Encounters: Books Inc.

Khalil Laltoo - India


August 26, 2018

Almost a year ago, I was standing on line at Books Inc. on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, when I witnessed a fascinating interaction unfold in front of me. A woman had just bought an Indian cookbook and was about to leave the register, when the elderly man in front of me in line said to her heartily: “You know, you can’t get real Indian food unless you go to India!” The woman, deeply struck, looked at him askance and assured him in a high pitched snarl and that the book was very authentic, and the author- highly reputable. 

He simply laughed and watched her leave. We both paid for our items, and I caught him before he could leave the store. I asked him what he thought of India, and we ended up having an in-depth conversation about his travels. I told him about some of my family history: (Though my Dad is Indian by blood, he is from the Caribbean. His ancestors were indentured servants brought from Calcutta to work the sugar cane fields after the British Empire abolished slavery in the early 1800’s).  Eventually my future plans came up, and I told him that was doing a program called Global Citizen Year; that I was currently making a choice between four countries, India included. His eyes lit up. “Go.” He told me. “It will change your life!”

As I left the store, I felt a surge of energy well up within me. It was the feeling of great strength that arises only when your path appears before you, clear and purposeful. When I got home that night I went straight to my computer and changed my country preferences. And here I am, nearly a year later, on the eve of pre-departure training.  

I feel like I have spent the last month saying goodbye. With all of my friends leaving for college on staggered dates, it has almost become a regular thing. It feels strange that it is finally my turn to go. I’ll miss my family and friends from home dearly, but knowing that I always have their love and support gives me a feeling of unshakable power and peace. 

More to come,

Khalil

Khalil Laltoo