A lone table lamp near the window caused a strange haze in the room. Piled clothes were trying to escape the crack of half-open antique wooden wardrobes. Â Hard binds and paperbacks fought their way to establish supremacy in random spaces. Those lucky books treasured childhood photographs with an infecting smile as bookmarks.Â The chair in front of the perfectly squared table seated a tall, fair, hunchbacked stature staring at the infinite. As he scratched his immature stubble that painted polka dots of sorts on his face, he touched the familiar blue pen to the white sheet almost as a gentle whisper and scribbled.
A bright-eyed, concerned mother interrupted this abnormal silence.
â€śEverything you need is right here.â€ť
With angry wrinkles drawing lines on his forehead and cheeks red with disbelief â€śLook Amma, I have never been so sure. Freedom from your stronghold of morals and values, a new sky to explore and a new society to look forward to is what I need. I want to know how well this identity of mine performs in a new environment.Â All I dream of now is pursuing my Masterâ€™s degree in America.â€ť
His hands reached out for the cabinet. He smiled at the kid in the photo, when he recollected responding to a common question â€śWhat do you want to be when you grow up? â€ś; with â€śI want to be a writerâ€ť.
He froze when the thought of surfing the unexplored tides of the American society with his positive outlook, a diplomatic attitude, a creative slice and a transparent heart splashed on the shore of life.
â€śI have kept her waiting. Long live the emotional deluge!â€ť
He slid a diary in his bag and rushed out the front door riding his automatic bike through the mundane crowd of Bangalore and reached the music themed â€śKaapi Raagaâ€ť cafĂ©. They usually spent their evenings listening to the traditional music.
Their relationship was five years strong. She was a girl who lived in the moment but was surely not the most attractive one. Â He had found solace in her words when she whisperedâ€ť You will be a successful writerâ€ť. The friend in her had turned into an unfathomable love spring embracing his nature.
Dressed in a white peasant top the setting seemed exaggerated for a truce. He had sensed the emotional outburst that would follow and had ensured to bring with him the greatest comforting mechanism. He took out the small diary and began reading out his poem while she listened:
How is it that my silence becomes a poem in you?
How is it that my clouds of joy pour down on you?
How is it that my buds of dream bloom in you?
Why is it that I love more of myself in you, than you!
â€śDonâ€™t you think our life was simpler before we met? I never imagined I would change, to visualize a lost me in my backyard. Why did you have to imprison me in your world? Now why are you letting me free? There I would be again all alone in this plethora of artificial desires and fake emotions. But stand out for what you are. I will rekindle those memories of presence in your absence, in this silence of melancholyâ€ť
He had to leave. Their expressions deep and vague perhaps could have delighted the photographers, but time alone could capture the momentâ€™s essence in â€śitsâ€ť basket.
The pre-departure announcement stirred his cocktail of mixed emotions as he bid adieu.
His already sad girlfriend â€śKanasuâ€ť held her head low, and controlled her tears. An instinctive hug bound them in an inseparable trance for a couple of minutes when he made the bold decision to walk towards the departure gate.Â He never turned back to those memories that would tear him apart.
As he gazed at the sky, he wanted to strike a conversation with the lone clouds drifting away in their individual spaces. â€śSir, do you need something to drinkâ€ť.Â The air hostess decided not to trouble the gentleman who sat there as a tree torn apart from â€śitsâ€ť roots. As the sun appeared over the horizon, small streaks of positivity flashed across the mind giving him the warmth amidst the chilly air running through the cabin.
Woken up by the screeching sound of the tires that announced their presence to the green grass spread, across vast acres of land he soon realized his arrival.
â€śCould you please take me to this address?â€ť
The car exited the airport area and sped away on the wide highway presenting him the land of opportunities.Â His eyes pierced the magnanimous urban landscape and the iconic LAX sign welcomed him to Los Angeles.
â€śIf I were to die, it shall be in my home country.â€ť â€“ An uncontrollable pessimistic shadow cast â€śitsâ€ť light on him as the car stopped at â€śBeverly Hills Plazaâ€ť. Â His thoughts disappeared into the eternity, traces of fear embellished the unknown and there he was in America intimidated and exhausted.
As he got out of the car and struggled to lift his heavy suitcases, a gust of cold wind shouted â€śitsâ€ť presence.
Rows of similar apartments uniformly spaced with plush lawn adorned the wide space in front of the door. Â The setting awakened his senses as he knocked on the wooden door of Apartment number â€ś1657â€ť.
A tall, lean, dark, curly-haired, friendly guy opened the door.
â€śWelcome. Hope you had a good flight.Â Let me show you, your room.â€ť
As he walked across the hallway there lay empty cartons, sandals thrown away, unwashed coffee mugs, books lying in all corners, dirty carpets, unorganized kitchen.
How he knew he loved the chaos. It seemed like the perfect place for somebody who came in from the land of organized chaos.
