SVL 1.10: Alterbridge Weekend and East Coast

11th November 2014

 

Hi,
Hope all is well with you. Yesterday was a special day because it has been exactly a year since I met Santosh. In the time to follow I will often think ‘this time last year…’ and remember the winter which was all spring in my mind.
To update you on what’s been happening with me there are three main things:
1) I joined Stanford as an RA in a group that studies Emotion Regulation in children with autism and ADHD. A lot of the principles and measurements they use are familiar to me because of my work in Oldenburg (for eg, they use ECG, ICG, skin conductance but no EEG) and it is interesting working with children and a clinical population for the first time, but not as challenging as I expected. It is a temporary preoccupation though, primarily driven by my affinity for the campus feel, being around intellectually driven people. I often find myself missing my supervisor in Oldenburg. They use hospital ECG, ICG and SCR ‘stickies’ – with gel already on them. They also use EMG to measure smiles and frowns on the face, skin temperature on the little finger, pulse measurement on the thumb, and a respiration band around the waist. My interest in the clinical side is deepening as my writing has taken a backseat for now.
2) The weekend before last, Santosh and I went to SF for a concert by Alterbridge. I have liked them since their first album which we have on tape at home. They have released 3 more since. Their lyrics are often very positive and call on the individual to awaken the strength within to find one’s own path in the face of adversity or obstacles. They also have songs criticising the way we treat our environment (Bleed it Dry) and on the harsh realities of war (One by One). Santosh found them a little too loud and I must say the audio wasn’t well equalised during the performance but I was able to fill in the gaps because I know the songs so well. I had a good time. Put into perspective of the rest of the weekend, I also started to realise I don’t hold the same rebelliousness I used to. So while sometimes I can feel and resonate with the aggression in the sounds, I do so less often than before. The value of their music is still high even after taking the harder elements out.
I will write in more detail about that weekend – including walking around Berkeley, staying in Oakland, meeting some interesting people – below.
3) The past week from last Saturday to day before night Santosh and I took a trip to Boston and New York. It was very interesting, full of new and fascinating experiences. We met Amartya Sen, Santosh presented the demo instead of his boss’s boss in front of 5000 people, we walked the Freedom Trail, went to the UN building, Empire State Building, Metropolitan Museum, ate at Vatan, Grimaldis, Lombaris Pizzerias, walked around to see some well known buildings. Very memorable. Again, details below.
The AlterBridge Weekend
 
As the concert was in Warfield auditorium in SF, we decided to make a weekend of it. We left on Saturday after fixing the wipers on the car to Oakland. In exploring where to stay, hotels, hostels etc, Santosh remembered AirBnB. It’s like couchsurfing but paid and safer because users are verified. We picked up the keys and were shown our room for the night. It was neat, old style high ceiling with fluffy red towels laid out for us. The locks on the door required special instructions too. The hosts were friendly and we saw they had a young daughter.
We then drove to Berkeley to have late lunch. We made it to Cha-Ya, a Japanese vegetarian restaurant. We were so hungry and we ate well. Once our stomachs were happy, we started to walk leisurely along the road. I noticed that the weather was quite different there than in Sunnyvale. It was misty, with a slight chill, the hills had green trees and buildings that looked like an Indian hill station from far away. It felt like in a short time we had traveled far. And definitely the anticipation about the concert made me easily excitable. Everything was making me happy; the food, the changing colours of the leaves, the lighting, the clouds, the big black beautiful dog we saw on the way, little children sharing food with their parents.
We stopped at a Celtic jewelery shop which had an old golden Labrador and had a chat with the younger man there about the meaning and history of certain pieces and patterns. The older man was an artist who made most of the pieces from patterns he saw in old pictures/photos, memories of his own grandmother. We then stopped at a plant shop briefly and then at a Tibetan shop. The shop had little to do with Tibet though, and more to do with medicinal herbs, their uses, books and products based off them. We observed the large jars filled with dry leaves, roots and fantastic smells and Santosh said it would be nice to have a large kitchen with so many spices. We also wandered into a comic book store. I had never been to one before and was fascinated by the variety, genres, styles and lengths of some of the work there. After some browsing we went further to into a used book store where we browsed and bought some interesting titles. It also gave me an idea of what I will borrow on my next visit to the library. Do you know that joy of spending a long time surrounded by books and coming out with good deals on the ones you liked? Books are awesome.
