Monday, October 13, 2008

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 17. Summer 07: Internship blues, Bible study and Peggy's graduation party

Getting an internship was my number one priority for the summer, as internships turn into full time job offers. I did not hear from the big guns, Microsoft and Google, so was kind of disappointed. I did keep trying and sending in that resume of mine every day. I did get some interview calls but it did not go to the next stage as I did not have citizenship. In the meanwhile, I was working in John Hopkins as an intern, thanks to Patti. Patti was in one of my classes in my first semester and she was kind enough, to bring me on board when I asked her if there was something I could work on. I was working on projects beyond my background, one of them was an AIDS awareness project and the other one was Avian Flu. I was working with an excellent team, who valued my opinions and suggestions. The commute to Baltimore via the MARC train was a pain but that was the only way of getting there. Patti was one of the few people, who I really admired. She was smart, hardworking and knew her strengths. I remember my first day in John Hopkins. Patti picked me up from Camden Yards and was driving me towards John Hopkins campus. She was telling me how unsafe the areas around John Hopkins was after 10pm. I could not continue with the project at John Hopkins for a long time as I had got an internship on campus. I met Jen Moore at random on my way back from John Hopkins to Penn station on the John Hopkins shuttle. I had a normal conversation with her when I got into the shuttle and was amazed when I came to know that she was also interning at John Hopkins but in a different department. Well,she expressed her interest to visit India and gave me her email address before I could get down for my stop.

I was excited about my internship on campus as it was something on lines of what I wanted to do:project management and I got free lunches at the awesome diner. Everything seemed to be going as per plan until I got the email from MTV regarding a possible internship opportunity. Now here is the flaw, it was unpaid and it would be unethical to leave the new internship I had got on campus. My weakness of inability to take a decision was exposed again. On one hand, I had an opportunity to intern at MTV, which would be great on a resume and the other hand I had an internship on campus which I had just got. The internship at MTV was unpaid, so living in NYC was definitely going to burn a hole in my pocket.So, after a lot of deliberation I figured out, I would do my internship on campus for 20 hours and commute to NYC and work on Fridays and Mondays. I was about to start work in MTV on July 7th but then my supervisor said I could not start working before July 13th as it would take at least a week to get the id's and work space set up for me. However, if I started work on July 13th, I was not meeting the minimum criteria of a 8 week internship. So, after all the planning, I ended up losing the internship for no fault of mine. I did have a great time working with Mr. Ming at the dinner. He was fun and very easy to get along with. I was happy as I got a chance to do what I wanted to and did not have to worry about cooking lunches. I enjoyed amazing meals at the dinner which kind of became predictable after a certain period of time.

In the middle of all this running around, I was doing bible study for summer. My friend, Jason Float had organized Summer bible study group and I was part of it. I made a lot of friends there and learned about Jesus. I had been touch with Jen Moore through a string of emails titled,' nice meeting you on John hopkins shuttle'. I decided to pay her a visit and was really excited about spending time with her. I was still without a phone, so there was no way of letting her know that I was running late. I finally called her from a local phone at Penn Station and was happy to hear she was coming to the station to pick me up. We took the John hopkins shuttle to her apartment , where I met her friend Sara. so the plan was to spend an entire day sightseeing in Baltimore till Jen's friend, Diane would meet us in the evening. I enjoyed my first visit to coldstone thanks to Jen. It was so confusing to choose the right ice cream flavor. I decided to stick to traditional chocolate and was not disappointed. We checked out Baltimore harbor and were just hanging out. We even witnessed an American wedding which was cute. I got to know Sara better. She was home schooled and was going to have a knee operation in the next few weeks.
Jen was getting more excited by the minute as she was going to meet Diane. Diane came off as a fun, loving person and was great to get along with and yes she did have a thing for guys wearing purple shirts. We parted ways that evening, with me catching my Amtrack train back to DC and the girls heading back to Jen's home. I have not spoken with Jen since my last visit.

The most awesome thing to happen in summer was Peggy's, Kurt's sisters graduation party. I was invited to it by Kurt's mom and was excited. I love Kurt's family because they are a big family and everybody loves everybody. We drove to NY with Kurt's other sister, Kate who is a photographer. It was beautiful entering NY city in the wee hours of the morning. The thing which I enjoyed the most was the hug and kiss, which Kurt's mom gave me, when we reached Kurt's mom home. I got up next day to be greeted by an awesome breakfast. The Lasnier family had dropped in. Kurt's mom had her jabs at me, whenever I added sugar in my cereals. She was a dentist and was having a ball pulling my leg.

The Lasnier family was fun. I enjoyed meeting Kevin Lasnier. Kevin was this raw bundle of energy who shared the passion of food with Kurt. When I arrived at the party, I felt like I was in heaven. It was an outdoor party and I could see flyers with Peggy's face, shouting out congratulations. This was a big party as this was also celebrating, one of the Rothberg girls, Calli getting into high school and Aunt Mary's sons getting into Hartwick college. I was so happy to see Aunt Tricia after a long time. I helped her set up the tent. From the last time, I had met her, I now had a phone but was still without a drivers license. I started munching on the food and was happy to meet Kurt's extended family. About 100 Manspergers had come to the party and it was great get together event. I enjoyed playing ping pong and observed that Kurt always liked to play solo. Even if he had a partner, he would take most of the shorts. We went bowling later on in the night. I sucked at it but Kevin kind of enjoyed coaching me. I met Ahmad Ismail ( my non drinking partner at Kurt's first party) there and it was good to catch up with him. Kevin's parents drove us back , which was very kind of them. It was one of those weekends, which will remain in my mind forever.

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 16. Spring 07: Falling in love with the wrong person

All my life, I have fallen in love only to find the girl I love, going out with someone. I met someone special on the OSCAR night. They were showing the OSCARS live in the stamp union and I was up for it. I had this wonderful walk to the stamp union from my apartment after having a fight with my roommate. It was a snowy evening and the entire campus was covered with snow. Coming from a country, where it is a rare occasion to see snow, the walk was memorable and a special experience. I saw a girl being chased down one of the alleys in the campus by her friend who had this snowball in his hand. Both of them seemed happy cuddling each other, when the boy finally caught the girl. I thought that was cute and craved for that feeling.

I arrived on time at the venue. The stamp union was the most happening place on campus. All major events used to happen there. As usual, I did not know anyone at the event. I just wanted to see the Oscars as I had been doing that loyally for the past few years. I used to perceive the Oscars as a stimulant to my desire to be a filmmaker.

There was a table with the best view of the screen and four beautiful ladies were seated around it in chairs. I asked the ladies, if I could join them and they obliged. As all Americans I had met so far, they too were curious to know about my country and about my experience in this country so far. I did tell them how much I hated this country when I initially arrived and how I have learned things the hard way. As the evening progressed, I got to know the girls better. It was really cool, when all of us had a picture taken in front of the dummy OSCAR statue. They had a dummy of the OSCAR statue set up outside the venue so that people could take pictures standing next to it, just to get a feel of attending the OSCARS in real life.I will always remember and treasure that picture. Here was this simple guy from India spending an evening with the most beautiful girls in College Park. I remember sharing those pictures with my colleagues at work and Rauf bhai teasing me the entire day.

There was this one girl,I just could not take my eyes off. She looked gorgeous and I liked her from the moment our eyes met. Her name was, well lets just call her M. I also took some pictures with my camera of M and her friends and told M that I could email her the pictures to which she surprisingly gave her email address. I still have that piece of paper with me in which she scribbled her email address. Most of her friends left as the hours passed by. There was a moment where we were the only ones on the table only to be disturbed by this annoying friend of hers who was getting too close to her and worst of all she seem to be enjoying it. She did leave with only few moments left for the OSCAR’s to end. 'The departed', surprisingly won the best picture. She did tell me when she was leaving and that was kind of her. I so felt the need to tell her that I could walk her to her apartment on campus but I have never been able to tell the right thing to girls at the right time.

I did have her email address which was a good start. So I did sent emails to her asking if she would want to hang out on weekends, go to some dance classes and stuff. However, she never seemed to reply. Most of the times, she would reply at the eleventh hour stating some reason for not being able to make it. I even happened to invite her to movies which they showed at the holf theatre on campus. She happened to show up at one of the movies, Disturbia playing at the hoff theatre without letting me know that she was coming. She arrived with her friends and I was surprised because I did not expect her to see her at the movies. So I did happen to keep an eye on her and she and her friends happened to take the front row seats while I took the seats at the extreme back. I so wish, I could have approached her on that night and seen the movie with her friends. After that night, she seemed to avoid me. That is the impression, I seemed to have got. She blocked me off Instant message and there was no talk. It was a painful experience. I had so much to offer to her and she was in no mood to receive it.

I finally happened to meet her by accident at one of the events on campus. She is an active member of SEE, a committee on campus which organizes cool events on campus. So, I did apologize if she thought I was stalking her or sending her too many emails. I told her, “I think you looked absolutely gorgeous on the Oscars night when we met and did not want to regret the rest of my life, that I never asked you out.” She never expected that coming from me but she was smiling and thanked me. I knew she would be there at the event next day. So I made sure that I saw her last time before the semester ended, as this was the last event before the semester and she was going to go on a summer trip.

