End of a Journey

May 21 is a special day for me and a much more special day for my parents – it’s their anniversary. This year they found one more reason to celebrate it – My graduation. My completing my Masters’ degree marked an important apex of my life but more than that it was their lives and wishes and hope. To finally be able to see their son, their aankhon ka tara (star of their eyes) graduate was a dream pursued more by them than by me.

This all started not two years back, when I entered USA, but way before that, before I joined any college, in my high school. As a student, I was always good at studies, as most students claim, even if my grades never add up. 😀 But even then my parents, as most other Indian parents, believed in me, in my ability and pushed me harder. And I as most Indian students would agree would never put enough efforts to get my grades better. But it wasn’t that lessons were difficult to me, but simply because I was not focused enough; not inspired enough to get those good grades. But then in the last year in my high school something changed. You see in Indian education system the last year of high school students are pitted against each other not across the school but across the state and country! Their grades decide upon the junior college they get and the career they pursue. And I was another kid in that competition. When I decided taking up engineering, (Yes I had decided to do engineering by when I was in high school!) it took a lot of convincing for my parents to get on the same page as me on my career. This inspiration and focus took me from that point to eight years later, now.

While all this time, I focused on my dreams and aspirations; my parents strived very hard to make sure I complete them. The biggest step in my life, of course, was to study abroad. I vividly remember myself dreaming about going to Australia and USA for my higher studies back in my 12th grade. I think I was one of the luckiest people to have such a focused goal so early on in my life. Though I wish I had some of that luck in my grades, but never mind. As I was focusing on my goal, my parents were gearing up themselves to see their son only on their computers via Skype and not in person. It was their dream to see me and my sister to finish our education to its highest level possible. Recalling my mother’s words on my graduation, this is what she said to me on the phone just after my commencement – “You finally graduated. Your dream is finally completed. My dream to see you receive that degree has been accomplished. Congrats beta. Now you truly proved your mettle.” The rest of it went a bit emotional and ended up as tears in both our eyes.

That said, was the journey worth it? Let’s quickly review my eight year journey – I made many friends – my best friends were made in that journey; I made many enemies, yes of course; I graduated from a unfocused, lazy kid to a focused, dedicated man full of self-belief; I had my share of heart breaks :P; I had so many fights I can’t count them on my fingers; I made great bonds with amazing people; learnt how to cook, how to live alone, manage tight budgets; cried, laughed, blushed, teased and did all sort of things teenagers and young people would do; experienced some eventful days my dear friends would definitely recall; traveled to places; earned my first salary; gave my parents the biggest surprise of their lives; rose up and fell down several times.

Hmmmm…. Seems like an amazing journey. The student life has surely ended and while now when I am at the door preparing to take off for another journey possibly even better than this one. Looking back at this journey I can only be grateful to all my friends, people who inspired me to do all kinds of things, my bitter relations, my professors and teachers, everyone who shared even a moment with me; all I can say is thank you everyone for without your contribution I would not have been at this doorstep and more importantly I would not have been me! And before she hits me on my head I should also thank the person I truly love and I have been constantly inspired by – my sister. Standing at this doorstep I truly believe that without my parents and my sister alongside me, all my friends behind me and the God above me I am ready for the next amazing journey of my life. Amen

Happy Birthday Grandpa… Thank You New York

31st December: People usually party with their friends and loved ones on the new years eve. They always want to start it with a new vigor and many-a-times new goals for the coming new year. I have for the last 16 years done the same thing (before that I just don’t remember what I used to do! :P). Even this year was no different in that perspective. But the similarities end there.

I am now living in a new land – one with different culture and habits, with different people around me. Somewhere in the middle of the year I had what many call –  crossed the seven seas and entered into a different land. But for me that was metaphorical crap. I had just traveled to a far off place – far off with respect to my home – to gain some knowledge. Anyways, this year I knew my 31st was gonna be way different. Here in college park things are less lively during vacations to get the festive mood. Obviously me and my roommates had to go somewhere outside the city to enjoy the occasion. And we just found ourselves roaming around in New York.

Visiting a different city always has been fun for me. Every city has its own way of living life and New York is no different. Though, New York, I found, was pretty similar to my home town – Mumbai. It lives in the hustle bustle throughout the day and in the party and festival during the night. Entering the city via the tunnel you get completed surrounded by the tall skyscrapers. When you run through the streets you can actually hear your own echo bouncing through those buildings – Awesome!

Watching the Statue of Liberty from a palms distance and then the night view of whole of New York from the Empire State building are just amazing. These moments – one can relive any number times and still be left craving for more. But the best part of the city was on the roads. People playing different tricks on the roads to earn some money from the onlookers and even better part being the stands hot-dogs and other eatables on the streets. Mumbaiites would already feel this familiar. 🙂

Standing and waiting at Times Square for the ball to drop and the year to end, we were surrounded by a sea of people who had come from nearby places to celebrate the advent of 2012. We did have a great time there especially waiting at a place called cafe42. Indians, Chinese, Koreans, Americans and people from all other countries everyone enjoying the exact same cause – I had never imagined something like this happening outside India. Well US does continue to surprise me – the good way.

And then the time came for which we had traveled almost 250 miles. And as expected it did come with a bang. We were here in 2012. And when everyone was wishing each other new year there I was remembering my grandfather……it was his birthday. And in that instant all the memories, all the moments that I remember with him flashed passed through me. Had he been here, how proud he must have been had lived the moment. And the next instant I found myself back into the party in New York I was in.

But all this was just the glamour part of New York. an hour later we just found ourselves stranded without roof. The whole Times Square with all its bewitching dazzle felt hollow. The heart throbbing place suddenly felt heartless.  Back in Mumbai, no matter what the time one can always find someplace to sit the night – marine drive or some train station. New York wasn’t Mumbai after all. Spending the night inside a metro station with some warmth and sleep deprived friends, though sounds somewhat sadistic, was some experience at the end of the day.

And when we caught the bus the next day back to our silent countryside town we were tired but filled with an experience of a lifetime which I still can’t paint completely in words. But all said when I was looking at the diminishing silhouette of  New York’s Skyline only these words ran through my mind –

“Happy Birthday Grandpa…….. Thank You New York.”