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A Proud Indian in Chicago

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By Kulbhushan Kain

It was a holiday that had been waiting to happen. I am an intrepid traveller and though not very rich – rich enough to travel to different parts of the world several times. Covid and travel advisories put a break on my travel and cautioned me even when the virus was dying. I had waited with patience – spending time at home tending to my vegetables and playing with my furry babies. More importantly I started to write a column for the Garhwal Post and managed to complete my first book.

But, this year, I put that defensive approach behind me, and packed my bags. What made my travel absolutely inevitable was the fact that my son was graduating from the Booth Business School which over the years has produced 10 Nobel Laureates – I was keen to see what a world class institution looked like and how it worked.

I flew into Chicago. I had paid extra for the window seat and took the transcontinental flight which took nearly 24 hours to reach Chicago – all in sunlight. It was a beautiful sunny day – I can’t remember any day in my previous travels which had uninterrupted sunshine.

The “all day” travel took me across the diversities that our world has to offer. Across the deserts of Baluchistan, which seemed to be caught in a swirling dust storm, over the snow-capped mountains of Central Asia which appear spectacular from 40,000 feet above sea level, across many seas – Caspian, Black, Baltic, Norwegian, Sea of Greenland, the Gulf of Bothnia, the Gulf of Finland, up to the Artic – the Davis Strait, the Hudson Bay, the Thunder Bay and across Lake Michigan on which sits Chicago.

I have travelled over the Artic three times earlier. It’s a mass of never-ending snow. As is Greenland. But this time I saw it in bright sunshine for 5 hours nonstop! To be honest – I felt intimidated and frightened most of the time. But i kept looking and, as always, kept noting the places I flew over – most of them repeats. I could see icebergs – but I did not sight a single ship.

It was raining in Chicago as we landed and was greeted by my son. After 24 hours of spaghetti, cheese sandwiches, Nordic meat balls, sausages , cheese omelettes – we  made “ghar ka khana” at my son’s lovely and comfortable apartment – arhar dal, paneer with capsicum, tomatoes and peas, rice pulao and thin paranthas! Nothing beats “apna desh ka khaana”.

I was stunned by what I saw when I stepped out to explore the city. It is a spectacular city. I am an experienced traveller. I have lived in Dubai, been more than once to Singapore and Hong Kong and been to and seen the New York Skyline. Nothing beats the Chicago skyline. Intermingling with ultra-modern buildings are very old one, and the beautiful river walk. The “Magnificent Mile” is really magnificent. We stopped at a special place – the Starbucks Reserve Roastery.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is the largest Starbucks location in the world and latest roastery to be built. The roastery includes a coffee bar, cocktail bar, and Italian-style sandwich shop. It has 5 floors. I had the best croissant in my life there – though I must admit it was dripping in butter. But it was crisp from the outside and soft from the inside!

We did the touristy stuff. We went to the Millennium Park and saw the landmark of Chicago – the “Bean” as they call it. It’s a must to be photographed in front of it because you can see the reflection of the skyline of Chicago on it! We also passed by the hall where Swami Vivekananda gave his famous lecture on religion. He stayed in Chicago for 8 years. Abraham Lincoln spent 31 years in Chicago and they have made a monument of his in the park. It is very impressive. Further down, as one walks away from the statue of Lincoln, one comes to the world famous Buckingham Fountain. It is referred to as the crown jewel of Grant Park where it is situated. It is one of the largest fountains in the world. The size is meant to symbolise the enormousness of Lake Michigan nearby and uses as much as 15,000 gallons per minute! After every 20 minutes, the fountain’s centre jet shoots water 150 feet into the air.

We had the Chicago hot dog. It was very nice to say the least! It was huge and wife Sangeeta and I had to share it half-half!

The boat ride on Lake Michigan was an unforgettable experience. We have been on rides on some lakes (Lake Ontario is very beautiful as well), but I think the ride on Lake Michigan was better because one could see the overwhelming skyline. Lake Michigan is one of the 5 Great Lakes of North America. It is the only Great Lake located fully in the United States – the other 4 are shared between the US and Canada.

We stopped at the Navy Pier – another landmark of Chicago, where we sinned! We ate burgers, french fries and sipped a coke.

Chicago is a big city and it is not possible to see it in a week or even a month. Tomorrow morning we will be flying to New York and onward to Washington. We come back to Chicago on the 15th morning and on my bucket list then is the house of the king of mafia – Al Capone!

I have kept writing about my visit to the Chicago University till the end. The Chicago University is a top class University and it is here that Barack Obama taught Law for 12 years. The most famous school of Chicago University is the Booth Business School which is ranked as the top Business School in the world. My son picked up his degree from here and it made me feel very proud.

But wait! What made me feel the proudest was when I saw the number of Indians who were graduating. They were from all states – at one time there were 5 “Patels” who came one after another! It seemed India has conquered the best institutions of the world! I got tired clapping!

Modiji is big here in Chicago. Everyone wanted to know how he would do in the elections. I met someone who remarked after the BJP had not done so well, “The opposition needs to be careful. Your Prime Minister learns from mistakes. It’s not going to be easy for them to bounce back.”

You can debate on the point made by him. But you can’t debate on my reply, “Why only the Prime Minister? All Indians learn quickly from mistakes!”

That is why we have dominated the world in all walks of life.

(Do keep reading! My next write up will be from New York and then in subsequent days from Washington, Helsinki, Tallinn and Riga)

(Kulbhushan Kain is an award winning educationist with more
than 4 decades of working in schools in India and abroad. He is a prolific writer who loves cricket, travelling and cooking. He can be reached at kulbhushan.kain@gmail.com)