not seem to catch my accent and assumed I said “Candy” and told me that’s a beautiful name. So, I decided to name him Candy and till this day, I still have him with me — a simple stuff-toy whose presence comforted me when I was frightened by my surroundings.
We reached the police station and I was made to sit in the reception and later wait in a room where they had a TV playing a cartoon show. After a while, the officer called me and I was taken to meet my family. As soon as my mother saw me, she sped across the room, saying my name pet name, “Goldy.” Her face looked as if the life in her had been resuscitated. I was exhilarated to meet my family and guilty at the same time for being lost so ludicrously.
Everything seemed normal after that. We all were just glad to be together after such a long day. My mother was unsure about the fact of us moving permanently to a foreign country, to a new beginning, to a new life. We did not, however, end up settling in Germany, but looking back at it, it was a profound experience. The time I was lost was when I truly realized the importance of my family and have been thankful for them ever since. I wish to always stay close with my family — for their support, their love, and their blessings. This experience also made me take German as a third language in middle school, hoping to visit again and if I did get lost, I will be able to communicate and not worry my parents.