Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Rohit's American Adevnture:Prologue

It all started when I was in my third year (junior) of engineering. I was feed up with life and not satisfied with my grades. I used to come across the word GRE a number of times during the day and never paid that much attention to it. I had attended a seminar organized by our college to guide or rather say, warn us against giving GRE while we were doing engineering. They claimed it had disastrous impact on studies and even cited instances where some students had to come from USA to appear for their backlogs. The students refused to accept that and somehow I felt that seminar made them more determined to give GRE along with engineering exams, so that they could set off to USA for grad studies, the moment they were done with their undergraduate studies in India.

I didn’t care a damn for what they did for I had my own set of problems to solve. I just wanted to finish engineering. Strange it may seem, but two months later, I was in one of the offices of GRE coaching classes, going through their brochures. I had no clue what I was doing there. Why did I wanted to go to US? Was I going to commit the same mistake I did three years ago of joining engineering just because everyone was joining it? Was it the conventional way out? In a way, yes. My two cousin brothers and sister had gone to USA for their further studies. So that was enough to convince my parents that I would be capable of doing that. I don’t blame them for they wanted their son to get the best of facilities but did they never asked what did I want to do? However, it was a good decision. Had it not been for my parents decision, I would not have been able to come to USA and write this book. So, I owe them big time. I have experienced life in a different way, which I had not even imagine of experiencing. However, I was able to get these unique experiences because of my decision to have an open mind, move out of my comfort zone and mingle with people.You will Read about it later on in the book. Anyways, getting back to the chapter.

I too played an equally important part in this decision to go for GRE. One of my classmates, Shradha Satpute had confided and advised me that further education was the only way out. She cited examples of her friends who were working in companies and were made to work rigorously by their employees for the pay they were getting. The only way out was further studies in USA.

So that was it. Within few weeks, I started attending classes. It was funny to attend 1 hour classes as I had been accustomed to 3-4 hour classes in engineering coaching classes. However, there was this charisma and flair which Mr. K.P. Singh had, which made the lectures great. Mr. K.P. Singh taught us vocabulary for GRE and was the main guy who ran IMFS. To be frank, he was worth the hype. His assistant Mr. Parvinder was a total contrast to Mr. K.P. Singh in terms of flair. He was excellent in his work but very reserved. They made a good team and had a good support staff.

When I entered my final year, a bomb fell on my head, which shattered my whole self just like the buildings that blew when the aliens passed their laser beams through them in Independence Day. I got stung very badly by my first taste of failure and it took me time, good sources of inspiration, some few friends to help me come out of it. When I was going through that bad patch, forget going to USA, completing engineering seemed impossible. I was short of confidence and doubting my ability. Sometimes when I look back, I feel great that I made it through that bad patch for nothing gets worse than doubting your own abilities, in life.

I did pull myself up, geared myself with self confidence, belief and faith in Almighty. I eventually did well and stood there with my head held high for I had worked my heart out and defeated the depression, negative thinking within me. The memories of the last day of my engineering exams are still fresh in my mind. It was an awesome feeling to leave the examination hall having given the last engineering exam of my life.

On the eve of my TOEFL exam, I was nervous.TOEFL is a test of proficiency in English language which all international students are required to take when applying to USA for further studies. It was my first date with Computer Based Test (CBT) test format. I wanted to nail the test because this was something I was good at. I heard instances where people who couldn’t speak English, who hadn’t written an original essay in their lives, score 280 plus marks in TOEFL.I made it to the center half an hour before time and was anxious to get the TOEFL thing done. It took me approximate 45 minutes to get through all the formalities and finally I was all set for the test. I got through the test and was heart broken when I saw my marks range 230-267 out of 300. I walked out dejected, trying to hold myself emotionally. It hurts a lot when you fail in things; you love to do the most. It took one telephonic conversation with Krishna doda (my aunty) to return to earth. She told the TOEFL score wasn’t as important as the GRE score and now I had to focus on GRE.

