It happened accidentally at Washington DC airport in mid-September 2006. No, it actually began in Chicago five days earlier, when I picked up Barack Obama’s first book, Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance and read entranced about how the son of a white American mother and a Kenyan father went back to Africa to look closer at his heritage. He also seemed to have eaten quite a few samosas in Kenya, thanks to the long Indian presence in Africa.
When it was time to journey on, I put the book into my suitcase and tucked a whodunit into my handbag for the flight from Chicago to DC. Killing time at the airport bookshop, I looked idly at a bunch of titles on Eastern philosophy and was (pardonably) spooked to turn a corner and almost collide into Vedanta speaker Jaya Row of Mumbai, who was on a lecture tour.
“Fancy meeting like this!” we exclaimed before dashing off. It was an omen, I’d swear later, dining off this story to amused friends back in Delhi.
Because while we were up in the clouds, a very fat passing derriere jogged my elbow and its owner apologised contritely in that sweet, polite way many Americans have. I looked up and and there he was across the aisle, one long leg draped elegantly over the other just as he’d described his father’s way of sitting, with his wife Michelle in the window seat beside him. Other passengers kept coming up to pump his hand and wish him luck and it was unexpectedly touching to see their beaming faces. “He’s our big hope,” whispered the man next to me, watching avidly.
When we deplaned, I felt I had to. “Umm, good afternoon, Senator, Ma’am,” I smiled shyly and they returned my greeting. “I’m a journalist from India and I just read your book,” I said, giving him my HT card. “Religion?” he said in a pleasant, sort-of- surprised voice and I said how sorry I was that his book was in my suitcase or I’d have asked him to sign it that minute. The tall, beautiful twosome laughed, we said Good Luck, shook hands and went away. Fun now to recall the chanciness of it, that’s all.