After a lot of deliberation, discussion, debate and planning, I booked my tickets to the East Coast for the memorial day weekend. I was super excited that I was going to see my cousin and her family, go to New York and Niagara Falls and all that. I couldn’t work on the day of my flight, did something hurriedly, packed and went to the airport with Shyam and Karthikeyan’s family.
In the flight, the pilot told us to look out of the window to see The Northern Lights – The Aurora Borealis. It is an event that has inspired many a man to become an astronomer, famous ones being Galileo and Newton. It is an experience of a kind. The sky was throwing out green light, it appeared to be splashing it across the universe. It was so bright that you could read a book. It lasted for hours during which the green gradually changed into pink. The pink then became an orangish shade and later turned deep orange which lasted until it mixed with the Sun’s dawning orange. They vied with each other for sometime, then the Sun won making it a bright sunny morning on May 29th 2010.
With a lot of expectation, I landed in BWI Airport, Washington DC. Due to a flat tyre, Aditya was not able to make it to the airport. The organizer that he is, he told me to come to Smithsonian Institution by taking the Super shuttle at the airport. It was nearly 10:30 AM when I reached Smithsonian Castle. Now, dont get carried away thinking that there is a castle in the middle of Washington DC. It is just built in the shape of a castle, I like to think, probably by an Englishman who missed home. 🙂 Anyway, Aditya was waiting there for me with a pizza which I did not bother to offer him – ate it all on my own. 🙂 I was happy to see him, not overly emotional or anything. Just happy and glad that he was there. 🙂
First, we went to the Washington memorial. It is a tall pencil like structure with the nib left unsharpened. 🙂 I believe Washington rests there. It has 51 flags around it, one for each state. Memorial Day had brought its own crowd to all of the places. We then took a couple of snaps with the Capital as the background. We then walked to the World War II memorial. We had bought some icecream on the way. I felt that it wouldn’t be respectful to eat icecream at a war memorial. When I informed Aditya so, he scoffed and said "Like they care. These people will even wear undergarments made of their flag." However, we finished our icecream and entered the memorial – atleast it freed our hands for handling the camera. The World War II memorial was shaped in a circle and had poles highlighting every state and there were many plaques stating the many incidents of the war.
On Memorial Day, bikers take their Harley Davidsons and go on a ride around Washington DC. That was a sight to see. Then, at the Lincoln Memorial which we went next, there was a rock concert of some kind by The Rolling Thunder – an association for the WW II veterans. Lincoln Memorial was high and had many steps. We climbed them all and saw the huge statue of Abraham Lincoln – seated on the presidential chair. All these memorials reminded me so much of Saavi’s "Washington il thriumanam" story. From there, we went to the Vietnam War Memorial and the Korean War Memorial. Two unnecessary, stupid wars. However, memorials are memorials and there were a few actual Vietnam War veterans there that day. Also, I saw kids getting autographs from the veterans.
We had a light snack of fries and lemonade sitting on a park bench nearby. I saw those cherry trees – when they flower, it is celebrated as the starting of spring – the Cherry Blossom festival. We walked along the Potomac River for sometime and went to the Air and Space Museum. Entry was free!! Entry to all museums is free in Washington DC!! The museum exhibited the huge accomplishments of America in the field of air and space. Starting from the Wright Brothers through Goddard the Rocket Scientist and Man on the Moon (Apollo Satellite) was nicely showcased. The multiple satellites sent into space from the US were also on display. The museum also had some old instruments used for measuring time and space (distance). Costumes used by the people who go on to space were also there. Aditya and I were left wondering how our Indian Rishis calculated time and distance without the use of any instruments with initimidating accuracy! Not only calculation, we also have recorded the colour of every planet, the effects of each of them on a specific human being including those of the retrograde Jupiter and Saturn and the precise orbits of every planet. We were the first ones to call the Earth "Andam" meaning egg, giving it the shape of an ellipsoid. Modern has just gotten that far! Point to ponder!
After this, we took a taxi to the White House and were allowed to see it from a distance. I had expected something big. It was just an ordinary house (white in colour) and had a couple of cars parked outside. 🙂 Well, so much for Mr.Obama! We then walked to the Metro station and without even saying a proper good bye to Aditya, I boarded a train to the Washington Union station. [I called him up later though.] From there, I boarded the train to Keystone, Pennsylvania and hopped to the next train to Harrisburg, PA. Aparna akka and Sridhar athimber were waiting for me right outside the station.
If seeing a friend after a long time felt glad, seeing a relative brought the same feeling, only it was more intense. My cousin and I had never been very close – perhaps because of the distance that existed in the geographies of the place where we grew up, perhaps because of the age difference that we have. But, seeing her after a long time did bring a feeling of intense gladness, the memories of the fun we had at her wedding and the happiness that all of us had experienced when she had her first child.
I didn’t know honestly that we were going to athimber’s brother’s house that night. When we reached, I was surprised to see them and also their 3 children. Dinner that night was cooked by Meena manni. She made Oothappam and it was fun to talk about how the "molagai podi" in their house was sweet and how we missed spicy food cooked by that perima, andha chithi and how we manage spices now. We then watched the movie Planet 51. It was fun and enjoyable.
So much seen and experienced in a few hours – naanum Washington la oru naal irundhuten! This one day in Washington will stay with me as a cherishable memory forever. I went to sleep that night with the only thought of going to Niagara Falls the next day.