"Vilayat"- I've been fascinated by that word ever since I read Salman Rushdie use it in his own special way. Literally translated, vilayat means "foreign land"; but I think it stands for a whole lot more. I think the word, on some level conveys the enchantment of the subcontinent with foreign lands and their apparent greener pastures, particularly the far flung lands to the west.
I want to take this small intermission from writing my travelogue, which I had determined to finish before I moved base, but the chaos of my last few days at home, combined with an extremely busy schedule filled with emotional goodbyes and also some laziness, made sure that I got absolutely no writing done. Checklist after checklist was made in preparation for my departure and until the day finally came, it was some abstract point of time in the future. For about three days after I began packing my bags, the pang of leaving home came and went from time to time. Of course, there is no stopping time, regardless of how much one wants to, and I found myself on a direct flight to Newark from New Delhi on the night of 2nd September. Another round of extremely emotional goodbyes followed and I prepared for what was going to be an inhumanly long haul of 14 hours followed by a dash through customs and then another haul of 6 hours. The babies on the flight thankfully kept quiet for most of the 14 hours, and only began to scream in unison a short time before we landed.
What followed was a hurried transit through Newark. Everything was new. The people weren't familiar, nor was the place. The body wasn't working according to the law of the land either. But a pretty boring (it has to be, when even your entertainment system is charged) six hour flight later, I found myself on the beautiful final approach to San Francisco. I was picked up by a very kind volunteer who drove me to my new house, and stuck with me when the key didn't open the doors it was supposed to open and had to be replaced! I had landed before any of my friends, and I spent a few miserable hours in a city where I knew no one- homesick, jet-lagged and dazed. The cars went in the other direction, the locks turned in reverse, the measurements were made in unfamiliar units and even the light switches worked the other way! But even in that condition, I didn't fail to notice how beautiful this place is; especially by sunset.
I have now spent nearly a week here. Things have progressively become better. My house is every bit a feel-good house, and it makes me very happy to walk into my living room every morning and see the bright sun shining into it. The weather has been beyond great. As of today, all of my friends have arrived. The last few days have been a process of discovery. My flatmate and I have walked about five kilometres (I remain loyal to the metric system for now) everyday. Each day we discover something new about the place, and become more confident of our bearings; so much so that we are able to guide our friends who came after us. I'm still a little disoriented about the direction of traffic, even more so about the light switches; hopefully that will go away soon.
This intermission is to note that posts on this blog from this point on, until further notice, will be coming to you from the confines of Stanford University, California. :)