After the event was over, I asked her, if I could take her out to dinner? To which she replied, I dunno, I will meet you in Fall. I will talk to you later.I was kind of heart broken by her reply. She could have just said no and finished it off. However, that is how girls are: they want to be nice and cannot say 'no'. It was again a case of falling in love with a girl, with me ending up with a broken heart. Being in Love can be the most amazing feeling in the world. However, it can be painful, when you have so much to offer the other person, and the person does not care a damn about it.

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 15. Spring 07: Less's story

When I first met Less, little did I know he was from the US army. He seemed just like all of us seated in the orientation hall. Less’s real name was Leslie but he preferred being called Less. When I was initially having problems with housing, he had offered to help me out. Every time after class, he used to check on me and ask if everything was going fine.

About few weeks ago, I had given him the photo of Lord Ganesha ( considered to be the God of good luck by Indians). I had come to know from him, that he would be posted to Iraq, once he completed the program in few months. I was taking the summer off and was not sure if I was going to met him in Fall. I gave him the photo of Lord Ganesha as a good luck charm to ensure that he survives the war and comes back. Less had a young son by the name William and a beautiful wife. He did mention this education was more of an opportunity to spend time with his family. Less was a nice guy and I so wanted and prayed that the situation in Iraq ended and he would stay back with his family.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 14. Spring 07:Best week of my life..thanks to Kurt

With just few days left for spring break to commence, I had no idea what I was going to do. I was eager for a get away from home thanks to the recent altercations which I had been having with my roommate. Kurt had plans of visiting his family in NY for Spring break.

I had met Kurt Mansperger while standing in line waiting to submit my resume at Microsoft Information booth. There was this lady at the booth, who seemed to believe that she was the only person in the line and she seemed to be talking with the recruiter for ages and none of the folks standing in the line seemed complaining. There appeared this young handsome gentleman behind me dressed in professional attire. I started a normal conversation with him introducing myself and talking about stuff. We seemed to get along well from the first few minutes of our talk. Time went by so fast, that I did not realize that I was next in line to submit my resume. I parted ways with Kurt having his email address. I did the courtesy email thing of telling it was great to meet him and would like to hang out some time. In the next few days, I got a facebook invite from him to a party hosted at his house. Now this was huge. The party was called the Black and White Lounge party. I was going to be at an American party and it seemed a proposition stupid enough not to pursue. I was also working on my film on Life of International students in US as part of my class project and looked at this opportunity to get some footage for my film. Kurt was a gentleman from the beginning. He picked me up from Plato’s dinner, a popular restaurant and then we drove towards his home. In his car, was Ahmad Ismail, Kurt’s high school buddy. Soon when the party kicked off, I discovered Ahmad and I had a strong connection in the sense that we did not drink alcohol. So, I spent most of my time talking with him. Kurt used to pop in periodically to make sure we were having at least juice or soda (cold drink). As the hours flew by, more people started flowing in and I did what I was good at, talking with people. I met a lot of people that night and saw the beer pong game, which was ridiculously funny to watch. I even shook my floor on the dance floor. I remember Sarah Shepherd was the first person to signal me to come on the dance floor and that helped. In all, it was a great night. Even though, I did not drink alcohol, I had a nice time.

Back to where I was. Kurt happened to see me online and asked me if I would be interested in spending the spring break with him and his family in NY.I said yes without thinking and it was one of the best decisions of my life. I had done all the packing and was ready for Kurt at the time, he had told me to be ready. He happened to be about 3 hours late. My parents were also excited about me finally going out of College Park.

He did arrive and from there on, it was picture perfect. Kurt had decided to drive to Pennsylvania to meet his dad, and then make a stop at Oneonta to meet his sister and then reach his mom's place on the outskirts of New York city, our final destination.
The drive to Pennsylvania was beautiful. It was snowing that day and it was great to see the vast stretches of land covered with snow.On the drive, we got to know each other well;definitely the kind of music we liked.The ipod made the journey enjoyable. We did make it to Kurt's dads place at late night and i was anxious to see how Kurt's dad looked like.. The doorway to his dads house was covered in snow and the moment Kurt's car pulled in, Kurt's dad had sensed it. He was waiting at the doorway.Kurt hugged him and it was great to see both of them happy. Kurt's dad resembled Robin Williams. He took pains to pronounce my name accurately, which was great. We reached Kurt's dads place on the eve on St. Patrick's day. Its is a very famous day for Irish people and they celebrate it by drinking.Kurt was Irish. So Kurt's father decided to treat us for dinner. He took us to a place where you could get vegetarian food, since I was also going with them. The dinner was great and Kurt made sure that I ordered something different than pizza this time.I cannot remember what i had ordered but I enjoyed it.

Later on in the night, I shared the last two rava ladoos which I had with Kurt and his dad and both of them liked it. Rava ladoo is a sweet dish, which is prepared in India during Diwali festival. My grandmom had sent me 50 of them, when I had visited India few months ago and I had used them sparingly.I showed Kurt's dad, Dr. Cyril some of the movies which I had on my laptop and he seemed to be interested in watching Charlie Chaplin's City of Lights. I had never seen that movie before and decided to watch it with him and had a nice time. I left the next morning hoping we had spent more time with Dr. Cyril.

The drive from Dr. Cyril's home to Peggy's(Kurt's sister) place was wonderful. It was a visual treat. Peggy lived in Oneonta. It was a small town and I fell in love with it. It was like the village in India and life seemed simple and fun.I liked the way the town was. It was a cluster of houses in lanes with no high rises.Peggy greeted us with a hug and introduced us to her female roommates. We were going to spend the night there. I was excited as this would be the first time, I would ever spend a night in an all girls house. During the day, we passed of time, by visiting the town and the hill, from where we could see the entire city of Oneonta.I did capture some shots on my camcorder to include them on my film which I was working on. Later on in the evening, after having dinner, Peggy took us to her friends apartment where they had thrown a small party. It was funny when they went to the store to buy the drinks prior to the party, they asked me what I wanted. As I did not drink, I obviously said no, but decided to take yoo-hoo, a sweet drink on Kurt's insistence.At the party, it was crazy, people drinking and playing games on sony playstation. They even showed us what happens if you heat up a CD in an Owen. That was cool but I would not recommend it to anyone.The yoo-hoo had gotten to me and it seemed for a moment that I would throw up before the folks who were drinking alcohol but thankfully I did not throw up. We left next day, eating the delicious sweet thing which Eimile, Peggy's roommate had baked for us. I almost forgot to mention, I enjoyed taking bath in a girls bathroom. It was clean and smelled great!

I was anxious to meet Kurt's mom. Kurt parked his car outside his mom's clinic.When we entered, Dr. Jane (Kurt's mom) greeted us with warm hugs and kisses on cheeks. Kurt had decided to have lunch at an Indian restaurant. We did go to the restaurant and we were joined by Kurt's aunts. The food was alright and it was great to see Kurt's mom speak with her sisters and Kurt enjoying chicken tikka masala. I did my best by recommending the different food they should try. Kurt's mom was generous enough to pay for the bill. She did ask me about my plans and I told her that I would be leaving in 3 days. She told me I was welcome to stay at her or aunt Tricia's place and I could leave with Kurt at the end of the weekend. I was happy and thanked her for the offer. Kurt had to take off in the middle of his family visit to Redmond for an interview with Microsoft. He was to come back in 2 days and leave for college park on Sunday.

The next few days were fun. I got to meet Kurt's family and felt at home. They were warm and accommodating.I was staying at Aunt Tricia's place. She had five kids and she was a great mom.I kind of developed a bond with the kids in a short period of time. The girls were amazed when I told them I do not drink alcohol. I also enjoyed helping Aunt Tricia prepare costumes for the play her kids were taking part in. I spent the night before my birthday at Kurt's dads place. Before meeting his dad, we had stopped by to meet his cousin Collin. He was barely in college and had a small daughter.It kind of felt weird but I shook his hand and applauded his and his wife's decision to keep the baby. I had pasta for dinner at Kurt's dad's place. Patti had cooked them for us. We then had a general talk about how different our cultures were and yes about divorces. India is a country where marriages are taken seriously and people do not take divorce as compared to folks in USA. However, I must confess times are changing in modern India with the youth being brainwashed by the american culture. Kurt's dad was excited about having his mother come and stay with them. I did share with him about the steamy interactions which occurs between my mom and my grandmother everyday in the morning and how everything cools down in the evening. I did give Patti a hint of things to expect.

