By Vasudha Tavag, Host Mom and Bangalore Chapter President | Hosting- Banu Newell, BP Scholar from USA hosted in Bangalore

“My first association with Banu was when I got an email from him, as we were his “Welcome Family” . The letter was so beautifully written, (little did I know at that time that he was a fantastic writer and won prizes in slam poetry, a term I had not heard before)  it totally impressed me, and  I instantly liked the young boy.

The day arrived when we had to go pick him up from the airport. The flight landed late at night.  We reached the airport and the exchange students arrived, and there he was, looking a little lost, like all the other exchange students. We went home and after a light dinner he slept off.

Then followed a flurry of activities, visiting schools, meeting Principals, getting admitted in school, books, uniform, shoes, school transport and the rigmarole of FRRO. Slowly, he started settling down in school and at home, and we got into a regular routine.

One evening, when we were having Chai. He saw some kids playing football in the neighbourhood, and said he too would like to play. So I took him down and introduced him to the boys and soon he was their star player, as he was a great soccer player back home. His football skills got him into his school football team, where he went on to play inter school tournaments.

But we were just his “Welcome Family”  we had to get him a permanent family. However, my daughter and I really liked him, and after getting to know more about him, we decided it would be better for us to be his Permanent Host family. And so he became part of our family.

Banu with host family

By the time he started getting used to his school, our family, Bangalore and India, we had a big fat wedding in the family. My nephew got married in Bangalore and the whole big Indian family, with uncles, aunts, cousins, grandma, extended family and all descended down. It was wonderful to see how well Banu gelled with one and all. He totally joined in all the family fun and even danced to Bollywood numbers and impressed everyone.

In school, he won the hearts of his English teachers with his supremacy over the language and his powerful poems. He was soon winning debates, judging literary competitions and holding poetry –writing workshops. All his achievements made me so proud of him! He made good friends in school and was on a roll, being invited for birthday parties, lunches, movies and stay-over at his friends.

To give him a glimpse of the Indian culture, I took him to Dusshera celebrations, Golu display, Navaratri Garba and Durga Pooja. We had a family Diwali celebration, enjoyed the colourful Holi,  went to Chennai, the Flower show in Lal baugh,  a couple of Namma Bengaluru Habbas, many Handicrafts exhibitions etc.

What is so endearing about Banu is, he is always ready and enthusiastic to see, learn and do new things.

And how could I forget the Thanksgiving Party we had? I didn’t know what it involved, although had heard about it. Banu took over and cooked food for all family and friends/ volunteers we invited, organised the party with games etc. and everyone had the most wonderful time!

We have been to Marathons (which too he won the very first time he took part in one), family outings, movies, also taken-in a Kannada movie, have excitedly watched Netflix thrilling serials, laughed watching crazy comedy serials, have been amazed at the beauty of nature, caught our breath watching astounding game shows.

The days , months have just flown and I can’t believe it will soon be time for Banu to leave. The house will no longer reverberate with music from his bedroom, nor will there be my screaming “Banu, clean your room” nor “No going out with your friends unless you make your bed and tidy up your room” nor “Have you put off the light/fan, geyser switch in your room?“, nor will there be noisy dinner-time discussions with Anishaa, nor chit-chat over the aroma of ginger-cinnamon chai, which Banu has mastered to make. The house will soon fall silent and I will really, really miss my dear Banu.

It will be an end to yet another sweet and heart -warming hosting experience, with its trials and tribulations. But then that’s what life is, isn’t it?”