Saturday, June 6, 2015

An Unforgettable Date with Uncle Sam: Part I

In the dead of the night on the 13th of May, we - Mom and I - set out for the Delhi airport, passports in hand, luggage in tow. The roads were not nearly as deserted as you'd expect at that time of the night, a fact that bears witness to Delhi's reputation of being a city that never sleeps. It took about a half hour to complete the various check-in formalities. Another hour went by without my realizing, and just like that, all of a sudden I was on my way to board the plane slated to take me on my life's first foreign trip. I was remotely conscious of the impossibly long journey that awaited us. Wondering where we were headed? Well, first to Abu Dhabi and from there on to New York. Yes, finally a date with the mighty Uncle Sam!

The 18 hours it took to transport us halfway across the globe felt like an eternity. I watched 2 movies and a couple of TV show episodes, ate 3 meals, had a couple of drinks and slept in several bursts of an hour or two. And yet I was wide awake when the plane began its descent at the John F. Kennedy Airport in Queens, New York. As I stepped out of the arrivals area and glanced back, the airport seemed small - tiny really - when compared to the airport I had just left behind in India. I felt proud.
Arrivals parking outside the JFK International Airport

It was evening but the sun shone brightly. That's when all those geography lessons on time zones and climatic differences seemed to finally make sense. In tropical India, you would never get to see the sun beyond 7.30 p.m. and that too at the peak of summer. But summers in temperate USA often witness the sun setting as late as 9 p.m.! The weather was pleasant and a chilly breeze blew. I soon realized what it meant when people in those New York-based TV shows would say, "what's the weather like today?" Because I was told that there was no climate per se; the weather could change dramatically from one day to the next! And we did come to experience that for ourselves over the next two weeks that exposed us to scorching sun, light and heavy rain as well as intensely cold days.

It was a two hour drive from JFK airport to what was going to be our residence for the next two weeks. Wait, did I completely forget to mention the reason why we were even going to the US? My mind must have skipped out on that part. Now normally I'd have loved to say that we were going to the US 'on vacation', but only if wishes were horses. It was in fact my cousin's wedding on the 17th of May for which we had been invited by our gracious hosts, Archana and Rajiv Uppal, to their home in Trumbull, Connecticut. Rajiv uncle is my dad's first cousin. He went to the US for higher studies way back in the 80s after graduating from Benaras Hindu University. Through hard work and determination, the couple have created a formidable identity for themselves and their two lovely daughters Neha and Anisha in this foreign land, while keeping in touch with their Indian roots. There is so much more I have to say about these amazing people, but I'll reserve it for later. 

The Uppals' home was every bit as beautiful as it was stately. Flanked by a pretty driveway out front, a back deck and a swimming pool beyond which lay woods on a small hill, the house had a dreamy quality about it. I got so lost in exploring the lush green surroundings that I inadvertently stepped on the swimming pool that lay covered in tarpaulin. And it turned out, it was filled to the brim! Luckily I escaped with only a few splashes on my dress and shoes. But now I can proudly boast about having walked on the surface of a swimming pool. How many people can claim to have done that, right?



Reminds me of my favourite lines every time, "Woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep".

 As I was saying, we went from the airport to our hosts' place chatting away about our families, the wedding and just how much fun the next four days were going to be. As soon as we landed at their doorstep, everyone came out with open arms and gave us a very warm welcome. There were many more relatives in the house and festivities seemed to be in full swing even at that hour. It soon became apparent that preparations were being made for a ceremony that was about to ensue. What was that ceremony? What happened next? I'll tell you all in the next post in this series. Keep watching this space for more stories from my unforgettable date with Uncle Sam.


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