I never really understood Einstein's theory of relativity, or the likes of it as understood by the commons. Not until now. As I bounce today on my seat listening to RHCP (suggested by a very dear friend of mine) without grasping a single word of the Zephyr song, I contemplate on the semester that passed by me like a storm raging in fiercely but leaving me unhurt. Except for an additional inch of hair that grew in my scalp, I wonder what part of me changed in this roller coaster ride in USA. I still feel the same way for cricket as I felt for the shiny penny that lay on the road, I still yearn for mouthfuls of fried prawns when my roomie slams the plate of 'dal bhat' in front of me on a cheerful Friday, I still clean my nose with the skill of a sculptor carving an exotic masterpiece and my heart still beats for my people who live far far away in a place, untouched by sophistication and artificiality.
But the truth remains, four whole months have passed in front of eyes and I have gone through a phase in life called the transience, a fleeting time filled with enormous energy, which showed me a whole new life beyond the mundane. "I am living a dream" is what I tell my friends when they ask me "How's life out there?" Right from the act of using tissues to avoid the rigorous washing of hands to the convenience of swiping a card for any damn transaction, life in USA is what you call 'Smooth'... And if you have funds, life could move from 'smooth' to 'luxurious' in a snap. When I traveled in the congested local trains, I never gave much thought to the idea of finding a cushioned seat near a window every time time you climbed in. Or when I traveled in a bus, I would more often jump off the bus way before the stop arrived. The concept of bus and train doors closing in and finding seats empty define luxury for this Mumbaikar.
There is so much to say about these four months, but so little patience in me that I would not write ahead at all. But the weird notion of someone wasting their valuable time reading this blog pushes me to jot down some adjectives and nouns for the sake of creating a picture of my life before the poor reader's eyes. Let me begin from my home, away from home.
My home. A grand house built of bricks and wood in Cedar lane as a part of a row of similar houses.
Sunday, November 4, 2007
'It's 1 am and i am in my study room in the city that never sleeps... cars rush by my window... trucks that belong to state highways pass by the narrow lane of kastur park... a raunchy music plays nearby in some hut... noise and me, inseparable...'
'Traffic signal at borivli station... i hold lassi in my hand... chattering friends.. i dont hear them... vehicles honk... autos sputter amd fume... train blares its horn... a woman shouts... daily marketplace heating up with bargaining customers... noise and me, inseparable'
'Chug chug, chug chug... I am hanging by the handles to my dear life... the dadar fast local speeds up over the mahim creek... a boy sells MidDay... the bhajani mandal plays its regular set of songs... one bangs his rings on the sidewall... another sings... others chorus... i smile... noise and me, inseparable'
Mumbai taught me everything that I need to know to survive in this world... but it never told me how to battle silence... Silence, that creeps in your ears, builds up its music and assaults your eardrums with the sharpness of fresh paper sheets... and so when the battle began, there was no one to help me, to conquer this unknown enemy... Me in a house, that I knew nothing about, in a place that I knew nothing about except the fact that it had a bus stop next to it...
I went in the bedroom to find my 3 bags, waiting to be assaulted upon... I pulled out a list from my handbag... bag1 - cooker, pan, ladles.... the last time i scrutinised the sheet, i saw a woman wiping away a tear from an eye begging to yield... I put it away... i better rely on my memory... I opened bag 1... utensils piled neatly... masalas in a saree bag... pickles... chunda... i grinned... kaki aaji made that for me on the last day, packing it with the skill of a DHL employee...
the bracelet... my backside felt a numb pain... the birthday bumps my friends gifted me with this piece, still echoed in my insides... the smiles, the laughter, the kicks, the jokes... I rummaged in bag 2... metacin pills inside pant pockets, shirt collars, compass box... mom knows all the tricks to fool the immigration police... a pang... knives carefully packed in water bottle... "Gokhale mavshi did the same thing, siddharth... dont worry about it..."
the memories overpowered me with the swiftness of US air delivery service... some happy, some sad... mixed emotions... and silence... they make an awful recipe...