We had only a little time left before we had to leave for the concert. Though we had initially planned to wander around the Berkeley campus, we had indulged in the book shop so we walked on the other side of the street, stopped for some gelato in a very authentically Italian place and made our merry way back to the car. We saw many pretty gardens in quaint older houses, smaller cosy streets, a cat sitting gracefully on the steps and the beautiful sunlight made mild by the rain clouds, passing through the colourful leaves. The magic of autumn was in the air. What a perfect day.
We drove to SF and listened to two two other bands before Alterbridge arrived. They were good but unfamiliar. The appearance of Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti on stage was a crazy moment for the whole crowd. The people on the floor standing rocked, jumped and swayed with the music. But they also got crazy, with aggressive pushy forms of head banging and carrying people around. The people in the higher seating moved less. The collection of songs were a good mix of hits from all four albums. They were careful to avoid many from the 3rd which didn’t do so well. Everyone loved the Fortress (4th album name). I think if they had equalised the sound better so we could hear it like in their studio recordings, it would’ve taken it to a whole new level of enjoyment. We got to Oakland and crashed because it had been a very full active and exhausting day.
The next morning we had breakfast with the host family. The little girl said she wants to feed her bunny so she took some salad to her room. I asked if we can see her bunny. Santosh expected it to be some imaginary friend or a stuffed toy but there in her room was a real bunny! 🙂 She told us we could touch it and so I did. It was very gentle and soft, its name is Nora. Her mother was pleased that she had cleaned her room up a bit before she had come out that morning.
Sonja, the hostess had moved from Berlin 22 years or so ago and found love in the US. She settled there and became a citizen over time. She and I discussed the limitations of the H4 visa and a little about her family in Germany. Things got even more interesting when her husband started talking to us. He showed us his photos from his travels to the Indian subcontinent. He then started sharing stories of how he smuggled himself into Tibet to see things tourists aren’t allowed to see because of the Chinese occupation. The friendly Tibetans who showed him around, hid him below boxes to help him around despite the lack of common language. He told us of his serendipitous experiences with a Kundalini master etc. I observed he had a whole shelf on Buddhist and Hindu philosophy. He said he had no idea why we lived in a place like the US. This is the second time I’ve heard that from an American who studied something about meditation or Hindu philosophy (the first being Dean Ornish who encountered skeptical medical students in Delhi when he tried to lecture on lifestyle changes, meditation and yoga.) Santosh and I later discussed that perhaps this is the future of the culture. That those in India may neglect and forget but it will be taken into new forms by those curious from other cultures. Sonja’s husband Robbie indeed suggested that more people here are recognising the merits of meditation in a practical mainstream way, rather than in any fluffy mystical way. There is a growing interest in Buddhism because it is practical and it fills a need here. Things tend to go a full circle in our desires. We aspire for material comforts and abundance until we reach a point where we understand that though they are important, they in themselves don’t fulfill our souls. Then we seek it in intellectual pursuits or philosophy/spirituality, try to wonder about deeper questions in life. We may do this in one life or as a society over generations. We seek what we have less of, perhaps following Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
After we left their house, we drove to see the giant Red Wood Trees in Muir Woods National Forest. Ever since my dad had visited this place years ago on one of his visits and brought back a book for me, I had dreamed of seeing, touching and walking among these trees. We walked in main circuit and took some pictures. We sat on one moist fallen tree over looking a stream and had an introspective conversation that drifted from the culture of rock to rebellion. It had just rained so the place was more beautiful with some moss and the smell of moisture.
