Shanto mentioned that when his father-in-law came visiting, the first thing he noticed was how there were absolutely no people on the streets. True. It is only in city centers that you saw people on the streets. Times Square, New York of course made up for many empty streets . But I kind of liked the quiet neigbourhooods in the suburbs. I felt a great sense of peace and serenity in these homes…be it Shanto’s at Winchester, Boston or Subir’s at Centreville, Virginia, or all the other houses in the neighbourhood.
Having grown up in a village and later in a boarding school for 240 students with a 140-acre campus and even later, in an equally sprawling IIT campus, I liked the idea of living in houses where bunny rabbits and deer strayed into the compound and you could find a mountain lion’s paw marks on the snow sometime. I also liked that even among the sky-kissing buildings of New York they worked at greening the environment with parks, hydroponic roof gardens and flowering plants on the sidewalk.
And yes, it was a revelation to know that all these houses had walls made of wood! Would wood work as walling material in our tropical climate? Perhaps not. But here it sure made for some beautiful homes. I also learnt of the basic architecture that most houses followed: a concrete basement, a ground floor that housed the living room, kitchen, dining room, home office deck , etc and the topmost floor with the bedrooms. I found the same grid even in the smaller bed and breakfast place in Brooklyn where we stayed (the one with the For Sale notice in the picture.) Quite a neat template I thought! ( Okay. You need some extra gadgets to live in these houses. Like Sarmila had to ring a bell to get us down for dinner. )
I liked the fact that all suburban towns had a church, a library and good public schools – everything that a community needs. I saw the elementary school that Raka and Riya go to ( named after Vinson Owen family, the family of Olympic figure skaters that died in a tragic plane crash) and the middle school that Raka will go to soon. I was impressed by the involvement of parents in the affairs of the school , how much it was getting funded and how the funds were being used and things like that.
Also revealing was the way some of the best locations were being occupied by Asians. Subir’s neighbours, for example, included an Ethiopian surgeon and a Korean who had a special kitchen for cooking fish!