My ears implored for the sound of a car, the cry of crows, the music from shanties, the shouts of children selling hairpins and combs, the inharmony of the harmonium playing Pardesi, pardesi... the giggles of a dear friend, the gossip about a hot news, the squabbles in a cricket field, the festive music at ganesh chaturthi, the chug-chug of a Virar fast, the honking, the bargaining with gullible hawkers, the sweet comforting words of a mother, the teasing of a brother, the word 'Gadhadya' from a father...
Anything would do... anything at all... but none came... I ventured out of the house that threatened to engulf me in a flame that didnt scorch from outside, but from within... I stumbled on the road, to find some human, any would do, just to talk and to listen to... the road was deserted, the cedar lane was devoid of any animal life... I remembered the apartment number of the senior where Jay was staying and increased my pace... I rang the bell and waited for a time that seemed eternity... Jay had just woken up... Relieved to find him, we set off to Ramya's place where we heard of a meeting...more the merrier...
A boy stood outside devoring a chicken burger... chuckling and talking with another who stood silent... Teda and Vikas... Teda?? Tejaswy? the president of RIGSA? I had imagined him to be all uptight and serious... and this fellow had mayonaise trickling down his mouth and chuckles resounding over the lane... Ramya... the bubbly girl who gave us tips... she looked right for her part... the meeting began and the words temp Acco, pick up, ashish kumar were shared with much gusto...
Numb... My mind was slowly losing its excitement... I couldn't comprehend the discussion and bid goodbye to my hosts and Jay... The events didn't matter any more... sleep, more sleep... 10 pm.. yes, it was the ideal time to surrender to the queen of dreams... A thin sheet, an air pillow and soon I entered into a realm where silence didn't hurt, but soothed the troubled soul...
When US beckoned me by Siddharth Wagh is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Posted by S.Wagh at 7:46 AM
Friday, October 26, 2007
"God, I do not want to die virgin... There is so much to see... i mean new places... damnn... new states and countries, new culture... I am just 22, it would be so unfairrrrr"
I gulped down the huge bile of slime in my mouth as I struggled to find a polythene bag in the pouch. The thunder at esselworld is fine, but such an experience at an height of 15630 feet above sea level is no fun at all. This was the third time our plane had been warded off by the air traffic controllers to get their calculations right. And it seemed that the pilot might have been an expert at flight simulation before, but he was doing it all wrong with the real thing. 'Mental note: always ask the pilot for his credentials before flying...'
My insides crunched with relief as the birdy bumped on the airway with a bang and slowed down quick enough to prevent me from yelling. I kinda had a hunch that they make the economy class more rickety than its counterpart and was half prepared to ask the blonde who gave me a perfectly fake smile as I exited. Germans! Did they think that we were playing some weird game called 'Blitz Krieg'?? I bid a sour goodbye to Lufthansa and rushed to the immigration counters with Jay to beat the German kids visiting US on a school trip. I grinned as I remembered my last school trip. Crossing city boundary is one thing, but crossing continents! The officer played with my passport and stamped it with the entry date... Boom, I had entered US of A. Jay and me rushed to the baggage claim area cribbing about the 3 dollar trolley. Man! why cant bag makers be more innovative?
Collecting my black and brown mass , i turned around to find Jay missing... Hell. I just realized I was all alone some 23473 miles away from my loved ones with aliens around and English language as my only means of support. The doors opened to the visitors area and i found myself running the 'Image recognition' software in my mind to screen my Pick-up guy, Rajesh from the crowd. Orkut sure helps in times of need, for I found him rather quickly and my first thought was 'Wearing 3/4ths at the airport? My mom would go crazy if i did such a thing...' A smile, a firm handshake and we were on our way outside to his green car which groaned with the weight of 3 mighty bags. The news that my temp acco was suddenly changed from Guru to Varadan disoriented me a little though. But this is how RIGSA works...I presumed.
'Dil chahta hai.. kabhi na beete chamkile din..' I felt a sense of belonging, now that I heard that play in the background. The car was hot, sun was shining high and dry overhead. Mirages formed and evaporated on the road as Rajesh hit the gas and the car sped away. More Burger Kings than Mc Donalds, tall American flags at every turn, cars that didn't honk, ... A halt at the gas station and I made my first phone call to India.