We made it back to SF to grab a late lunch at Gracias Madre, a vegetarian Spanish restaurant. Santosh had planned where we could eat and since this area has so many types of cuisines, it was easy to find fully vegetarian restaurants with good reviews from different places. The food was good and we ate our fill! We then stopped by at a famous bakery called Tartine to pick up something for our visit to my friend’s old friends in Oakland (P and T). We got there a little later than expected because of the terrible traffic. My teacher/friend had offered that I connect with them when I move here since she is close to them. We knew very little about each other and they were a generation older than us but we had very interesting conversations about Santosh’s work, P’s work, Bicycling, the importance of paying attention to breathing (not within the confines of sitting meditation), depression, children (reliving innocence which is so precious and shortlived), languages and how they change over time and as people travel. We hope to get together for some authentic Indian food and more good conversations in the south bay sometime.
When we got home that night, it felt to me as if we had been away for longer than a weekend. What a full and happy weekend.
During the week, apart from the days I was needed at Stanford, I went for a meeting at Sunnyvale City Hall. It was my first venture into the streets on my new bike. I found it a lot less scary than I had read it would be. People watch for bikes, and google suggests safe routes. I felt good at the exertion and my bike felt solid, sturdy and stable on the road. I visited the library, returned the children fantasy books and borrowed entirely non fiction books – on learning to read Tamil and a few more on hypnotherapy, acupressure and reflexology, and on the importance of drinking water. I made it on time to the meeting where a competition was announced – cities compete in how much they can engage their citizens to reduce their energy consumption by improving efficiency within their house in the coming two years. It was a brainstorming session and I found a way to integrate the ideas onto a platform of a webpage that very day after I got home. They were impressed at my speed and the integration of ideas. I don’t know what has become of the process after that. I rode back before sunset and lifted my bike back to the apartment.
The evenings during the week were spent preparing for the big trip to the East Coast.
Week at the East Coast
 
Santosh’s demo was a success at the previous conference so he was asked to do the technical part of it again at another at Boston. This time I was going with him and apart from our time in Boston, we were also going to take a few days in NY as a miniholiday. When we got there, his boss called him to let him know that the manager further up who was supposed to present it on stage was sick and so Santosh would have to present it as well. This required some extra preparation but it went very well and I was there to watch it – 5000 people saw it happen and I was probably the loudest clapper, beaming with pride, taking so many photos.
This was on Tuesday. Let me start with Saturday. We left to SFO in the morning to catch a noonish flight to Boston through Atlanta. During the stop over we called his cousin who lives there who we will visit over the holidays. The flights were eventless and we checked into the hotel where the conference was to happen by nightfall. It looked quite fancy but the facilities were limited and they even asked guests to pay for WiFi unless you were a ‘preferred guest’.
On Sunday, we woke up to swirling snow and rain. A fantastic view from the 24th floor. The city looked busy and cold. I was glad we had brought our gloves, hats, scarves. When we ventured out, Santosh found it unpleasant. Both our faces froze until we reached Kashmir, the restaurant with North Indian buffet. We ate all we could eat and started out all bundled up in our winter clothes onto Newbury street. We stepped into a few shops partly out of interest, partly out of wanting to be warmed up again – including an original poster shop, sound systems shop and some others. I was clicking away (I’ll add pictures to this so you can go through them as you read). Boston seemed busy but at a comfortable pace. We passed a park where there were so many squirrels running around. And they weren’t as shy there as they generally are. They would come right up to your shoes to check if you have food. We walked pretty fast when we realised this to avoid being bitten by any of them. The lake we passed was glinting in the autumn light and the colours of the leaves, both fallen and still on the trees were brilliant, bright and scenic. They contrasted against the greys and blues of the buildings.