I slept that night thanking God for a wonderful experience so far. I got up next day and saw everyone at the dinner table waiting for me. I quickly brushed my teeth and made it to the dinner table. Patti had prepared eggs, brownies and juice for breakfast to make sure we started the day full of energy. Before I could start eating, I touched Dr. Cyril and Patti's feet.They were surprised initially and had not clue what I was doing. I explained to them that it was as per Indian tradition to take blessings of your parents and people whom you respect on your birthday. A smile appeared on both Dr. Cyril and Patti's face. They had never experienced something like that before. We had breakfast and were discussing possible places to check out in New York City. Times Square, Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, Central Park, Broadway etc. were some of the names that popped up. We finally set out on our trip to New York city. Kurt's dad was kind enough to give us a ride to the metro station. At the metro station, I came across a gentleman who looked like an Indian and turned out to be an Indian. I spoke with him about the world cup cricket tournament. Someone has rightly said, where ever you go in the world it is extremely difficult not to find an Indian. It took us an hour to reach Grand Central Metro Station. Kurt was reading a book on how to crack Microsoft interviews along the train journey while I was watching the beautiful sights from the train window.

I was amazed at the architecture of the Grand Central Metro station. It was so huge and the environment was so full of energy. I took some pictures and left Grand central station. As soon as I stepped out of grand central station,I was amazed by the tall buildings facing me. It was just awesome. This may sound childish but it was just awesome to see one tall building after another and the cabs and people crossing the streets. We made it to Times Square and it was great. There was a huge group of tourists near us clicking pictures of everything they could see. I took some shots of it with my camera and we moved on. Kurt was insisting that we see a broad way musical and I was not that keen on that idea. However, I always liked trying new things and was up for it. Kurt wanted to see the Lion King but that was not playing so we instead settled for Les Miserables. We got standing tickets but we were happy we had tickets for the evening.We then visited the Hudson river, Chinatown, Little Italy and took some cool pictures. I was also shooting some footage for my short film,"Life of International Students in US". Kurt was kind of getting annoyed with me taking pictures of everything, so I gave the camera to him. He gladly accepted it and took on the responsibility to take pictures.

Time went by fast and I just wished I could stop time and enjoy the moment without having to worry about going back home the next day. Kurt knew how to get around New York City so that was a great help. I guess, when he visits Mumbai, I will be his guide and I hope to impress him with my knowledge about the city while taking him sightseeing. It was great to see the diversity of New York City. It kind of reminded me of my home, Mumbai. It was a melting point of different cultures. Its like you were going through a different country as you were passing through couple of blocks. It was amazing, we walked all the way from Brooklyn bridge to China Town and Little Italy. It was pleasant weather to walk. It was not that cold. We were kind of hungry so decided to catch some food before going to the broad way musical. It was a difficult task to find a restaurant which served something which I could eat. I still was a jerk when it came to eating outside and that kind of turned off Kurt. We did have a sneak peak into Hard Rock Cafe, which turned out to be a bar with no vegetarian offering. So, we ended up going to the Pizza place and it kind of satisfied my hunger.We decided to make a stop at Empire state building.The views from top of the building are told to be awesome. However, there was a long queue and we decided to bail out as we thought we would miss out on the broad way. We made it before time to the broad way.We had standing tickets.Just before the show was about to start, Kurt asked me about what my plans were for rest of the week. My previous plan was to leave for home when Kurt left for Microsoft interview.However, I also had the option of staying at Aunt Tricia's place till Kurt came back and leave with Kurt on Sunday to return back to College Park. Well, I told Kurt that I would love to stay at Aunt Tricia's place as long as it was not a trouble for her.The next thing he did was call Aunt Tricia and she was cool with me staying and I knew my schedule for the week before the play started. That was a good start to the play.
I was totally amazed at how wonderful the play was. The lighting, the music, the sets was just phenomenal. My respect for broad way musical had reached new heights. We walked around the city after the play discussing how awesome it was. Kurt had now seen this play 5 times. I am sorry if I got the count wrong, Kurt. We hung out at Times Square where I shot some footage for my film. We then walked towards the metro station giving strong consideration to the thought of eating at Indian restaurants. However, I decided to take up Kurt on his offer of eating at a place at the Grand Central Metro Station. He ordered a meal called Asparagus for me and ate something which looked delicious but am sure had meat. Well, as we were heading to our train, we were discussing about alcohol. He asked me what if I was 80 years old when I had my first drink and then felt sad that I had lost out on this all my life.I smiled and just said that its a valid point but to not drink alcohol is my personal decision. I am happy with it and have a good time, even if I do not drink.

We spoke about a lot of things on the trip right from funny antics of Kurt's cousin, Terrence to girls. It was fun. I had the best day of my life and it was frightening to think that I would have not experienced it if I had decided to go to the Indian store instead of visiting the career fair at engineering building, where I met Kurt. Faith has funny things in store for us.

Well, Kurt headed back to his mom's place after dropping me to Aunt Tricia's place. I was greeted by Aunt Margaret, who was just like all of Kurt's aunts very accommodating and good at heart. I slept in the bed next to Aunt Tricia's kids.I slept with a smile on my face thanking God for everything that had happened.

The next few days went fast. I helped Aunt Tricia in preparing costumes for the play in which her kids were taking part. I spent a major chunk of my day thanking everyone who wrote on my wall or scrapped in the digital world. I went with Aunt Tricia's girls to their dancing class and was amazed at the kind of life kids in America lived. As a kid, the only thing, I did was go to school and come home and do homework but this was so awesome. Kids here could develop their skills and be more creative. When, I came home with Aunt Tricia's girls and Aunt Tricia's boys had baked a cake for me. That was so amazing. It was a small thing but that meant the world to me. They sang happy birthday to me. They did have trouble pronouncing my name but they sang it with heart which made it so special for me. Aunt Tricia had also got Chinese food which made the kids very happy. Chinese food is supposed to be expensive in USA and very popular. It was again an example of how open American's were when it came to trying out new things.Aunt Tricia had got something vegetarian for me which again showed how caring and kind she was.

Before I went to bed, I was speaking with my parents on skype and Aunt Tricia's kids happened to be there. So, I introduced them to my parents and they were shy. Soon Aunt Tricia joined in and my Dad was caught off guard as he was talking with no shirt on. My parents enjoyed speaking with Aunt Tricia and the kids. There was a feast at Aunt Tricia's place the next day and I was looking forward to it. All of Kurt's aunts got together and were cooking for the giant feast. There was a vegetarian section too which was awesome. Aunt Mary's son was also a vegetarian, so there was going to be two of us. I was playing baseball with Jack(Aunt Tricia's youngest son) and getting to know him better. When I asked him what his favorite show was, he said "Pimp my ride". It was funny to hear him say that and I enjoyed talking with him on more deep issues.He did teach me on how to catch a ball in a baseball glove. We had to stop playing when Aunt Tricia told us to come in for the feast. Kurt's sister Peggy and her roommates Eimile and Kalyn had dropped by. They were going to France for Spring break and were going to catch the flight from NY the next day. As the evening went by, the house was packed with friends and relatives.Peggy had some funny glasses which she was trying on frequently. She did give me the glasses to try it and when I put it on, everyone started laughing. After everyone was done with the food, it was time for some dessert.Believe it or not, Aunt Mary had baked a cake for me which she brought to the center of the table and everyone sung when I cut the cake.This was so cool. The guys had some other plans for the night. They were planning to go to a bar and get drunk.One of them invited me and I decided to hop on. Aunt Tricia was kind of not sure about letting me go with the boys since she knew I did not drink, but she decided to let me go.We drove to the bars and the music which was played in the car made me laugh my ass out. It was hip hop but was funny for me. Once we were at the bar, I got to know the guys and spoke with them. Peggy and her friends joined us and they seemed to be in a mood to have fun.The good thing about hanging out with them was that everyone respected your desire to not drink and everyone made sure everyone else was having a good time. Being in the bar was a fun experience. Everyone was having a good time, drinking down the alcohol in their hands and watching the game on the big screens. The girls were planning to leave and Peggy approached me and told, I could sleep at Kurt's moms place. Peggy and her friends were also heading there. I was lucky to get a ride with them. I bid aideu to my friends wishing them the best of luck with their lives. In the car, Peggy asked if I had ever been in a hot tub. I did not know what it was and thought it was some lavish thing, which people did. I said no and asked whats so special about it? All the girls in the car started laughing. Well, we were at Kurt's moms place and I did not have any gear to put on to get into the hot tub. So, Peggy gave me Kurt's spare gear and I felt like David Hasselhoff in my red shorts ready to jump in the pool. It was stupid of me to ask Peggy if I could go in the hot tub naked. I thought, I would initially sit in the hot tub for 40 mins and after I get out, the girls would sit in, so being naked would not be a problem. However, the plan was for all of us to go in the hot tub together, so am glad I had Kurt's gear on. This was quite something, from being a shy guy and not even touched a woman, to being in a hot tub on a lovely night with three beautiful american women. We talked about over lives, issues, problems and good times. I took a picture with all three of them a a souvenir after we got out of the tub. Later that night, I helped Peggy pack for her France trip. We dropped the girls at the Airport after picking up Kurt from the airport. On the way, I had an interesting conversation with Kurt's mom and Kurt about my future plans.

