The Week After
|The quintessential wing photo|
2.09 am IST on 12th August 2013. The moment when my flight, Jet Airways 9W228, took off from Mumbai's Chattrapati Shivaji International Airport. I had thought I would get a few moments to look back at my country and reminisce. But before I knew it, the flight left behind the glitzy city lights of Mumbai and got into the clouds. A few ships and the Bombay High oil platform passed by soon after, and then there was nothing. Pitch darkness.
There I was, having left behind everything I've ever known. The people I've loved and hated, the places I've seen, The things i loved......My every success and failure were back there on that land I had just left behind. This was the moment I had been waiting for, for a long long time. I was starting a new life, with 2 suitcases and a backpack, and a million dreams.
Last few hours had been a flurry of events. Nothing prepares you for the last few hours with the family, before you leave on a long hiatus. Those moments, when tears come out involuntarily, just by seeing your family do what they've always done. You want time to slow down and let you enjoy those last few hours. The final goodbye at the Airport was nothing like you imagined it to be. Its a lot less melodramatic, but a lot more emotional. You don't know when you'll see these faces again, the faces that were your world till now. And so you just hug, and try to have as much of them as you can, before you leave.
Once i entered the airport though, the excitement of the first flight of my life took over. Having a friend along who shared my enthusiasm, made it all the more better. We went through all the procedures like kids on their way to an adventure ride. The moment when we first set foot on the aircraft, the thrust when the aircraft hit the runway, every maneuver of the aircraft, our first stop at Brussels airport and the moment when we set foot at New york....we shared each of these moments with excitement fit for babies.
At New York however, we bid each other good bye and headed our own ways. Finally, I was alone in a distant land. My back ached from the long flight. 30 hours after i left mumbai, on a warm evening, i landed at Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. I was apprehensive. Here I was, a boy from a coastal paradise coming to the deserts of Arizona. The city looked nice from the aircraft. Not many tall buildings, but a lot of short buildings laid out in neat arrangements. All roads seemed wide and every bit of it seemed landscaped. It didn't feel home, but I really wanted to like it. I had 2 years to spend here after all. Moments later, I was out of the airport. A taxi was to take me home, paid for by the university. All through the taxi ride, I anxiously stared outside. Yes, the city did seem nice. Every significant building seemed beautifully designed. everything was spread out horizontally with huge parking lots filled with cars. Very few seemed to be outside though. Or maybe that was just my first culture shock, coming from the bustling cities of India. A quick ride later, I was on the street of my new home. I nervously got into my new apartments, where my 2 new room mates had already begun their journey.
And then it hit me. I was all alone in a distant land. I had no way of going back anytime soon and had no clue if i had made the right decision coming here in a desert city. The next few days were incredibly brutal emotionally. I became terribly homesick, surprising myself. All those moments with near and dear ones came back to me, and made my cry against my will. Those moments had not meant as much back home, but out here, I really missed them. I cried on the phone, I spent early morning hours of the first three days writhing uncomfortably, feeling emotionally vulnerable. Those 3 days were horrible.
Things got better after that. I visited the Arizona State University's Tempe campus, my home for the next 2 years, and fell in love on day 1. The University is huge beyond my wildest expectations. I now understand why so many people told me that if you have to learn what a university is, you have to come to the US. The best of our institutes pale in comparison to the facilities and opportunities on offer here. EVERY building has been painstakingly designed and meticulously well maintained. I never expected the campus to be so classy. The students are the focus here and that is evident everywhere.
The orientations actually made me feel welcomed and excited. They actually made me worry that 2 years weren't gonna be enough to take advantage of all that the university has to offer. Of course, the sheer number of Indians and Chinese students slightly dampened my sprits. Not because of any racial bias, but because so many of them are just plain immune to any kind of fruitful interaction. But you start to get used to it. You realize that great discussions are gonna have to be extracted after going through a lot of noise. There are people from 118 nationalities here and one is bound to have all kinds of experiences. The faster you embrace the ground realities, the better you'll do.
Its just over a week since I arrived in Phoenix now. And as of now, I'm in love with the city. Yes it is hot. Terribly hot. everyone keeps saying the weather becomes beautiful next month onwards, but that remains to be seen. But the city is beautiful in its own right. The roads are wide, the architecture of the city beautiful and the people are exceptionally nice. The traffic mannerisms on the street are amazingly pedestrian friendly and the conveniences of American life are rather nice. I do miss people back home, but spending 2 years here doesn't seem so bad anymore. I have started liking the city. It feels a lot like home now. I am no longer worried whether I have made the right decision coming here. I am worried about making the most of it.
My classes start tomorrow. And I am anxious. Will the professors be good? Will I perform? Will it all be worth it? I don't now. But I'm Excited. I have no set plan, except to soak myself in the ASU experience.
Here We Go :)