I had taken a date for GRE at my friend Ambarish’s place when I was in engineering.. Eventually I did fall short of time and I had to postpone my exams. I was sort of weak in the Quantative part of GRE.I used to feel embarrassed when my friends would finish the questions given by our quant teacher before I could finish. What’s worse it would take two to three iterations of explanations, from my friends to explain the logic they have used in the quant problems. I was working hard no doubt but somewhere I thought I didn’t have the knack of doing quant problems in less space of time. It’s like I have a knack for writing. I can write on any topic in a few minutes and it comes naturally for me and I am sure that my quant expert friends won’t be that good at it.

The weeks that lead to GRE were emotionally taxing for me. I used to work my heart out but somehow the marks I was getting in simulation tests said a different story. I used to cheer myself up and start working again for I knew that I could pull this off. I even counseled a friend of mine, who was facing similar problems in the simulation tests. News had spread with a few days leading to the GRE, that the quant section had become tough. I kept my cool and kept working hard.

On the day of the GRE exam, my new driver seemed to loose his way to the GRE center. That didn’t make things better. Eventually I did get there on time. I gave my GRE with a positive frame of mind, being prepared for whatever came my way. I was proud of myself because I had worked hard. I got an essay in the extra section and was happy. Finally the window came up, do u wish to see your score?. And I pressed yes. No way, was I going to do this all over again. I just got a glimpse of my marks and pressed next. It was only after that I was on my way home, I started thinking, did I get 1220 or 1120? This sounds stupid but this is what happened. I was so unattached to the result that the marks didn’t matter to me. I had worked hard and enjoyed giving the exam, which was more important to me.

I tried to forget about it since I couldn’t do anything about it. I started attending these university fairs and trust me they were helpful. I always loved going to town side and most of these seminars were in town side which was great for me. I normally used to go alone and didn’t wait for my friends to come. Most of my friends were happy with what their counselor was doing for them. I too had a counselor but was curious and wanted to know more. One of the first seminars I had attended was a seminar by a consultancy firm called, The Great Circle. It was a short and sweet seminar and gave me a head start towards this goal of doing further studies. The question answer session was very helpful.

The first time, I have been to Hilton Towers, a luxury hotel, was for a seminar for further studies in USA, organized by Linden Tours. It was a great eye opener and a great experience. Lots of students had come accompanied by their parents and the ambiance resembled that of a fish market with the only difference everyone was speaking English. I normally went to the stalls, which were least crowded, took the brochure, inquired about the university, my chances of getting in that university and moved on. It was a wonderful experience. I also came in touch with a guy, who was planning to do his masters in aerospace engineering. I came to know of his story so far and told him mine. We exchanged our email ids and the funny part is, never sent or received an email from each other.

I was also fancying going to Australia and even went to IDP, a center set up by the Australian board to counsel students interested in applying to universities in Australia. I meet up with a girl there, whose name I can’t remember. I did have an interesting bit of conversation with her. At home, Dad seemed to repel everything except USA as a destination country for further studies. He had his own views and I don’t want to discuss that. However, in due course I did realize that USA was the best country to pursue further studies and I do give credit to my dad for his stand on USA.

In midst of these seminars I was attending, my consultants were doing their job. They had already short listed ten universities for me. I had different plans. I was doing my own research and exploring universities and the courses they were offering. Every session, I used to have with my consultant, I used to come up with new names of universities and this drove him nuts. Finally after much deliberation, I had short listed my eight universities. I had not included the hot favorite of all consultants, USC (University of Southern California), because they offered no funding to masters students. All their funding was directed at PhD students. So there was no point applying there, if I wasn’t going to get any funding. Mind you, USC is a good college but not something my parents could have afforded and I was not keen on applying to colleges where there was a less probability of getting funding.

There was this thing of getting the engineering mark sheets attested from the Mumbai University office near Churchgate metro station. I loved going to town side, so was up for it. I always dreamed to going to town with my girlfriend and having fun the entire day and spending time at the marine drive in the evening. That dream still remains a dream. Anyways, so this Mumbai University office had this really stupid rule of a maximum of 5 sets of mark sheets could be given to the University at a time and the next set could be submitted in the next 15 days. So, I needed 20 sets of mark sheets and that meant two months just for that. So I did try to twist the rule and was caught once for submitting two sets in the same day (my mom had submitted one set in the morning). I was lucky to escape that situation since I apologized immediately. Apart from the mark sheets, the transcripts and Letters of Recommendation were obtained from college, without much trouble. I was also thinking of getting my mark sheets getting attested from the college but my counselor had strongly suggested me to get it done from Mumbai University, since the US universities don’t recognize St. Francis Institute of Technology but they do recognize Mumbai University.

