After a few exciting, happening and eventful days, things seem to have slowed down. "May be the powerplays are over. Overs 20 to 40, hang on! Wait for the slog overs", I said to myself. I had leased an apartment, which is just a block away from my office. I packed all my baggages from the hotel, asked the receptionist to book for a cab and started preparing palav. It took a while as I was experimenting with palav for the first time. Packed my lunch box, locked the room and went to the reception. Wow, the world is such a small place, the driver who used "son-of-a-bitch" in every possible sentence, was waiting with his cab. I thanked the receptionist and went near the cab.
The driver looked very upset. I had asked the cab to be there in 15-20 minutes, but I had arrived after half an hour. The time on my watch showed 8:52 AM. "I am waiting here from 8.35", he said angrily. So rare, a sentence without "son-of-a-bitch". I silently thanked my receptionist for not calling me, as I was not ready when the cab was waiting. "Oh, I did not know that. I was waiting in my room. He did not call me at all" The actor in me had taken over, pretending to be innocent. "Son-of-a-bitch, I was waiting. He was telling coming-coming-coming. Not allowing me to come inside the hotel also. Mother f*****" Oh, he has improved his vocabulary tremendously over the weekend!
"It costs for the waiting charge also".
"Oh, is it? I dint know that you were here. How much will it cost?"
"Nothing. Going by cab is costly. Good that you are moving to the apartment nearby"
"Ya thats right"
He took his phone and called his office.
"I was waiting for more than 15 mins. The receptionist not allow me to go inside, son-of-a-bitch. Mother f*****, he does not even call the customer. I wont go there next time" and disconnected the phone. "He made me wait for such a long time, behnchod". Behnchod! Good, he has not forgotten his mother tongue. I never expected that this would be the first hindi word I'll hear after coming here!
It had started snowing that day. The maximum temperature was 20 degrees. Oops, I forgot to mention, it was in fahrenhiet. The id card was hanging inside the cab, which read Dil Nawaz. To save my receptionist, who had saved me from his scoldings, I decided to drag him into some conversation.
"Will it be too cold today?"
"No, today it is just snow. Tomorrow will be very cold. Tomorrow, sun (and not son-of-a-bitch) come out, snow melts, it will be very cold"
"Oh, so we cant walk if it has snowed?!"
"You can walk. The white snow is no problem. It is like powder. When it melts, it become ice, very slippery. Be careful"
The cab landed at my apartment. I got the luggages from the cab, dumped in the apartment and went to the office.
I entered the office and got into the meeting room for the scrum meeting. This is probably that time of the day where I talk the most (excluding talking to myself) The daily meetings ensures that I wont forget speaking. Whats most funny is the phrases they use in the meeting -
"I cant take that $h!t from him" (I dont accept that argument)
"Go to the bank, show up your a$$ to the manager" (Meet the bank manager to get a loan)
"I will fu**ing solve this" (Just solving it, the first verb has really no meaning here!)
After coming to the apartment, I felt a strange sense of disappointment for leaving the hotel. I have no TV here, no phone, no internet. Its very difficult to spend time, as I cant even go out because of snow. Its difficult here without a car, a telephone and a SSN. If you dont have these, you dont exist, mate! The apartment seemed very unfriendly and hostile. I thought what Sahir would have told - "Main aur meri tanhayee aksar yeh..." Hey, its better with me, we are three - "Main, meri tanhayee aur meri laptop aksar..." I switched on the laptop and queued some songs. Bob Dylan started singing - "People are crazy, times have changed....but things have changed" I felt better. I never understood the words of Bob Dylan's songs, their meanings. But, there is some sense of weirdness, craziness, rebellion that is so appealing. "...all the truth in the world adds up to one big lie" Bob continued. I started to think about my plans for the weekends ahead, to keep my frustrated mind busy. I need to do some shopping and washing this weekend. If I get some time, I will go to the office. Next weekend, I can go to temple square. The week after that is christmas, planning to go to Las Vegas with Avi. For new year, need to plan something. I was happy with my planning. We always plan very intensely, what we need to do, where we want to go, to make the best use of the limited time we are here. Why dont we plan our life like this, why are we so careless, why do we take it so easily, as if we live forever? I had no answer to that question.
