We learnt many things at the world’s learning mecca, BOSTON – MIT and Harvard being the niche and fifty plus other learning places. The best way to get a feel of Boston is to stand on one of the bridges of Charles River and look at the distant outlines of the Hancock and Prudential buildings, the dome of MIT and the Harvard horizon at the other end. We did that in the hot afternoon. I envied those who must have started at dawn but it was worth it.
There are many ways to move around Boston; the hop on-hop off bus, cycling for the enthusiasts or simply planned walking. Going to Boston by car from New York through multiple stopovers is ideal. We did the Amtrak and enjoyed the scenic, insulated feel of Connecticut and Rhode Island areas. The greenery and abundant waterbodies created a breath-taking landscape. Maybe one day I will cycle down the quiet country lanes.
The “no-platform-like“ rail station was my favourite. And the open sea viewed from a dense cluster of trees was the nature blowing a kiss. I loved the old-fashioned ticket collector’s routine. After the check, a tag is attached on the seat top or carrier edge and now you have to carry it and reattach if you change your seat.
Next time I’ll ask him if I can take it away as a souvenir. I have many such in my collection – room keys, clothes tags, maps, ticket counterfoils (Spanish, Chinese, Turkish, Israelis) and even menu cards with history attached!
That brought back memories of my train ride from Zurich to Geneva in some distant past. They say there is a scenic adventure in a train going up the north west Chinese provinces. Also I’ve heard, the Alaskan train journey is awesome. For me, today, this journey with my family has no match.
And we learnt what it means to share our Airbnb facilitated stay in Boston. We fell in love with the cosy place with a balcony opening out, literally taking the inside to outdoor, trees stooping to a touchable range and uninterrupted view. The living room-cum kitchen with all the gadgets and a bath was a model of lean living. The bed-cum–closets-cum study completed the picture of owners who must be loving to spend time outside. We stayed and shared like a family; we learnt how some have perfected the art of owning without possessing.
“They just called requesting me to shift the excess rice to deep freeze; they had forgotten.”
“I feel like Snow White is entering someone’s comfortable home.”
“And look at so many of us. My house, my furnishings, my gadgets, my food, mine…mine …mine…knowing that it is mine only for the brief time I’m alive!”
“This type of being alive is so unique.”
The family occupied our minds. And our conversations.
We stepped out for a fabulous dinner at an Italian place with a wide variety of mouth-watering food. There were excellent options for vegetarians too. The all-knowing server was happy tempting us and describing the uniqueness of their dishes.
Next day was all about Harvard “village” walks, after a large Bennedict omelette and lovely morning coffee. We posed, like many, before Mr. John Harvard’s statue and the entrance gate and roamed around the dorms, academic buildings, law library and the many open spaces. I envied a local doing his computing simultaneously with body stretches; mind exercises on the lawn under the welcome Boston sun.
And I pictured myself attending an advanced course in the near future but for now, I had to be content with a selfie under the school banner.
Boston and its academic aura was timely for me. I had started teaching and spent considerable time with academicians and learners. What was it that prompted humans to be so excited with written knowledge? A world without documented theories, reasoning and playing around with numbers and words? Would it sharpen our senses, especially our intuition?
And I wondered, as I slept in a stranger’s home, about those pavement dwellers outside the IIM-A wall, never knowing about millions of words floating inside. Which side of the wall was the lasting reality? Was one meant to cure the other?
During the first part of the next day, we went to a brewery and walked in the sprawling Boston Common – the oldest US park where its revolution began – offsetting the bountiful beer we gulped down and ending the evening with a delicious Indian meal. We walked through the London-type lanes with most houses converted into commercial units. Drinking Beer during the day time among hundreds of noisy people was an intoxicating experience. We felt younger and carefree, our children reminding us not to forget everything while having fun. Common brought back memories of Hyde Park and the Manhattan Central Park.
Early next morning was spent at the Summer Market musings. We marvelled through lots of artsy things – hand made leather shoes and organic eats, followed by food from truck-takeaways. We enjoyed in a warehouse converted beer barn. A ducky ride on the Boston streets, especially where the famous Boston Marathon begins, and wading through the river was exciting. We ended the day with one more Italian dinner.
We also walked over to the special Holocaust monument built with vapour releasing at the feet, giving the effect of gassing at the concentration camps. The victims’ numbers – millions of them – were engraved on the glass structures. I felt the numbers with my hand. I remembered reading about the Nuremberg Trials and the post-war law of crimes against humanity. My mind asked, what if it is proved there is no free will? Who would you hold legally responsible for such acts?
Maybe MIT was working on such answers in one of their many academic buildings. We visited that on our last day at Boston. The schools of architecture, management, engineering, and many sciences surrounded us. Helpful volunteers guided us and we had glimpses of some of the on-going events. The famous Dome picture was taken, food tasted in their cafeteria and at the bustling Café Luna, made for some pleasant memories. No big inventions have eradicated the basic needs of food, clothing and shelter. Maybe, behind closed doors in one of the Labs, something contrary is brewing.
In the evening, with a promise to return to Boston, we boarded the train to Penn Station, back to our home in New York.
Photographs by Devang Desai