The Statement of Purpose (SOP) was the fun part. I really enjoyed drafting it and worked on the framework of SOP provided by my consultant. I had got a SOP from my consultant but wanted to make it better, so worked on it, until I was satisfied.I did not have a job, in the middle of all this running around for transcripts and stuff. There was an off campus recruitment drive by TCS ( Tata consultancy services). I had applied for it and I got through after a series of technical and HR interviews. So I had a job in TCS, which was great. I had planned of working for six months in TCS (Jan –June) and the leaving in July for US for my further studies. However, things never seem to go as per plan in my life. I celebrated Diwali, a popular festival, with my family, realizing that next year, I will be in USA and this will be the last Diwali (at least for a couple of years). So I involved myself in traditional activities of decorating the house, preparing sweets and enjoyed it.

By the third week of December, 19th December to be precise, I had sent all my application packets to my respective universities. It was a liberating feeling to see the packets sealed and being taken by the DHL guy from my consultant’s office. I had got the joining date of 3rd March for TCS.There was no point joining TCS for three months and leaving it. Besides they had a two year bond agreement. So was seriously considering of working in call center for six months.

There was a walk in interview for post of lecturer in my college and I was the first person to reach and be interviewed. The interview was short and to the point. I made it clear that I would be there for six months, since I had plans for my further studies and would like to teach Project Management since it was related to my chosen field of further studies. Guess what, I did get the job. I really didn’t fancy the idea of teaching people whom I knew. However, teaching was one of the few things I was good at. So, it was time to test my skills. I had to wear formal attire, something I had never worn in four years of my engineering. The first lecture was fun. For a moment, the students didn’t believe that I was their teacher. They were just moving around but then when I started speaking, things became better. I did my job sincerely and was determined to produce results. The six months from Dec 05 to June 06 were the best six months of my life. There were days where I was mad with attitude of students and there were days where I was happy.

The transition to a teacher was a success. I was not the best but I was sincere in my work and the students appreciated that. In the midst of teaching, I had informed all the universities, where I had applied about my job as a lecturer in a engineering college. I got my first letter of admit from Syracuse university, which also was the first university I had applied online. Eventually, I ended up getting seven admits out of eight universities, I had applied to, which was cool. I had got a reject from TAMU (Texas A&M University @ College station), which is regarded as one of the top colleges for MIS (Management Information Systems). I was a bit disheartened but was keen on getting in UMCP (University of Maryland College Park). This was the last college I had got an admit from and boy was I happy. However my happiness was short lived as I had heard a lot of negative feedback from students regarding UMCP. So it was like I had got what I finally wanted but was not satisfied. Suddenly Syracuse emerged as the front runner from no where. It took me a good counseling session from K.P.Singh, my consultant, to clear the confusion and help me choose my university. I finally went for UMCP. K.P. Singh Sir told me “no matter how well I teach, there will be some people who will bitch about me and there will be some who say I am great. The important thing here is to take the opinion of the majority and in my case by God’s grace, it is good. So don’t give attention to the negative reviews. UMCP is too big a thing to be missed out on” These words made me feel better and happy. So I was heading for UMCP.