Then we reached the beginning of the Freedom Trail. It was a trail that led through the most important historical landmarks of Boston, marked by a vertical brick path leading across roads, on footpaths, taking on more distinct colours when surrounded by other brick flooring. The Boston Skyline was lit up by the long setting sun. I got some great shots. We walked into a Starbucks to take a break from the cold and after hot coffee and hot chocolate we resumed with new energy. As it got darker, I discovered the amazing capacity of the SLR to capture night scenes without using flash. I had better let the pictures speak for themselves. We took photos of the oldest house – of Paul Revere who, by warning the people of the upcoming attack of the British, saved many lives. His house has been preserved. We crossed the bridge into another park and decided we have covered most of the important sites so we can head back and have Pizza on our way back to the hotel. Pizza Regina. Great stuff 🙂 We managed the coldest day of our trip quite well. Just a note, you may notice in some photos that the flags are at half mast (I must say, the‘Merricans tend to put their flags everywhere more so than any other country I’ve been to which is not competing in a major sporting event at that time. It’s almost as if they are reminding everyone constantly of which country they are in.) This is because the former Mayor of Boston had just passed away. The people definitely cared for him because there were big ceremonies and signs of it everywhere. He must’ve been good.
Monday onward it was more reasonable weather. Still cold but during the day there were times where just one sweater would be enough and gloves weren’t necessary. Monday morning was the highlight of the trip because it was the day that we met Amartya Sen. I had gone earlier to Harvard across the river in Cambridge with two books Santosh had which were written by him because Santosh wasn’t sure if he could get away from work long enough to come from Boston to Cambridge to meet him himself. I was sitting there for sometime hoping to go in a bit late so if Santosh could make it, we could go together. Prof Sen walked from the elevators towards his office and asked if we were there to meet him. (There was a student sitting on the same bench too) I got up and said yes, thinking he might ask one of us to come in with him. He said “Sorry I’m late. I have to take a call, could you come in 2-3 minutes after I go in?” So I waited 4 minutes to be polite and went to the door. Another man stood there with his files and said he just needed to drop it off so I let him go before me. Up to this point, I had been texting Santosh asking if he can make it. He told me he was on his way. I went in after the man came out. He asked me to sit as his phone rang again. I sat on the chair opposite him at his desk and he excused himself mumbling about how busy his morning had been. His office was full of books from floor to ceiling on two sides and on the other two sides were windows. I had my camera with me and I tried to gesture to ask him if it was ok to take pictures. When he didn’t catch my eye, I started taking some of the room and the view outside. He told the person on the phone that she could say something because I was happily taking pictures. I asked if someone else was coming to meet him, he said no. I asked if I could take pictures of him. He said, “Sure, if you’d like”. So he leaned on his desk and gave me a charming smile. I was very pleased. I had not expected to spend so much time in a relaxed way with him, nor had I any clue how friendly he was. A Nobel Laureate and highly respected scholar and writer, you may expect some airs but there weren’t any. When he got off the phone he asked me my name, what I do etc. I told him then that I’m here for my husband who is the die-hard fan. I asked if he could sign the books. He confirmed Santosh’s spelling and wrote his best wishes on both title pages. I told him more about Santosh’s interests and work. He was as sharp as ever at 81. I told him that if Santosh makes it on time, they could have some great conversations. He said he hopes he makes it by 12 after which he would have to leave. I asked to take a selfie with him, to which he agreed openly. Then we shook hands and I said I would wait outside until he came. I went back out and texted Santosh again. He was almost there. The student went in to meet him and soon after, Santosh walked through the doors. I was over the moon that he made it with fifteen minutes to spare. It meant so much to him to be able to even say hi to Amartya Sen. So, as soon as the student walked out, I led him to the door, had him knock and hurried him inside. He walked in and said hi. I entered right behind and introduced him as Santosh, my husband. Prof Sen got up from his chair and came to the center of the room to shake hands with Santosh. He invited him to sit with him on a wide couch next to a window and they had a conversation. I took so many photos. Santosh’s voice sounded a little nervous to me and he seemed a bit flushed. I kept out of the conversation and only added in the middle that I am also a confused combination of Tamil and Kannada when he asked. As the conversation wound down (because his secretary had come in) Prof Sen told her that I am taking pictures. The secretary smiled politely. I switched it off and mentioned that this is a very special event because Santosh looks up to him so much. Despite all his achievements and praise he must’ve received, he still got humble at praise from us. We left the building to catch the bus back and enjoyed the after effects of having met such an awesome renowned person.