My last day with Kurts' family was emotional. Kurt drove us (me and his mom) to best friend, Ashwin's home. I was really impressed when he removed he shoes before he entered their house. It is a normal Indian tradition to walk barefoot in your home. I was happy to meet Ashwin's parents. I touched their feet and they were happy. Even Kurt's mom did the same to which Ashwin's mom smiled and held Kurt's mom in her arms and hugged her. I got to eat home made Idlli after ages and absolutely loved it. Ashwin was in Harvard and then heading off to China for the winter. I got some Indian spices from Ashwin's mom as I was going to cook the Mansperger family some Indian vegetarian dinner. I was going to make them Pav Bhajji and was excited about it. I was helped by Aunt Tricia's two wonderful daughters. It was rare to have everything vegetarian on the dining table for once. Since most of them were used to eating with fork and spoon, they were not aware of how to eat Pav Bhajji with naan. I saw one of Aunt Tricia's daughters spread the Pav Bhajji on the naan and use scissors to cut small pieces of it. I hugged every member of the Mansperger family before leaving.

We drove to watch this play,'Black Mama Zambha', with Kurt's dad and Patty. The play was alright and I was happy to see Kurt's dad and Patty. Kurt's dad loved the rava laddo which, I had shared with him and proposed that my grandmother start a business. We spoke a lot on our drive back to College Park. We decided to make a stop over at Delaware to meet Kevin, one of Kurt's good friends. They played a basketball game on ps3 on Kevin's awesome plasma TV and after some time, we decided to continue on our drive to College Park. Kevin also played the viola which was awesome.On the way back, Kurt got a call from Melissa, (he had just broken up with her) and I suggested that he should go and see here. So, it was kind of cute at 5 in the morning, Kurt visited her with me listening With or Without you by U2 in his car. I slept over at Kurt's place not believing that I had just experienced the most awesome week of my life.

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 13. Spring 07:Roommate troubles again

My new roommate was Rohit(same name as mine). He was nice and kind. Everything seemed to be looking good. I was living close to campus, had no roommate issues and life was good. However, one night changed it all. We came back from the mall and were making dinner. I had to step out to make a phone call, which lasted longer than usual. When I came back, he had eaten my share of the dinner, which really made me angry as I was hungry. So, I shouted at him and he shouted back, trying to defend himself. He said many things, which hurt me considering all the help, I had given him since the past few weeks. It is like all I did for him had meant nothing. The next day, he apologized but it did not feel right and as every day passed by, we drifted apart. We used to have constant fights over some things and I wanted him to move out as he was not on lease. I was living in the main room as I could not stand sitting in the same room with him. There used to be rare moments where we would just talk as if nothing happened between us. However, it was best that he leave. I was happy if we could still be friends and he move out rather than he living in and trying to be good when it wasn't going to work out. To think of it, I was kind of immature to fight over food with him, but the things which I heard from that night made sure that I would never be friends with him again. He finally left in the summer and it felt void but peaceful the first night.

I just hopped that would be the last of my roommate issues.

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 12. Spring 07:Getting adjusted

The only thing, which excited me apart from the 101 things which were depressing me about leaving home was the fact that I was going to move into a new apartment with new roommates, which was closer to the campus. I was finally happy and keen to start all over again in this new apartment. A good friend of mine, Ali picked me up from the airport. He had a big smile on his face, when he greeted me at Dulles International airport despite my flight being 4 hours late. I was greeted in my apartment by my new roommate and Jaganath. The first morning was painful, memories of good times back home flashed in my mind. It was great feeling to finally walk to campus without having to wait for the shuttle. I went straight to work and gave Dave Kennedy the gift ( a small dress), I had bought for his daughter. I had bought a chunari for Miss Jacquie, Mary Scott and Ariana because these women had my life wonderful.

As days passed by, I was missing home and was back to square one( the same state I was in when I had first arrived to USA in Fall 06). My weekends used to be spend watching movies and speaking with parents for hours at night on skype. This was a time to grow up and work hard rather than brood over leaving home.I did not realize that I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to pursue the American dream. I was fortunate enough to meet people to take inspiration from.

My first meeting with Rauf Ahmad, (I called him Rauf Bhai) was a professional one. He had set up my workstation at work . As days went by, I used to bump into him frequently. He used to drop in Miss Jacquie’s office for casual talks and all of us used to have a nice time. On his wedding anniversary, he was kind of emotional but had a smile on his face, which was genuine and refreshing. Here I was brooding over coming back to USA leaving my friends and family and there was Rauf bhai who was staying away from his family for almost ten years .He believes he can bring his family to USA and is working towards it. He is not brooding. He is slogging it out, with a smile on his face harboring a dream to get his family to USA.

Ankit Nagarsheth was one of my classmates and he turned out to be an extraordinary guy, who knew exactly what he wanted. He told me to take this experience of being in USA to work on my personality and to make myself independent. I never expected such words of wisdom to come from him but was glad to hear that from him.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 11. Visit to home

I was really excited when I was done with my last exam for the semester because of two reasons: firstly I was done with my first semester of my masters degree and secondly I was excited about going home. It seems funny but the first thing which I did when I bought my assistantship was buying tickets to go home rather than buying a laptop. The frustrating thing was that my exams got over on 12 th December and I was to leave for India on the 29th Dec. So, the wait would drive me nuts at times but it was cool to just go to campus and work and not worry about going to class. However time passed by faster than expected and I was now in the process of buying stuff for my family back home. Rauf bhai had taken me and my roommates Ajay and Kunal to Costco for buying stuff for our families. Ajay was not going to visit India but was sending stuff for his niece, whom he called , Gudiya through Kunal who was to visit India.In the coming days, Ms. Jacquie also helped me buy some cosmetic stuff for my mom which was very kind of her. I still remember carrying all that stuff which I had purchased for my family back to the office and everyone teasing me.Raj did help me buy shoes for my parents and some Tshirts for my brother.

Finally the D day did arrive and I was excited. I remember packing my stuff till the wee hours in the morning and going to sleep with images of how quickly time had gone by. Anoop had helped me a lot in the packing. It seemed just yesterday that I had landed in this country and I was on my way back home in less than 24 hours. I had my breakfast the next day, cleared out my stuff and my roommates were kind enough to help me with my luggage. The supper shuttle was a little bit off time but that gave me more time to talk with my roommates, whom I had once not got along that well with. I was also excited as I was going to move in to a new place when I returned from India and this place was going to be closer to campus.
When the super shuttle did arrive, I hugged my roommates and sat in the car. I had an interesting conversation with the driver. I came to know more about him and it was inspiring to know how he has so seamlessly adapted to this country. He had a family now and was happy. He visited his home country once in a while. The advice, he gave to me, “Study hard when you are in school and make the most of it” seemed to reiterate the advice which my parents and well wishers had given. I even took a photograph of him as a souvenir and he promised to help me buy a car when he had spare time.

The journey started on an odd note. I had to pay 50$ as one of my bags was overweight. I had spent the entire night trying to ensure that none of the bags went over weight but when they did go overweight, I was kind of annoyed. However, I did not let that disturb me and tried to be cheerful. I happened to meet this girl from Israel as I was waiting for my plane and was surprised to know that everyone in Israel had to go through army training. She shared a picture of her in her army clothes with me, which was awesome. Little did I know that a year from then, my life would be changed by my Jewish friends.

The mp3 player which I was going to gift my brother proved to be handy in keeping me entertained when waiting for my flight after the girl from Israel left for her flight. It felt great when I was seated at my seat in my plane. I was happy and excited. As the engine roared and the plane gained momentum to take off, I closed my eyes and thanking God for making this possible. The funding for my tuition, me making it through my first semester and now being able to visit home seemed like a fairy tale. It is really rare for students to go back home when they have just come into the states 4 months ago. Students normally visit their homes after a year and a half.
I started conversing with this gentleman who was seated next to me. He seemed a man in his fifties with golden frame glasses. I forgot where exactly he was heading but it was interesting to hear his story. He started as a simple worker who used to fix pipes in US. He did not even know how to speak in English. However, he was good at what he did and always told employers, ”I can get this done”. He told about this incident where he took up the challenge of fixing the pipe system in an old school which was undergoing renovation. From that day on, he continued to get his work done on time and eventually build up a reputation and over the years now owns a company. He has a wonderful family with two young sons and is happy. This person was a shining example of the belief; I had, ‘If you are good at what you do, this country (USA) will appreciate your skill and you will be rewarded’. I took his photograph as a souvenir. We parted ways at Frankfurt.It was amazing to know that he was visiting his home country after 20 years. That seemed like an eternity to me considering my scenario of visiting home within 4 months of being in USA.

