Thursday, June 9, 2016

..Life Uncommon..

I am currently reading Unbroken. It is Louis Zamperini's biography and his progression from a troublesome child, to a youth learning to run, to an Olympian, and to finally a soldier. He was an Army Air Corps lieutenant (B-24 Bombardier) and was an Olympian (5000 mts Track, Year - 1936). He was one of only three members of an 11-man crew to survive a crash during the attack on Pearl Harbor. For 47 days, He and Russell Allen Phillips, the pilot of his B-24, lived by staying aboard a tiny raft. Due to lack of provisions they had to kill birds to survive. They were later sighted by a Japanese aircraft and were taken as POW. It is Louis's story and how he cheated death on multiple occasions. It is about survival, grit and resilience. It is a powerful and riveting book and is my constant companion these days. It is an extraordinary story about bravery, endurance and forgiveness. There's one part where he says - "Show them, not tell them" and that bit has hit home at so many levels.  I have read a lot of books recently and most of them were really good but this one has me in its clutches. To think of that time, to imagine what it would have been like and to read the detailed account of what happened has left me in a daze.  I haven't finished it as yet and I already know that I am going to do another post on this book.

I get drawn towards war stories. I like to read about them, visit places and talk about them. There is no cheap thrill but just a simple fact that we are shaped by various wars. The countries we live in have boundaries which more often than not are a product of various wars of the past and their aftermaths. 

Coming back to my world, there's a group of four men well in to their late sixties who sit in the piazza, outside a coffee shop and chit chat. I have always seen them sitting outside at the same spot regardless of the weather. It is always the Starbucks opposite to the train station. They are not acquainted with the term "bad weather". It is their ritual.

There's something about them that makes one stop and observe them. Perhaps that's the reason why so many people stop by on their way to say hi to them. It's a small town and everybody-knows-everyone. Sometimes I wave a quick Hii while waiting for my train. I have overheard their conversations and between Trump and NBA they discuss it all.

Every Monday after an intense 2 hr session I run to Starbucks for a cold brew to get through the day. This AM I got my coffee and sat outside next to them with my book. I was busy setting up my table when one of them said Hii to me. He asked me about the book and I promptly showed it to him. "Did you know that he served with my old man" - Phil said very rhetorically. I was wide eyed and then they told me that they were all veterans. Tall and proud of having served their nation. They all grew up together in the neighborhood. Joined the Army and two of them were shipped off to Vietnam War immediately, one was in Afghanistan in the nineties. Yes, call them seasoned!

I asked about Louis Zamparini's connection and Phil's face lit up. Phil's father was stationed with him at the same post before Louis was asked to go to Hawaii shortly before the attack on Pearl Harbor.
They asked me more about the book and I shared my thoughts. We were discussing wars when Frank (The chatty one) said "We've all dodged bullets at one point or other. We toughened up with time and survived." That toughness clearly shows on their faces. The faces tell a lot of stories.

It was such a nice morning. The company was fantastic. We shared our experiences. Ten minutes before my train's arrival I quietly excused myself. I promised to join them again sometime for coffee and chit chat.

As I was about to reach the station I turned around and glanced in their direction. I saw four men with weathered faces, enjoying their morning kaffe and daily meetings of the minds in the arcade  and wondered what world problem were they solving today.

PS: The title is a song by Jewel. Lovely lyrics about living with bravery


  1. Such a beautifully expressed post. After a very long time I find the same writer I fell in love with some time ago.

    You seem to have a very vast spectrum of the kind of books you read. Very fascinating. Keep these thoughts coming. Expands my own horizon. I only wish I could be such an avid reader too. Yes, I don't go beyond academia..

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