My aunt Mary set me up with this family near Portland. Tom is a gardener. He likes to see life grow. Stephanie is in instructional education. When I asked Tom about his faith and religion. He said, “I have not seen any one coming back from grave and telling me how is it going there. How can I believe people go to hell or heaven when no dead man ever came back and told me about that!”
In the Yellow Stone National Park, a family from Switzerland was chatting with me while seeing the Old Faithful erupt. When they learned about the trip, they asked about how I was funding the trip. On learning about Kickstarter, they were overwhelmed and said , “Please don’t mind but allow us to support this” and made cash contribution on the spot. In the moment of gratitude I forgot to even take picture with them. They told me they would write to me. And then they mysteriously disappeared. Don’t know if I get to see them again. All I remember is that they were Oliver, Valerie , John and a-difficult-French-name from Lucerne.
I wanted to make a small break in Spokane WA, the first stop in that state. A friend googled up that town and told me about Dr Sanjay Logani who is a pathologist in Spokane. Found his number and called up his office. The secretary told Dr Logani that a documentary film maker from India is on the line and asked if Dr Logani would speak with me. He was kind to take the call. After few questions to establish trust and authenticity , he agreed to have his family spend some time with me. When I reached there in the state park, there was not one but three Indian families in the park where they had come for picnic. For the first time in this trip, I met an Indian family. When I asked him about his family, he said, “We make sure that all in our family share at least one meal every day.”
This was a consequence of a plain door knock. As I was driving through the ranches on my way to Jackson Hole, WY, I wondered what these ranchers are like. Are they like the cowboys of the Brokeback Mountain. So I drove into one of them. I knocked the multiple doors of the house there. No one answered. Not disappointed, because the town was full of ranches, I drove out and looked for another ranch while driving further. Then I passed Warm Creek Ranch. I don’t know why, but this looked promising. I drove reverse in the pull out lane of this highway for a quarter of a mile and got into the ranch. There was a young looking couple moving some heavy equipment. I said Hello and introduced myself and told why I was there. The man asked me to talk to his father in the house. And so I did. Father came out of house and I learned that his name was Larry Cooke. He was a real cowboy. He had his hat and boots on. He asked me to wait while they moved the heavy equipment. I offered to help and together we moved that boiler / engine / I-don’t-know-what. Now that that was out of way, I was to re-introduce myself to Larry to resume but my hands were full of mud from that moving. So I quickly ran to my car and cleaned them with sanitizer and told my story to Larry. He agreed to speak with me. His wife too joined. I learned they never left this town of Victor in Idaha with a population less than 2000. Or at least his wife. I asked her if she missed anything by not living in a big city, say, New York.
“I could not care less about New York. I don’t mind if I never get to see it”
That’s what Mary here told me when I asked what image came to her mind when she thought of India. Mark and Mary have been performing transcendental Meditation for 40 years now and that was visible in their happy peaceful nature. Sometimes I seek people, sometimes people seek me. As I got back into the parking lot, standing next to my car was this couple who startled me by saying, “Hello Mr Gupta” ! My decked up car caught their eyes and they sought me!
This Saturday, I will be completing two weeks of the four week Indo-US friendship tour across the United States of America. From Central Park in New York City to Greeley Colorado, I have crossed the heart of America on my way to the western coast. I have heard stories of quite different types of families – a nice couple in a small town of Pennsylvania, a single Colombian woman in Cincinnati Ohio, an elderly couple in seventies in Bloomington Indiana with life long thirst for knowledge, a big family in Indiana with two dads and eight kids, a big family tree in Illinois with three generations to welcome me, a lively couple in Wisconsin, a birthday party in Minnesota, a widowed old artist in the sleepy town of Soux Falls, SD , three camping families in the Badlands of Dakotas, a native Indian family in America’s poorest region of Pine Ridge, a badass scholarly couple in Colorado with remarkable zest for life in their attempts to make the world more compassionate – and countless men and women and speeding ticket issuing officers at gas stations, diners, rest areas, pullovers on highways, churches, bars, schools, pharmacies .. phew!
In all these stories, it might be a coincidence, I find a hope. Hope to live for tomorrow. There is lot of diversity in how the home is set up. How family chores are divided. What stage of life these people are in. Quite a lot of them seem content. Quite a lot are rebellious ones. Some of them know what they are doing and why. Some others still figuring out. Some have genuine fears in life. Others could not care less. But almost all of them share their concern for the world when asked what they think of tomorrow or if they have worries in life.
I am quite touched but their openness and kindness. Some of them at least knew of me. At least a day in advance. Some were total strangers. Some didn’t know of me till the moment I knocked their door. Yet, the response and kindness to talk to me, or feed me or shelter me has been incredible to say the least.
And I have touched not even the tip of this iceberg called America. I have not entered the home of an African America or Hispanic family yet. I have not had supper in a blue collar family home. I fear that if I broadcast that desire of mine too much, I might be accused of race tourism or poverty tourism or other things to that effect. But I rely on some random stroke of luck to have a family like that open door for me. I hope my genuine curiosity about them will be seen,
I look forward to the rest of the journey. I don’t have very many families or homes lined up as I go further west. But I have hope. Hope to go west another day.
Meanwhile, we have only fourteen ( 14 ) days to go before this kickstarter campaign gets over. We are little over the half mark of $2500. If we don’t get that in next two weeks, project will be scrapped off and movie won’t be funded. I am already deeply grateful for you for your support. Every buck counts. So please help spread the word. It is not the value of each contribution but the total number of backers that will get this project included in the list of FEATURED PROJECTS on this site. I believe in you and myself! Yes We Can !
Adios Amigos !
Gupta Goes Greek !
In Badlands National Park, I was fortunate from the get go. As soon I entered the park –
I was told that camping sites are almost full and I may not get one. By sheer stroke of luck, I was able to secure the last available one!
Then, I wondered if camp grounds could be a place for meeting American Families. And I was pleasantly surprised. First I met this gentleman who had the road to he does not know where. His diverse life and career was indeed marvelous. His was like a free flowing breeze –
He gave me this as a souvenir –
Then I met this sweet couple who were on their annual pilgrimage to visit their grand kids around the country –
Finally, with lots of apprehension I approached this family. But their sense of openness and friendship really overwhelmed me.
Little Emma gave me this as the parting gift –
I indeed was a happy camper !
It were wonderful past couple of days. On the drive from Illinois to Wisconsin, as soon as I saw the board Welcome to Wisconsin, the landscape changed, it was more green, less traffic, lots of vegetation. Met a wonderful couple who were so different from what I imagined they would be like.. they were so full of life. Spent an evening with them and moved to Minnesota next day. Tonne of forests around. Ran into a birthday party in Minneapolis and old friends. And now on to the wild wild west.. South Dakota !