Keeping the word or two
Rajiva Shanker Shresta
No wonder if people by now familiar with my Thinking local column every week asking me whether it would be continued once they learnt of our trip abroad. Soon they found it amiss too when the local popular daily that carry the column off the newsstand last Sunday following the Independence Day and My Tryst with Dentists was to conclude. To save the situation with the week going blank, it struck to my mind why not keep in touch with them by sharing reminiscences a decade old from the pages of my Sikkim: Three Decades towards Democracy to catch with the mood of the people to suit the festive season with the piece Golden Jubilee and Patriotism. It would also help me to get back with the habit to continue writing my column by the time the remainder of the story appeared in the following week. I did not wish my column to end thus abruptly either. It was more like keeping the word or two to be attached with not only the readers but my near and dear ones as well, me staying in the other side of the world. It was, however, not to be so and our readers somehow missed the concluding part of the story that was to be continued that brought me a well-wisher with a note, It is just GREAT. Have a nice time and looking forward for your renewed interactions with Newa community in US as true Newa Ambassador. Miss your Sunday piece in SE… while another well-read K. D Tiwary of NIT Sikkim wrote me, I had the opportunity to read the article ‘In fond memory of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam – Remembering him in Sikkim’ published in the Sikkim Express. It is really inspiring and invigorating for the adolescents and youths who are aspiring and perspiring for their dreams for life. The quote is also excellent “Dream is not what you see in sleep, is the thing which does not let you sleep.” It was more out of love to continue connecting with them all reaching out through the pages printed apart from that published on our portal www.karunaguthi.com (completes five years of its launch around this time under the auspices of the World Newah Organization here) to prove that we all now live in a global village.
This trip was also keeping with the word to visit our daughter Rachna and Jwain Saheb Vimal in their new home we went house-hunting together during our last sojourn here and that too without it getting further old. They found it out somewhere amid the places nearby we spent much time and efforts so that we could be of help in shifting and settling down process while here. It was not to be so and be were back to Sikkim keep up with the pace there too so that we did not miss something in our life so much changed there all this while. It was a Family Home when Vimal’s parents were here helping them select, decide and to settle down. Almost five years since we were here last and it was not possible for us to have both the sides together. So, once done with parental duty there with our son getting somewhat finally settled down, we could not wait any longer but on the earliest opportunity getting back here once again keeping our word. By this time they had visited Sikkim twice to be with the relatives in Kathmandu and Palakkad that gave us no opportunity to think twice before our sagging mind with age catching us fast. In some low of the mental tides it was quite disheartening to share here with my dear readers that I often started feeling doubtful if we could travel all the way this far to the other end of the world. It was mother’s love for her child that my wife made me gather enough spirits to undertake the parental obligation together so that there came nothing on our way to reach out and enjoy whatever was in our share to realize and be blissful being with them here once again!
Our journey started a day ahead not to let any chance of road blockage due to unpredictable monsoon weather going wrong to come on our way but stay overnight at Siliguri. This helped us get rid of some errands pending over the months as we avoided the journey during the season that marred the National Highway 10 with frequent breaches all along – even there was a plan for changing the organization entrusted with the responsibility of maintaining the only lifeline of Sikkim and part of Darjeeling Hills. More damage could be seen done by constructing the NH10 haphazardly that led to landslides following the rains and now they have the blame passed over to the recent earthquakes to be all responsible for such a pitiful plight in this part of the Himalayas. To avoid hot weather we started late and reached Siliguri by the evening. Soon done with our errands we met Bijoy with Buhari Sunira also in the town to have our dinner together. Sunira was recollecting that during our previous US trip too we were together travelling to Siliguri when they were on way to Bengaluru visiting daughter Sneha.
