Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. Photo Credit : Vipin Kalra 
Tall, strong and beautiful, it stood glowing in the morning sun. The red of the bridge as radiant as the sun rays themselves. The water below it a golden blue and in spite of the ice cold temperature it glistened in the sun. 

This past weekend, I walked across the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco for the first time ever. I have lived in the city for years but have never done this before. We have crossed it a million times in the car, taken pictures of it from across the city and sailed beneath it, but never walked on it. The bridge and fog and gusty winds are best companions. So walking on the bridge is not always easy. But this Sunday morning it was near perfect. Warm with a light breeze, clear blue skies, the sun shining above us. The bridge beckoned as it always does. It is always welcoming. 

For many this bridge is a means of regular commute. A commute that was difficult in the days the bridge did not exist, some 75 years ago. The bridge has endured the millions of commuters in all these years with all its strength and still remained strong. A bridge, like all other bridges that connects places and brings them together. As I walked on the bridge, I was simply in awe of the structure, its enormity, it beauty and its strength. An engineering masterpiece and a piece of art. Each knot, each bolt, each pillar, every small detail.  

I reached half way on the bridge and took a pause. There were several stories brimming around me. The storyteller in me was curious and I was drawn like a magnet. The bridge is fortunate to witness them almost everyday. But I had only few minutes to witness it all. 

The tourists had slowly started trickling in. Still not so much. It is interesting how the tourists always stand out in their demeanor in a new place. That morning I looked like one too in the “I love SF” t-shirt that I wore.  Mingled in with them to see my own city differently. 

Some locals ran across with a grace and practice that you can get only if you do something regularly. Bikers zoomed by. Photographers took shots of the city skyline or may be the bay or the Alcatraz. Love for the bridge was pronounced all over. There were also lovers professing their love for each other of course. There were couples with the kids and the dogs, enjoying a little break from the mundane chores of life. There was one couple looking at the bay with such intensity that it seemed they were looking at the life ahead of them or may be reflecting on the past. There were other couples who argued and disagreed on things they knew did not matter. But like all couples do, they argued nevertheless. I looked around to find my husband to show that everyone indulged in such craziness but like many of the locals he can never get enough shots of the bridge. I had lost him to the bridge for that hour. So I walked ahead. 

There were also men talking about some new cool mobile apps (this is SFO after all). There was an elderly couple walking hand in hand slowly as if they were soaking in every moment of life. I was fascinated. There were three women who took a pause next to me and stood there talking about dementia. Someone in the family or friends must have it. Always a very painful thing to deal with when it involves a loved one. 

There were several sleeping babies in their strollers, just like mine, unaware of their surroundings. There were the slightly older kids like my six year old paying attention to every sign and verbiage posted on the bridge. I noticed adults did not think much of any of it.  There were phone booths on the way for emergency calls and also for crisis counseling. Many have taken their lives by taking a plunge in the bay. “There is hope. Make the call.”  Hope that a conversation with a total stranger will give you the needed strength when you are the most vulnerable. I looked down from the railing at the bay. I shuddered at the thought. 

On a brass board few steps ahead, there are the names engraved of the several thousand workers and engineers that helped build the bridge. “Build a bridge” was a not a mere phrase to these men and women. They actually helped build one. A few steps away there was a lady hugging one of the poles of the structure and getting herself clicked. She smiled upon seeing me, a bit embarrassed. Anything for the love of the bridge, I smiled back. In all the stories that I witnessed there was one common aspect ,the awe and love for the bridge. 

I am glad I walked across the bridge that day. The bridge to me is now a center stage to life stories. I know to many it is yet another gorgeous metallic structure. But I see the monument in a new light now. I am yearning to go back there and sit across with some folks and hear and write about life stories happening or being shared on the bridge. 

Written By : Piya Mukherjee. Photo Credit : Vipin Kalra 

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