Its fun to visit a place you have never been before. Uncertainty churns up anxiety, a much detested and unwelcome intruder. Little do we realise, worrying has kept us alive and fear is good for health. With such deep philosophy, we chalked out our travel plans during the long US stay. Multi-modal it would surely be; air, rail, road and water travel included. Destinations were rolled out and reservations done; we were ready.
My son quipped, “You have it done so many times in Mumbai; aren’t you overdoing this anxiety bit?” Well, I just needed a reminder, sticking out in the Harbour train outboard against the lashing rain and one leg hanging out; was I that brave a person? And did I really cross the tracks in the night and jump the fence? Everyone did that and a few even stood on the train top with hands outstretched amidst the sparks in the overhead cable connector, foolishly challenging death. And almost every day some station would have a body waiting to be identified.
Now what has all that got to do with a simple, structured travel plan in a manicured place like US?
The mysteries of mind! The triggers that awaken embedded events; the hindsight answers and reasoning neatly stacked up with the strings of survival playing the high note. That’s how we journey through life’s many thrilling routes.
Our son dropped us off at the Hobokon end of the NJ interstate; station and train almost empty. We had a changeover for the Edision station and a further ride to the cousin’s house. Its easier to move by road in most places in US. I am a lifelong train fan and I enjoyed shuntings and winding tracks and the double decker coaches. At the changeover there was a lovely waiting place with facilities – books, food, attendants and a well lit large circular hall.
The changeover train was crowded but we managed seats. There was a distinct scene change as we moved onto interiors of New Jersey. The Edision station (the actual small station which most confuse with the larger Edision area station) was a wild west type station; a Bond movie station where a lone car comes to pick you up. I understood the land prices were still very high but there was more space and less noise.
We carry our deep desires wherever we go. The small temple in the house, the backyard with the swing, the earthen port, the home-grown vegetables, the home-done (most only bought) spices, the Indian attire and of course, the Indian words. We saw many such lingering traces even after years of leaving India. And its with the young and fresh migrants too. A Vada-Pavv is widely craved. And we love to exchange memories and contexts of long dead events.
Areas like Edison get identified and labelled with a community. Ironically we yearn for known environments but we cant stand too much of it. We fight with our neighbours (and equally with our near-ones) but we cannot walk away from their presence.
The return journey had less of unknownness as the family dropped us off to a train station comfortably near the Newport area. We liked the surroundings of the Grove street and like the adventuring newly-settled, we walked back to our home admiring the neatness of the streets and the eating places and the returning young office-crowd.
Photograph by Devang Desai