Other than a cousin who had kindly picked me up from LAX airport but lived about an hour from the apartment I rented in Encino, I knew nobody else in California.
My best pal Jordan and his then-girlfriend, now-wife Erin drove out a car I had bought from another friend--an '81 Chevy Malibu--and due to having worked as a bank teller for 6 months in Evanston I was able to land the same job at Union Bank on Ventura Blvd. in Encino.
We had an interesting mix of employees, with both transplants and native Los Angelenos. I was friendly with several, a couple of with whom I still remain in touch.
One of the other tellers was an East Indian woman named Yashu, who commuted about 15 minutes by bus from Northridge, where she lived with her husband Harish.
They had no kids and were likely old enough to be my parents. Yashu was, and is, much more a friend than a surrogate mother, but we developed a relationship based on me occasionally giving her a ride home from the bank and in return I would enjoy a home cooked dinner with her and Harish.
If this wasn't the first time I had Indian food, it was certainly the first I ate it with any regularity--and homemade to boot.
I don't think it's much of a stretch to trace my fondness for Indian food and a desire to one day visit India to Yashu's cooking and her & Harish's friendship.
Though Yashu and I both left Union Bank within a year, we maintained our friendship--and dinners--until I left LA for a return to Skokie at the end of 1992.
Whenever I would travel back to LA--in 1996, '99, '01 (on my way to Australia), '03, '05--Yashu and Harish would always provide a convenient place to stay and warm hospitality.
In 2003, Yashu came to Chicago and enjoyed dinner on Devon Avenue with me, my mom and sister Allison. Work precluded me from spending much time with her, but Allison accompanied Yashu to the Art Institute and a performance of the musical Chicago.
I haven't had occasion to return to California, but knew that Yashu & Harish planned to retire to India, which they did in 2013.
They settled in Bangalore and my dreams of seeing India always included meeting up with them again.
I am writing this from Bangalore, 5 feet away from Yashu, with Harish in the other room.
They both seem to be doing and well and appear to be as happy hosting me as I am again to be in their company.
In flying to Bangalore from Mumbai, I developed some ear soreness, with the right ear remaining clogged until I slept.
A bit of medication seems to be helping, and it couldn't have happened at a more opportunistic part of me trip.
I know Yashu and Harish will take good care of me.
As they always have.