I took the connecting flight from Frankfurt to Mumbai and was impressed by Swiss airways. I had not heard much about it and that did help. Before boarding the plane, I did take some photographs of airplanes taking off from the airport.When on board the swiss airways flight, I was happy when I found out that I had a window seat. The plane took off in a few minutes and I enjoyed some breath taking views of the beautiful landscape which Frankfurt had to offer. On the plane, I happened to meet this gentleman by the name Prashant who was returning to India following his project work in Amsterdam.We hit it off well discussing about our academic backgrounds and future career prospects. There was this beautiful girl seated just behind my seat.I so wish, someone like that had sat next to me. Having wishes like that, I had no problems with Prashant. He was a fine gentleman, very well mannered and was fun to talk with. I happened to watch Polar Express on the plane and kind of enjoyed it. The food served on the plane kept me awake for most of the journey.I experienced a sudden bolt of excitement in me when I heard the flight captain announce, "We will be landing in Mumbai in another 30 minutes." I saw how wonderful the city looked at night from the sky and I did not realize how quickly those 30 minutes went by.When the plane finally landed, I could not wait to be at my home.I went through all the custom formalities and saw my mom appear out of nowhere as I was waiting for my luggage. Mr. Saif Ali Khan, famous Bollywood actor also seemed to be there with his girlfriend and seemed to attract a lot of attention. I was happy when I had all my luggage on the trolley and my mom could not stop kissing me. We knew someone who worked in the customs, so we were fine. Having said that I was not smuggling gold or something illegal but the thought of having someone from within just seemed comforting.I saw my dad and my younger brother waiting outside. My dad told me, that I had lost weight. I got in to the van which my parents had hired and felt back at home feeling the humidity, the roads, seeing the people. I gave the mp3 player to my brother which I had purchased for him.I had carried it with me to pass it off as my personal mp3 player. Within 30 mins, I was home. Flashes of me leaving my home 4 months ago swept across my eyes. Standing at the entrance of the building surrounded by my family members and neighbors, posing for photographs, my huge travel bags being taken to the van..everything seemed to come before my eyes. Four months ago, when I had left my home with the ambition of pursuing the american dream of being rich and earning money, little had I expected that I would be back in 4 months. I had been lucky. The guard who sat at the entrance of the building, where I stayed recognized me immediately.He helped us with the luggage. When my dad opened the door to our house, I saw my granny eagerly waiting for my arrival. I hugged her and it felt good. It took some time for the feeling to sink in that I had finally arrived home.

I could not sleep that night.I got up at 6:30 am in the morning. That was a rare granny was up and in middle of something. I had the wonderful tea prepared by my granny and saw the sunrise. The rays of the sun lite our hall room. I went back in time and images from my childhood kept flashing in my mind.I remembered the efforts I had put in during my engineering studies and a smile appeared across my face. Those sleepless nights, irregular eating times, studying with an obsession and determination to be the best seemed to have just happened yesterday. I decided to go on a morning walk.
I visited my old high school and felt nostalgic about it. I could picture myself walking nervously to my classroom on my first day in the school. Those awkward and funny moments during Physical training class and the football match which I played with my classmates on the last day of our school.I stood at the entrance of my school for quite some time, remembering all the good memories , friends I had associated with it. On my way back home, I did visit temples and prayed, and thanked God for everything I had got so far.

The next few days went by at an alarmingly fast rate.I normally spent the evenings trying my hand at the guitar and observing my mom cook food. I was determined to learn cooking this time as I had been a big flop when it came to cooking. I especially enjoyed hanging out with Amar and old friends. My good friend Vicky was to head to Australia for his further studies in a few weeks time. We were all excited for him.On the eve of Vicky's departure to Australia, all of us decided to go out and give him a memorable send off.Vicky's girlfriend had also joined us for the evening. She was kind of emotional throughout the evening and crying at sporadic intervals. I did not blame her. Time went by and finally we decided to call it a night after a series of photograph sessions. We dropped Vicky's girlfriend at her place and then headed home. On our way back home,one of the cops told us to stop and show vehicle papers. I was seated behind Bhavik who was riding the bike. Bhavik did not have the vehicle papers and was trying to solve the problem by making it more complicated. Vicky intervened at the right time and somehow after some monetary negotiation with the cop, the cop let us go. It was kind of frightening, the prospect of being in prison for no fault of mine but its only in India that you can get away as long as you talk your way out and have some money; things ease out.

We drove Vicky to the airport and gave him a good send off. Everyone was crying as he was about to leave.His mom did not cry but I could see that she was controlling it and trying to give her son confidence. Vicky's grandmom was in tears and I was feeling bad for her. I thought of my grandmother when I saw tears in her eyes. Right from childhood, my grandmother had been like a godmother to me. She had pampered me through years and I could not imagine a single day without her. Vicky had a similar upbringing to mine and I could imagine what he was feeling. While it seems a great prospect to go abroad to pursue studies, it is painful from within when you have to pack your bags and leave your home, your country, your friends to pursue a dream. I had a great time flying kites all day long on Sankranti. Sankranti, was one of my favorite festivals since childhood. It was a day, where you could fly your kite and cut another kites in air. The good thing about Sankranti was that it bought people together. We lived in an apartment complex. We were close to our neighbors. We used to share our dinners and often go out on weekends. However, during Sankranti, everyone who lived in the apartment complex, used to come to the terrace to fly kites and it was great. There is loud music playing in the background , not to mention the delicious dinner at the end of the day. There are few things, which I am good at and flying kites is one of them. The funny thing was people looked at me in a different way.They looked at me more as a US return and an interesting person to talk to, which was funny.

We visited Tirupati for a couple of days. Tirupati is a holy place in India, where people from all over the world come to offer their prayers. It is said that if you ask anything from the bottom of your heart, God(Lord Balaji) will listen to you. My family has been going to Tirupati on a regular basis. I was keen on going to Tirupati to thank God for the funding and the way things had shaped up in my life. It was a sweet trip with mom and dad. It kind of brought all of us together and we were happy to get a good darshan.

We did pay a visit to my grandparents(Mom's parents) in Hyderabad. It was a one day trip but well worth it. I always treated my grandparents like Gods because of the way they lead their lives. They were married for over 50 years and they were the symbol of true love for me. They got up at 5 in the morning everyday. Grandpa used to go for morning walks and granny used to have his tea ready by the time he was back. After Grandpa was done with his tea and watching the news, they used to watch Devotional shows or listen to devotional songs. I was happy to see my grandparents and touched their feet as soon as I arrived at their home. My mom's elder sister was living with them for few days; so it was good times. Having a laptop makes things simpler and easier. We watched the movie, 'Munnabhai Lageyraho' on my laptop and Grandpa liked it. We went shopping in the evening and had a small photo session before leaving. An entire day had just passed by. I touched my grandparents feet again and left for home hopping I could stop time.

The next few days were emotionally painful. I did visit all my family relatives this time, answering the same questions all over again. I enjoyed visiting amee's( my dad's elder sisters) house. My cousin sister had got married and she had a beautiful daughter. They called her Deeshita and she was the prettiest thing in the world. With just a few days left to go home, I was already feeling the need to ditch America and stay at home. However, I had to finish my education and it would be stupid and immature to quit. After having one last walk in my local colony, I was set to return to USA. This may sound funny but Indian version of Who wants to be a millionaire, called,' Kaun banega correrpatti dwetiya' aired on the same night, I was to leave.Shah Rukh Khan was going to host the new season.

The drive from home to airport was emotional. I was in no mood to return to the USA. There was more drama at the airport. When I was checking in my bags, the airlines official asked me if I could stay back as the flight was almost full. I was more than happy because it would mean one more day of being with my family, eating the delicious food etc. I called my parents and told them that I might come back home as the airlines official had put me on standby. I spend the next hour at the airport hopping, for the flight to be full. Unfortunately, like always in my life, it did not turn out that way. The airlines official told me that there was one seat left and I had to go. It was kind of emotional, when I called my parents and told them, I was not coming home as the airline officials had found me a seat on the flight. Fast forward the custom checks, I was in my plane and tears rolled down my checks. I thought of all the wonderful things, I had experienced over the course of the past 3 weeks and did not know why I was in the flight going to USA, when true happiness lied in being home with friends and family.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 10. First Thanksgiving and Black Friday

The University was closed for a week for thanksgiving. It was supposed to be the right time to buy gifts because they would be available for cheap prices. I was all alone in my apartment for almost the entire week. Kunal and Ajay had gone to New York while Anoop had gone to Philadelphia. Ariana had invited me to join her family for thanksgiving dinner and I was looking forward to it. I had met Ariana about a month ago. She was kind of lost in the campus and she happened to ask me for directions. Since I was done with my job for that day, I volunteered to walk her to the place where she wanted to go. We talked along the way and she was happy when she reached where she wanted to go. I had her telephone number before I could leave. So I stayed in touch with her and we seemed to get along well. When I told Ariana about my thanksgiving plan of being all alone in my apartment, she was kind enough to invite me.

I was waiting at Silver Spring Metro station at the spot where Ariana had instructed me to stand. She was there in no time and she hugged me. I felt good from within. When I reached her home, Ariana introduced me to her parents and her relatives. I had a nice time talking with them. I enjoyed the prayer which all of us prayed holding hands forming a circle around the dinning table before commencing to eat. I was holding Ariana’s hand. I had got an apple pie for Ariana’s family which all of them enjoyed for dinner. The parting gift was a photograph with all of them. I shook my hand with everyone on the table and hugged Ariana’s mother. I told her, ”I feel like I am with my family today” and she hugged me back. Ariana gave me some coco (chocolate milk shake) and some take over food. Ariana’s elder sister and her boyfriend drove me back to my place. That was a kind gesture on their part. I slept that night with memories of a great thanksgiving dinner courtesy of a person I had met a month ago.

