रिश्ते: A Bond of Mutual Love and Compassion

Like streams of holy water carrying the purity of traditional values, a group of six families looking for greener pasteuers settled in Princeton, a historical city known for the famous Princeton University USA in the early days of 2014. Coming from diverse culture,region,religion and family backgrounds from India, a country known more as a land of snake charmers or elephants rather than the historical buildings,scientists, yoga and values attached since ancient times to this second biggest democracy in the world.

Aman Preet, a tall handsome, smiling, polished, clean shaven Panjabi guy employed in one of the leading Banks in USA was the first to arrive. Accompanying him was Anupriya, a beautiful accompalished wife with two daughters, they had rented a Ist Floor apartment overlooking entire stretch of the cross section of roads flanked by more than 20 appartments.

Other five families kept moving in at regular intervals, last being the youngest one. Originally from the northern state Rajastahn, Abhinav a handsome talented guy imbibing traditional values employed with a leading IT company shifted with two kids and Varsha a beautiful adorable ever smiling amiable wife. This couple added flavour to the group with their mannerism, wits and always ready to help others intiatives.

Raghu, a smart handsome guy from Hyderabad followed alongwith Neha and two kids. Neha a tall lean and beautiful girl from Indore was always up there to blend the western “Tadka” with desi touch to bring every meeting a lively experience .

Girish and Sapna coming from Mumbai, the financial capital of India added glamour as Sapna a beautiful smiling adorable home maker would mesmerise with her simply majestic sense of dressing. Girish a cool, mild natured, smiling young boy who may not have caused any difference with his presence during the parties but the absence was irritating for everyone for his gounded personality

A mix of Gujrati and western culture brought a cultivated ambitious couple who always looked for better career prospectus by keeping a low profile. A peculiar habit of buying only a branded item made Ashu a late starter as she would not compromise with anything less than the planned purchase. The sweet natured talkative Ashu and Mehul, a relaxed hubby would form an inevitable part of the group

Saurabh and Pankhudi from Dehradun with religious and teetotaller bent of mind were slow starter for their inhibitions about the late night parties involving Drinks and Non veg delicacies initially. With two girls, the couple looked a satisfied lot having been able to achieve what they had wished for settling in the USA. Saurabh would assume the role of a photographer for clicking a few joyous and funny moments of the party but never forgetting to click the couples individually with his guided instructions like a professional .

Not only the careers or academic level, all the six families were more or less into the same age group starting their parentage with a kid or two. As has always been back home, the young working people don’t feel comfortable mixing up freely due to their own inhibitions but a glance or two appreciating the kids playing in parking area definitely helped in starting a casual hello hi during the late evening excursions. !

Whatever be their place of origin, goals or aspirations but one thing was common which blended well to make them a family without any blood connection. They were all intelligent,responsible, charming and adorable individuals who never complained but looked for pleasant company of each other

The common parking area sprouted seeds of enduring relationship between these young aspiring families. Every evening, they would venture out of their apartments for a dose of fresh air in the beautifully landscaped lush green environment. The kids would love to play in the open compound as two other groups of Adam and Eves went about gossiping about the newly attained status of NRIs. Very cautious initially, they soon found enough room to talk about their Indian backgrounds and families.

A few vehicles would pass bye on the adjacent spiralling road hardly sounding horns or zooming past the lane. Unlike India, the drivers looked patient and more conscious about the privacy and serenity of the inhabitants. A small triangular island snadwitched between the two rows of Appartments looked majestic with green velvet grass and a few trees booming with flowers of violet colours. sidewalks spruced up with all weather flowers on the berms and beautifhul landscapping provided a soothing touch for the eyes.

First Winters had a lot of snowfall and handling the life in those tough weathers was a challenge. It was inconvenient for Abhinav and family as they were inhabiting the ground floor apartment and overnight snowing would block the entrance making it difficult to open the door early in the morning The cars laden with white sheet of snow remained stuck for days making it difficult to venture out for shopping. Gradually, they were accusomed and acclimatised to the new conditions and extreme weather..

Access to a nearby Princeton Railway station was a boon for commuting between Newyork and Princeton as use of their own car as preferrred transport mode was neither viable nor practical in the early period of their settlement overseas.

Well said “when you are outside the country at a strange place, you tend to find the people of your own culture, language and traditions” and these families were no different. The similarities of costumes, peculiar mannerism and language reminded them of their homes back in India. Shortly they found the first opportunity of get together. The festival seasons in India and USA usually start in the month of October and end with the celebrations by welcoming the new year.

