The horizon tilts. The runway lights speed up. The scenery blurs. The engines roar. There's a sudden whoosh and the plane is in the air. Farewell USA.
I never wanted to come here. A number of reasons for that. First, it was too easy for a software professional to get here. Everybody comes here. There's really nothing unique about getting to the US. Second, I hated it that the US always seemed to impose itself on every other country - tried to tell the world how to do things while it's own house was, if not a mess, atleast not in order. So why did I come? The project was technically challenging and I thought to myself, let me see with my own eyes what this country is all about!
So, of all places, I landed up in Phoenix! Dry, hot, epitomy of American excess! Big countryside, big cars, big roads, big everything! Not quite Texas, but close! It was soon after coming here that I realised that Americans are vastly different from American foreign policy! (Politics corrupts people, I guess!). With their sense of humour and their warmth, Americans didn't take long to become endearing!
As usual, both me and my wife would take off traversing the countryside at the slightest opportunity. Got a chance to see amazing landscapes and sceneries. From the azure blue of the horsehoe canyon to the ethereal colours of Antelope Canyon. From the sky scraping Californian Redwoods to bone dry white of Death Valley. We enjoyed the South West tremendously and then decided to take the Route 66 as far as we could to reach New York.
Now New York, as Billy Joel has said, is not a city. The rush, the bustle, the hyper speed of walking. Times Square, dirty subways, all of it go to make New York what he correctly mentioned it to be, a state of mind.
New York did a number of things to me. I discovered, literally, the virtual world here. The world of the mind, of the web. I also discovered my love for writing. I discovered Jazz in Harlem bars, and the New York Philharmonic in Central Park. And more than anything else, I discovered friends. Friends who will be dear to me all my life. Friends with whom I've felt I've always known them, friends who've changed from strangers to family within an hour of knowing them. These are the people with whom not only have I had the best experiences with but who have become a part of me. New York to me became a discovery, not only of a city, but of myself.
So, after over two years, it does feel strange to leave this place behind. It does feel wierd to leave all the friends behind. But it will always feel as if they are a part of what I am today. And in these days of high speed communications maybe we'll all still be together in the parallel virtual world.
But as I go back home, I think of what awaits me. India, the ancient world. The one place where anything is possible. The land where four of the six largest religeons took birth. The land where brick laying was known five thousand years ago, the land where stone pillars make music. A potpourri of everything, literally everything, and still welcoming more. In a strange way, going back feels liberating. Going home gives me a sense of freedom. A freedom to fly and soar. Nina Simone's words ring in my mind -
Birds flying high, you know how I feel
Stars in the sky, you know how I feel
Leaves drifting on by, you know how I feel
It's an old world, it's a new world, it's a bold world, for me.
It's an eighteen hour flight to Bombay. My mind goes over as many of the memories I can think of. Some of them trivial, some of them fantastic, all memorable. I think about how I became so engrossed in the political situation even though I couldn't vote! How I got involved in the copyright wars which wage in the US. In essence, how never bieng an American, I was thinking like one! A strange twist of fate. "You are what you attack" as someone once said. I think back about the bias I had of the US, and I think how uninformed I was. Knowledge, as always, makes the world more likeable, but makes oneself more complex! A realisation that I am very different from what I think I am! As I said earlier, this was a discovery.
The seat belt sign dings. The pilot announces that we're over Bombay. The plane tilts. I see lights of a city again. From this height I might have just circled back into New York! The wheels thud. The wind breakers roar in trying to stop this behemoth. The engines wind down.
Goodbye New York, I'll always miss you. I might have left you, but you'll never leave me.