In just a week, I had picked up cooking real fast. I could cook anna, saaru, uppittu, palav, ghee rice pretty well. But the whole cycle - preparing the food, eating, washing the utensils would take almost an hour. I hate the "washing the utensils" phase very much. Many times I decide to prepare that dish which invloves least number of utensils! And, there was no longer that sense of excitement and accomplishment in cooking, as I had learnt it well. But, I had no choice - I had to cook, because that was probably the best Indian food I would ever get in Salt Lake City! After dinner, I queued up the "Buddha Bar" songs in my winamp and started playing minesweeper. I felt miserable with the thought that I have to wait for more than a couple of months to eat eerulli chitranna and akki rotti. The song "Solitude" was being played - "Maut mujhko gawaara hai lekin...kya karoon ke dum nikaltha nahin...". The same events went on for the whole week.
By friday evening, I was feeling really restless. I hated going to the apartment and turning on my laptop. I had planned to go for shopping over the weekend. How about going today? I had heard somewhere that shopping is a great stress reliever. But, it was cold. Its real easy facing cold than loneliness, so decided to walk to Wal Mart (as I dont have a car and I dont exist!) It had snowed heavily the last few days. The roads were clean, but the snow was not cleared from the sidewalk. Why would anyone care for a mortal like me, who decides to walk for an hour to shop? I remembered the Dean Martin song "Let it snow". "Dean, you must have had a car or you had nothing to shop". I almost slipped. I remembered what the driver had said "Snow no problem. Ice slippery, careful". The way to walk on slippery surface is keep your head still, dont drag your feet, and dont turn sidewards when you are lifting your leg (its like what they say in cricket - keep the head still for the right balance and play straight!) I reached a traffic signal and started waiting for the walk signal. A few people were watching me from their cars. Was it suprise? Or pitying about a human being with no car? I could not quite decipher. Did I see a small kid driving a car? No idiot, its left hand drive here, and the child was sitting on right seat! I wondered how difficult it would have been for Vito Corleone when he came to this country almost a century back. Atleast I know english! I reached the Union Park Avenue, I remembered the place where I had met Steve and Megan. Now, I was familiar with the place. On the way, I happened to see what many people would not have seen - an american drainage. It was no different from ours, except for the fact that it was filled with snow! I was a few metres away from another traffic signal. I saw a person cross the road before the signal. With much effort, I controlled my natural urge to break the traffic rules. The cars were very fast and I could not judge whether I could cross the road before they come. So, crossed the road at the next traffic lights when I got the walk signal like a "responsible citizen" and entered Wal Mart.
It was much much bigger than any mall I have seen so far (as if I have seen many!) There were many sections and sub-sections (they call it isles)
A lady came to me and asked "Hello, how are you doing?"
"Pathetic. Miserable." I thought. "I'm fine, thank you", forcing a smile on my face.
"How can I help you?"
"Can I get a shopping cart?"
"Yes, sure" and she gave me the cart.
I started exploring all the sections - household articles, clothing, car accessories, electronic items. I could get anything here, except a solution to my loneliness. I was looking at all the items, multiplying the prices by 46 and comparing with Indian prices, like a typical first timer. It would have been easier with 50. I cursed the appreciating rupee. I had just taken a turn from household section, but I could not find a way back. The retail giant did not have much difficulty in misleading a man with pathetic geographic sense (Apologies for the complicated sentence formation, I just meant "I was lost!") After failing to find my way in the next few minutes, I took the help of an old lady at the counter to go to the isle I intended to. I finished the shopping. Did I forget anything? Yes, yogurt! I went to the dairy section, but could not find plain yogurt. I asked the lady at the counter if there is "ANY" place, where I can get plain yogurt.
"You can go to Smiths, next building. They have it. Thank you sir, have a good night"
On the way went to Smiths and got plain yogurt. I felt really happy for the biggest accomplishment that evening. The luggage was pretty heavy. My apartment was half an hour away. Dont think of it as half an hour. Delta approach! Take five minutes at a time. The covers are very thin, can they survive the journey? After every few minutes, I changed the bags in my hands, not to overburden any one hand. I had to walk slowly, as I had to balance the luggage and walk on snow. I was very tired, while I was just ten minutes away from my apartment. I stopped, kept my luggage down, did some muscle-relaxing exercises and continued walking. The covers, though were thin, had survived the journey - just like me! (I know a few people say that I am no longer thin, but I completely stand by my statement!) I came inside and opened winamp in my laptop and sat down for a while. Sowmya Raoh started singing - "Zindagi yeh pal, yeh pal zindagi" I generally listen to this song when I am very tired, felt better. Prepared anna, saaru and curd rice (the last time I had eaten curds was in the flight to Paris) I had one of the most satisfying (if not the tastiest) meals I could ever remember, and went to sleep.