The long US weekend witnessed the last farewell invitations as well. Three in a row from Uttara-Ramesh, Pallavi-Raghav and Deepa-Ramesh.

Uttara is not just a connoisseur of food, she prepares delicious dishes too, if the lunch she hosted for us is any yardstick. And her husband, Ramesh? He is a Mr Know All. We had an enchanting two-hour session where the ladies drifted apart to the swimming-pool area to enjoy the warm weather in the new garden sofa-set she has bought. The boys – two of theirs and two of ours – hurried upstairs for an unhindered session of their own. And that left Ramesh, my son Shankar and me. We had interesting discussions ranging from Indian politics, American politics, US job scenario, films to watch/miss, and Ramesh’s proposed visit to India to be with his matriculation classmates in a five-star hotel for two days. What a way to stay in touch. I wish I could do that. The solitary classmate of mine with whom I was in touch bade farewell to the world five years ago.

As we got ready to leave, Uttara held us back. She hurried to the kitchen and returned with a celloware container and whispered into our d-i-l’s ears, “Uncle rated this the best dish of the day; have some for the evening.” To me she handed one big plastic bag full of oranges, to my elder grandson another of lemon, both grown in her backyard; and to Aunty she gave a jumbo-size bottle of lemon pickle she had prepared this season. In these last seven months of our stay, we had bought oranges and lemons from Costco, Walmart, Sprouts, and fresh market, but none compares with the homegrown version. Also, the pickle was prepared to such perfection that for a moment Aunty thought of reversing the usual trend, and instead carry pickle from US to India. But the presence of Kancheevaram, Patola, Mysore and other select silk sarees in the suitcase, dissuaded her.

Pallavi’s invitation was to celebrate Sankaranti which they do with pomp and show. She had invited 80 guests. With just four days for our return journey, I thought I would not expose myself to that crowd and stayed back. Those who attended, had a gala time what with uninterrupted supplies of homemade gulab jamuns, fried rice, bagara begun, and other mouthwatering Andhra and Maharashtra dishes followed by a Carnatic music session by the learning kids.

As though to compensate, with Papa Jones pizza in front, Shankar and I watched Run Boy Run on Netflix – based on a true World War II story of a Jewish boy. He and his father were hiding under a culvert. The father advised him to run in the opposite direction as he ran in another, as he was sure to be shot dead by the waiting Nazi army around. What trials and tribulations the boy undergoes, and what he is now in Israel is all the story is about. An engaging movie.

And finally, Deepa-Ramesh. They had invited us for dinner, but we got it modified to an evening tea. Years ago, we saw Deepa’s parents in a morning walk, exchanged pleasantries, and began visiting each other. Thus, we can take the credit for bringing these two families together.

Snacks served included Dal Vada, banana chips, and a sweet-dish made out of rice, spilt green gram and jaggery by Deepa’s father which incidentally stole the show. This was followed by an impromptu Karoke music session in which Shankar-Sunita duo sang a few Hindi numbers, and some solo by Shankar. Ramesh, the host, sang a few Mukesh songs and did with aplomb. Meanwhile his shrewd eyes caught some lip movements in me when others were singing. So next he handed me the mike and insisted on me doing a number. I had never ever experimented with Karoke in my life. ‘There has to be a beginning for everything,’ he counter argued. Helpless, I attempted Waqt ne kiya, kya hasin sitam…; and Tum na jaane kis jahen mein…This was followed by another round by everyone. Later Ramesh asked me to sing a farewell number. I sang, Chalte Chalte yaad rakhna, kabi alvidah na kehna…

An evening – nay an entire US trip – well spent.