August 15th is India's Independence Day.
In marking the transition from the British rule to freedom, India's first prime minister referred to the moment as "tryst with destiny." Salman Rushdie provided a magical realism treatment of this midnight hour with a literary gem that won the "Booker of Bookers."
I, too, have my own stories to tell of the 15th of August.
In Sanskrit, the word
dvi|ja, twice born, could mean a Brahmin, for he is born, and then born again when he is initiated into the rites of his caste; it could mean ‘a bird’, for it is born once when it is conceived and then again from an egg; but it could also mean ‘a tooth’, for teeth, it was plain to see, had two lives too.
August 15th marks the anniversary of my own "tryst with destiny." Make it two different anniversaries.
In 1987, the Singapore Airlines flight that I was on took off from Madras (as Chennai was known then) a little before the midnight that made made the transition from the 14th to the 15th--similar to India's birth at midnight.
As the US immigration stamp from that old passport shows, I landed in Los Angeles on August 15th, 1987 and since then have only been a tourist in the old country where I had my wonderful formative years.
Though it took me a decade-plus to formally become an American, there was no doubt in my mind that when I left India on the night of that August 14th, I was leaving to make myself a new home. I looked forward to the new identity that would result.
Coming to the US took a whole lot of planning--from thinking about what I wanted to study to where I wanted to study. Los Angeles was, thus, no simple accidental happening.
But, of course, as much as we plan, well, life unfolds in its own cosmic way. The unpredictability of life that makes it exciting and depressing, depending on the events.
A few years into my citizenship, I made a trip to India. In the summer, which surprised people there, given my inability anymore to deal with the heat and humidity. I planned the trip, yes, but it was to announce yet another re-birth: to begin the transition to the divorced life.
It was a brutal summer.
A few days prior to my departure from Chennai, I got an email from the airlines in which I was booked to fly back home. Home in the US of A. Because of scheduling issues, I had been automatically re-booked with a new departure date of, yes, August 15th!
When we watch such coincidences unfold in the movies, we dismiss them as melodrama that could have been avoided. But, I suppose there is no better fiction and melodrama than real life!
So, there I was, re-enacting the whole August 15th rebirth. Once again leaving India for the United States. To lead a life that would be very different all over again. It has been one hell of a tryst with destiny!
A note to the cosmos: enough with the melodrama already! :)