01 November 2007

Once upon a time in America

When I first wrote this article it was around 4000 words; a close friend upon reviewing informed me that it is un-publishable. Later I reedited it to 1500 words. Sometimes it is not what you write; instead what you don’t write matters. You can also read it here

"Life is much too important a thing ever to talk seriously about it." – Oscar Wilde

I once tried to calm down a barking dog which promptly bit a small chunk of flesh from my left hand. What pained me more is not the wound instead the lack of truth in the saying - BARKING DOG NEVER BITES. I wonder who makes these sayings without testing them thoroughly.

This simple incident changed my view towards the barking dogs. I realized that in real life there are dogs (even today) unaware of this saying!

Life is full of simple incidents which make a larger impact as a whole. Such an incident changed my view towards Money. During my student days, a librarian caught me returning a delayed book.
“You are late; you have 50 paisa fine!” he said. “I don’t have 50 paisa “I replied.

Those were NOT my grand father’s days were you could buy one “mudo” rice for 50 paisa. In fact 50 paisa was nothing, if you offer 50 paisa to a beggar, he would instantly throw it back on your face!
“Do you really don’t have 50 paisa?” he asked again. “I don’t have mister”
“Don’t raise your voice – beggar prince!”

Then he obliged himself with such an outrageous laugh, even now I feel difficult to sleep sometime. This trivial incident made a larger impact on my future than Pope John Paul’s visit to Mangalore!

This happened long time back; Even now I carry fairly large amount of cash for the fear that someone would laugh at me for not having sufficient funds.
Book 1 – A simple life

Power of Money
In those days (probably even now) there was more respect for guys working in super markets of Middle East than ones working for ISRO! I could not join ISRO because even though I had the imagination required for space odysseys – I lacked the technical expertise. Since I was working in India, I was a constant target for neighbors ridicule.
“So you didn’t get a Dubai opportunity?” somebody would ask with pseudo concern; as if I had some unpronounceable terminal disease and my days are numbered.

People ignored me till I made some money. I would walk in a gathering, where nobody would notice me. I was a - INVISIBLE MAN.

Finding Neverland
Whenever my friends traveled abroad I was the guy who used to drop them at airport. Just before entering the airport – they would promise me to take abroad as soon as they land in foreign land. And promptly forget the promise once inside the airport!

I used to watch the colorful environment of airports with wide eyes by see-through glasses; Groups of airhostesses giggling around with well ironed attire, indifferent towards less mortals. Software engineers with suits engrossed in their laptops. I used to wonder – what kind of mission critical code demands their attention even in busy non-work-friendly airport terminals.

“Sir, you are very close to the window” security guy would caution me; forcing me to come out of Neverland.

Ghost of the past
In between I went to Bahrain and started working there. Even though I was doing well, this American ghost or the ghost who wanted me to go to America haunted me all the time. Finally it succeeded.

I applied for H1B, and got it. Contrary to the popular belief I was not lucky; those were the days a fake resume and a little bit of imagination would fetch you H1B. I had both: ample!
Book 2 – Americana

“Are you from India?” Immigration officer asked me. “Yes sir ...land of Buddha and Gandhi” That is NOT what I said. That is what I wanted to say. Instead I said “Yes sir!” “Your stamping is done in Bahrain?”
“Yes Sir!”
“Where is Bahrain?”
“Are you Jok….” gulped my words. You don’t mess with the immigration officers anytime anywhere in the world. They are the last people whom you meet before boarding the flight. Being so near to the plane and not getting a chance to board it - is what makes them dumb-wits and jealous about the passengers!

“Bahrain is near Dubai” I said.
“Where is Dubai?” Can you believe that?!

Back home in Kinnigoli If you ask anyone at 3 AM in the morning about Dubai - he will not only tell you where it is but also enlighten you with exact geographical coordinates, climatic conditions, population, popular tourist places, future metro train schedules, flights starting from various locations, boarding place for desert safari / belli dance and also the SALIK for Jebel Ali road!

Welcome to America
Arriving in America first thing I noticed is that they drive on the wrong side! This was the first taste of many things they do in opposite ways than rest of the world. They drink in Gallons; drive in miles and earn in millions!
They are also little confusing - For example petrol is called GAS here! Helium, Ammonia and carbon dioxide are also called GAS! 101 is one-o-one! They call soccer what we call football back home; and have their own game named “American Football” in which 99% of the time you don’t use foot to pass the ball!

You don’t touch a person, anytime, not while talking or walking along, not with a close friend unless of course you are gay!
Americans love fast food; they are notorious for eating unhealthy food. They like pizza more than the Italians. I have had more burgers in my first month here than in my whole life.

Americans greet everyone, even strangers. In India if you greet a stranger he would become suspicious, defensive and may out right attack you!

The country is so fulfilling most Americans don’t go anywhere outside unless the country sends them to exotic places like Vietnam. This staying at home has made them ignorant of outside world.

In a recent survey 42% of school students could not list a single Asian country! On the contrary I can list more than 100 countries anytime.

First time when I went to a movie with Reema - caught a couple smooching.
“How can they do that?” she asked.
“Are you saying – you don’t know how to do that?!”
Only in America
Only in America you can wear under-wears similar to the national flag. In rest of the world though it’s a crime! Americans have a peculiar curiosity. This same curiosity has taken them to exotic non American places like – rat holes of Vietnam and scorching deserts of Iraq. They want to know each and everything. They are the first to land on the moon. My grand father with his limited education was intelligent enough to predict much before the lunar venture that there would be nothing significant on the moon. He had a 50 paisa wager with some of his more optimistic heavenly friends (all of them are in heaven at the moment). Of course he won the bet and bought one “mudo” rice from that amount!

Refill is free in fast food corners. If you do that in India a species would evolve which would survive only on refills!
In America you can live-in with a person of the opposite sex or the same sex (for that matter) or with a dog under the same roof, without any commitments for ages – without any eyebrows raised!
Some of the things here are unheard in third world countries, like - Diabetic medicine for dogs! I didn’t know till then that even dogs can have diabetes. Lemon scented Toilet paper – does it really matter?
King of my castle
Apart from all this, America is a nice country. It is a country built by immigrants. This is the country of opportunities. People are good. Things are much simpler here, laws are friendly. Many Americans have helped me in my initial days when ever I was in need.

My number of relatives increased (or almost doubled) once I landed in US. From INVISIBLE MAN I have become SHAKTIMAN; Don’t underestimate the power of money (Please read the previous sentence again). Most people preach you all along how bad money is, they are the ones who don’t have it!
Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can by you marijuana! Money can’t buy you health, but it can buy you a healthy nurse!
Over the period, I have found out that Success is not the commodity of a country or a race. These things can give an edge, but end of the day an individual’s efforts and attitude is what matters.


  1. liked your writing style a lot and interesting reads..thx to reema for the link...

  2. Very well witten!

  3. Wonderful.. was gigling through out..currently i m in America..first time..