The drive to Los Angeles was supposed to be a long one. About five and a half hours. So after saying good bye to Robyn and Breezy, we started early, just after breakfast. Pappoo took his Mercedes which was more comfortable. The journey is along a motorway which passes through mostly desert landscape. In a couple of places one is reminded of the movie Mackenna's Gold, the only difference being that one is driving in a Mercedes rather than riding a horse! It is totally dry and barren. There are in many places lake beds with layers of salt. We stopped a couple of times to have some coffee.
For lunch we had some Kentucky Fried Chicken and coke, the usual American junk food! We reached Los Angeles in late afternoon and drove straight to Robyn's parent's house which is located in the famous Orange County. It is supposed to be among the posh areas of LA. Robyn's parents were happy to see me and Pappoo and insisted that I stay with them for a few days. Due to paucity of time, I could only stay for two nights as my tickets had been pre-booked. After an early super, Pappoo took me for a round of LA. He wanted me to see the hill top Hollywood sign and take a round of the Walkway of Fame. It was an enjoyable ride through Hollywood area. We stopped near the Walkway of Fame and saw a number of stars which are embedded on the Walkway. We returned home early as next day we were supposed to spend the whole day in Disneyland. Before going to bed I tried to call some of Kashmiri friends who were working in LA but had no luck.
We started for Disneyland very early as we had only one day and Pappoo wanted me to see most of the rides which, according to him was the major attraction in the recreation park. It normally starts at 8 and usually people queue up even earlier. Luckily there was not much rush and we got nearby parking. We bought two full day passes and went in. The first thing was to try as many rides as possible. There are so many attractive and varied rides that it is virtually impossible to try all in a single day. This is also because at each ride there is a long line for entry. We first went to Space Mountain. It is a ride on a roller coaster in total darkness through virtual outer space. One sits on an airplane type chair and seat belts are fastened. The ride suddenly starts with a big jerk and one is hurtled through space. The ride is in some places very scary and one can hear the screams of other riders!
Next we went to Splash Mountain where the ride is in a boat which goes through different water channels and finally splashes down a mountain waterfall. It is quite dramatic and really enjoyable. Then there was a ride through some sort of a Ghost area. This was really scary through a water channel going through tunnels with scary faces appearing off and on. One ride was through a jungle but again on a boat. There were alligators in the water. All the rides have such a realistic feel that one really believes these to be true! There was one ride under water in a submarine. It also gave good feel and one could see lot of marine life. There was a ride on a train going up and down a mountainside. The organisers have thought of every conceivable way of giving rides up and down. After the rides we went to see some of the typical Disneyland features such as Micky Mouse, Snow White, and the Fairyland and so on.
However, there were two items which Pappoo was very keen for me to see. One was the Cinema on a circular screen. It is inside a dome shaped hall where people stand holding railings placed in the centre.
All around is a cinema screen which becomes alive and one feels to be part of the scene. The other was the 3-D Imax Theatre. We had earlier seen one in Grand Canyon but the one in Disneyland was quite impressive. There was a film on wild life. One had to wear 3-D glasses. One could see sharks jumping out of the screen and sometimes there were wasps buzzing over one's head! The most common thing in every spot in Disneyland is the souvenir shops. One can buy souvenirs in the form of t-shirts, mugs, and so on. I fact replicas of everything on show there. It is a big commercial enterprise! Finally we took a mono-rail ride to our parking lot and drove back home. Next morning my flight was quite early and Pappoo too had to leave back for Lake Havasu. I would have to take a taxi to LA Airport which was about an hour's drive.
Suddenly, I remembered one Kashmiri Autar Kaul, whom I had met in Jammu in my office. He had come for some posters of Khirbhavani which our department had printed. I had given him a few and he had given his visiting card. He was working in LA. I called him late in the evening. He was thrilled to know that I was in LA. He wanted me to stay with him but I told him that I was flying back to New York in the morning. I asked him if he could drop me at the airport in the morning at seven. He immediately agreed to do so. In fact, he had been praising my behaviour in Jammu so much to his family that he made me talk to his wife on phone who too wanted me to stay with them. I promised to do that on my next visit. Kaul Sahab came in the morning at seven and dropped me at the LA Airport. It was for the second time that a Kashmiri Pandit had helped and guided me outside Kashmir in spite of the troubled situation back home. I had quite often experienced abroad that people from many nationalities who are normally at loggerheads in their home countries are quite friendly in foreign countries! Kashmiris have all along possessed a composite culture and the cataclysmic events of last couple of decades have failed to totally break the social bonds.
(To be continued…)