Looking back on my life in the village until I was 7, I feel that it was over-all positive. It was the third home I had by the age of 7, that I was aware of. My parents had already moved a few times in India after moving from Pakistan, their ancestral home. The frequent moves would continue for a significant part of my life.
One late evening, my mother had us prepare for a trip. My sisters and brother, along with my mother and a family friend, sneaked out in the middle of the night for what was to be the next chapter in my life. I recall the trip vividly. I remember the sound of the train as night turned to dusk, the dull echo as it crossed a gorge. I remember looking out and being afraid of the height and the expanse of space in front of me. I had not been on a train prior to this experience that I could recall. I vaguely recalled hearing about the distant city of Jaipur and how I wanted to travel there.
On what turned out to be my last night in the village in October of 1974, I reached home to find my mother hurrying me inside. I saw about 10 bags packed and I was urged to hurry up and eat as we were about to leave to see “papa” – who lived across the oceans in a land they called America. We were sneaking away in the middle of the night and were eventually on a plane bound for the US to join my father in Winchester, MA.
My father had gone to Northeastern University in MA, US when I was about 5 to get a Master’s in Engineering. Eventually, he was able to save enough money after a few years to bring his wife and 4 kids to the US. He wanted to secure a stable future for his family of 4 – 3 girls and 1 boy.
I remember the train ride away from our village and towards Delhi. The hollow sound of going over a river sounded a little scary and I looked over in the window to see the height I was at. We were leaving our home and way of life for good. I had not had the chance to say goodbye to Pinky or any of my other friends. It seemed for the rest of my life since then, I have been on the “run.”
My first plane ride at the age of 7 on Air India was an experience I could not compare to anything else. I had been excited about the prospect of just riding a train to Jaipur! This experience, flying in the sky in a bus, I could not compare with anything in my life till then. My vivid memory is that of tasting vanilla ice cream for the first time aboard the flight. My family handed it to me one by one. I’ll never forget that first taste; it was unlike anything I had ever had. It was a taste I could not place, but it started to become appealing. To this day, I love good quality, plain vanilla ice cream.
There were also tastes in the village that I have not quite experienced since such as spiced sugar can juice. The big black manual juicing machine that is outdoors naturally attracted flies. You could normally count on some being in the juice. There was also a delicious slushy that had all sorts of syrups and noodle-like additions. When I see the slushies here, I wince at the comparison I have in my head.