Santosh went back to work and I explored the neighbourhood for lunch. Wound up hungry at a place called Ginger Exchange. Great Asian food 🙂 and I soon returned to the room to escape the cold and read. There was a TV in the room which I browsed simply because I had never seen American TV before! Santosh came back to the room for more practice with his boss in CA. We said hi to his boss’s cute little daughter. I went out to get us dinner. The leftovers were my breakfast the next morning on Tuesday. I ate it as I got a surprise call from one of my flatmates in Oldenburg. We caught up after a long time and then I got ready and went down in time for the event. I had plans to meet my old mentor at Harvard square at 2:30 so I was hoping to leave by 1:30 find the right stop to take the bus there. I watched nervously as previous events took their time. At exactly 1:30 Santosh was introduced by the CEO of his company. A full slide had his picture on it (one that I took during our visit to the redwoods) and he was called on stage to explain the new technology and show a live demo. I clapped very loudly and stood to take pictures. The people in the audience in front of me might’ve thought it odd that I was clicking away. There was going to be a HD video of the whole event anyway so I didn’t take a video too. As soon as he was done, I packed the camera and left for the bus. I got there a little early (excellent connection in Bus 1 on Massachusetts Avenue)
This mentor I met was the person at NIAS who I did part of my term paper with during my undergrad. He introduced me to Wendy Doniger, Roberto Calasso and some other stimulating books on mythology, and philosophy. I have kept in touch with him since and been remotely part of some of his activities on moving education to the next level, citizenship programs in Bangalore etc. I consider him a mentor because he seems to understand the polymathic nature of my interests and is able to give me useful guidance and insight. I wished Santosh could’ve been there for the conversation but he was still at the event and was responsible for the equipment afterward. My mentor and I had coffee and discussed how our paths have changed since we last met. We discussed the mixed nature of our identities when we live away for a long time, how his daughter is coping with it. He said the best investment these days, is in one’s own growth, expertise and adaptablity. No one stays in one job for too long anymore, and not in one role. It’s necessary to have a wide range of interests and skills and the openness to explore, be thrown out of one’s comfort zone and still thrive. It can be a lot more difficult than a generation ago but that much more rewarding too. He himself has interests ranging from computational modeling, myths, to data mining and education that he has developed after his PhD in Math from MIT. He told me about how he’s at a point now where he’s moving out of academia to start a business and it’s his time to explore – fall out of the security and give everything he has into this enterprise. I told him where I think I’m headed and also about Santosh’s job and interests. I hope to connect them since he knows Santosh’s CEO from the early days of the company because they were both in MIT at that time. He also has tried some of the things Santosh aims to do later. He seemed to understand our goals and the spirit of them. He is a kindred spirit 15 years ahead of us in life. He left to pick up his daughter and told me of some bookshops to kill time as I waited.
I went to Raven’s Used Bookstore and started browsing. They had excellent background sound which encouraged focus. In some time Santosh walked from his office headquarters to where I was and we walked around together exploring the shops as I caught him up in as much detail as possible on the conversation he missed. He told me I missed the Q and A session where many questions were directed at him. I watched part of it on video later. We went into an actual Tibetan shop and played with the singing bowls there. The lady in the shop was the daughter of refugees in India. She explained and demonstrated how hand made bowls had richer sounds than machine made ones. We also walked into LUSH which is an all natural and environmentally and socially responsible cosmetics shop. They have wonderful smelling moisturising bars, soaps, handwashes, scrubs, shampoos etc. Then we then met my old classmate for dinner. The conversation flitted from her ongoing PhD to mine, Santosh’s work, travel plans in the near future, family, our brothers, classmates who are about to get married and our own married lives, directions in our careers, and our food. We went to a frozen yogurt shop on our way to the bus stop and parted ways. It was nice to spend time with her after many years.