It was the festival of lights Diwali which they unanimously decided to celebrate. It was a great fun as the crackers and sweets followed by dinner and drinks were in abundance to mark the occasion after performing Puja at their respective homes. Aman with his perfection on cocktails was a hit as everyone had his/her share of taste on thos first outing. Brimming with confidence after this first event successfully hosted as per the traditional Indian culture, they looked all set for furthering the celebratory moods in future too.

Slowly these festivals and celebrations made them feel for each other. Initial hitch started vanishing as the bonding got stronger. Everybody looked impatient and eager to host his turn which happened every few days. The tinkling noise of glasses had started filling the hearts with abundance of joy. Slowly every member was coming out of his shell by contributing with surprise talents. Though tinkler would not be a proper term for any of them but they relished a drink or two whenever they found opportunity.

Having a complete vegetarian and teetotaller family never dampened the spirits of the group. Rather everybody enjoyed the veg menus and snacks whenever this family found turn to host the group. Initially, everyone tried to observe strict parameters of not drinking within the four walls of their home and would love to gather outside using car roof as a raised table for enjoying their drinks right on the berms of an isolatted road. Great idea by Aman and Abhinav supported by the ladies enjoying their share with lots of fun sitting on the boot. Cheers!!kept filling the air with the intoxication of love and brotherhood warming up for each other!!

Every now and then they started finding excuses to have a get together as the chidlren enjoyed their companies too. Well aware of their limitations and traditional values, the males mixed up with the females very conveniently but never crossed the barriers of their culture. Songs and witty jokes would flow in tandem with dances to follow. sapna, Neha and Varsha would always the first one to start gyrating on the Hindi numbers and others followed on western music.

The purity of relationship was like watching your reflection in a still clear water. It was like a home away from home where a family member understands rights and responsibilities towards the whole family without ever having to be reminded of.

Weekends were no more a boring monotonous activity but it started getting livelier and full of exhuberance for all. Exploring nearby locations for tracking or going to tourist attractions had become a regular schedule. . Newyork, the most happening city remained on the list of all kids as the fun filled vibrations of western music and the fast food provided them much needed comforts from their school routine. Visits by the parents from India was also a regular feature. They were satisfied on finding the grand kids being groomed in western culture without ever forgetting the traditional Indian values.

Sometimes you feel frustrated on the sudden develpoments in life and these families were not different as the kids started growing. The two bedroom appartments looked small to accommodate the visitting relatives/grand parents.

Though difficult they started moving out in 2017. With sufficient Bank balances in their accounts and easy availablty of mortgage loans for buying their own houses instead of paying rent, the search started for finding areas of their choice. Whereas some insisted for settling in the Indian dominated localities like Jersey City, others moved out for better schooling or better prices nearby.

Aman was first to leave followed by Abhinav who preferred a far off place an upcoming city known for better schooling They looked heart broken as every other month the news of movement arrived and they spent hours together drinking and enjoying the company as if they are not going to meet again. The toddlers had grown as kids, kids started going to school as young ones, the younger attained puberty and a few were going to cross the sweet sixteen stage shortly.

The time has passed but the sweetness has deepened as intensity of relationship grew between all these families

They were settling in different cities of New Jersey making it at least an hour journey from each other but meeting regularly was a challenge as behaviour of children could change due to their own priorities with growing age. Raghu stayed in Princeton as he preferred the area due to better schooling and personal comforts due to cosmopolitan nature of the city. Besides, Raghu and Neha had their place of work only a few minutes drive from Princeton

Soon the things started rolling again as they decided for a night out and celebrate festivals regularly at the pre decided venues. X-Mas at Abhinav’s residence in Jersey city, Diwali celebrations at Raghu’s place in Princeton and New Year eve at Aman’s place was ana annual feature awaited eagerly by all. The excitement was loud and clear for everyone as the kids wanted some extra hours to spend for playing games and running around the whole night without worrying to return home with heavy heart in the late hours.

Occasional night out brought more cheers for the lot. They would dance, shout, play and drink the whole night as the venue looked spruced up with the festive activity and vibrations of love and care for each other.

However with long faces they would say Good bye in the morning reluctantly but promising to be back again in the near future. That was the spirit and intensity of relationship which culminated into bond of care, affection and respect for each other. The growing up kids reciting shlokas in Sanskrit and others following up with traditional Indian dances or songs provided soothing touch to the eyes for keeping our culture alive in the minds of coming generation.

With all their priorities of worldy pleasures like owning house, good education for the children, established bright careers, settling as citizens of USA sorted out, the roots remain firmly grounded to the traditional Indian values.

I may not always be there to relish and participate in such a lively and absorbing family culture but would keep showering my love for this beautiful family. Who says, the relationship happens by sharing common blood vessels flowing in the arteries of two individuals.It indeed is a matter of understanding feelings, mutual respect and care between the two ivdividuals which make the relationship enduring and lasting for ever.