The last day of my teaching contract was 23rd June and I was called to give a farewell speech to final year students(seniors) on 24th June. I gave a short speech and it will remain one of those special speeches for me. The speech was well received and I was happy. I became nostalgic going back in time by 1 year and seeing myself as one of them. Who would have thought that I would end up teaching in the same college, I graduated from and head for US??I just smiled and danced with the students that night. I did many wonderful things in due course of my short tenure as a lecturer. I took part in our annual festival IRIS, stayed up all night with the students in the college helping them decorate the stage, shot the rock show on my handycam the next day, took exams, motivated students, supervised exams, played Cricket with students, gave permission to students to play games at times in my lab. These are things I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Finally the D day did arrive. 11th July, was the day of my visa interview. This is it, it can’t get bigger than this. I had taken the bus service by VFS, so was taken all the way to the US embassy. After security check, I was given a token. I waited for my number to be called. I could hear announcements being made in Gujrati language. I tried to keep my cool and tried to relax. Finally after 45 minutes, my number was called. I waited patiently in the line. I reminded myself, enter with a smile and greet the Visa Officer. The student before me, had his visa rejected. I could see the passport in his hand. Anyways, I entered with a smile and greeted the Visa Officer. He smiled back at me. I gave him the pink token. He asked me, “Which School will you be studying in University of Maryland”. I told him the name of the school, where I had got admission to. Then he asked me questions, “Why did you choose the University of Maryland?, Which subjects will you be studying?” I answered these questions confidently. Finally he asked, “Who is going to finance your studies?” I gave a convincing reply and then came the golden words,” Okay Mr. Bangera, you will get your passport in two days”. I was relieved. He passed over my I20 through the window. I asked the stupid question,” Should I take it?” anyways, I took it and rushed outside the consulate after giving the wooden token to the security guard. I meet few students who had got the visa and they were happy. This was the first time in my life, I was genuinely happy. One of the students was so happy that he even forgot where he lived, when I asked him about his residence. I got down from the bus, which took us back to the VFS centre. I entered the common waiting room. I spotted my mom. I told her, I got the visa. Her face was lit up. We rushed outside. My mom kissed me on my cheek. She called up dad and told her about the good news. We went to Mahalaxmi temple and prayed. I stood there starring at the sea waves from the temple, thanking God from the bottom of my heart. I realized the importance of getting a visa and couldn’t imagine what it would be if I would have not got the visa. So I was genuinely happy. We informed all our friends, family members about the good news. In the evening, I went with my mom to Vazeera temple in Borivali. That day, I had insisting on traveling by rickshaw. When we came home, we came to know of bomb blasts in local trains. One of the blasts had also taken place at Borivali. So had we not taken the rickshaw and decided to board the train, it could have been us. I was happy in the morning but was sad at the end of the day because so many innocent people had lost their lives for no fault of theirs. I couldn’t imagine what was going through the minds of students who had their visa interview scheduled the next day. After a few days, I came to know four students got their visa rejected flat on the next day after the train bomb blasts.

After the visa interview, time just flew. I thanked my consultant for their help and guidance. I was on the lookout for tickets now. I had called up a travel agent, who told me it was extremely difficult to get tickets in the first week of August. Finally I did manage to get tickets for the 9th Aug by British airways. Once the tickets were booked, I had to start shopping. In the meantime, my brother’s tenth standard results had come out and he had got admission in Thakur college, Kandivili.I meet Minal, one of my long lost friends after a long hiatus at CafĂ© Coffee Day, which was turning out to be my favorite hangout place. We decided to meet when Minal’s engineering results would be out. He had promised to introduce me to his girlfriend.

Well Shopping started with a big bang. The initial visit to Inorbit mall didn’t yield in any purchase but raised questions regarding type of clothes to be purchased that will survive in US.I ended up purchasing three DVD’s out of which only one seemed to work and the other two didn’t do justice to the word DVD.So on a lazy Sunday afternoon, we decided to break the shackles and embark on our shopping spree. I didn’t want Dad to accompany us because then I would be reduced to a puppet, which would be standing there, while dad purchased the clothes for me. I went to Shoppers Stop( a popular shopping store) with my mom. Shoppers stop is a very posh place to shop and the last place on earth I would like to go but I was going to USA, so rules had to be bent. After strolling in the clothes section for an hour, finally I decided to purchase T shirts because I was getting an awesome jacket free with purchase of 4 shirts. What started with 4 shirts extended to trousers, shirts and we had a bill of Rs. 7,500 /- We were happy because we had purchased quality stuff and in the bargain got some pretty awesome free stuff. The final verdict was given by Papa the great, who was happy with the clothes we had purchased.