A voice that didnt sound sleepy at 4 am in India. A rush of voices trying to grope the receiver... "Ho... chhaan jhala pravas... Jhop jhali 2 taas... ho, velevar plane aala... " . The rush subsided as I detailed my journey. Good byes exchanged. A short and sweet conversation.
Back in the car, we chatted away as any Indians would after meeting in a foreign country. Home, family, career, courses... soon, we were zooming past the much heard about Cedar Lane and in front of 86 C, my temp acco. My mind was growing numb with every minute, as i was trying to grasp everthing under the sun. Since childhood, i was bad at remembering roads and turns and this extra effort was taxing my little brain. We entered my temporary house through the back door (which I realised quite later) and i saw 2 more new faces. Varadan, my host and Onkar, another temp acco as I was. Initially, assuming both of them to be my hosts, hellos were exchanged and I dropped the baggage in the bedroom which carried no bed. Later Onkar enlightened me about his arrival 2 days back. Rajesh bid a hasty goodbye and I was left again to fend for myself with new people. As I was experiencing the first few enchantments of a laptop with a mindboggling internet speed, Sandeep showed up from the recreation room. Tall, handsome and my communications senior, I was contemplating about firing him with an array of questions when he made up his mind to hit the gym with Varadan and left in a jiffy.
And it was then that the hell broke loose...
Posted by S.Wagh at 5:35 PM
Sunday, October 14, 2007
The hullabaloo outside the terminal contrasted sharply with the serenity of the airport... Through the security checks and trying to guess which of the pretty ladies was going to be our air hostess on Lufthansa, Jay and me settled down in our seats at the lounge... I was starting to wonder how I was going to spend the 3 hours before the flight when Jay forked out his cell and said 'Use up this prepaid card'... The few remaining farewell words were succinctly delivered on the cellphone when the speaker blared "Business class passengers, proceed to Gate 3"...
The walk to the plane was made little more dramatic when the security officer randomly called Jay by the side... I was entertaining myself with the notion that Jay might be carrying some illegal stuff, or may be he could be a terrorist or rather he was some biological weapon let loose on USA (which I might say is half true), when I saw him coming back with a smile on his face... shit, no drama!
We entered the plane nodding to the sweet voices of the ladies in chrome and navy blue... German, as they were, I found myself looking for some tilted swastik sign on their fabric... But the extravagance set before me shook my senses... The seats were none less than the LAZYBOY chairs seen in 'Friends' and I was soon exploring all the luxuries they had to offer... The take-off was smooth but the massage on my back was smoother... The remote control let me choose any kind of music, movie, ebook and documentaries (I wonder who checks them out)... Pretty soon spiderman was jumping on my screen,which merged into Shrek, an episode of friends and the like... small lights behind the chairs were set up for reading... a screen high up on the ceiling periodically showed the path that the plane had to follow... Man, it was -60 degrees outside, what if one of the windows is loose and comes flying by my face... Nasty thoughts... I thought I could use this time for some social interaction with my fellow passenger when Jay plugged in the headphones, switched on some music and let his body embrace the seat which was now a bed...
Lunch time brought relief... A certain chef from Taj, apologies to the man for forgetting the name, had laid down a splendid menu, (apologies to you for forgetting the names)... on a menu card that looked delicious enough... fish, chicken and veg, we had our choice... a seperate page for choicest of the drinks... I toyed with the idea of mixing a martini with a bloody mary when a yahoogroup post by a senior scared me enough to order an orange juice... 'If you drink like a binge, you are going to dehydrate soon enough and mess up your sleep'... Tropicana is no competition to the rasna that we get back home... Food served, Jay and me were checking out the salad when some prawns peeked out from the dish... the butter chicken taste-alike tasted awesome and so did the veggies dipped in sauce... the raspberry pudding was savored with many licks and slurps...
