This is the last of the post in the series. One of the things you can’t complain about is a good night sleep. That is what I got after a long day on the road. I made whatever best possible of the breakfast at the hotel. Since I hadn’t planned on staying overnight, I needed some fresh clothing. I stopped at a nearby Target. I had already decided where to go next. It would the town of Flint, MI. Here we used to visit a temple. Also somewhere along the way there used to be a train ride for the children. I thought I might find it today. The weather was again gorgeous and with a cup of Joe on hand, I started driving on the two-hour journey. I reached the temple just past lunch. We had made many a trip to this temple. The temple wasn’t certainly one of the prosperous temples I have been to. The lawn was in a neglected state. The priest was from my city back in India and we had a brief conversation. He mentioned another temple about 45 minutes away making me wonder if this was the temple we used to visit. After darshan, I was hoping the temple cafeteria would be open, but it wasn’t. Searching for food, I found something near downtown Flint. This is where the University of Michigan has a campus. Sunday wasn’t the best day to visit this downtown, with most of the shops closed. I found the Flint Crepe Company and got myself what I thought was a good lunch but somewhat expensive. A coffee is always welcome for me during food. So there I was – in a day and a half, I had driven many hundreds of miles and revisited my life from twenty years ago. All along, there was a feeling of sadness and awe – sadness because the good time was no longer available anymore and awe at the journey I have been through in a country so far off from my birthplace. There was awe at some of the places we lived and shopped, awe at the decisions we had made back then. Somehow, it seemed I had grown twenty years older in a day and a half. I guess this trip had to happen to remind me that I am in a present that is in a far off future from my past. The trip certainly had me grounded in reality more than anything else.
There was one last stop to make. This was in a suburb of Chicago. This was where we first lived after a couple of weeks in the US. My first job was in the Chicago metropolitan area and we had chosen this apartment. As I entered the complex, I was in disbelief. The neighborhood had some police activity going on – in fact, there seemed to be two police cars permanently stationed in the complex. A middle-aged man was under his car doing some repairs. I was looking at the block we were living and told him we lived there twenty years back. He couldn’t believe it. I asked his permission to get to the front of the block and take some pictures.
I could see the apartment we lived in. It was here that we had one of the most beautiful moments of our lives and some of the most stressful moments in our lives too. I practically was working two jobs – a 9-5 and after dinner, 9 – 3 AM again though at the same place. There was tremendous pressure on me to deliver in a situation where I didn’t know anything and I was sent in as an expert. When it comes to making money, many people or man in general looks at things and people differently. I lingered as much as I could, recollecting the families then around us.
There were friends right above us and some in the same complex. I didn’t know driving then and had to rely on another friend to drive me to work. In fact he drove three of us as all of us didn’t yet have personal transportation. Imagine being confined to your apartment because you don’t have a car and shopping was a few miles away. That was how my wife survived with our then baby. We would occasionally call a cab to go shopping if our car-friend was busy. It was in this apartment that we had bought our first car. I had adventures with this. Being new to the country and new to driving, I had made up my mind not to drive on the crazy expressways, but as I drove out of the dealership I had entered a ramp thinking it was a turn and there I had been with the huge trucks whizzing by. I had managed to get off I-294 without any issues. There are so many more incidents that have dented my psyche and implanted deep into my memory that I will never forget.
As all these came along in my memory, I realized it was getting late. I didn’t want to miss dinner at the Q-center after a long day. I still had 45 minutes of driving left. I looked at the odometer and saw I had close to 800 miles. 800 miles on the road, but 20 years back in time – what a ride, I thought.