The plane screeched to a dusty halt. I rubbed my puffy eyes. I had survived my first flight ever, one that lasted over twenty-four hours with a stop in Bucharest over Air Tarim, Romanian Airline back in 1998. My cheeks remained moist from the heartfelt goodbyes I had exchanged with my lifelong friends from school.
I was a school-goer no more as I stepped foot in the crowded JFK terminal onto the waving hands of my father. In my handbag, I held tear-stained letters I wrote to all I had left behind.
My first important chore upon reaching my uncle’s home was to mail those letters out.
A week later, my father and I drove to St Louis, and I started my first gig in America – an undergraduate student of Computer Science.
It took me another week to buy an international calling card. On that day, a dense foggy Saturday, I slipped out of the back door of my apartment crumpling under the chill of Midwestern August (coming from the burning Indian summers,) I cautiously walked in between rows of cougar lake apartments on campus with all students sound asleep and only a hint of a bird chirp in the air.
I reached a payphone, entered my pin, and let my heart hammer inside my chest. Across the globe, my childhood friend picked up and responded to my hello with a hello.
I choked to complete the conversation.
A week later, I received my first letter, my trembling hands opened and cheek-drenching tears welcomed.
I was old-fashioned back then, still untainted by emails. I am old-fashioned today living in the same world somehow transformed away from the hand-written notes traveling at 35,000 feet across to electronically transmitted binary code messages over the internet lacking the gratification of the two-week long wait. Communicating has become that easy.
With easy, come the blue-glow-lit faces, talking to each other through their phones even when it is just a table that separates them in a restaurant, they smile through the cloud on which they are texting each other from.
The new human is distracted by the phone. And, the old human in me, can’t forget the joy of ink spilling into a blank sheet of paper that took several hands to make it to the loved one.
That is the paradox of life – where we are and where we used to be and what distractions we allow to tear us apart from our reality.