I … am … home

36,000 feet in the air, flying above the Canadian Rockies, traveling from Amsterdam to Portland, back from our visit to India, I am wondering where is home? Amritsar, New Delhi or Portland?

Let me back up for more than three decades. I was born in the holy city of Amritsar, in a deeply religious Sikh family, little did I knew that the home for me would be different during different phases of my life.

My early years were spent in my ancestral home of my grandfather, where our family dwelled with my uncle’s. His son is likely the closest of my cousin’s, having spent the most time with him. He was 10 years older than me, introduced me to Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson. Being the only child, I was spoilt. Being the youngest among my paternal cousins and oldest among the maternal ones, I was loved from both sides. My grandfather would carry me on his shoulders and take me to street vendors selling painted clay toys. My cousin taught me how to fly kite, and my dad taught me calculus (yes, I knew calculus as a young child, but that’s a different story). And my grandmother practically raised me. I was home.

As my dad bought his first house, we moved out of my grandfather’s home. I was 7 or 8 years old. The new home was alien a bit. I remember that I’d ask my parents to “Take me home” as they would put me to sleep. I missed our ancestral home. Over time, I made friends in the neighborhood, played cricket with them, and, most importantly, my grandfather came to live with us. The new house became home. I shared the room with my grandfather and before going to bed, I would ask him to “sing me a song”. He would oblige with singing “sacred hymns” or Shabads, which I would understand much later. He lived until the end of his days with us. That home also gave me the first experience of death. I do not believe I fully understood the gravity of it, as I was protected, and did not attend his funeral. It was maybe it was my parents’ way of protecting me. I also lost a friend to cancer at that young age – someone who was just a few months younger than me. My time there was not that melancholic though, I had lots of fun, learned to ride the bike in the neighborhood. I also started biking to school with friends from the neighborhood, eventually got a moped (yes those tiny things) much earlier than I should have been licensed to drive. I grew until late teens in that home, and the time came for us to move once to our current house within India. I think all three of us got emotional as we handed over the familiar sound of those jingling keys to the new owners. But were also excited to go to our new home.

The new house, where my parents still live, became my home for the next few years. My dad constructed it to home a decent size family. A jingling sound of new keys became part of our lives and we started to get familiar with which switches would turn on lights or fan in different rooms (we have way too many switches in each room). I did not get to live there much, because I left for studying engineering in Chandigarh and then move to New Delhi for a job. A couple of years later, destiny brought me back to Amritsar for two years and I was living once again with my parents. That was almost 20 years back, filled with some good memories. We bought our first car, and I drove it into our outer wall while bringing it home. I blasted classic rock music while occupying the top room in the house. I collected thousands of audio cassettes (my father keeps them as a memory of me). Got my first PC – Intel Pentium 133MHz PC. And I dreamed of going to the USA. I also met my wife during those years.

My move to the USA was both less of a culture shock than a climate shock. I moved to cold Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My (now) wife joined me a year later and we moved to wet Portland, Oregon in 2001. We are now settled there. We have created our lives around my work. We found friends who became family. And the house we bought in 2007, became our home where we are raising two incredible human beings.

During this last visit to India, in November 2019, as I walked into the home in Amritsar, memories came flooding back. My brain brought memories of nooks and corners around the house. My muscle memories activated while walking around a broken floor, which my parents got fixed, still, I kept skipping it. I started looking through the old photographs and fond memories of all the places I have been to. I saw colors in those black and white photos – the red seat of my tricycle, the stripes of my shirt, or the dress my mom wore. Vividly, I remembered the places where that photographs were taken – as an infant in my parents’ arms in our ancestral home and to see my kid’s photos in our home in Oregon.

As the trip was coming to close in India, someone commented that it seemed that “we were ready to go back home”. That made me think, where is my home?

Maybe it is at every place that I have lived or maybe it is where my heart lives and mind remembers or just maybe it is where I am with those whom I love and who love me. 36,000 feet above the ground heading back to Portland, makes me wonder, am I going home?

And as I look at the faces of my kids, I know … I … am … home!

Jatinder PS Nagi
November 30th, 2019
Written on the iPhone, 36,000 ft in the air, above the Canadian Rockies!

PEC E&EC Class of 1996 Reunion 2018, in Las Vegas – ‘A Musical Gathering’

A couple of months back, someone in my PEC Electronics WhatsApp group suggested a get-together.  Within the next few hours, there was a big commotion, messages flying around with potential dates and excuses. Within a day, a sub-group was rolled out of folks who had agreed upon dates to meet at the Sin City. There was a bit of arm twisting and emotional blackmail – which resulted in folks (Adarsh and Bhup) flying in from the east coast and ND from even across the pond. The decision was that we all fly into Las Vegas on December 7th, 2018 and stay there for the weekend. The dates are well clear of the Thanksgiving or Christmas breaks.

