(Pork noodles for lunch at the Kuala Lumpur Chinatown / Petaling Street)
Back in my home country, where food is king, we are constantly experiencing it in one way or another, whether it’s the waft of a neighbor frying fish coated in spice, or tasting the flavors and textures of different kinds of cuisine on one table, thanks to a multi-ethnic nation. We can’t even go two blocks without seeing food, whether it’s a peddler of curry puffs on the road side or hawker stalls (outdoor food vendor) at the end of the row of shops. It’s amazing just how much revolves around food, and so it’s no surprise that our vacation so far has been dictated by our bellies.
(Banana leaf rice - Indian cuisine enjoyed on banana leaf at a restaurant)
However, despite our four senses being overwhelmed by the taste, smell, sight and feel of food, the highlight of our trip is hearing our baby girl exclaiming, loudly and proudly, “Mama!” and “Dada!” Before this trip, she knew to associate the words with us, but she had only ever whispered them and when we looked up in acknowledgment, she would flash us a coy smile and whisper even softer than before, where only our family dog can hear her.
But when she took that flight with us, I guess her confidence soared with the altitude of the plane that took us from one side of the globe to another, and there, she found her voice. There she was, staking her claim with an audible, “Mama! Dada!” over and over, and while we only traveled from one continent to another, we were over the moon.
With each sweet sound of mama, I feel pride, joy and an immense sense of responsibility. It also binds us inextricably with an implicit promise that no matter how far away she utters this word from me in the future, I will always be right by her side.