Sunday, December 5, 2010


Boston à l'heure bleueImage by Manu_H via Flickr
I so wanted Germany to be the first foreign country that I visited. In a way, it was. My first footstep outside India was at Frankfurt airport, the home base of the Lufthansa flight I had taken from Calcutta. I enquired about a transit visa to step out in the land of Porsche, Mercedes, Audi, BMW and Volkswagen as I was to spend 11 hours there before my connecting flight to Boston took off. But my plans were stone-walled by a tough looking German cop who informed me that there was no such permission available on such short notice. So back I went to the lounge and waited.
It was night by the time I had cleared customs at Logan International Airport on the 21st of June, 2008, a Saturday. I entered into the Arrivals area and got myself a few dollars in change to use on the Verizon payphone kiosks. I had my aunt's cellphone number written down somewhere and to this day, I can't understand why I couldn't use that payphone to make her a call. It was just a regular payphone kiosk like any other in the world but I struggled to make it work. Seeing my plight, a cop tried to help me out but ended up thinking of me as yet another weird foreigner invading his country as the number I gave him wouldn't go through though it was the right number. I had no option but to hope that either my aunt or my cousin brother would sneak a peek into the waiting area and identify me among the hundreds of passengers biding their time there.
A group of beautiful Latino girls were also in wait for somebody to arrive so it wasn't exactly a bad time to be hanging around. My attention then wandered to the complicated perpetual machine on display there with the rolling, dropping and leaping balls on a variety of mechanical contraptions reminding me that this was the city of MIT and Harvard. The arrangement kept me engaged long enough for my mildly familiar welcome party to show up. Over the period of the next one and a half years, they were to become family to me but right then I had had only a fleeting acquaintance with them back in Calcutta.
I hopped into their car and as we drove out on the maze of beautiful, night time streets that is the Logan airport, Big Dig and Tobin bridge area of Boston, my mind was still absorbing the new sensations all around me, a new country, a new life. One thing in particular struck my mind even though later, I would learn that it was just my way of coping up with the wonderful sensation of being in a new place totally unlike any place I had been to before.
I was looking at the traffic signals on the roads very closely and saw that when the lights went green, they were a solid circle of green even at intersections. In Indian road intersections, I was always used to green arrows pointing in all the legal directions that the driver could take. Here it seemed that everyone already knew where they were going on the road and in life. That was to become the most abiding if somewhat false first image of what the USA was amongst all the new things that caught my attention. A land where when the signal said "Go", everyone somehow knew where they were headed.

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