We got invited by our cousin; the one who took us to the Jazz show, for their daughter’s new home-inaugural. A Good time to catch up with scattered cousins and their children and grandchildren. Under a light shower, the google driven Uber got us to a nice residential area.
Two identical houses were constructed, enjoying the scale economies and there was a provision made to let out a part of each. The two partners built their properties under a common efficient execution. The neighbourhood was mixed but the adjacent houses all belonged to the Indians. I wondered, after a lifetime in a new country, how do you choose your neighbours?
The guests were friends and family. A cohesive group with shared thinking and desires. The informal and helping crowd made the occasion lively and very participative. The Pooja ceremony was held in the garage area and the house front, neighbour’s garage and parking spaces were appropriately expropriated.
Introductions and linkages were established and the binding theme of Politics and the Indian movies was richly explored. Chesterton’s essay tells us we are very vocal about things that do not concern us directly – so it was easy for all, to opine about political leaders and their doings, the many inefficiencies that made up their now relinquished India and the businessman President’s triumphant march to revitalise America.
The new house reminded me how some of the cousins had found economic freedom in America. I remembered, as a kid, visiting their family house in the old city area of Ahmedabad. All travelled on foot, bus, cycles and a few on two-wheelers; cars were rare. The lanes had practically no space for the vehicles. America was their Shangri-La. Strangely, the new house reminded me of the old one; a two storeyed narrow box. While here the garage in the front was for car, there I could still recollect the parked cycle.
I remember my Dad telling me how there used to be marriage-dinners in those narrow lanes and food was prepared by the families with some hired help. We had Indian food ordered from Edison, brought in vehicles of their friends and the serving, later cleaning-up and the residual-takeaways were no different here from the community cooperation then. Then why the long journey and the abandonment?
The ceremony and the rituals were as elaborate as in India; nothing was American about it. Nothing was waived. The incense, the God pictures and statues, the conch blowing and the joint reciting of the hymns were scrupulously followed. Hymns for all occasions were recited; volume and not context was appreciated or maybe the correct word was western fungibility.
I was happy that all migration stories of people I knew had turned out well. Not the experiences of those workers doing up the desert sky scrapers or those trapped in the irreversible hellholes of modern urbanisation.
It was an enjoyable experience being part of this building, knowing that other life buildings would continue.
Photograph by Devang Desai