The next day was Black Friday. It was supposed to be the day when people shop for gifts because they are available for rock bottom prices. I had decided I was going to buy myself a digital camera, an ipod and a musical instrument if possible. I was apprehensive to buy stuff online from my apartment as the internet connection was not secure. So I had to go to my university and buy stuff from my workstation. Dave Kennedy, turned up and he was surprised to see me in the office on the holiday. He had come with his wife and they also wanted to buy a gift for their daughter. It seemed that their desktop computer at home had crashed and they wanted to buy the gift before it got sold off online. Dave had forgotten the key to his office, so he could not get access to his computer. I told him to use my computer as I was in no hurry. Dave and his wife were happy. I left them alone and was wandering in the corridor. I was more happy when I found out they had purchased the gift for their daughter. Somehow it all made sense. Had I not come to my office, Dave and his wife could not have been able to use my workstation to buy the gift for their daughter.

I was totally stressed upon deciding which camera to buy. This was the first major purchase I was making on my own. The camera which I had shortlisted had already been sold off. Finally after hours of deliberation, I went for a sony cybershot. The sony cybershot cost me 250$ which meant I had to drop the ipod idea. In the midst of all this shopping, I had gone to the bathroom and when I came back to the front door of our department, I discovered that I had forgotten my access card on my work desk next to my workstation. So it was kind of embarrassing, I had locked myself out of my own office. I had to call the campus police, explain to them and finally I got into my office, thanks to the campus police who happen to have a duplicate key of every department on campus. By the end of the day, I had purchased a sony cybershot camera worth 250$ and a Yamaha keyboard for 100$.

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 9. Swing dancing

In short span of time, I had made a lot of friends. The fun part was most of them were American and a majority of them were girls which was getting me a lot of attention among the Indian community.Erin was one of my classmates, in several courses I took in Fall 06 . Yuanyuan Li(Annie) was working with us on a project and that was one of the most memorable project experiences of my life. I enjoyed working for the project and we gelled with each other well. Erin was always kind of to offer me rides back to home after our evening classes. She had a passion for her dog, ’Ferris’ and coral singing. She also loved Swing dancing and she had invited her friends in the class for Swing dancing session. Fortunately, I was one of them and it was not too bad. I had done a lot of things in USA which I had never done for my life back home. I had played Garba in the garba night organized by the Indian community on campus which I had never down all my life back home even though they used to play garba at stone’s throw distance from my house. Now it was Swing dancing. We were six of us at the beginning. We had dinner at this fancy restaurant in downtown silver spring. The theme was medieval, which Erin seemed to like. After the delicious dinner, we headed to Swing dancing venue. The funny thing was , none except Erin knew to Swing dance. So, we had to enroll in a tutorial. As we entered the grand ballroom, there were two instructors. The male instructor looked like Vince Vaughan and the female instructor was a middle aged woman who had the energy of an 18 year old girl. I enjoyed the idea of practising the Swing dancing steps with random girls/ladies and moving on to the next. It was just awesome. My first dance partner was a 65 year old lady and I enjoyed practising my steps with her.

As time passed by, my other friends decided to leave. I decided to stay back because I was getting the hang of it. After the practice sessions were over, it was time to dance. I asked almost every lady in the room to dance and she obliged. It was so cool. I even shook a leg with expert dancers who come to this event as a spiritual ritual and they liked the way I danced. I finally did dance with Erin and it was great. She used to teach me some steps and tell me to try it on some other dance partner. I had never danced my entire life but I was enjoying every moment out there on the dance floor. It was kind of sad, when we had to leave but I will never forget Erin for introducing me to Swing dancing. Erin drove me back home at 1:00 in the morning which was kind of her.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 8. My first American party..thank you Steve

My coworker at the previous place where I used to work, Steve Heitlinger had his birthday coming up. I happened to be one of the lucky folks to be invited to his birthday and boy was I excited. I arrived on time for the party and it so happened that I was the first person to arrive at the party. Steve was very friendly and accommodating. He offered me some beer which I politely refused. He took it sportingly. That’s one of the good things, I have observed in USA. People respect your decision to not drink. If I was back home, I am sure people would have bullied me into drinking.

I helped myself to some soda (Colddrink) and we discussed about music, hobbies etc. Steve’s roommate was Joel Ciaccio. I got along well with him too. Steve’s apartment was well furnished. It was a two bedroom apartment and as expected there were two of them living, one in each room. This was so different from the Indian mentality of accommodating as much people as possible in the space available. I am sure there would be four of us living in the same apartment.

As time went by, people started pouring in and in no time the room was full of people. We did play a drinking game which I enjoyed. I drank soda in place of alcohol. After a time, it seemed everyone was drunk and having a nice time. I made lot of friends there that night. Dan Walshaw is one of the people I met that night, with whom the friendship built over time. He volunteered to give me a ride back home. As I told Steve, I was about to leave, he hugged me and thanked me for coming. I just smiled back and mentioned, “The pleasure is all mine, Steve”

On the way back, I was speaking with Dan about how much I felt out of place in USA and this wasn’t what I expected it to be. Dan was patient and listening to everything. He then told the story about his dad, who first came to this country. His dad had no money to stay when he initially arrived, so he spent his days staying in the common lounge of his university. He worked hard over the years and now he is well off. Dan is grateful to where he is now because his dad fought through the tough times, he faced initially. His dad could have easily packed his bags and left for home but he stayed and eventually got what he wanted. Time seemed to have passed by quickly and my home had arrived. I thanked Dan for the ride and more importantly for the inspiring story of his dad.

One of the things America teaches you is to be independent. I came from a background where I was pampered every bit. I never set my foot in the kitchen, never had to worry about laundry, money. All, I did was studying. The education system in India is stressful and demands your complete attention. It is very different from the one in America where there is freedom and flexibility to pursue your interests. My transition was tough as I did not get along well with my roommates initially. It is amazing to see how I changed and became independent. America taught me to appreciate the things I took for granted; the luxury and comfort for home. I now manage my own finances, pay my rent, take care of the laundry, cook food occasionally and try to learn to do new things daily.

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 7. Got the Graduate Assistantship

Amidst all the crying and sobbing in my life, there was this great thing which gave me new hope. Ms. Mary Scott happened to know of an opening in her colleagues department for a Graduate Assistant position. Thanks to her, I applied and I got two interview calls in the same week. All this long, right before I set my foot in USA, I had been applying for Graduate Assistant positions and I had got so used to the reject messages that it was great to know that I finally got an interview call.

I had my interview with Ms. Jean Phillips and her colleagues and I was on time for it. The interview went well and I got the news within few days that I got the Graduate Assistant job. I was elated. It was just a few weeks ago that I had paid my tuition fees and now I was going to get it back and earn a stipend each week. I was grateful to God and till today I will never forget that moment. I so happened to get the Graduate Assistant job just days before the deadline for applying for tuition remission. So had I got it a week later, I would have earned a stipend per month but would not have got my tuition fees for this semester refunded. My tuition for next semester would be exempt.

The first thing I did when I got the tuition remission was book tickets to go back home. I did not have a laptop still but I wanted to book the tickets to go back home first. I used to go to the library and use the computers there to chat with my mom everyday in the morning, telling her about the good and bad things

I was sharing my office with Ms. Jacqueline O’ Keefe and from day one, we hit it off. I got along well with her. I got along well with Mr. Dave Kennedy with whom I was mainly working. I got myself introduced to everyone working in the department and was a familiar face in few days. The irony was I was doing something which I was avoiding: programming. Even when I was back home, I was specifically applying non programming Graduate Assistant positions. I could definitely program but did not enjoy it. Anyways life has strange things in store for me I guess.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 6. Moving out to a new unkown

I had found a place closer to campus. I had a look at it and liked it because I was having my own small room. It did look a bit scary but I liked it. In fact call it fate or what, I happened to be a friends place and it turned out his roommate was moving to a new place close to campus. It so happened that this guy(roommate) happened to turn up to take his stuff to the new place he was moving into and I was there. I spoke with him and decided to have a look. That is how, I stumbled across this new place close to campus.

The only thing not in favor of the room was the location of the house. It was along Adelphi road, which is considered to be unsafe. My academic term had already started and I did not have a house to live in. Bharat and other guys at home were growing impatient. It’s the worst feeling in the world, when you go back home and people are wanting to know about when you are going to leave the place. I felt angry on Bharat and other roommates at that time. However, now I realize that he was not wrong. Even I would have got impatient.

So I was all set to move into this house close to the campus. However that was not to be. I came to know that some guys living in Seven Springs village were looking for a roommate.I called up one of them and fixed up an appointment. I was supposed to met that guy on Saturday. I was supposed to move out of the place I was currently staying last week but still was there in the same place. Throughout the week, I was held up in my job and studies and I was working on all cylinders to get the place to stay but I had nothing to show to my roommates who were really impatient. Finally on Saturday morning, Bharat lost his cool and he told me to move out as soon as possible.I was almost on the verge of breakdown. I could not take it anymore. Everyday Bharat or someone would ask me about when I am going to move out and I could take it no more. I had tried but had nothing to show to them . My flaw of not taking quick decisions was exposed. I should have moved into the house in the last week and put an end to this matter. I didn’t because I was waiting for better options. I did not want to move into to an unsafe locality even though it was close to campus.

