I was without a ride today. In the morning, when I started from home, it was raining – so taking the motorbike to work like I normally do was out of the question. Sharmila had dropped me. But in the evening, I was stuck since Sharmila and Nikita had to go somewhere.
The solution was simple – I went downstairs from where I work and went to the Mexican restaurant and got myself a glass of wine. They have a few tables and chairs outside in a covered area. I was thoroughly enjoying the evening sitting out with some wine and watching the rain fall with a fair bit of fury.
Subsequently, made friends with the couple sitting at another table. They had caught my attention by how friendly they were. First they gifted some kind of vegetable plant in a pot to the gentleman who runs the place. Then they talked to the very young daughter of one of the workers there for some time. I had figured out by then that they had to be regulars there.
I had a fascinating time getting to know Steve and Bonnie. They live not too far away on a 4 acre property in the house that Bonnie’s grandmom built back in the 1920s! They apparently grow a lot of vegetables and love eating vegetables. We started talking about spicy food (given my Indian background). I learnt from Bonnie about Scoville scale of measuring heat (pungency – like heat in peppers or chillis) and how it is measured!
Steve and Bonnie has traveled extensively in Peru. We were there back in 2009. Exchanged notes on Mira Flores and that incredible restaurant in the middle of the ocean – La Rosa Nautica!
That was a great evening! Hope to meet them more often!
This Sunday, I was running in my trail – feeling rather pleased that I was coming up on the 3.5 mile marker (since that would mean I would be forced to complete a 7 mile run), when I passed somebody that at first glance looked like a very elderly gentleman shuffling along. What actually caught my eye was the back of his T-shirt. It read “Pain is Weakness Leaving the Body”.
As I went past him, I kept thinking of that saying. I was wondering where he got the T-Shirt from. I also had noticed as I passed him that he did not have any mask with him – and he was fairly elderly. I was thinking that he should take more precaution.
On my way back, I saw him coming towards me again. He clearly did not have a mask with him. So, I stepped on the other side of the trail path – giving him a clear 10 feet of social distancing – and said:
“Excuse me. I saw the writing on your T-shirt. I loved it. Can I take a picture of it?”
“You want to know how I got it?”, he asked – decidedly much friendlier than I was expecting.
Fifteen minutes later, I was able to construct a fascinating story of this gentleman. Apparently, he moved to Georgia sometime back and lost his wife twelve years back. One day, he saw an ad from the Marines that if anybody came and did some pull ups (that they stipulated) successfully, they could earn a T-shirt. Not knowing anything better, he made a beeline for the camp. He implied that he did not make it all the way to all the pull ups (he was pushing way over 70 years, for sure). But he got the T-shirt anyways. Sure enough, the front of the T-shirt had the familiar “Marines” insignia.
What I could not figure out from his sunburnt face and well kept beard was given away by a couple of distinct accents.
“You are from India, are you not?”
“Yes, from Punjab”.
“I am from West Bengal. Rajib. Rajib Roy”
“I am Amrit Aurora. I spell the French way”
“Ah! A-U-rora, then!”
Turns out Mr. Aurora studied in UK. Worked in UK and Germany. Was recruited by Ford and immigrated to Michigan for 18 years. Eventually, moved to Georgia where is wife’s niece lives.
He walks in the trail – anywhere between 4 to 14 miles at a 4 mile per hour pace he told me. His starting point is on the other end from where I start. He admitted his memory is fading – could not remember some of the road names and gym names he used to go to but was certainly not lacking in willingness to duke it out physically.
I marveled at the fact that there is my dad – another 83 year old – he cannot get out of his bed and I go to see him every three months – and here is somebody – of the same age – merrily walking mile after mile – without any worry of the pandemic going around us.
We promised to stay in touch and talk more. (In fact, he already followed up yesterday).
“Before I let you go sir, what gives you the drive to stay this active?”
He thought for a while and said “Because every day I wake up is something I know many others don’t. And while we have done a lot of things – we can never create something as beautiful as nature”.
“Thank you sir, I will be in touch”.
Running back, I kept thinking how true his words were – the simplest things in life – like nature – are so beautiful. Yet, we wrap around ourselves artificial walls. To what end?
This was last Sunday. Nikita and I went out on one our favorite things to do together these days – driving! She is the latest driver in the house and we often go for very long drives. We drove around for about an hour and a half thru rural roads and state highways. Eventually, we were within a mile of our house when I asked her to pull over at Union – a great restaurant in the middle of forests – literally walking distance from our house.
We sat at the bar outside, away from other people to social distance and I grabbed a gin and tonic and she got an iced tea and we chatted for another forty five minutes there!!
Looking forward to another such drive this weekend.
The first friends that I had brought to this spot was Amitesh and Anusuya – that was last July. (Had found out about this lakeside spot during a bike ride). That time, Sharmila was in India. Yesterday, for the first time the entire families from the two household came over.
The four girls landed up chatting incessantly while the parents enjoyed the beautiful sunset and the cool breeze after that.