Why I love Houston!

     I could declare, ‘if I owned Heaven and Houston, I would rent out Heaven and live in Houston’, contradicting Philip Henry Sheridan, the U.S. General who made the often-quoted statement in 1866. Having made this beautiful metropolis my home for over forty years, I have justifiably earned the claim by living it. Legitimately and realistically, I have the relevant distinction of owning a home in Houston and in Kerala, God’s own country – the ‘Heaven’. For sentimental reasons, I have chosen not to rent my house in ‘Heaven’, built on the property that our ancestors owned for generations, but nevertheless preferred Houston as our home.
     I have my reasons.
    It was a bitterly cold October morning in Hartford, Connecticut buried under snow when I drove to the airport to catch a flight to Houston, Texas. The year was 1972 and I was finishing the Chief Residency in Pediatrics at the University and flying to Houston for an interview for Fellowship In Allergy and Immunology at the Baylor College while working at the McGovern Allergy Clinic. After four hours of flight the plane glided over a vast expanse of greenery and landed in the bright, warm and inviting city of Houston. I may already have chosen my new home, right then, excitingly, and enthusiastically. After the interview when I was offered the Fellowship, the acceptance was easy decision. Looking back, it has been an exceptionally rewarding professional experience, working at the distinguished McGovern Allergy Clinic and serving as its President for eight years before I retired.
     The hot tropical climate with downpours reminiscent of the monsoons in Kerala, keep my nostalgic instincts intact, while I remind myself of the relief, not having to shovel heat or bundle up to pick up the newspaper. The enormous stretches of land and abundance of space are more appreciated each time we visit New York or San Francisco and compare notes about the real estate values, parking spaces and spacious shopping malls. One may whine about the monotonous, flat landscape of Texas or instead grab any opportunity to visit places offering sceneries.
     Our world-famous Texas Medical Center attracts millions of patients from all over as well as employs about a hundred thousand. NASA is famous for the several space missions as well as innovative inventions that help improve our lives and comforts. Texas is recognized for its oil related and cattle industries as well as a spectrum of productive businesses. When the rest of the country struggled and strained with collapsing markets and suffocating economy, Houston compromised to remain robust on its own merits. With our multifaceted theater district and our exciting professional sports teams we are recognized as among the best in the nation. The international Olympics Committee may have excluded our city for economic, political or ‘sporty’ reasons, but most Houstonians are content to enjoy its many amenities and opportunities.
     For Indians away from ‘home’, one cannot conceptualize a better setting than Houston. The climate, the spectrum of native population representing every region, religion, language, cultural and shopping options, we can claim to be enjoying the best of India in a clean and comprehensive setting. We have created temples and churches and cultural centers and we celebrate every auspicious event with extensive pageantry and enjoyable harmony. Our children excel in education and we have strived to instill the best of our traditional values into our next generation. As we fade, we can rest on our laurels and proudly pronounce that we have done our best.
     We often subscribe to sentiments that our life is intimately integrated with the cosmic existence, that we may all be tiny pieces in the colossal conglomeration, controlled by the celestial influence of galaxies and beyond. We tend to believe that astronomical and astrological entities exert their authority in ‘playing chess’ with and manipulating our lives. Irrespective of whether such thoughts have scientific validity or superstitious endorsement, they may extend to own a spot for each of us on the globe that we inhabit. And even if destiny played a role, I am at peace, being in my beautiful Houston. Yes, I love Houston; and these are few of my reasons. (Dec 2012)

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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