If you want to know me better, there are three things that you absolutely must know about me.
I have lived in one of the coldest regions of the world, just a few hundred miles from the Arctic circle. This was in Anchorage, Alaska, USA. Trust me, it is a beautiful place to live in, almost like heaven on earth during the summer days.
I landed in Anchorage shortly after emigrating to Canada in 1994. In those days, there was a major recession in the country, and I couldn’t find a job anywhere in Canada. Out of the blue, a friend from my IIT days, Raj Bhargava, offered me a job in his consultancy company in Anchorage, Alaska.
I moved there in the dead of winter, in the month of January. For the first few months, I didn’t have a car in a city with a primitive public transport system. Sometimes, my friend would give me a ride to work, other days I would have to walk half a mile to the office from my apartment building in sub-zero temperatures.
Later, my wife and teen-aged daughter joined me in Anchorage. We found a school in the neighborhood, and my wife would walk my daughter Neha to school every day. Things got easier with time, and I finally bought a car and we also moved to a better apartment.
During the brief summer, we discovered the joy of living in such beautiful natural surroundings. There were snow clad mountains, lakes and rivers within easy driving distance. We had a walking trail right next to our house, that meandered across the coastline. We had a good social life, because there were about a hundred people from India living there and we got to know them all though the Indian association.
Winters were harsh, but we survived three of them without much trouble. It was pitch dark for 12 hours a day, with temperatures plummeting to minus 35 deg. C. After three such winters, we got tired of this existence and moved to Ottawa, Canada where I have spent the rest of my life.
Another thing you must know about me is about the time of the coronation of the British queen. Yes, I was present at that event. My father worked for a British newspaper in India, and we got to travel to UK every three or four years. It just so happened that we were in London during Queen Elizabeth’s coronation.
I remember the day very well; Buckingham Palace was all dressed up for the event. Since my father was a well-known journalist, we got access to some of the best seats inside the palace. I remember it was very cold and chilly, my hands would not warm up. In fact, they never warmed up all during our entire stay in London.
You must also know that I visited Australia, once, in my life. My niece was working in Sydney and after much persuasion, my wife and I decided to pay her a visit. It was a 35-hour flight from Ottawa, Canada with two stops along the way.
What struck me most was the similarities between Canada and Australia as both are commonwealth countries. The people are similar, except that the Australians have a very strong accent, and they speak kind of funny. Of course, Sydney is much warmer than Ottawa, there isn’t all that much snow.
People live in brick houses there, as there is no need for snow protection. My niece, Anjana, had a four-bedroom house that was almost like a ranch, with a huge open space at the back. Her husband is a chartered accountant and they are both very affluent. However, they do a lot of drinking in Australia, mostly strong whisky with soda. I didn’t quite fit in with this type of social activity, as in Canada people drink mostly beer and wine.
My niece took me to “Avaya”, an authentic Indian restaurant in the heart of the city. The food was a bit too spicy for my wife, who has an irritable bowel syndrome. Also, I felt bloated after the meal with all those rich curries, it wasn’t quite the same as what we get in Canada in an Indian restaurant.
The return trip was the worst journey of my life. We were flying from East to West, and it took much longer. The planes were overcrowded with too many noisy Australian children. This time there were three stops, one in Melbourne, Australia, one in London and another stop in Toronto before the final leg of the journey to Ottawa.
I know Om Swami ji lived for quite a while in Australia before he moved on to better things. If I had to live in Australia for any length of time, I would also find something better to do and leave the country.