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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

What was I doing on 9/11?

That's the question to which M wanted to know the answer. I thought back to that day 11 years ago.
It was a slightly out-of-routine start to the morning. S had been sick the previous evening, and I decided to keep him home instead of sending him to school. M was a baby, not quite a year old, just the age of crawling and getting into things. She took a mini-nap, while S watched his favorite cartoons on the TV.
The phone rang, and my friend excitedly urged me "Turn to CNN, a plane crashed into the World Trade Center". How horrible an accident, I thought, as I switched channels.
A moment later, another figure came out of nowhere, and flew into the second tower. S and I were shocked at what we had seen. "Was that another plane?", he asked. Indeed it was.
More panic set in as the anchors intoned the 'America is under attack' phrase. There were other similar hijacked planes out there, one heading for DC, another heading, maybe for Pittsburgh. I got a call from my husband, they had an office not too far from the airport, and had been advised to stay off the roads, with the possibility of the plane coming in for a landing.
Flight 93 crashed in Shanksville PA, not too far away from Pittsburgh. No one can say where that plane was headed with certainty, though guesses have been made.
This 9/11, I was in office, S is in a university not far from Ground Zero, where he is afforded the sight of the sunlight glinting off the new tower going up  where the WTC once stood. M was in school, maintaining her moment of silence with the rest of a generation that must now strain to remember what they did when 9/11 happened.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Nest Half Empty

"Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday."

                                                                                     --Kahlil Gibran

It has a numbing feel to it. A bed lying empty. No creaks of footsteps in the bedroom above my home office. No random openings and closings of the fridge door as a hungry mouth prowls the house in search of food.  No exasperated yells of "Come down to dinner" going up to head-phoned ears. No more eyes rolled at clueless parental comments. No more ready smile as he walks in from school.

Last weekend, we dropped off S in Manhattan, where he is going to attend New York University as a Film and TV major. ('What, not engineering or medicine??!!! What kind of parents are you?" are the unspoken words we hear for every exclamation of 'Wow, how interesting, at least a different kind of major!" that we hear from other desi parents, whose kids are predictably bent on becoming neurologists or pediatricians or computer scientists or engineers. Maybe, we are crazy, or ahead of the curve, or both.)

Little things matter, as we collect the minimalist belongings that we figure S can fit into his share of bedroom space in the residence hall. They supply all furniture, we supply bed linens, clothes, a clothes hamper, laundry supplies and toiletries, and all importantly S's PC and his laptop. Everything fits into a few of the cavernous suitcases that we haul every year on trips to India. A life condensed into the bare essentials. For everything else, there's the friendly neighborhood K-mart, that the maps of Manhattan assure us is just a couple of blocks away.

We spend a day scouting out the new location, before S is allowed to move in. I start to feel more and more at ease as we walk past the residence hall. There's a Trader Joe's supermarket within stone's throw, a Whole Foods another block away. Two of the few green spaces in Manhattan(Union Square and Washington Square) are both 5-10 minutes from the hall.  Bookstores galore, eateries galore (Dunkin Donuts in the same building, Subway, Pizza place, Chipotle right across the street.) The compact nature of urban living hits our suburban sensibilities with the promise of easy accessibility to food for our first-born. The one thing that I'm sure S will never lack, even considering that he is on a freshman's food plan in the university dining halls, is Food. 

So, we leave him there, waving to us as we leave the building for the parking garage a few blocks away. Mission accomplished, or started. How does S get from being a dependent adolescent to an independent adult, I wonder.

A day later, I chance upon a review of a documentary on film makers in the New York Times online. It's a must see for any serious connoisseur and student of film, 'worth a whole year of film school', raves the reviewer. In tiny letters at the bottom, 'playing at the Quad, xxxx E13th st, Manhattan'. I send the link to S via email, advising him to catch it if he can, not thinking too much of it.

I get a call in the evening. S is literally falling over his words in excitement. He went to see the film, and got to participate in a Q&A session with the director, it being the last day that the event was being held after the film show.

I was floored. That's where passion and interest will get you. It's for these kind of opportunities that we were willing to send him to the Big Apple, even if it came at the cost of proximity and comfort in selecting a university. I only hope that it gets him where he wants to be a few years from now in the film or television industry.