I was alone in my room in the afternoon and voices of Bharat and other roommates kept echoing in my ears. I felt ashamed and miserable. I had come to USA to study not waste time finding a place to stay close to campus. I started crying unable to control my felling of helplessness. It’s a horrible feeling when you have no options in front of you and you have to settle with the options from which you are trying to avoid. There was a knock on the door. I opened the door and it was Elvita. I had spoken to her in the morning regarding wanting a ride to go to Seven Spring to meet this guy. She happened to be God’s angel. She told me to get ready in 20 minutes. I could not believe what had happened. When I was getting ready, the guys came back in the apartment. Bala, one of my roommates, looked me in the eye and told me, “Stay back,We will adjust. ”I did not know what to say. Within a span of 5 minutes, my world had turned upside down. I told Bala I will let him know. I left my apartment feeling good. Elvita was waiting outside in the car with her mom and her friend. Her good friend, whose name I unfortunately forgot drove us to Seven springs.

I fell in love with Seven springs at first site. It looked posh and was high rise apartment complex. The guy who I was supposed to meet was Kunal. The meeting went well and I seemed all set to move in with this lad.I liked him after the first meeting. I was a bit apprehensive regarding moving into Seven springs because there were rumours floating around that there are three guys from ENTS department living in Seven Springs village, who party a lot and are looking for roommate. I was hopping that they were not the group who I had heard about because these guys were also from ENTS(Telecommunications Management) and they were living in Seven Springs. Whats worse, I had seen champagne bottle and cigarette ashes lying in the balcony of Kunal’s apartment.So I was in a dilemma now. When I look back at this, I laugh at myself. It is immature to judge someone based on whether they drink or party. However, coming from a conservative family in India had its own effects on me.

To make matters worse, I happened to know of MBA guys in the same neighborhood who were looking for a roommate. I met them and again the meeting went well. So I had three options now. I explained to Bala my situation and he told me to stay back since I had got adjusted. However, my mind kept saying to go to Seven springs because of its proximity to campus and its cool looks, which I immediately liked.

So Sunday did arrive and I informed Bharat and roommates that I will be moving out. I hugged him and thanked him for his offer of letting me stay back. I had grown close to Surya and Bala, other roommates in the number of days I had stayed with them. I also hugged them and thanked them. Last but not the least,I hugged Mohan and thanked him. I still was not sure about whether I would end up going to Seven springs or with MBA guys.

I moved in with the MBA guys primarily because I thought I would get along well with them. I liked Dhiraj, the guy who was supposed to be my potential roomie. I had met him during my first visit to the MBA guys place. On the other hand there was this option of Seven Springs village, which seemed enticing. The only flaw was I hadn’t met all the folks who lived in the apartment and I had heard some negative things regarding a particular group in Seven Springs who were on the lookout for a roommate. So at the last moment, I switched paths and decided to move in with the MBA folks. Even Mohan was surprised. The MBA guys lived just 3 blocks away from the place I was staying.

SO I moved my stuff into their place and was greeted with hot and fresh lunch. It was good speaking with them and I had this positive feeling that things would work out. Then came the acid test. I took out my book and started reading and somehow it didn’t feel right. I just wasn’t feeling good about it. I decided to go out for a walk and met Satinder.

Satinder was one of the good guys I had met on campus during the initial orientation days. He was jolly and helpful and a cool guy to hang out with. I shared my emotions with him and he just told me to be patient and do what I thought was good. Now this sounds crazy but I called up the Seven springs guy, Kunal and asked if the offer was still on and he said yes. I even got a chance to speak with the other folks living in the apartment. Besides Seven springs was much closer to campus than Greenbelt, the place where I was staying currently. I had to be true to myself. The MBA guys were great. They were probably the coolest guys I had met but I had to feel right when I was studying, which I wasn’t. Besides, there was also this option of moving to Grad Gardens or Grad Hills in next semester. I spoke with the MBA guys and they seemed cool. I spent that night at Satinder's place He was alone in his apartment since his roommates had gone out for weekend picnic. I was again greeted with warm parathas and curd. Satinder was perfect host. For the first time in USA, I was feeling good. We watched the movie, Unusual Suspects and then I dozed off.

The next day, I made arrangements to move into Seven Springs. I hugged the MBA guys and wished them good luck. I did receive some help from Elvita’s roommate in getting a cab. That was kind of her. Within few minutes, I was there in Seven Springs. This was the third place I was moving into in a span of 1 month. I knocked on the door and Anoop opened the door. I explained to him about the conversation I had with Kunal and he said it was cool to move in. I had spoken to Anoop once over the phone. He had picked up Kunal’s phone when I had tried to contact him.

I moved in my stuff and everything seemed fine. I spoke with Anoop about the plan I had to move into Grad Gardens in next semester. He seemed a bit apprehensive but he insisted that I would get adjusted by then and stay rather than move out.

As I was unpacking my bags, I started thinking about how carefully and meticulously my parents had packed my bag. As I was removing my clothes and foodstuffs, neatly sealed in double plastic bags, I thought of my mom explaining all this to me and of how I wasn’t paying attention. I started crying and USA had taught me the value of my family I took for granted. I probably have fought more with my parents than loved them but I realized the importance of things they did for me, which I used to take for granted. Seeing my cry, Anoop went into the bathroom and didn’t come out for half an hour. I guess he also became emotional. After some time, Kunal and Ajay dropped in. It was time for the acid test again. I tried reading the research paper and it went well. I was able to concentrate and be relax. I felt that I had taken the right decision.

I was very fortunate to have a boss, Ms. Mary Scott, who cared for me. I used to share my problems with her and she always gave me solutions. She was like my mother. I thought of giving one last go at Grad Gardens. So I went to the leasing office and put my name on the waiting list. I requested them to let me know if there was any possibility of getting a place to stay at the earliest. They just told me to wait. I told my roommates Kunal, Ajay and Anoop about it and they seemed to take it well. However they told me to let them know about when I was leaving within a time frame. So I was happy for the time being with new found hope of finally getting a chance to stay on campus. However time went by and I got no reply from Grad gardens. Kunal and co. were asking me about my decision everyday and they were not wrong in that. I also had the option of moving into Priya’s place, the house along Adelphi road which was my earlier choice.

I happened to miss the shuttle to go back Seven Springs on Friday. I was unaware of the shuttle timings. So I was stranded on campus not aware of what to do. I did not even know about the Metro stop. The Metro bus was the alternate ways to get back to Seven Springs but it was not free. So I strolled around in vain. I happened to bump into the MBA guys and told them about my moving out to Seven Springs. They were nice to me and I was happy that they had got a roommate. I called Raj, who stays on campus in the dorm and briefed him up about my situation. I was also thinking of staying in the house close to campus (Priya’s place). I thought of requesting him to let me stay for one night and if I liked it, I would stay there since I was growing impatient with the management at Grad gardens. I ultimately ended up staying in Raj’s dorm . He was kind enough to let me stay. My obsession to stay close to campus had taken over my mind. I had stopped thinking. I don’t know what struck me but I decide to move into Priya’s place (house on Adelphi Road) and stay there for few months until I got a call from Grad Gardens office. I had a nice time spending time in Raj’s dorm although he was not here, he had gone out for a party. There was this different environment of energy in the dorms. Students would drop by your room and you could hear someone playing the guitar in the opposite room. I got up next morning and was treated to a wonderful breakfast in dining hall by Raj. I made my way to the Metro stop and had to wait for an eternity for the bus to come. I finally did reach home to see a festive spirit going on there. The girls had come over and they had prepared some good food. Shivangi sharma, the girl from Mumbai , who everyone was speaking about, was in some shorts. I don’t know what was the point of it but just went inside my room. I was thinking of letting those guys know about my decision to move to the house along Adelphi Road. I had my shower and waited for the festivities to end. I said bye to the girls and then broke out the decision to them. Kunal didn’t seem to take it well. He started shouting and abusing me. He told me that it was stupid to change place just because you couldn’t get a shuttle back home. Everyone must adjust. You can’t get it the way you want it. I did agree to him and told that the best thing for me will be to take that option to living in the house along Adelphi Road. He got madder and questioned my integrity. He reasoned, what was the point of staying with them if I had plans to move in close to campus. Were they fools just to accommodate me for few days. He threw the phone in front of me and told me to move out immediately. I was in tears. This is the last thing I had hopped for when I embarked on my journey to USA to study. It had been a month since I had come to USA and I was moving about places with an objective to get a place to stay on campus. At the moment, my mom called on Kunal’s cell phone. I had given mom details about Kunal’s cell no. and informed her about my decision of moving in with him. I broke down while speaking with my mom and told her that I didn’t like it here. My mom was also crying. I hung up. I called Priya, the guy who was living in the house along Adelphi road but he didn’t pick up. So I left a voice message for him. After a few minutes, I got a call from Charu aunty, telling me to cool down and try to adjust. I just said yes and hung up. Few minutes later, Maushmi called and started bashing me. She told me that my mother was crying when she spoke to Charu aunty about my situation. She told she never expected this from me. She told that it is impossible to get a perfect roommate and you have to adjust. People would think that I am crazy seeing the rate at which I was changing places. I said yes to her but told her that I had to move out since Kunal’s words had done the damage and I couldn’t imagine living here for a long time. She told me to get adjusted.

