The sight of tall sky scrapers twinkling with lights, as if the galaxy of stars had descended on the earth was unbelievable. It was just one week before when I was shaken up with a telegram in the middle of the night on my bunk, on board the warship. I was selected by the headquarters for a month long training at New York commencing a week later. A slew of activities like attending special briefings, medical tests, kept me on my toes, till the flight took off from Mumbai International Airport.It was my first trip abroad!
The flight landed at JFK International Airport as a gust of cold wind greeted me, when I stepped out of the arrival hall. I hailed a cab for taking me to the Long Island. The fresh snow and neon lights of the Brooklyn bridge were a fascinating sight. I was to spend one month at a hotel where all the US astronauts normally stayed to attend training at the nearby Grumman’s Aerospace facility. A brief introduction with the VP Operations , a German American the next day followed. The instructors were very friendly . I received a call from my cousin to meet one Indian doctor who was staying at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in NY. On the Friday evening, I took the metro to the Grand Central and working through the jigsaw of Streets and Squares arrived to be greeted by the couple. A chance meeting, turned into a long time association, as they were extremely hospitable and insisted that I spend the weekend with them. We played cards till late at night after visiting , the Times Square, the Broadway and many other attractions. It appeared as we were related for years!
Exploring the city, visiting the World Trade Centre(before9/11), Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty are some memories which I cherish to this day. I even cooked Pulav at their place with Rajma as they were taken by surprise with my culinary skill. His wife packed sandwiches for me each time I went out on my own knowing I was a vegetarian.
Many years later, they visited India . I was serving onboard the aircraft carrier which I showed them around. The first friends that I made in the land of opportunities is firmly etched in the memory to this day.
PS:“I’m sharing the memories of my first friend in the USA for the#Celebrate4thOfJulyWeek at BlogAdda.”