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Five decades ago with some money borrowed from a few friends I had left my house on a mighty river called Brahmaputra in search of a dream.  I had ventured out to a new world called America from a remote unknown place on earth.  People called it a fish trap from which very few could get out.  That was the beginning of my wanderlust.  Life was a struggle to survive working part-time at $1.65 an hour in the beginning.  In time I not only survived but triumphed in my own way.

America truly has been the Promised Land, a land of opportunity.  Everyone here has a chance only if you are willing to work hard and not give up no matter how tough the enemy is.  In time, I had a decent job, a family with two wonderful daughters, a house – things that many only dream of.  However, my wanderlust did not disappear with my settlement in the new world.  So, I traveled with my family every summer.

I explored America.  I have traveled through Rocky Mountain – Crested Butte, Durango, Silverton, Grand Teton in Jackson Hole, and Rio Doso in New Mexico.  I visited Grand Ole Opry and Dollywood and Branson, Missouri.  I saw the Adobe houses and the mountaintop caves of the Native Americans.  I have seen the wilderness of Yosemite.  I was mesmerized by the big waves of Big Sur, Disney’s magic at Magic Kingdom, the illusion of Hollywood where Moses opened the Red Sea to save his people.  I have been to Big Apple (NY City) and Big Easy (New Orleans).  I have seen Plantation Homes in Mississippi that reminded me of Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  I took a ferry with a paddle wheel on Huck Finn’s Mississippi.  I stood in awe in front of the Lincoln Memorial remembering once again his Gettysburg Address that all men are created equal which I had read as a teenager.  I rode a train in the west through the Rockies; saw the Great Lakes, Grand Canyon, and mighty Niagara falls.  I have visited Ellis Island to see Lady Liberty holding her light for the poor and the tired.  I have seen the Liberty Bell and the Plymouth Rock.  I walked on Paul Robeson Street and saw Albert Einstein’s cottage in Princeton, New Jersey.  I saw Salmon going upstream over the rocks to spawn and to do the last dance of life.  I stood on many oil rigs in the middle of the ocean and watched the sun rise from and set in the ocean’s blue.  Yes, America is amazingly diverse and beautiful.

However, my wanderlust took me even beyond this land.  I have crossed the Rio Grande to the south where the toiling poor reminded me of my old place on the river.  I also crossed the northern border to hike in the Canadian Rockies.  I saw beautiful tulips in Toronto.  I looked down from a hill into the city of Montreal.

But that wasn’t enough.  Growing up on my own Old Man River, I connect to rivers.  They have seen so much as they make their never-ending journey.  They are dynamic; they keep flowing while giving life to everything along their banks.  Rivers have a calming effect on me.  So, I have crossed many rivers during my journey – the Moscow River, the Thames, the Seine, the Tiber, the Danube, the Kama, the Salzach River, and the Ganges.

I too have been on a never-ending journey.  I also walked on the Red Square and saw Lenin’s tomb who is no longer a Russian hero.  I have also seen the gorgeous armory that displays Russia’s past and the heroic struggle of its people to be free.  I have seen Buenos Aires, the city of beautiful air, the city that never sleeps, the city that will seduce you and make you fall in love.  I have walked Julio Nuevo street, watched the magic of Tango dance, sipped matte, watched Futbol with thousands of Argentinians, and tasted Cerveza Andes (Andes Beer).  Like a vagabond, I have traveled from east to west, from north to south.  I walked the Great Wall, entered the Forbidden City, and stood in the middle of Tiananmen Square remembering the brave young man standing tall against a monster tank defying an oppressive government.  Standing in front of Saint Peter’s Basilica, I watched people’s blind faith in a supreme being of their imagination.  I stood in the middle of the largest amphitheater ever built by the Romans called the Colosseum and thought about the sadistic games played for the Emperor’s entertainment.  I rode the gondola in the canals of Venice; saw Michelangelo’s David standing tall in Florence.

I saw Mona Lisa’s smile in Paris.  I climbed the Eiffel tower.  I walked down the sidewalk of Champ de Elysees to Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph).  I stood on top of Arch the Triomphe looking at the city of Paris.  I saw opulent lifestyle displayed at the shops along Champ de Elysees announcing proudly L’Oréal (slogan: Because I’m worth it), Nina Ricci, Yves Saint Laurent and many more.  I climbed to the top of Sydney Harbor Bridge.  I saw the mountains rise on the edge of Milford Sound.  I saw coral reefs and exotic fish at the Great Barrier Reef.  I also saw the wild side of Rio de Janeiro, the slums of Sao Paulo, Luanda, and Mumbai.  I rode the bullet train in Tokyo; watched young Gothic Lolitas in Harajuku, Japan.  I saw the hills alive with music in Salzburg and visited Mozart’s birthplace.  I traveled from Lake Louise to Lake Lucerne.  I saw people smoking Shisha at restaurants by the beach in Muscat, Oman.  I saw women in burqas shopping in the souks of Middle Eastern cities.  I saw people feeding the pigeons at Trafalgar Square.  I saw two malnourished children on the trail to Mount Kilimanjaro who appeared to have no future as if they were cursed at birth for no fault of theirs.  I saw Gandhi’s statue in Durban.  I visited Nelson Mandela’s prison cell.  I also stood on top of Table Mountain looking down at a country that has learned to reconcile with the past following Mandela’s mantra.

I even visited the Antarctic Circle with even greater respect for early explorers like Ron Amundsen and Robert Scott.  They were true explorers and risk takers to seek out the unknown or unseen.  America taught me to try the untried.  But, I am not done yet.  “I have miles to go before I sleep”.


Image by Ralph Nas from Pixabay

Lohit Datta-Barua (USA)

Dr. Lohit Datta-Barua has lived in Houston since 1973. As an inspiring writer and contributor to social justice he continues to touch people’s lives. As of 2019 Datta-Barua has authored eleven books, six in English, and five in his mother tongue Assamese. His latest book, “One Long Journey” is primarily a story of survival and hope in the face of of adversity and social upheaval, which Datta-Barua hopes can inspire his readers. All proceeds from “One Long Journey” go for orphan welfare.

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