పాత యెంత మధురం
Down Memory Lane
By Bhandaru Ramachandra Rao
On one fine morning when I and my wife just sipped coffee and about to relax in the backyard lawns of Rajesh house in Raleigh, U.S.A, Rajesh suddenly declared that he has booked flight tickets to go to New York to show us the place where we lived for about 4 and half years. As usual, I vehemently opposed saying that we cannot leave Priya and children alone here. Priya equally and vehemently argued that having come to America, we should not miss New York. Rajesh was firm and my wife, like a balanced Home minister, advised me not to drag the issue too far as Rajesh will be hurt. Finally, I relented.
On 18th September, Rajesh, my wife and I flew to Philadelphia, where Mr. Sreedhar, a very good friend of Rajesh, came to the airport to receive us.
While we were driving down the streets of that beautiful place of Philadelphia, I and my wife became very sentimental and emotional as that was the place, where Lal lived about for about 3 years and that was the place, which we could not see despite repeated invitations of Lal and Deepa.
We reached Sreedhar’s house in New Jersey, where his wife Sarada, and excellent and affectionate host, was ready to serve us delicious food and hot, hot vadas. Sreedhar took us to Bridgewater temple of Sri Venkateswara. It was a Saturday and EKADASI and naturally, my wife was extremely happy to visit the temple on that auspicious day.
Next day morning, on September 19th, Sreedhar drove us to New York after homely breakfast in his house. His 9 years old son Anirudh also came with us to New York. The drive was about 1 and half hours on a first class road.
As we were nearing the amazing New York skyline, I was full of nostalgic memories, which I cannot fully describe. We passed through Holland Tunnel, constructed beneath the waters of Hudson river. It is a marvelous engineering feat. Coming out of the Holland tunnel, we reached downtown New York, which is the financial nerve center of the city.
To our good fortune, it was a sunny day with excellent weather. Moreover, being a Sunday, the streets of downtown were buzzing with activity with scores of tourists wandering on the streets. With great difficulty, Sreedhar could locate a place for parking the car and we started walking on the streets happily. We saw the small park near our office, where I worked. My wife immediately recollected and looked for a statue of white American sitting on the cement bench with a briefcase in his hands. The statue looks so real that most of the people think it a real man sitting there. Rajesh took photos there and then we went to a Burger King nearby and had our lunch.
We then walked towards World Financial Center building and adjoining Gateway Plaza, a 35 storied apartment complex, where we lived for 4 years and 3 months.
The moment we came to Gateway Plaza building, I was thrilled beyond description. Here is the building where we had a most enjoyable and luxurious stay for about 50 months. Here is the building where we hosted dinner’s dozens of times to friends and colleagues. Here is the building – Apartment No. 30 N on the 30th floor, from where we used to enjoy a panoramic and beautiful view of New York skyline particularly in the night time.
The shops in the ground floor, the A.T.M, Chase Manhattan bank branch, one American grocery store (SLOANS), the garden and park by side of the building and last but not least, the beautiful Hudson river just behind the building – Oh !! what a wonderful and thrilling sight ! These are the places we walked and roamed day in and day out for years together. I really don’t know. My feelings cannot be translated into words. Seeing them after 13 years and seeing them at a stage when we thought we will never come back to New York to see them again ! At one stage, I became so nostalgic that past events reeled before me like a flashback. I told my wife that I am feeling as if I am recollecting from my “POORVA JANMA” – Preview Birth.
Then we moved into the marvelous and majestic World Financial Center building – next door to our apartment and the Winter garden in side. That was the place we used to go and sit almost every evening after a walk on the banks of Hudson river. Rajesh took us to Starbucks Coffee shop, where we had very good coffee and relaxed there. We then saw the “Ground ZERO” site, where the 100 storied World Trade Center building, near our own residence, was attacked and destroyed. The building was a Pride of New York and Pride of America. It was a pathetic and moving site to see such a monumental building was destroyed by terrorist fanatics and grounded like a pack of cards !
Next Rajesh took us to nearby 21st century departmental store, where we used to go umpteen number of times for shopping.
We then moved to Wall Street, the nerve center of New York financial system, where New York Federal Reserve bank and New York Stock Exchange building were located. These are the places I used to show to the visitors from India, particularly our Bank colleagues.
We then reached 39 Broadway, the building where our State Bank Downtown Service branch was located and which I headed for about 4 and half years. Four years back, this office was merged with our Park Avenue office. When I entered the building, I became really emotional and sentimental. About 50 of the staff members, their faces and the moments I spent in that office for 4 and half years reeled before me.
That office, that building and the period marks a glorious chapter in my life. On the day of my leaving New York, I addressed the staff in the farewell meeting in a most emotional manner. I told my wife and perhaps my children also these words from my farewell speech, which are still ringing in my ears. When Rajesh took a photograph in that building, that farewell meeting flashed in my mind. Even at the cost of repetition but not redundance , I want to reproduce here briefly what I told my staff in that meeting..
“ On this day of my leaving America, let me tell you from my hearts of hearts that I can never forget this great land of opportunities. Almost a million middle class families in India and the humble lives of their parents have changed dramatically because of America. I spent 22 years in India as a Senior bank officer but could not purchase even one gram of gold to my wife. When I received a phone from India that my first granddaughter born, I told my son to purchase a gold chain to her. This is because of my stay in America. I could not purchase even a watch to my four sons till they became graduates. Today, I am taking with me 20 watches to India to be given to all my relatives. This is because of America. We never had a camera in India even though we are fond of it. Today all my sons have cameras and this is because of America. I was born in a remotest village in Andhra Pradesh without current, roads and school. Last four and half years I lived in the biggest city of the world in a luxurious location. This is because of my posting in America. This is a dream that has come true in my Life “.
YES ! coming back to New York after 13 years and seeing all the places where we worked, we lived, we walked and we roamed for months together is a dream that has come true to me and my wife. (EOM)