Among life’s scariest undertakings, entering the local neighbourhood playground for the first time has to be right at the top. Imagine walking with your three-year-old into a situation where every single child is busy playing with someone else. The swings are occupied and there is an intrepid group of gangly middle schoolers on the jungle gym. Girls with pigtails stand by the slide singing and clapping, and right there, a few feet from where Giggles and I stand, a fight breaks out over a recently acquired giant stick.

In another corner mothers gather in groups ‒ the Gujarati speakers, the Marwari speakers, the English speakers. All of them talking, discussing, gossiping, with one eye keenly watching their child and the other taking in the new arrival.

Lead by example, I think. Show your child how to make friends, how to break the ice, how to make people pay attention to you. Be confident. Just walk up to the swings and start a conversation with someone.

But Giggles has walked into the park with a disadvantage. A handicap. Call it what you will. Not only is he shy and reticent, he doesn’t understand any Hindi and unfortunately for him most children his age can’t understand his slightly accented English. My husband and I come from different parts of the same state and speak varied dialects of the same language. To make things easier for us, we have agreed to speak to each other in English. So, while fluent in English, Giggles is learning his mother tongue from his grandparents and Hindi, well we will start soon. To find a child at the park who can understand what he is saying seems to me to be a logical first step. That narrows his chances of making friends considerably. Things are already not looking good.

As time goes by...

Right then at the swings, I spot a mother I have seen around before. She smiles and I take that as a welcome gesture and charge forward to start a conversation. Her child looks about the same age as mine and I secretly pray and hope they get along. This could be the one.

We exchange names and pleasantries. She asks me my apartment number and I hers. We speak about the weather and how it will only get worse. But wait, we aren’t speaking in English. We are speaking in Hindi. I can feel Giggles looking up at me with quizzical eyes. What am I saying? I introduce him to her son in English and hope the boy responds. But no! He asks Giggles his name in Hindi. Right then, I conclude this entire outing has been a disaster.

Cut to now. It is a few months later and we have been to the park every single day since that fateful first day. Giggles has a group of kids he plays with. Some speak English, some speak Hindi, some speak Gujarati. But it doesn’t seem to matter. They all argue about who gets to keep the giant stick they found. They talk while they dig a massive hole and share their precious loot of sticks and stones. They laugh and run and take turns on the slide. They play Ring-Around-The-Rosy, each singing the song a bit differently, but loudly so they can be heard.

Some of the older kids have even shown Giggles their moves on the jungle gym. He now swings from the top and looks down at the place where we first stood like outsiders, waiting for a chance to come in. But best of all, when he doesn’t want something Giggles now vehemently shakes his head and says, "Nahin, nahin!" A happy consequence of evenings at the park.