Today I met up with my friend Dinesh and for the first time met his wife. We spent a gentle hour or so at Starbucks talking, laughing, remembering times spent in India. Its fun to meet up with friends from Chennai and talk about how different a new person finds life here in the US who is from India. A particularly humorous comment of hers was that she never thought she would see so many Indians here but where she lives all of her neighbors are from someplace in India. We talked about driving in India versus here because she wants to get a driver’s license. Its funny to relate how my Auto driver in Chennai regarded the buses that would not share the road with anything smaller.
He would cuss them out and gesticulate at them when they did something particularly offensive. VJ would tell me that the buses were not nice and they were big and he was small and life was unfair. Then I would laugh and he would smile and we’d motor on toward my destination. VJ was a gentle and kind soul who took me to the places in Chennai I wanted. He hauled me home drunk and took me to restaurants and let me get to places otherwise that would have been difficult. I paid him more but I always felt I got more. In all honesty, I lived pretty well getting paid in US dollars and translating to Rupees for my local living.
So we talked more and Dinesh’s wife wanted to know about my family. I think Dinesh explained to her the realities of me and the family unit and how often I either see or don’t see my kids. We shared stories about restaurants we had all gone to and our lives when I lived there and worked for Celestix Networks India. Those were mighty fine days all in all.
I also heard that my friend Rajesh is coming over from Mumbai later this month so we will get to see him. Dinesh, Rajesh, and I would go out to eat quite often together in India and they would haul me all around to restaurants and bars and buffet places. It was always fun to have friends there that would take me to a place or that would meet me at the Savera Hotel for a beer. The Savera was down the street from the traditional hotel I stayed in and it was my watering hole and rescue from a otherwise no beer life in most places. I sometimes pulled the plug and went to Singapore for a long weekend of eating and drinking or would move over to the Raintree and stay and enjoy the room, food, and beer there.
So the travel in spirit was in effect and I have this recurring fantasy of just leaving all of this behind and traveling the roads and paths of the world. Seeing it all. Riding a train in China and a ferry boat in Japan. Seeing the country unfold from Bangkok to Singapore on the 23 hour trip on the rails. Flying into Chennai in the afternoon and feeling that warm heat touching me so close and then seeing those sunsets which light up the sky and the mind. I miss all that but its not to be yet.
Now I travel in spirit and have the memories of photos and old clippings and a manila envelope of a trip to Kyoto. I carefully landscape my list of places and I know there are so many cities I still want to walk in and see. The cities out there gesture to me and are waiting for me to move beyond traveling in spirit. The great wall and the great dream. Both stretch out before me.