Science fact: When you eat like a pig, the heart pumps blood to your intestine rather than your brain, tickling the urge to sleep like a log... Put it this way... I was soon cuddling on my push-buttons-and-make-bed with soft music playing in my ears... 'Was it Mozart? Was it Bach? Who cares?... ' Two hours of sleep were enough for my dear intestines and I was back on my feet, nah..., back on my bums... I had pretty much decided on watching Namaste London,when it was time to say "Namaste, Frankfurt'... The plane swooped down on the airport with the eagerness of an eagle flying back to feed her young ones... Some towers, row of houses, dark patches of forests and sunlight streaming in my eyes, we landed on the destination,unhurt and afresh... 8 hours of journey, 8 hours of bliss... What are my chances of flying back home on the same flight, same class? Pretty much as my chances of scoring an A in all my semesters, I smiled acknowledgingly...
Posted by S.Wagh at 12:56 PM
Sunday, August 26, 2007
'So, all set to fly?'
'Did you check the flight time properly? One of my friends missed his flight cos he reached the airport at 2:50 pm instead on 2:50 am..'
'So, both of you brothers are going abroad the same year. We will miss you...'
"Siddharth, Tara aaji's on phone, come quickly..."
I checked the clock. Quarter to eight, and this damn resume was still incomplete. I ran to the bedroom.
'Hello aaji. Ho... ho... nakki... ho... ho.. nakki parat yein' I handed the receiver back to mom.
"Siddharth, Dinner's ready... what??? you didnt have your bath yet?.. go now!"
Ah. Bliss. Silence in the bathroom. I checked each and every tile. I wont see them for an year at least. Remembered the bath that I had in Diwali, with utna, peeth. The day when I had unknowingly kept the door open and mom came barging in! Nope. not now.
Hmm. The aroma of fried fish wafted towards me. Bliss. I tasted the soft meat and closed my eyes. i had to get this taste registered well in my brain. If man can remember and recall sights and sounds, then why not smell? Dinner done.
'recheck the bags. Dont wear the sweater now. Do that at airport..'
The car's here. Get the bags quick. Hustle-bustle. a sniff. a tear.
i stand in front of the Lord. A memory. The day I had lit up the garland with matches. I bow to him. I ask for strength, for peace of mind... the world prayer escapes my lips. Kisses and hugs.
I venture out. Neighbors gather like a swarm of moths at a firelight. The familiar faces who smiled at me since childhood, who gave me sweets. I miss some friends who are not there. Byes and take cares.
Friends waiting at the gate. Shy, polite, unsure what to say. i wink at them and get into the car. The signal at andheri, a street urchin with Indian flags in hand. Right, its the day before our independance day. A flicker of patriotism in my eyes. Nothing more.
"Terminal 2C!! Turn right" I expect to see a quiet place. But i see otherwise. Chaos. Cars moving in, dropping customers and their belongings and speeding away. I get down. Which gate is it? I load a trolley and push it up. 'Heck, I should have done bench press...' "Sorry .. oops... make way!!... " I am wearing 2 sweaters now, over a cozy sweat shirt and a Tee. Guess i didnt know sweat shirts actually induce sweat. Drops raining down my head. 'Should have cut the damn hair...'
I see mavshi and wave at her. She guides me into the terminal assuring my hapless parents and confused friends that I will be back. I move in with Jay. Quiet. Organised. Everyone in line to get the baggage check done. I join the fray, trying to handle the vital passport and the I-20. Bags checked. Now the difficult part. baggage weight. Mavshi solves that for me. 'Business class boarding pass' An attendant comes and takes our baggage. We run back to family and friends. Chaos. My mind is numb with emotions and sights. Hands grope me. i fumble with my hand bag. Kisses rained. A touch. Impossible, trying to remember so many faces. i look at everyone, they look back at me. Tears and hopes. Two eyes stand out from the rest. The woman who cradled me, who hugged me when I was sore, who inspired me, who challenged me to do better, who loved me more than anything else, whose life was incomplete without me... two eyes, countless memories...
The door shuts out the hullaballoo. I head towards the counter. Fill up some forms. Excitement in my eyes. A sense of independence. A sense of responsibilty. Now I am on my own. My words are final. My actions are accountable. The long wait at the lounge begins...