Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What is the date today?

India, 1989 - Going abroad was a dream, and going to the USA was considered as the biggest of them all. Even though the US dollar was relatively cheap at Rs 17 to a dollar, one did not have enough rupees to buy a few hundred dollars needed for the trip. And even these few hundred were tightly controlled by the RBI, and duly stamped on your passport.

I was to undergo staff course at Maxwell Air Force Base, in Montgomery, Alabama. Government regulations only paid for my ticket and stay for the 10 months that I was to be there; rules did not permit payment out of public funds for the ticket and stay of families abroad, if the duration was less than a year. Considering this to be a 'once in a life time' chance for my family to travel abroad, we decided to fund the ticket and stay there funded by our personal savings. My tickets for 10 June 1989, from Delhi to Washington, were booked by the Air Force. I booked the tickets for my wife and two children on the same flight through a travel agent. We thus travelled together up to Washington DC. I was to report at the Indian embassy on 12th  June and thereafter proceed to Montgomery, Alabama. We had thus planned that my wife and kids would visit relatives in Pittsburgh and Houston until I settled down in Montgomery, found a suitable furnished accommodation, bought used furniture, and a car, before they would join me at Montgomery.

My class schedule started as soon as I reached the base. However, the evenings were free and so I could go around looking for a flat. Transportation was an issue in this new place; I had got maps of the town and had marked out places where decent and reasonable 2-bedroom flats were available. My brother in the meanwhile, bought a used car for me, but it had to be picked up Pittsburgh. I did that on the first free weekend; Greyhound journey to Pittsburgh, half an hour driving lesson with my brother on how to drive on the ‘wrong’ side and I was ready to drive back the next day. With a car at my disposal, it became easier to cover more area and I managed to find a decent accommodation in no time. Furniture and TV was bought from an Egyptian officer who was leaving, after completing the previous course. The home was now ready, waiting for the family.

In this process of moving in to a new country with one suitcase, getting used to driving on the 'wrong' side of the road, travelling to pick up the car, going to work and attending classes every day, looking for a decent yet reasonably priced flat in the evenings, and buying all else needed to setup home in a foreign land, I had lost track of the dates. 

When everything was finally ready I called my wife, who was now in Houston, to give her the good news. It was morning. She was excited. We spoke for a bit and then I called off, as I had to head off for classes. We would normally speak once in a day to update each other on the day's happenings. I was thus a little surprised when I got a call from her in the evening. I asked her why she had called, as we had already spoken in the morning. I informed her that I was in the process of organising her move from Houston to Montgomery on Sunday, 25th June. She appeared a little off beat, and I wondered why, but could not guess. with so much on my mind. She asked me the date, and I blurted out 22nd  June. I hung up thereafter. After a few minutes, I again get a call from her. This time I was totally puzzled. My hello was answered by a very hurt voice from the other side. What day is it today? Thursday, I responded. I could guess from her silence that there was more to it than just the day and date. I knew that something was wrong, and then it dawned on me - today was our wedding anniversary. "Happy Anniversary", I said, but the damage had been done, and I wasn't even there to stop the flow of tears of hurt. 'How could you', she felt, and 'How could I', I felt. She has not forgiven me till date, for this monumental blunder on my part. I have not forgotten our anniversary ever after this.

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