This isn’t about San Francisco per se. This is about the transition of acquaintances into friends (and when I say friend it has connotations way deeper than what an average human being comes to understand from that word).
To say that my last week in the US was hectic would be toning things down to an extent that they cease to represent reality. Hectic would be an understatement. But of course, I did that to myself. The initial plan was to attend Penn Masala’s concert at NYU on 8th April and chill on the East Coast. Then life happened. In the mysterious way that life functions, events conspired and lo and behold I was in San Francisco for the last 3 days of my trip.
From the day I landed in New York, people always advised that if time and budget permits I must visit SF. The enthusiasm around the place was quite something. However I had never thought of going all the way to the West Coast till a friend’s birthday came along and the rest as they say is history.
Weekend visit to DC followed by a day trip to Princeton and a sleepless night at the airport meant that I was sleeping through most of my journey to SF. When I did wake up, the view outside was quite ethereal and my excitement matched the enthusiasm of the people who had been recommending SF. Its not everyday that till moments before landing you’re over water and all of a sudden you catch a glimpse of the runway jutting out into the water. After this super exciting landing, I was really looking forward to this trip. While it did not, even remotely, match what I had planned (such is life), but for a change the deviation from the norm was pleasant.
My school acquaintance (now friend), Rajat, who had very graciously agreed to host me was kind enough to come to the airport to pick me up. That I somehow managed to walk out of the Departure Terminal is an enigma to my grey matter till date. Of course, the absurdity was not lost on Rajat who, quite obviously, was waiting at the Arrivals. That my first impression was on the lines of Bertram Wooster in a Wodehouse novel needs no further elaboration. What followed did nothing by way of redemption. Indians in the US definitely have a thing for taking an Indian visitor to a frequented Indian restaurant that they know of in their city/vicinity. Rajat was no different. So we went to a certain Himalayan Kitchen for brunch. Its not everyday (rather its never the case) that one sees kathal ka sabji in a buffet. An ardent jackfruit fan, the preparation made my day and Rajat’s as well- on account of the jokes he cracked and taunts he made at my expense thereafter.
Thanks to a a really crazy week I was quite tired by the time we reached Mountain View from the SF airport (via Himalayan Kitchen of course). It was the get-yourself-comfortable-time where the host introduces you to the house and housemates. That I was not even trying at any image redemption was evident from the fact that within 15 minutes of reaching his place I had passed out on the couch in the living room. When I finally woke up, he took me for rock climbing and the rest of the evening saw us meeting Nishant, another acquaintance turned friend, and of course my host and now dost‘s minion-like flatmate, Tao. The highlight of our evening was our stint at a vegan restaurant (where the woman running the place was surprised at our Indian-ness as we had not requested for our food to be extra spicy!) followed by Boba.
We returned from Palo Alto and I was mentally planning my next day. Randomly, or may be not so randomly, we started a conversation which went from calling up old friends and trolling them to more serious territory. I had always considered myself a lone wolf in terms of my eccentricities and thought processes regarding a lot of things in life. That I had never met anyone who shared my views or came even remotely close to them used to only make me that much more self conscious. During our night-long conversation, I realized that there was at least one more soul I could concur with on most issues. Its a nice feeling to know that in your opinions, beliefs and perceptions you’re not Robinson Crusoe. It was during that conversation that we graduated from being acquaintances to becoming really good friends. (That the night ended with both of us watching Pitchers, on my request, and with me falling asleep midway added to my list of embarrassing-things-done-at-SF).
Next day Rajat dropped me to the Mountain View Station while he made his way to work. I took a train to SF and spent the remainder of the day walking along Embarcadero, taking a Walking Tour of North Beach/Little Italy, walking up to Coit Tower and seeing the rain make its way towards the city from Alcatras. SF gives a really different feel as compared to New York, Washington DC or anything on the East Coast for that matter. Watching the undulating roads, the steep bends, the curious buildings, the intriguing graffiti and of course, the super cute Cable Cars kept me busy during the day. I met Nishant (a matter of sheer chance) in the evening and was eventually on my way to meet Rajat for the remainder of the evening.
A combination of fatigue, sleep and food deprivation along with alcohol does wonders with my brain. That evening was one such mystical evening where my recollections are sketchy at best and Rajat’s version at worst. My sense of happiness the next morning told me that I must have had fun the previous night, whatever the reality! So happy was I with life that I decided on cooking our lunch. This was followed by a visit to Stanford and of course some more clubbing.
Of my final day at SF I remember just 4 things: First, that Rajat gave me his car to drive (and the outcome!). Second, I saw Apple’s head office at 1, Infinite Loop, Cupertino. Third, on account of my touristy interests, Nishant, Rajat and I went to Lombard Street and the Golden Gate Bridge where thanks to Karl, the fog, we saw nothing except Karl. Fourth, the wifi at San Francisco Airport worked!
In Steel Magnolias, Julia Roberts says, “I would rather have 30 minutes of wonderful than a lifetime of nothing special.” Well, that and I’m glad I went.