The minute you entered his room you left the sultry surroundings of Madras and entered a different world, one that resonated with who he wanted to become one day. His bookshelves resembled a timeline. One shelf started with John Locke and ended with Dan Brown in between it were Kerouac, Hemingway, and Steinbeck. Another was filled with biographies of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Warren Buffet, and Oprah. He was a young man who grew up in the far east and dreamed of going west. For as long as he could remember his dream had been to move to America and make a life for himself. He had never been, but he was determined to make it happen. You’d often wonder where Kumar got his ambition from, his father, Shanker was but a simple man whose only dream in life was to live in Madras, publish English books for Oxford University Press, drive a scooter, and enjoy Tamil movies with his wife Priya.
But then you’d take one look at Priya and you’d understand where Kumar got his brains and his drive. Priya was the force that championed Kumar. She had studied physics and been a great lecturer at the university level, and would have been happy to have been a spinster had it not been for a chance meeting with Shanker at the age of 30. Shanker was 2 years her junior. Priya was enamored with his simplicity and sweetness. She knew that he would never leave Madras and it would mean giving up her lifelong dream of becoming a professor at a prestigious institution like Princeton. So she like many women of her time decided it was enough to be satisfied than chase a pipe dream. What was she supposed to do, move to America alone? That was not only unheard of but grounds for being disowned, and her family had already had a hard time getting her married. She intimidated all the men she met with her knowledge of physics, philosophy, which was only secondary to her beauty and radiance. Kumar was her dream, seeing him succeed and accomplish great things is what she wanted more than anything. But she wasn’t overbearing like the other mothers in the community who wanted their sons to go to America and send them back money so they could buy gold jewelry. No, she wanted Kumar to explore and have options, the ones that the society of her time had not given her.
It was the night before he was leaving for America to start graduate school. Priya walked into Kumar’s room. She looked at him and tears started to well up in her eyes. Kumar was a sweet boy he knew his mother would be strong, but he felt like he was going to be leaving behind a huge part of him. His heart was torn between the life and loved ones he had lived with the last 22 years and the new life he would be starting.
“Kumar, my dear son, these are tears of joy. I am so proud of you. I don’t want you to think that you are leaving me behind. We will be together once again very shortly.”
Kumar turned to his mother. He had been preparing for this moment, but still didn’t know what to say or do. So he just gave her a hug. Shanker walked in, and smiled at the two. He was the jolly one of the family, “Come now, let’s enjoy our last night together! Your mother has made some wonderful dosas. Let’s eat and take some good rest. You have a long flight ahead of you my boy.” The three of then embraced one last time before dinner. It wouldn’t be the last time they embraced, but to Kumar it would be the last time being in the house and the room he had grown up in.