He put his bags down and looked at the small white bed reserved for him in the corner of the room.
He brought out his coffee mug and stared outside the balcony. Â Everything outside was so clear and organized while he listened to the musings of the mind.
â€śWhen you first arrive in a city, nothing makes sense. Everything is unknown, virgin. After you have walked through it, known it inside out, you will know these foreigners. It will belong to youâ€ť.
As his first day in America ended he removed all his belongings from the bag putting them in the already agreed spaces.
On the first day in his university he encountered a group of brown faĂ§adesÂ lying exposed to the strong winds. He traversed the convoluted terra-cotta path with unknown species of shrubs planted on either side. Â He noticed a very attractive woman trying to find her way into the classroom.
â€śAre you in electrical engineering too?â€ť
â€śNot even in my dreams. Â I am doing my masters in arts. This is my dream university. I am from France.â€ť
As they both talked to each other he envied her confidence. She was pursuing her dreams.Â For the first time he had been brave enough to talk. He was proud of this circumstantial achievement.
â€śDo you want to have some coffee?â€ť Her contagious smile never made him brave enough to say â€śNoâ€ť.
â€śI am lost arenâ€™t you?â€ť He broke her silence as she stirred her hot cappuccino.
â€śNo am not. This is a new experience. I have acquired everything unconditionally. I do have insecurities but I am positive that am experiencing a new dimension of life. Catch you laterâ€ť.
Why cannot every girl in this world be as simple as her?
The Californian dusk brought the colors of love as he found himself attracted to her simplicity and impeccable beauty.
He walked back home with a heavy heart. He sat close to the modern-day anchor like sculpture, took out his laptop and began composing an email to Kanasu.
I am alright. Life has pushed me down. I will face it.Â This physical distance between us is not the distance between our hearts. Your love has given me the strength to sustain every moment here. Miss you, loads. See you soon.â€ť
After a couple of meetings with her he knew he had unconsciously grown a fondness for her.
All the materialistic pleasures of America bowled him over. Every inch of land gave him utmost freedom. The first few months were a visual treat with vibrant colors and limitless independence. He was on a high. He had liberty to walk to every shore of life and watch beautiful sunsets.Â It was a romantic and sensual affair with his soul.
Then, it happened. Life in America questioned his ego.
The necessity to earn his own piece of bread forced him to look for an on campus job. A dishwasher, Perhaps!Â His ego had crumbled like a house of sand. He had donned multiple hats like working in a restaurant, in a petrol pump, at the mall selling buckles: The things that were low society in India.
â€śAm I a foreigner among foreigners?â€ť
The ethical dilemma concert was playing vociferously in the background, when the need to get accepted threw him out of the morals and ethics zone.
Every step he took seemed difficult when he tried to adapt. He was now watching the American football league, throwing barbecue parties and partying hard.
Proud of the fact that he could converse in multiple languages, he lay down on his bed and felt like a missing piece in a jigsaw puzzle. Â He could not play his character any more in this alien drama.Â His inability to utter dialogues in his own language ensured a rapid movement of the body waking him up from his deep slumber.
The very chaos which had cushioned him before now made him anxious and impatient.
Was he among the people who forgot their roots? He was a part of the society that had forgotten its values, culture and roots. Â Kanasu had called him on his mobile phone:
â€śThis distance is killing me. It has always been about you. Do you even remember the first time we met? I donâ€™t think I can continue this relationship with you. Byeâ€ť
A part of him had died. That was the first time he understood the meaning of being alone.Â The dangerous termite had begun to eat the dense forest of love he had built.Â Here he was looking for love among the cold-hearted and self-centered. Being away from India he had lost his soul. The emotional trauma he had faced was for real.
As he controlled his tears he looked at the photographs stuck onto the wall. He had traversed so many streets, convoluted roads, unexplored skies, untouched beaches just to end up without her.
He was living his dream. A masterâ€™s degree, a huge network of friends and a materialistic extravaganza: he had everything. He saw everybody hiding behind a common mask. He couldnâ€™t identify who they are and what they were. America had given him a lost identity, someoneâ€™s identity.
His life had always been like this: â€śA messâ€ť.
The strong decision to return to his roots was lucid. As he bid adieu to his new-found home he was like a bird flying in the sky and returning to its nest.
As he boarded the plane to India he knew he would not disappoint the writer in him.Â He had decided to choose a future without prospects. He plucked the relationship flowers from his memory garden: *Kanasu and the French rendezvous. Everybody was unique, yet similar. He was all of them and yet alone.Â He wanted to live and not just exist. Â The maturity to take this bold decision was evident.
With an immense glow, a new-found seriousness he began to write his experiences in an essay titled â€śMurals of an unwritten poem â€śright at the Indian airport. As he typed his first sentenceâ€ť It all started hereâ€ť a young enthusiastic guy interrupted him â€śDo you know the departure gate for flight 1137 to Americaâ€ť.Â He smiledâ€¦â€¦.