And then the process of having a theme started. After all, there were eleven of us, and we were all meeting in Vegas … Ocean’s 11 came to mind. With Pompy at the helm of this get-together, it was christened Pompy’s 11. Themed T-shirts were suggested, and I quickly put a design together, again inspired by Ocean’s 11 (more like Ocean’s 8). We gathered all the shirt sizes, kept the design and color of the shirts secret – they are red of course.

Then, an earworm made it’s way to my mind. How about a musical theme for the gathering? I bounced it off Pompy and he loved it. Since we are all children of 80s/ 90s, it has to be on a cassette tape; which I was sure most will not be able to play. Pompy and I conspired on it and I got to work. The music that started as 11 tracks (to go with the theme of 11), became a baker’s dozen because I wanted to fill in full 60 minutes, and also because there were a couple of other songs that were too hard to miss.

Thus Pompy’s 11 – A Musical Gathering came into existence.
Of course, almost all of us are challenged from being able to play the cassette, so there is a digital download included too. Here is how the music came to be.

Side A (29 minutes)
Livin’ On the Edge – Aerosmith
Aerosmith had to be included … for Ajju. Two out of fours years at college, I have stayed next door to Ajju. And invariably, I have heard the tunes of the Bad Boys from Boston coming from his room. With songs like Dude Looks Like a Lady, and Janie’s got a Gun, Ajju was instrumental in making me (and us) aware of Aerosmith.

Thunderstruck – AC/ DC
One of the great example of how the music came before the lyrics. AC/DC’s soaring crescendo of a song about being Thunderstruck, the guitar rhythm was amazing and the lyrics to fit the bill. One of the popular songs to crank up the volume on those cassette boom boxes, AC/ DC was played by one and all.

Enter Sandman – Metallica
Metallica has a special place in everyone’s heart – for those who gathered and those who did not. A favorite headbanger number from one of the greatest bands of all time. The track had the energy that complemented ours during that age.

Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Nirvana’s biggest hit and Cobain’s crowning glory made the grunge, cool again. It was an attempt by Nirvana to create a pop song – ended up becoming popular among all the headbangers we had at the hostel (dorm) parties.

Summer of ’69 – Bryan Adams
Like Ali Haidar’s Purani Jeans, Bryan Adam’s Summer of ’69 is like an anthem for our generation. It brings too many memories of growing, high school, and hormones. The guitar riff, which underwent a lot of changes, had the energy to be played at almost every gathering we have had.

You Give Love a Bad Name – Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi released Keep the Faith in 1992 followed by Cross Roads in 1994. Both albums could be heard int he corridors. You Give Love a Bad Name was particularly played on a smallish tape player, with Pompy, Ananth, and yours truly singing along at the top of their voice relatively late in the evening, while at the Thapar Institute of Technology for an inter-college cultural competition.

Side B (27 minutes)
Sweet Child O’ Mine – Guns N’ Roses
Appetite for Destruction which came 4 years prior to G’n’R’s Use your Illusions duology, had one of their most successful songs. – Sweet Child O’ Mine. Axl Rose’s soaring six-octave range made this song to be our favorite.

We Will Rock You – Queen
This is one of the few songs, that I recall, Numi loved. He would always get happy just hearing either the beat or the guitar riff of the song. It is also one of the songs that are played often during sports and radio events.

Are You Gonna Go My Way – Lenny Kravitz
Lenny Kravitz made its way into our collective consciousness when Sumant suggested it for one of the mock-rock competition. Needless to say that we won that competition and the song became an integral part of the music for all of us.

Roadhouse Blues – The Doors
I had never heard of The Doors. When Akshay (our friend from Civil Engineering), another of my next-door neighbor during one of the years, shared his 90-minute BASF Cobalt mixtape with me, I turned to The Doors. I copied The Best of The Doors (German Edition) and rest is history. I played it over and over again in my boom-box. And The Doors became my favorite group. A bit of trivia, other than The Beatles, The Doors is the only other group whose group members I can name without thinking. 

Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple
Deep Purple was the other Brit rock band. An instant classic with one of the world’s most popular beginning guitar riff. It was loved by one and all. One of the first songs that come to mind when we think of our time at PEC.

Immigrant Song – Led Zeppelin
The song that refers to war-making with reference to Norse mythology and halls of Valhalla, this song was popular among the fans of Brit-Rock likes of which included Pink Floyd, Rolling Stones, and Deep Purple. Againthis one is for Sumant.

Pour Some Sugar On Me – Def Leppard
The list started with Ajju, and it has to end with him too. I can still hear Ajju singing at the top of his voice while walking in the corridors of our hostel (dorm), “Pour Some Sugar On Me”. Def Leppard became one of the favorite pop-rockish band that everyone loved.

I am publishing this on the day we are all supposed to arrive in Vegas. So many may not have seen this or even known about the theme. But here it and all shall reveal today afternoon.

JPS Nagi
December 7, 2018