|A tree blooming in my sister's house|
As my sister and a nephew were insisting on us to visit them in the US we travelled there in 1998. Pre-travel formalities take a lot of time, especially those relating to the US visa. Thankfully those days were different and Donald Trump was yet to ride on the back of Uncle Sam. Having had the visa we bought US Air tickets under VUSA that make flying to distant destinations in the vast country much
|In my sister's idyllic house|
We flew from Mumbai to Paris and from the Charles De Gaulle Airport to John F Kennedy Airport. After an overnight stay in a hotel on the Sunset Avenue somewhere not far from JFK we moved towards La Guardia airport to catch a flight for St. Louis in Missouri. My sister’s place, Edwardsville, Illinois, was only few miles away from St. Louis across the Mississippi River.
|Anoter snap in the same premises|
The way to La Guardia was interesting. We passed through Flushing Meadows Where US Open tennis tournaments are held. Besides, it was from Flushing Meadows that the United Nations functioned for some time before moving to its present location on East Side of Manhattan. Our Kashmir problem was referred to the UN when it was still located in Flushing Meadows and it remained unresolved for
before being finally declared as a dispute that has remained “Unresolved”. The
name Flushing Meadows has, therefore, somehow remained embedded in my mind.
|At Alton in a restaurant with my sister|
After a stop-over to change over to another flight at Pittsburgh we reached St Louise around mid-day. My sister was waiting at the Airport and we drove across the Mississippi to
Edwardsville, a university town in the state of Illinois. It was
the same Mississippi which we were taught abought in schools and the college, one
of the longest rivers in the world that originated up north in Minnesota and
flowing down around 2000-odd miles drained into the Gulf of Mexico. At St
Louis, however, the River was not at its widest.
While Edwardsville is claimed to be third oldest city in Illinois, its university, Southern Illinois University (SIU), has one of the largest campuses in the
United States. My sister used to be a professor at the university and later, on
retirement, she was honoured by the status of Emeritus. She had a beautiful
independent house on a Drive that led to the Edwardsville Lake. Behind the
house one could see the spread of Prairies and her grounds at the back and the
front had lots of trees. In fact it looked idyllic. It was far from the
University but that is how it is in the US and that is why automobiles are so
important there. In fact, with no public transport they are a necessity. Even
the closest mall was around six kilometers away.
|My sister and I|
There were a few things which caught my eyes. First, I found there were no boundary walls separating the neighbouring properties – not even a proper fencing. Apparently, unlike in this country, people do not try and
encroach on the neighbours’
property or, perhaps, if they did the law enforcers would take care of them.
Another thing that I observed and found it to be unusual was absence of
policemen on the streets. Even after a rather violent spell of weather which
brought down numerous trees obstructing traffic to manage which there were no
traffic policemen but only young scouts. The youngsters managed the things very
well. Good training for young people and at the same time relieved for the cops
to more important jobs.
|At the Alton resturant|
The business concentration as also the older settlements, known in the US as “downtown”, was a few miles away but there was nothing much here. Everyone, however, had to visit the “downtown” to get essentials or to transact businesses or for availing banking services. It was a nice tightly constructed urban settlement. The absence of the pressure of population was palpable.
While in Edwardsville we went on a day-long outing to Alton, a town up the Mississippi River. One gets some fascinating views of the River as the town stands on a cliff at an elevation. It is supposed to be a decaying town, though we did not see any signs of decay. It was a flourishing
town during the times of river trade. However, it could not
stand up against the new means of transportation and the river trade declined
impacting the town’s economy. And yet, it seemed to be doing pretty well. The
town boasts of being the location of the last debate for presidential election
which was won by Abraham Lincoln.
|My wife at my sister's house|
During our stay we also had two day-long outings – to St Louis and Cahokia Mounds, remains of an old (American) Indian settlement. I have written about them separately. We also took a trip to Chicago impressions of which I will record separately.