The morning I reached Seattle, G was there to pick me up. Seeing her made me feel like I had never really left, but just gone for a short vacation to Europe. Her place has always been my home in Seattle. That's where I left from when I moved to Germany. Once back, I did not have to hunt for my room. It was all right there, with all my stuff, just as I had left it. The bathroom had my soap and shampoo, everything that I had left behind, exactly like that. The bed, the couch, it all felt the same. But I totally realized that I am home when she dangled two huge, football-sized onions in front of my nose and told me, "Here, chop them finely, now that you are here."
As much as I hate chopping onions and garlic, arguing that my fine motor skills are bad, that's my duty in this home. It's not a bad deal at all, staying home, being entertained by the kids, and all I have to do is chop onions and peel garlic every day.
We chatted for a long time that day. I am not a tea-drinker, unless I have company. I had two cups of tea. All this tea and catching up on the gossip made me realize how much of a history we have, going strong ever since I moved to Seattle nine years ago, when she had hosted me. Her home was my first home in the US.
After seven years of graduating from there, I found myself walking the campus, looking at the same buildings, the fountain, the Quad, and the Red Square. This campus is full of my favorite nook and corners, the Burke-Gilman trail I used to walk daily, the U Village, the same buses 372 and 68 and 75. It made me realize, my life is nothing but hundreds of terabytes of memories from different chapters. My life will probably not make any sense without those memories. If someone erased my memory today, I would not know what to do next.
I found my department, went up the stairs, found a quiet corner, and started my laptop. I had no hopes of connecting to the internet. However, a very familiar page opened, asking me for my id and password. I had not used that id since 2008, and didn't think it was alive anymore. I put in my information. And there, I was connected!
It looked like although the id is dead, I could use that to connect to the university internet.
And much later at night, 24 hours into reaching Seattle, I had a visitor from Idaho. We never stopped talking after that.
Despite the many great things that Seattle is, commuting in bus is complicated. You pay $2.50 every time you take the Sound Transit. However, they do not give you a transfer. Other buses give you a transfer for 2 hours only. However, there is no concept of a day pass. Getting an Orca card means added investment, which doesn't make sense for me. To pay the $2.50, I need to carry exact change. In summary, it is complicated.
A 3-day bus pass in Chicago had cost me $21. A 10-day bus pass cost me $29. I scanned the entire city, but could not find a 10-day pass. Everyone was out of them. So I had to get three individual 3-day passes. But it was still better than no bus pass. You do not realize these things when you drive around. Taking the public transport is a different story.
A few days later, I visited the nearby temple, and was amused by two particular things the leader of the temple said-
"Your soul does not belong to Microsoft. It belongs to Krishna (God)."
"When you pray, don't ask for promotions, raises, cars, and houses. That's not a prayer. That's making a business deal."
Some of you might remember Baby Kalyani, who is all of six now. You could teach good values to your children as much as you want to. But when Aunt sunshine is in town, all of that will go down the drain. Seriously, it is so much fun to spoil your friends' kids.
So the 6-year old learns classical music, and wanted to teach me a certain devotional song she knows. It goes like, "Parvati nandana bala ganesha ... Vighna vinasha varada Ganesha."
And I said, enough of this baby. Now let's learn some devotional songs from my collection.
So the little one sang, "Dum maro dum, mit jaaye gum, bolo subah shaam, hare krishna hare raam", and "Jai jai shiv Shankar” for the next few days, without realizing that these songs picturized people high on crack and totally stoned.
The next few days, life fell into a beautiful rhythm. We often find the routine of a Monday to Friday work life monotonous, and seek excitement in the unknown. I myself have often fantasized about a life without roots, without set geographical boundaries. But I am discovering all the excitement and beauty there is in a life well-grounded, well-balanced, and with a clear sense of purpose.
Despite my initial anxiety about not having a phone, car, or address, life fell into a beautiful pattern of regularity. I would be on campus three days a week, and work for home for the rest of the days. And I would travel on the weekends. I love the work I did there. G would drop me and pick me up from the Park & Ride or from Target. I took the Sound Transit, and then walked for a good 30 minutes one way, soaking in the beauty of Seattle. I had tea with G in the mornings, and ate dinner with the kids. I enjoyed all the music as the little one practiced her Sa-Re-Ga-Ma every day. We took long walks, admiring the view of the mountains. Living with G is like living on the sets of the movie Chennai Express, with all the andre-pandre I can make no sense of. But it is comforting to hear all the andre-pandre, and coming back to a place that feels like home. Her husband once told me that G can even talk to a wall if there is no one else in the room. And with more flexibility with my work hours now, I got to meet other friends, and explore restaurants, new and old.
Working. Socializing. Reliving old memories and making new ones. Traveling to other cities, and welcoming friends from other cities who visited me. Seattle and I have always had a history, an energy I have felt with no other place. If I could paint a picture of a perfect life, this would be it.