Later on, Kunal came in my room and told me to seriously consider the option of going back home. He told me that it wasn’t that late and it’s not a bad idea to go back home to India. For a moment, I thought that was the best thing to do but then something within me, told me that it would be running away from the problem. I slept that night praying that things would work out with Priya and I would move in there.

I got up next morning with hope and faith that it would be all over. I went to Kunal’s room to only hear him say that Priya had called and that the room had been taken. I almost broke down at that moment. All doors were shut for me. I again started crying. My situation became so miserable that I called back Mohan, to ask if they could accommodate me. I didn’t even spare the MBA guys. I had put myself in a situation where the only way out was to stay with these folks and that was the last thing I wanted to do. I thought about the Tamil guys. They were nice. I was foolish to take a rash decision and leave them just because I felt out of place. I was in tears and was starring at the option of living with folks; I didn’t want to live with.

I realized that it was listening to my mind that fucked me. I was so blinded by the proposition of staying close to campus that I did not know that pain I was causing so many people indirectly. I didn’t cheat anyone. I just wanted to be in environment conducive to studying but instead of adapting and making the environment conducive, I fucked it off and kept on moving places. I learned my lesson the hard way. USA had striped me naked, exposed my flaws, my poor decision making skills and I learned my lesson to not give in to the mind. Kunal was not wrong with whatever he said. It’s just that like my father he had a way of putting things that can be annoying.

In the evening, I apologized to them and requested them to let me stay. In the days to come, things seemed to get along well. There were instances where, I just wasn’t feeling good but tried to put on a smiling face. I also was not that good at cooking. In fact I did not know to cook. So I always used to need a person, to stand by me to help me cook. We used to have cooking turns and I was the bunny at the dinning table being criticized for my inability to cook and other things they claimed to have heard about me.

There were times, when I used to breakdown and cry my heart out to my mom while chatting to her. Being close to the campus did not seem worth it. I was happy with the Tamil guys. They were nice to me. I had problems initially but the desire or should I say obsession to be close to campus drove me like a fool searching for places forgetting to keep track of the most important thing: peace of mind. I just had lost it. I used to have altercations every alternate night and wondered why I had given in to the mind. Its funny but had I been in home, I would have never learn t about this. America had uncovered the flaws in my character and I had learn t a valuable lesson: Never give in to the mind. It might not always the right thing to do.

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 5. First day on campus and uncertain housing situation

I was excited for my first official visit to my campus.It was a weird feeling to get up in the morning and having to prepare my own breakfast. I was so used to being woken up by my mom and having the awesome tea, which my grand mother used to make ready to be indulged into.I arrived on campus taking the university shuttle, which was free:-).The shuttle ride from Greenbelt to the campus was long but interesting. As usual there were a lot of Indians in the shuttle bus and Americans looked like outsiders :-). As i was seeing the new streets, malls,I felt a like a small baby observing things when they start seeing things for the first time. My objective for that day was to secure an on campus job. Mohan was also hunting for a job, so I was not alone. I went to the international admissions office, where I was given a map of the campus. I had no idea which places on campus to go to apply for job. I just knew names of few places and searched for them on map and went to these places first. I went to the copy shop and printed out some copies of my resume and went about my job search. I basically walked throughout the campus, dropping in my resume at places which came along the path. Time just flew by and I was at home by evening. Day 1 had yielded nothing substantial but I had made an attempt. I was hearing news of most of the folks who had come from Mumbai and other parts of India for the fall semester had got jobs. Getting a job was the most important thing, being an international student. I had come to USA with thousand dollars and did not want to tax my parents for rent money. I wanted to be independent and start paying my own rent and other expenses.

I carried on doing the same thing for the remaining days but with no result. The good thing was that the shuttle service was free. However there was no shuttle service on weekends which sucked big time.

As days passed by, situation became tougher for me. I was not comfortable with the folks with whom I was living and I had no job. I spoke with Bharat about my uneasiness and revealed to him my intentions of moving out. He took it well. So now, I had two tasks to do:to search for a job and an apartment to live. A week passed by and I was going nowhere in my quest to find an apartment. Bharat and my other roommates were also growing impatient. I was trying but all my efforts were in vain.

I did speak to Raj about this and he did help me. However that gain lead to a dead end. I realized how stupid I was by not having thought of housing before coming to USA.This was not home where, food would be served to you and you just had to study. This was a world where you had to be independent and learn to adapt and adjust to the lifestyles of your roommates. It took me a while to realize that. In the mean time, I did end up getting my first job on campus.

I got my first job in the Performing arts Library in the University of Maryland, College Park.I was being paid a mere 7$ per hour but I was earning at least something. My boss was Ms. Mary Scott. She was a lady in her mid 40s who dressed up casually to work. She was very cool to work with. She often would stand by me and other students who worked under her and make things simpler. I remember after the interview, she said, “I know you deserve a much better job, given your qualifications but you can work here and we are happy to have you on board.” This concept of working along with studying was new to me. In India, as students, our only job was to study thanks to the curriculum.

I made a lot of friends on job. The best part was most of them were American. Mohan also worked in the Performing arts Library. In fact he had recommended me this place to try for job.

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 4. Moving into the new place

Raj and Jaimin were to give me a ride to my new place. They seemed to be more than eager to drop me off. Before leaving, I called up Raj to the main room. I bowed down in front of Lord Ganesha’s idol and told him to bow down in front of Lord Ganesha’s idol whenever he was in trouble and needed help. I told him that I prayed for his success and that he will become a good doctor. He was happy. I don’t know if he took me seriously but I did what I wanted to do. Jaimin and Raj were using Mapquest to get to the location and within 30 minutes, I was there. Mohan opened the door and I greeted him. Jaimin and Raj helped me with shifting the luggage in my new apartment. The apartment seemed cozy. Jaimin and Raj even mingled with Mohan for some time. I walked with them to the car and bid them GoodBye. I ideally would have loved to stay with Raj since he was also going to the same college where I was going, but that was not to be. If Raj was to come to India to study, in the same college where I was going to study, then I would have definitely stayed with him. Raj had planned to stay in the dorms which are on campus and meant for undergraduates.

As the car disappeared into the background, I stood there waving my hand, recollecting all the wonderful times I had with the Parekh family. As I walked towards my apartment, I saw some folks from my college in India. It turned out that Elvita was from my undergraduate college and was my neighbor. Elvita had come to Maryland immediately after getting her bachelor’s degree. I joined her in her apartment and it was sort of reunion of old folks. Guys from my college had come to meet her and they were all celebrating Brincely’s birthday. I never spoke to him when I was in college but what the hell, its never too late. I had a nice time talking with all of them. They asked me all sort of weird questions regarding my teaching experience in St. Francis, my engineering college in India. Finally the cake was cut and I enjoyed every bit of the cake slice which was given to me. The guys decided to take a nap. I again wished Brincely a happy birthday, thanked Elvita for the invite and headed to my apartment.

Mohan seemed to be a nice guy. He looked a bit confused at times. I met my third roommate, Bharat. He was loud character. He started narrating his exploits of previous night. He told us that had gone clubbing and had a nice time. I just sat there listening to him with a smile on my face. Mohan told me the split up of rent and I seemed cool with it. I went to my room and it seemed deserted. It was difficult for me to make the transition from living in a mansion with all possible luxuries at your reach to a room where there was nothing. I smiled and put my luggage in the closet. I lay there on the bare ground thinking about home, my parents pampering me, my granny telling me to take bath and suddenly someone started shaking me. I opened my eyes and Mohan stared at me. He told me that they were going to a friends place and invited me to join them. I was more than happy to explore and keep my mind occupied. After watching a few blocks, we arrived at an apartment. It seemed well furnished with sofa’s and TV. I got hold of a laptop and started typing an email to my parents. The occupants of the room were hard core tamil guys. It was fun watching them converse and the comfort level they enjoyed. I somehow was feeling out of place. This was something I had not considered. This was my first outing from away from home and here I was among a bunch of people from different community. It was stupid of me to think that way and I laugh about it when I think about it even today. I guess it was immature of me to think that way but that’s the way things went.

I met Deepak, who was wearing lungi. It was amusing to see someone so young wear a lungi. I came from Mumbai where we normally wore three fourths or shorts. Deepak was nice person to talk. He offered me coffee to drink. Later on Rajesh joined us in the hall and he turned out to be a Simpsons fan. Fortunately, Simpsons was being played on one of the channels and I enjoyed watching it. It was fun! We had sambhar rice as dinner. They got it from nearby temple. I slept that night on the bare floor eagerly waiting for my first day in college.