Aug 3 '01 - the day my family and I landed on American land for good.
Aug 3 '01 - the day that marked the ending of a beginning left incomplete.
Aug 3 '01 - the day that marked the beginning of a new beginning unasked for.
As a fourteen year old I arrived Atlanta, Georgia, United States of America exactly five years ago from today. Mom, Papa, Hansag and I stood at the Hartsfield Airport with our eight (or maybe twelve) huge suitcases, waiting for Mr. Man Mohan Sharma to receive us.
Two years before, in 1999, Hansag and I had come to the States for a visit of three months. The scene that was in front of our eyes now, was not at all scary. Seeing Whites, Blacks, Latinos, Asians, all those people running around at the airport seemed quite normal. Those pay phones, those carts, that luggage receiving area, those help counters, those sliding doors, those extra long cars, pick-up trucks, perfect roads, nothing, nothing at all was new or scary or unexpected.
Finally, someone came looking for us. It was Mr. Sharma's wife - Lydia Sharma - of Puerto Rican decent. Those huge suitcases we were standing by helped her recognize us.
The luggage was dumped into Mr. Sharma's white Ford pick-up truck. The rest of us rode the black Lexus, which had a built-in GPS system. Again, the automatic windows, the smooth ride, the fast highways, the country side, nothing, nothing at all was new or scary or unexpected.
The night before, back in India, mom was still packing. There was a huge crowd of people in our flat - Nana, Nani, Anil Chacha, Lajja Chachi, Shanky, Rishu, Rinku Mama, Papa, Mom, Hansag, and I. A lot of stuff was going on, the flight was in only a couple of hours and the house was still a mess, things spread everywhere! Adults' minds were not thinking straight. There came a point when postponing the ticket was being considered. I was up for it! I really wanted that! I actually wanted them to just fuckin' cancel the tickets and not ever think about moving to the United States. But of course, nothing was done. The flight, still, was in a couple of hours, and the house, still, was a mess.
Soon, and I mean pretty soon, it was time to step out the house. I went to my room, picked up the phone and dialed numbers. Three sets of seven digit numbers. Said the same thing to all the three on the other side of the line:
Hum bas nikal rahe hain. Tujhe last bye bolne ke liye phone kiya.
(We are just leaving. Called to say a final bye.)
Kanika Saboo, Srishti Bhatnagar, and Aditya Singh (probably in that same order, but can't remember).
Then, I went down the stairs, walked over to another building, called Tripti Sharma. She came downstairs we shook hands/hugged and I stepped inside that car that took me away, far away.
Yes, it has been five years since I've seen that flat or that particular crowd or Kanika or Srishti or Aditya or Tripti. It has been five years since I've stepped down those stairs or walked on that road or towards that building.
Five long unending years.
Five long unending years.