Phones are ringing and doors are opening and creaking shut all day. Then there is the sharp sound of heels clattering along the corridor. Sizzles come from the kitchen, which is always warm, with a gas lit under rice and noodles and bhajis. Lost things turn up in the oddest places after frantic searches which include interrogations of sofas, bathrooms and closets. There is a special occasion in the family, and this is its music.
Quiet houses like a party now and then, and these sounds and bustle reverberate through it happily, leaving echoes after themselves. Conversation and laughter creep out beneath the door to the children's room, where they sleep on mattresses pushed against one another to form a large communal bed on the floor. In another room tomorrow's things are being prepared for potential in-laws. Packages rustle, plastic is torn, and scissors snip off unsightly price tags. Black and white music plays in another, more quiet room, and here sheets flap and then become silent, and then the radio is switched off, and then a final click takes the lights with it.
As the day draws nearer, excitement grows. More and more things are remembered: new glasses, forgotten haircuts, flower arrangements, a fresh load of snacks, one more relative on the guest list. The time between phone rings shortens; it is always family, or extended family, informing us of the incoming flight or train and duration of stay. And it is indeed exciting, for relatives will once again pull cheeks and ask "Do you remember me?" and we will once again stutter and they will once again remind us that we were this small when they first saw us. Old faces will be seen again, and their children will be there too. It is a significant gathering; the next time we meet we will pull their cheeks and ask these children if they recall us.