Sunday, December 23, 2007

I know this isn't supposed to be about toilets and tissues at the very least. But, sometime during the climax of a nonchalant visit to a restroom in the Colombo Airport, my eyes sweep around trying to spot a roll, and it isn’t there. I am wondering “NOW THAT'S AN ORIENTAL WELCOME :)”...
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The first few days at home were fun. It was almost a celebrity reception. And there would be family, relations and neighbors and visitors who would just listen and accept doubtlessly my version of my daily life in America. I proudly rambled about what all I could cook … How I would live an average day and a holiday … about the work I do on weekends and the fun stuff on the weekdays … How I would go shopping in my car … and How I get to watch all the desi movies and stuff … How I would keep my room and how do I tackle the laundry predicaments … and How I would miss home … and all that Jazz! The trick part here is that you should maintain the same enthusiasm even when you have to say it the fiftieth time or they would get it all wrong! Anyway, I would be called out from the bedroom to see some visitor(s) and in the next 10 seconds, I find myself narrating the old tape of my just concluded vacation in the USA
Sometimes, these conversations don’t have to be just a simple ‘me-telling-facts & they-nodding’ kind. Almost every Tom, Dick and Harry here knows some Harry1, Tom1 and Dick1 there ... such people would have formed an idea of America too ... In such cases, We have to be careful in our narrations then so as to not offend their pre-images of the life there … Such conversations also have the risk of ending up like this :
“So, can you call up my cousin in Wichita and say “hi” when you go back. I will just get the phone number.”
“Hmm … err … ok… ”
Well, I am sure I am not being expected to call anyone … but it’s a nice gesture. Isn’t it?
All in all, I spent a great deal of time (and still am) in making the case of how America has turned into a gentleman in return for my hair (aaarggh! It was the worst deal ever …)
My brother says we might have to get out of the auto rickshaw. I throw a random questioning look. We were in the middle of the inner lane of a jam packed road and the auto guy says he can’t proceed anymore because there’s a huge traffic jam ahead … and I have to get out of the auto now??? My brother already paid the auto guy and got out … apparently, there was no time for an argument here … I got out … I withdrew the questioning look molding it into an expression equivalent to a shrug and got out of the auto …
… Blaring Noises … Dazzling lights … the smoke and the dust … random spatial distribution and orientation of vehicles of all sizes - They are all moving at various possible speeds to clinch that last inch … and they are NOT stopping … they are not yielding to me… me who is trying to cross the road … seems like the pedestrian isn’t the king anymore … It’s like I just slipped and fell into the ocean of the traffic and I forgot how to swim. 5 seconds have passed. I still haven’t concluded my mental helpless wail of “I LOST IT!!!” … I hop over a bunch of vehicles and cross the road finally and look back with pride at the latest accomplishment in my life - I crossed one-and-a-half lane of still traffic in downtown Hyderabad (anyway, every place looks like a downtown in Hyderabad now!!!) …
Hyderabad traffic has really gone crazy … any snapshot could mean some 40 traffic violations… everybody honks for no a reason… Unlike in America, a Honk is the fundamental element of traffic communication … a ‘honk’ can have a spectrum of meanings ranging from “Hey! I am here too…” to “What in God’s name did you just do?” to just a “Hi” or probably, given the right timing and situation - a romantic gesture as well … In short, the one with the loudest honk rules …
The smart ass bikes make their way onto the pedestrian footpath to avert the traffic and honk at you for being in the way … the buses could stop anywhere to get the passengers … one could drive zigzag, change lanes with no notice … and are you so inefficient that you take a U turn and come back? – why don’t you just go in the opposite lane … we can stop there in the middle of the lane and catch up on old times with an old friend … traffic flows in from all mathematical directions and jam the intersection … the big vehicles can’t move … the bikes would just snake their way through the traffic … no clear distances allowed … the chugging autos would just brush against your brand new Chevrolet and whom do you shout at? If you are lucky enough, you could watch the traffic police finish the banana and toss the peel over …
Sitting next to the driver’s seat and that’s the driving position there … and you could see in the rear view… I couldn’t help but wonder about the amazing traffic sense we all seem to have cultivated … Screw it … me NOT driving here …
That was Day 1 on the road …
Thankfully, my hometown hasn’t changed one bit - nothing but the movie posters. How can it when I am not here? The people are just the same. The vibrancy and the color of their lives hardly changes … anyway, one and half year is too less to expect a cultural shift …
Who says life isn’t fun here?
People still drive the way they want … they run across the road … they eat on the roadside at junk food stalls with suspiciously low sanitation ratings … run and catch the bus … bargain for a auto-rickshaws, vegetables and clothes … litter the road and the country; chuck the theory of calorie-based health … do all mischief and be still scared of God; pray for next life ...buy veggies from street hawkers … They flock the movie halls; sell black tickets … youngsters would bunk college to go to the movie; watch the girls sitting on brick walls; ride the bikes fast, honking loud … women would still gossip; fervently discuss the latest family soaps up on the cable TV … my mom still keeps complaining of the maid’s ‘attitude’ problem …
The song of life here is still running on the same beat… and that music is as rejoicing and pleasant as it always been …
Some things have changed for me too.
I still have to make peace with the traffic sense of people here … I look for the dustbin in every room … I still wash my plate much to the annoyance of my mum who insists that’s the maid’s job … I am not allowed into the kitchen to cook … I turn the taps other way … and forget that the water from the taps is not quite potable … and Isn’t that switch ON already? … Some fruits can be sour. After all, they are not ‘manufactured’ here … Mom’s cooking has never been tastier … The Marie biscuits taste much better than they used to … The much awaited pani-puri surprisingly didn’t live up to the hype …
The plane’s about to land in a few moments. I am staring out the window without a blink. The brown patch is now more vivid. I could see the tree-studded concrete jungle that has grown much thicker. People are rushing out on the streets; jamming the roads; attending to their lives … It seemed like a beautiful day in Hyderabad. I didn’t smell the earth in any distinct way. I didn’t shed any tears at the sight of my motherland. Am I unemotional? May be!
I could now feel a sense of quietness. I am unable to speak. I don’t even want to. My eyes were fixed onto a blur focus. An anticipation that was a year long … the excitement that was on for the past 24 hours of this flight – they are all attaining a calm climax …
Home coming was never this delightful...
Thought of the Day: I still didn’t understand the conception of the western style (here) without the roll. Can you help me out?

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