The next morning, Wednesday, we left to NY by a 4 hour bus. Luckily Santosh had left the equipment in the headoffice so we had fewer bags to carry. Ambitiously we went from Penn Station to Brooklyn and tried to make it back into Manhattan where we had a booked tour through the UN building. Since the subway system was new to us, it took us a while to figure it out and walking blocks took longer than we expected. We arrived at the UN, panting and sweating from the rush. This was our entry into the city. It was fast paced, crowded, dangerous in traffic, rushed (while we were buying our tickets for the train, the people behind us got impatient with my trying to find the right change, I would’ve liked to snap back but decided not to). The UN tour was interesting and we asked many questions about the different branches, what they work on, how effective they are. I also took pictures of the art there. Santosh was particularly excited to be there and we got some souvenirs. We had risen early to make it on time to the bus stop so to slow down from all the rush we walked to Vatan. It’s an oasis in the otherwise chaotic city. When we entered, it was quiet, they had patient, well informed waitresses and an ambiance that felt like perpetual twilight in a village in Gujarat. We took our seats in a hut overlooking a courtyard as music played in the background. Our waitress’s name was Vidushi and she introduced all the items in every course and asked if we’d like more of anything. Every item was delicious. It was relaxing and calming. If anyone is going there, I recommend that restaurant. It’s a bit on the fancy side but really worth it, especially if you go in during off peak hours. It’s like we transported back to India for that time and walked out a magic door back to NY. Then it was time to visit the Empire State Building.
As we walked there, we saw views of it from blocks away as it towered above brightly. We entered and were impressed by how solid, smooth and shiny the walls, floors and elevators were. The flooring especially was of coloured shiny granite. They had recently renovated parts of the building to make it more energy-efficient. Good job 🙂 I was fascinated with the building itself and then we reached the first level of viewing. It was cold and windy outside but we were protected with our gloves and hats. We stopped on every side of the building taking pictures, looking for buildings and places we knew or heard about. We spotted Times Square and the Statue of Liberty. The scene was beautiful – watching the bright city lights like stars far below, far from the chaos of the city in the peace and quiet of height. There are benefits of zooming out and taking in the larger picture 🙂
When we got back to Brooklyn, it was late and we were very tired. We just fell asleep as soon as we wound down. On Thursday we got out of the AirBnB later and made our way to Grimaldi’s, a pizzeria that serves typical New York Style pizza under the Brooklyn Bridge. It was thin crust, brick-oven baked, very even and great cheese and toppings on it! After enjoying that we decided to walk into Manhattan on the Brooklyn Bridge catching the skyline on our way. Just as the previous day from the Empire State Building, we spotted the Statue of Liberty. We made our way to the Freedom Tower in place of where the world trade centers stood. It was misty so we couldn’t see all the way to the top. They had two ponds lit up with water falling into them. Around these were the names of all those who lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks. In general I felt a bit sad but as I saw more of the names I got quite emotional. What pushed me over the edge was a white rose stuck in the name ‘Wade Green’. Someone still misses him, even now, 14 years after he died. For some reason I always thought of the attacks as the buildings falling and the people as numbers. But not about each person. Every name had friends and family, a life. And there were still roses.
We then went in search for the NY public library which led us to China town (google will send you to any nearby libraries). We decided to shop on our way to Canal Street subway stop towards Times Square. China Town had the best offer for a cover for my phone 🙂 We walked to Times Square from the closest subway stop. It was extremely bright and we were mesmerised by all the ads. There, in the middle of all the flashing bright colours, lights and costumed people was a young man holding up a placard that read ‘TV brainwashes people’. We went and talked to him asking him what his agenda was. He said he thinks American news keeps the people passive and docile – prevents revolutions. I was happy he got a chance to say this at Times Square – he had a very serious face, almost defensive. From there we walked to Marriott hotel and ate left over pizza and oats. Walked to Rockefeller Building, past St Patrick’s Cathedral, New York Palace and Waldorf Astoria which are just fancy looking hotels to Grand Central Station.
