Saturday, March 21, 2009


Being a Poor Indian Graduate(PIG as everyone calls it) in the United States, one is forced to look into a lot of "probably money guzzling" activities. Grocery shopping, as every person in my situation would agree, is one of them too. A lot of thought goes into choosing that perfect cereal , in the cheapest package and the best brand- probably even more time than what twenty-something women take to decide on their accessories.

We were still in the process of figuring out how to find the time and the strength to bring in groceries for four people, for a couple of weeks- without having to do with a car or any other assistance. Life was draining, and tough. Shopping meant a load of sweat coupled with shoulder pain. A month's worth of strength was sapped out when those gallon-loads of milk and backpacks of supplies were carried over a mile back home from the nearest bus stop.

An extended holiday weekend ahead meant no buses, and that meant we had to plan our shopping in advance, and get back more than what we usually used to get. My mind,heart and soul gave up on seeing the stacks of milk cans and bread pressed into balance in a sizeably large trolley. Just when I thought it would be a better idea to ask for a non existent door delivery, an Asian gentleman came up to me -

"Would you guys mind if I offer you a lift back home?"

Godsend. Bless the lord. Jai Shree Krishna. Allah hu Akbar. I would give him whatever he wants in exchange for this trip!

Fuzzy notions of my home swimmed in front of me- I was coming back, finally. There I would be, whizzing past other "grocery-shopping students", in a car, with the breeze taking every drop of this insinuating sweat off me.

"Thank you" I said.

"I just have space for one person, who would like to accompany me?"

I felt like Hermione. Pat went my hand. "I will come along, Sir."

A couple of minutes later , in the comfortable confines of his car, with a little girl (evidently, his daughter) on the backseat- when I was just wondering what to talk, or what not to, he took the lead.

"So.. are you a student?"

"Yes Sir."

"Even I was a student here. Now I work with the University itself. Even I have been through whatever you are going through now. A transition, indeed. "

Surprising. I nodded my head in agreement.

"That's my daughter in the backseat. Please talk to her in English. She does not understand Hindi, or Malayalam, which is my mother tongue."

"Oh. Okay Sir. ( tried to talk with the girl, but she was not in the mood to I guess ). So, have you been to India recently ?"

"Not really, I don't go back there nowadays as my entire family is here. I miss Indian movies though. Do the south Indians still go crazy over Rajnikanth and Kamal?"

Needless to say what my answer would have been. An obvious yes.

"I did not want my daughter to study in the city, as she may get spoilt.. that's why put her into a suburban school. Otherwise, life here is good. You will learn to enjoy it and live it up, soon enough young man."

We had reached back home by then. Stepping out, he noticed my place to be the same one he stayed in, when he was a student in this university a decade back. The world's a small place they say- I second it.

"Sir, you didn't tell me your name- could I have a contact of you or something?"

A rude reply. "Why do you need my contact details? I am there in the university directory, name's Brajesh- go check it out. I am leaving right now- bye."

The car whizzed back double the speed that it came in. There went my first encounter with a true ABCD (American Brains in a Confused Desi, as I put it). He had also talked to me about his personal life, apart from the things revealed out here- but chosen not to even give a contact address. Wonder why, I still have not figured it out.

In the seven months elapsed since then, I have learnt to even say no to beautiful girls offering me a lift back home from the Mart. How life and time change things.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Life, Through a McPane.

One of these days I left home for college - only to realise that I had nothing to eat for lunch. Never mind, I said to myself- let me see if some free pizza party comes up as I get done with my classes... Alas, nothing in a mile's radius seemed anything close to one. The entire world seemed to have decided that I should not be fed that afternoon. Being a vegetarian in the United States is somewhat of a challenge- what with the sparsity of choices, and different meanings to the word "vegetarian" itself- viz. vegetables eggs and fish-eaters, or vegetables and egg-eaters, or the traditional vegetable eater alone. That reflects on the definition of foodstuffs in U.S restaurants too- something I had to contend with, and win against- atleast that afternoon.

The cheapest resort for a filling lunch would surely have to be a McDonald's, and it was right across the road. Couldn't get any better, and I had decided. I would go to a 95% non vegetarian eatery and fight my way through to something edible and vegetarian. Settling down with my "vegetarian" milkshake and side salad, I chose to sit at a place where I could have a view of the crossroad leading into the university. What a perfect lunch- salad and milkshake with noone but the signal signs for company.

Settling into the uncomfortable confines of a tacky and stony chair, there were just two things to do- eat, and gaze. The former was taken care of itself by a magnetically empty tummy. Washing down the milkshake cooled my parched tongue. What a blissful feeling. One moment I close my eyes, and open it back again to see a different world- all the noises have stopped., the waitress goes about her work mumbling something to herself. People cross the junction, cars speed by, muffled rays of sunlight knock on the panes, inching to come in. A girl and a guy hold hands and cross the road- understandably they're in love. A Chevrolet pickup swerves to the right only to encounter a girl in pink crossing the street with her cellphone to the ears. Wonder who she is talking to unmindful of a huge car right behind her. A group of my good friends walk across the signal, laughing and joking about with another guy- who, is not really known to be good. Should I go out and tell them he is upto no good? Maybe no., some things in life, make more sense when not revealed- like say, our future. I sit on, as an old man with a dog crosses by. Wonder if he has been abandoned by his family in this senility, or is on just another walk with his dog.

A hundred more things I note, before the 2$ milkshake empties out to a whimper from the straw when I try sipping on it. Should be the best lunch I had in a while, experiencing a different dimension of life- a-la an audience in a play. Would not the world be so interesting if I looked at it like this all through? Away from all the happenings yet into it, happily having the best seat in the theatre as the others involve themselves in worldly pursuits of love, hate and a thousand other things which would amuse me to no end....

Probably for the first time in life, I had experienced what being God feels like.