Playing our roles

Have you ever felt pangs of loss seeing a long long distance train depart while you are standing and sort of stranded on the platform? I have.

In Thane, we used to hang out on a bridge at Kopri. The bridge crossed the railway tracks and carried water pipeline and the road. The pipeline had a nice tray support running along it. We used to sit on this tray with our legs dangling over the tracks. The speeding trains would cause the bridge and the tray to shudder. This and the thundering sound of the train would give a feeling of a real loss to me.

Phoenix in it’s elements

I have always hated to see off anyone, whether at the airport or at the railway station. You are left behind while the departing person has something to look forward to or take care of.

Heading out of Phoenix

On the eve of our departure Ujjwal cooked a very nice dinner. Just before the dinner, while Raja and I were chatting with Shashikant, I heard Ujjwal reciting ‘Ramaraksha’! Now, I am far far from all such chantings and recitations. But there was something very sincere and earnest in her voice. To listen to Sanskrit shlokas in a land far away from ours was something very special. Ujjwal said that she has been reciting ‘Ramaraksha’ for over thirty five years.

As we readied to leave Phoenix and the Kiranes,I realized that I was not the one to be left behind.

The preparations prior to our departure involved Raja handing me over a bag full of maps and other navigational stuff. I was to be the navigator, Raja would drive, and Kumud would be in the back seat lording over food, water, and us. Kumud had another role to play on the road, no at every stop -constantly disappearing in this or that shop.

All of us played our roles to perfection.

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Peace at noon and bowled over by maidens in concrete!

The cities of Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Hamburg and many other cities in Europe have monuments and palaces and other places of great architecture.

I recall a dinner in Strasbourg, France where my German boss and I had gone across for dinner from Karlsruhe in Germany at the behest of our French colleague in Philips. 

Just an hour’s drive and you cross Rheinau into Strasbourg. I recall that a monument had twin towers -one of the tower was not constructed fully. It was intriguingly beautiful. We drank, ate and walked amidst beautiful architecture and on narrow roads and over cute wooden bridges on the canals.

The subject of architecture was farthest from my mind -happy as I was with what was going on.

And I had not even properly comprehended that something special was unfolding.

Play!

Shashikant had done his ropes and we had had our second round of teas when we asked Shashikant about things to do in and enroute Grand Canyon.

We talked about visiting Sedona and we wondered if we could visit the observatory at Williams and the meteoric crater too.

While we were folding away the maps, Shashikant asked if we wished to visit a resport inspired by Frank Lloyd. I had heard this name, but that was all. We all felt that this would be nice outing of sorts. So there we were, in the noon’s blazing Arizona sun, at the Arizona Biltmore Resort.
 
I will not talk about the architecture and I will also not wax eloquent on Frank Lloyd -there are better people to do this. I will just say that this Arizona Biltmore exuded peace and calm even at noon. So much concrete and so much peace noon.

I was completely bowled over by the maidens!

Base camp Phoenix : Just 7" rainfall and boat in the backyard!

The reunion of our IIT Bombay batch of ’76 brought some 70-80 families together on the campus. Some of us met after 25 years! We stayed at Raja’s home in Raheja Vihar near Powai and we uses to go up and down between IITB campus and his home.

The reunion had ‘official’ activities like honoring successful IITians, conducted campus and hostel tours, and an inevitable social gathering for letting us and our family members turn into singers, stand up comedians, actors and what not. This was fine. It was interesting to watch those very IITians, who were almost anti-establishment and who would boo down any attempt to lecture them, turning into establishment wallas.  Those former rebels would now meekly surrender to hours of ponderous and pompous lecture (listening) ‘activities’.

The lake

Here in Phoenix, Shashikant  made us feel useful by letting us help him replace the ropes used for tethering his boat. Yes, Shashikant owns a cute boat and has a lake in as his backyard to let it float. The new nylon rope’s ends had to be fused together. Shashikant used a perfumed candle for this, producing a cocktail of a nice fragrance and smell from burning nylon. Later, Shashikant rocked the boat, literally. He also held forth on the excellent water management in Phoenix, proudly telling us about many artificial lakes like the one in the picture. He said that Phoenix, with just 7″ of annual rainfall,  suppplies water to the state of California.

Getting new friends in America

Atlanta was the city, I had been to before this trip. That was for a conference in 1999. Reaching my room on 72nd floor (32nd floor in reality, the numbering skipped several decades) in seconds, opening my room door to a seven feet American bearer and almost staggering with vertigo, long limousines, roads like rivers in spate was all could see in those three days. The only thing I could recollect with any feeling was a barbecue party near a nice lake.That was cool.

I had never given much thought to America. I knew it was (is) a big country. I knew it had a lot to offer when it comes to sight seeing. But all this was on an intellectual level. I was seriously pissed off by the arrogance coming through American establishment when it comes to granting a visa. If it was not for Raja, I would have preferred to visit Europe. After getting rejected once, I spent some tidy packet to get second time lucky for my visa.

L-R Ujjwal n Shashikant Kirane, Kumud n Raja Desai

The reality had still not sunk in until we got down to plan more, we were to leave for Phoenix the next day -our base camp for the west coast tour. “Wow, we are actually going now” , I exclaimed.

We were going to stay with Kiranes at Phoenix. Ujwal is Kumud’s friend. Shashikant, was till then just an IItian! We were in for many pleasant surprises.

A tale of two trees

In an another age, I had purchased my first real camera, a Minolta film SLR in Germany. I recall going to a shop in Hamburg. I kept weighing the sum of 600 German Marks in mind unable to spend so much in one go.The Minolta was my co-witness to my first impressions of the beautiful city of Hamburg, during the walks along the inner and outer Alster Lake and to the port of Hamburg.

This little Canon gave me a wonderful picture. Digital photography means you can make stupid mistakes and yet eventually come up with a nice picture. The countless and lovely shades of green, including the green shadow distracted me from choosing correct exposures for a while!

Training guns, err the camera

For many years, Raja kept calling me to visit the US. During his visits here he used to make to comet like appearances. I kept saying yes, with no clue to whether and when I would make it there.

The next morning in Grand Rapids was glorious. Nice sunshine and crisp cool air meant I had to put on my running shoes and say bye, bye to Raja & Kumud. With a concerned look, he gave me Kumud’s mobile for me to find my way back. 

Raja’s backyard and the nice afternoon sunshine provided me some shooting practice with the little Canon PowerShot.  The blue blue sky and the white white clouds were to keep me company for next three weeks.

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Margarita!

Tanmay

Tanmay, Raja’s son was very considerate. When Raja drove me home on my arrival, he said, “I will make Margarita for you, you must be very tired. Margarita is good for tired bodies.” I said, ” That is wonderful! I am not tired, but I accept your offer”.

The evening of August 25, was there for us to savor. Our seemingly idle chat many many years back had turned into reality. Fortunately the loan had been paid back. US visa hurdles were overcome. Uncle Scrooge Delta Airline had brought me to the American land somewhat hungry. But I was in good shape despite the cattle class and the impoverishment.

The Margarita was excellent and with Kumud around, food had to be very very nice too. We talked and drank and ate, not necessarily in the same order or proportions. Bliss!

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