The next day, Friday, we went straight to Central Park. Had brunch at a Belgian Cafe (Le Pain Quotidian) and went to Met – Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Note to potential visitors – they have entrance fees marked up but when you go to the counter they tell you anything you give is optional – it is just a donation. By then you are usually prepared to pay what category you are but you don’t have to. You can enter even for a dollar. We paid adult price. Was it worth it though? Yes.) It was so beautiful. We went through the Roman and Greek ancient parts, then to the European French areas and American part. Then we realised we had limited time to see everything so we rushed through Medieval art, Native American, Australian arts and spent time in the Asian sections – the Chinese collection and parts of the Indian collection was impressive. Japan was nice too but Asia was kept in a corner harder to access unlike the European artifacts. By then my feet were begging for rest. So we took a break to sit and massage my feet and made our way to Lombardis Pizzeria – the first ever pizzeria in NY, or all of the USA, for dinner after the museum closed. We had eaten a sandwich and had some cake and coffee during our roughly 8 hours in the museum cafes too for breaks between sections. The next day was our trip back to Boston by bus. We woke early and dragged our luggage through the cold morning air to the same Penn Station bus stop.
Throughout our visit to New York we realised how many movies were based here, how many series. Friends, How I met your Mother, Castle, Spiderman (reminded by a park close to Broadway), The Day After Tomorrow, Sleepless in Seattle and several others. It felt like I had already been here but now I was coming in 3D in my own life story with Santosh. He had been there before though. The amount of walking we did felt good but also tired my feet out, despite me wearing my most comfortable sport shoes.
Once in Boston on Saturday, we had sandwiches for lunch at Cheeseboy and took a taxi to Cambridge to pick up Santosh’s equipment. They had trouble accessing it so we had to send the first one away and get another cab for the journey to the airport. There we took the rental car and drove to Cape Cod. Despite the hecticness of NY, having seen the art in Met and this drive away from the city, a sense of peace and calm settled into us. The autumn leaves bordered the road as the sun set. We found the cosy sea captain’s home and the hosts were very friendly and welcoming. They went out of their way to make us comfortable. It felt almost like they were long lost family. While they went to a concert, we freshened up from the travel and headed out to Bookstore and Restaurant for an Italian dinner. Great food! We couldn’t finish it so we packed the rest for the next day. We discussed the pros and cons of big city and small town life. The types of people in those places, the value of human connection in each and how my experience in Oldenburg created an affinity in me for a slower paced town where you run into people you know where ever you go and people are warm, welcoming, friendly and helpful.
While I was putting away the food in the fridge, I ran into one of the hosts and we got talking about my work, interests, his experience with the concert, authors who write about why we need god, etc. Then he noticed I was walking around without socks and he apologised and tried to end the conversation. Santosh came down the narrow steep steps wondering why I was gone so long and after he showed us how our room connects to their side of the house we went back to our room and slept. We had an idea of waking early to see the sunrise but when I woke for it, it was raining so we went back to sleep. It was comfortable, quiet and very restful. Santosh and I had breakfast with our host couple and enjoyed a stimulating conversation about his work, the lady’s art, crafts, photography, the gentleman’s interest in creativity, children’s imagination, childhood stories, recipe for Indian tea (which is redundantly called chai tea out here). It was a very pleasant and I got the feeling they really cared about us. While we went out to the beach, they filled our water and when we got back they helped heat our leftovers, and packed some cheese sticks for us! I hope we stay in touch with them. Santosh and I discussed how nice it would be for our parents to come with us on trips like these and meet such nice people too.
We got to the airport smoothly and the flights back through Chicago were eventless, and cramped if anything. When we got home we were very tired. It was 4am in the east coast by the time we cleaned up, ate and slept.
I started writing this update yesterday at Santosh’s office. It would’ve probably taken very long for you to read it too. I hope you enjoyed reading it.
Hope to hear from you sometime 🙂
Affectionately,
Janani

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