Due to enhanced security check there was a message from the Jet Airways asking us to report two hours prior to departure of our flight and check-in counter would close strictly at 1315hrs - we were there on time to avoid any rush for 2’-oclock flight. Luckily, with Jet Airways taking over the responsibility of handling our baggage right up to the final destination and all three boarding cards issued together for each of us without the need to get them to check in at New Delhi and Abu Dhabi as they had tied up with the Etihad Airways that we were flying was awarded for the third consecutive year as the best airliner that we heard announced during the flight. Delhi Airport Terminal 3 completed 5 years recently was with kiosks filled with Independence Day spirit and tribute ‘Good Bye Missile Man’. Previously, we had to travel to (and fro) Kolkata from Bagdogra to take the Emirates flight to JFK New York via Dubai. Over the years this time we found the immigration to the US was simplified as they have the US Custom and Border Protection (CBP) facility at Abu Dhabi airport itself. Here US-bound passengers have to present themselves 60-minutes before the journey while the check-in for all flights to US two hours before the departure. This Custom Pre-Clearance, a mandatory part of the journey, saved much of botheration on reaching jetlagged at the final destination as experienced last time. This time we could collect our baggage and proceed straight out without passing through the process having arrived tired at the JFK New York. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I was remembering all the hassles our people faced while crossing our Rangpo Check Post that would prove more sensitive or just made to be in the name of Inner Line Permit. It seems they are moving ahead with the time to make our life easier thus simplified rather than hassles after the otherwise lengthy testing journey stretching over 24 hours with lay over periods in between. Due to changing time westward, it was difficult to adjust with and the best way one could was to enjoy what is available – the hospitality of the airlines the best - watching recent movies or listening to music that I had not taken out time all these years back home. Vegetarian meals we had were the same except for minor changes in the dessert and plenty of water was of help in coping with any chances of dehydration on such long journeys. Duty Free fares at Delhi and Abu Dhabi did not attract us much as we were on the onward journey with much scope to look forward in the places arriving at the destination and thereafter on our return trip, if needed.
Our journey so far went off smoothly without realizing that something else was in store as we came out of the airport since we could not connect to the Wi-Fi available and had to spend some time looking for our hosts. After my search outside went in vain, it was Ranjana’s visit inside to find them coming out happily united bringing more cheer and joy to our faces. We had arrived at Terminal 4 whereas they were at the other end where we met last time. Rachna had come in her new burgundy Acura mdx with number plate SIKKIM - changed from GANGTOK she had last time for her dark blue Murano. Seeing the car I was recollecting the olden days when such a number plate SIKKIM used to be seen only for the royal palace white Mercedes used by the Chogyal. No sooner our journey started homeward, we received a welcome call from our Bipin Jwain Saheb who had been in touch all the while ever since we made up our mind to visit the US. Excited we were too as half-through the journey connecting Wi-Fi at Abu Dhabi when we both posted a message on the Facebook announcing our otherwise undeclared visit that became more apparent when the aircraft was about to land on seeing the morning aerial view of the city with sea and beaches from the window quite thrilled naturally Ranjana was when I saw her getting goosebumps in excitement! In spite of it being a Saturday, there was some traffic taking longer time than usual to reach Chester Springs Pennsylvania after a brief rest midway for some coffee and sandwich with olive, jalapenos and guacamole. Bipin with Nevi and Babu Vidit reached from Woodbridge Virginia the same evening to meet us all sharing the joy of Babu on the driving seat the entire journey. Vidit had a new learner’s licence to drive with a guardian alongside and for him it was his first such a long drive – he too was quite thrilled to find not only his newly acquired skill appreciated by all but also that we were there like in the previous occasion for his 16th birthday bash as well to celebrate this achievement before getting back to the high school. We look forward to meet many of our friends and relatives there that could make another story to share with and many more of our stay here in the coming weeks! Next week: Weekend that was
This is author’s personal account of memories updated to cherish and treasure often on a detour here and there en route to share the joy of the journey called life while in the US. Some names, places and events mentioned are just to connect with and no malice whatsoever intended. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org