Circa 1975. Sometime in December, as I reckon. It was getting late that evening and my parents had not come home yet. They had gone to Benachity market for some year end shopping. My sister and I were in charge of our 5 year old brother.
Around nine pm, my parents finally showed up. Apparently they had difficulty in getting a rickshaw for hire. Nonetheless, my dad was very excited. Dinner be darned, he immediately unfolded the piece-de-resistance that he had purchased. A fairly thick – certainly the thickest I had seen till date – book called “Book of Knowledge”.
It was a book of General Knowledge duly categorized in chapters like “Science”, “History” etc. Most of my early knowledge about the world came from that book. I have searched for that book after my parents died but it was nowhere to be found. Smart money is on the guess that they gifted it away to somebody in our extended family.
In any case, that night, even as my mom fixed dinner, you could not separate my dad from that book. He kept on reading the facts and figures – and loudly too. I suspect, he felt that knowledge would transfer to his three kids thru osmosis if only they heard it.
Post dinner was no better. I had not even had a chance to lay my hands on the book. Now mom and dad were together reading the book. Not seeing much point in it, I went off to sleep.
Next morning though, dad’s interest had waned considerably. Perhaps he had finished the book cover to cover, I had reasoned. Which was impossible – it was a 800 page book. But those days I was gullible and was not into big numbers. I still was trying to figure out my 20s tables.
But I did leaf thru the book that morning. The first chapter that got my attention was the ones that dealt with records… you know like the longest river, highest mountain and all that. Remember, I come from a country, an education system and certainly a set of parents where – at least then – you had to be “first’ in studies. You might remember how my parents were disappointed that I did not come first, second or third in my first marathon in Athens, Greece. I blame that conditioning for being attracted to the chapter that dealt with ‘first” in various categories.
One of the early facts I had learnt that day was “The highest building in the world”. The book said it was “Sears Tower in Chicago” and gave some statistics. Completely ignored the numbers (like I used to ignore the years in history books) – but that name stuck with me.
For the next fifteen years, I do not think I got to know much about America – let alone point out where Chicago might be on a map – but I knew about Sears Tower. And so did my dad. I know that because it would be one more of those questions he would inflict on any unsuspecting kid if they happened to meet him.
I am fairly sure he died fully committed to the belief that Sears Tower is the tallest building in the world. Of course, it is not called Sears Tower any more (Willis Tower, if you care) and is not even in the Top 20 in the world now. But trying to explain that would be like trying to convince dad that Yugoslavia is not a country. Yes, another favorite question of his was “What is the capital of Yugoslavia?”
As luck would have it, I happen to work in that city of Chicago now. Twice a month now, I fly into the Ohare airport. Almost always, the airplane flies up straight from Atlanta, swerves to the east into the Michigan lake and then makes a straight-line west bound route into Runway 9L/27R.
On clear days like today, just as we approach the lake shoreline, I get this view. Immediately, I my eyes go to the Sears Tower and for a few moments my mind is taken back to that night in December of 1975!
“You will not know me sir…”, I started my conversation with the gentleman who had just stepped out of his house when I rang the bell. If I could get a penny every time I have started my conversation with a stranger with that familiar refrain of “You will not know me…”, I would be a rich person today. Well, maybe not as poor, at least.
“My name is Rajib Roy…” I continued.
“Oh! I know you.”
That floored me. “You do? How?” I stammered. I started looking him up a little more purposefully. Perhaps we had worked together in the past?
“Oh! We still get your mail,” he casually answered.
“Ah! so you know of me, then!! Indeed we lived in this house for nine years. This was our first house – for my wife and me. Both my daughters were born in this house. We have a lot of memories here.”
“Why don’t you come in?”
“No. I am between meetings in Coppell and Mansfield. I thought I will just swing by to see the house from outside.”
We stood there and talked about his family – his five kids and how two of his young daughters have converted my library cum music room into their bedroom. And the neighbors we used to have then. After a few minutes, I told him that I needed to go.
“Would you mind if I took a picture of the house from the front?”
“Sure thing. If you don’t want to come in, you can go to the backyard from the side gate to take pictures.”
And with that I got the two shots in this picture of the first house Sharmila and I had bought and moved in to. That was 1998. Sharmila went into labor literally the day we had moved our stuff. Natasha, Sharmila and I – we all moved in together a couple of days later. I still remember opening up boxes after boxes looking for a spoon to make coffee the day after we all came back from the hospital!!
The backyard – specially the pool and the water behind brought back rich memories of the two girls. Pool was their favorite spot. Their friends used to come over and have pool parties fairly regularly. (In our friends’ circle and in the neighborhood, we were among the first ones to have a pool those days).
After taking in the view for a few seconds, I had a “Bye Bye Pool” moment like my father in law as I withdrew!
I am fortunate that work lets me still come back to Dallas and re-live some of the memories of those beautiful days long gone!!
I was cruising in our Airbus 321 this morning to Dallas when I wanted to check our flight map and the following screen came up. Note the figure against distance traveled. Throughout the flight, the system kept updating the distance, but always gave it till the second decimal digit in miles!!
Think for a second. That makes no sense right? A second decimal place in miles would mean about 50 feet. The plane itself is three times as long. At 31,000 feet height at a speed of 500 mph, it takes us less than a tenth of a second to cover a second decimal in miles.
It is an irony that my flights get delayed by hours but I am given my flight progress in less than a tenth of second accuracy!!
If you ever landed in Atlanta airport in the international terminal and came out of customs and immigration anytime in the late afternoon, you would see this place teeming with people. Waiting to welcome their near and dear ones coming in from abroad. Half of them would be my fellow Indian brethren awaiting the Qatar Airways flight!
Today, as you see – there was nobody. Nobody!! I almost did a double quick thinking I had come out of the wrong side!
The effect of Covid is still very pronounced!
Sharmila and I took a final beach walk this morning before heading back to the US. During our walk, we met another local couple. He is from here and she is from Canada.
Sharmila explained to them how I am interested in settling in a place like this. But she was worried of important things like medical support.
Remember Trisha from earlier posts? Yeah, she had to go to Nassau to give birth to her baby. No hospitals here.
The couple tried to calm us down by saying that in case of an emergency, we will be airlifted and in an hospital in Nassau within 35 minutes.
As Sharmila and they kept talking, I withdrew. Pondering over a question that seemed more important to me…
“Is the idea to live where we push death to a later death or is the idea to truly live a better life before we die (whenever that is)?”
What do you think?
ELH might be my airport #143 but it is top in the books in terms of people, hospitality and just island beauty. Where else can you order your burger and fries before security and as you wait at the tarmac for an hour for the incoming flight, the security guys run your order thru the X-ray and get it to you?
You might recollect that our trip to Spanish Wells, while otherwise very successful, did not yield any local hot sauces. Not one to give up on her pursuit of hot sauces, Sharmila, one our drive back to the airport, went back to the restaurant where we had eaten first. They were closed. The owner lived in the house next door. She made them open their shop and bought these four bottles from them!!!
The woman will do anything for spicy sauces. I remember in Zapallar in Chile, where the chef had come out from the kitchen and gifted her a local spicy sauce bottle!