The next day, we had to purchase jeans, so we (mom and I) went to Borivali. We accidentally came across this mall, Shop en route on our path to Spykar jeans sale. Again we had come for jeans but ended up purchasing jeans, shirts, trousers and the bill came to 3,000 odd. Guess what, we again got a gift of a trip to a local place of our choice. So everyone was happy at the end of the day! Well, the shopping extravaganza continued for the days to come, in which the most memorable for all the wrong reasons was buying the woodland shoe, on which the sales guy told was a 50% sale and it was only after signing on the credit card bill, that we came to know there was only 10% sale on it…so that was bad…but got over it fast

Slowly but steadily days were running out and every morning I got up, I prayed to God that these would be the longest days of my life. My flight tickets had arrived for 9th August, 06. I was in talks with mom to delay my flight but there was no point since today or tomorrow I had to go. Mom, dad did most of the packing and I preferred to stay out of it because I think three of us would mess it up and I didn’t get along that well with dad.

The engineering results were out and I received Minal’s call. So we decided to go out for a movie. We had planned to go for 'go carting' but thanks to the cloudy weather, we changed plans. We choose to stick to the conventional mall outing. I wanted to meet his girlfriend since it was she who had brought us together, when both of us had stopped talking. I wanted to watch, ‘Lady in the Water’ but the bad reviews didn’t help. So we went for this hindi movie,’Yuh hota toh Kya Hota’. It was not that bad a movie. The biggest surprise was 10 minutes into the movie…two girls walked into the movie hall, where we were seated and Minal told me,”Here she comes”. He was so excited. In the movie interval, I finally met Ami, Minal’s girlfriend and I was happy for him. Ami was a typical Gujrati girl with a fair complexion but she was different from the other girls I had known. She was smart and carried herself well. Ami was accompanied by her friend Pooja, who was as thin as a toothpick. After the movie got over, all four of us wandered around in the mall for some time discussing what to eat. Finally we found a place to sit and decided to have coffee. I had a wonderful time that night speaking with Minal, Ami, Pooja. This was so much better than going alone for the movies. Ami had to leave for some reason and Pooja left with her. After a long time, I spent time with Minal. Memories of old college days came back in my mind, where we used to go out together for movies and do lots of stuff. I just didn’t want time to move. We went to different shops in the malls. I insisted checking out the Planet M store, where you got CD and DVD’s and Minal agreed. Minal had developed a craze for horror movies off lately and was buying every horror VCD he got his hands on. Finally, the evening ended with me saying, ’Thank You’ to him, after getting down from his car. We had made plans to meet later but they didn’t materialize. I will always remember that evening as one of the most memorable evenings of my life, when I meet Ami, Pooja and had a great time with Minal.

When Saturday arrived, I knew this was the last weekend and was getting very emotional. I went out with my friends for a late night show of the movie, ’Omkara’ and for a change, the movie was good. We hung around after the movie, went to a friends place, ate Pav Bhaji at 3:30 a.m. in the morning. It was funny the kind of advice Amar Khanda was giving me, regarding informing him if I would loose my virginity, about social life and stuff. I guess the best advice came from Kalpesh, who told me to have a user id of a female and get in touch with my brother and screw him. I had the best night out with friends I had met just a year before. I had never thought I would bond that well with them but all of us had become close. It was ironical, I had the best friends for the first time in my life and I was heading to USA.

Come Sunday, I had decided that I would go to town side. I always loved town side, even if I went alone. There was this aura that town side had; the people, there was lot of energy, which attracted me to town side. I also loved watching movies in town side theatre and hopped that some day I would bump into a gorgeous girl and have a good relation. The other highlight of town side was Marine drive. It is one of the most beautiful places on world for me. Its an awesome feeling when you walk hand in hand with the person you love, facing the horizon with the sun setting and the sound of the waves beating against the rocks. My parents played spoilsport and told me that I could go to town side only in my car and not by train. That was being so over protective. They wanted me to avoid the trains in wake the bomb blasts that had taken place in the trains.

I was so screwed up till afternoon and when I finally decided to go after negotiating with my parents, the weather screwed it up for me. So when my parents came back home in the evening, they were surprised to see me at home. Dad formulated another master plan and we had to accept it. We went to Dadar to purchase my undergarments and other stuff from a place where you get stuff at wholesale rates. After that, we went to Siddhivinayak temple, which was very emotionally satisfying. One of the best things about Siddhivinayak temple is that everything is very organized and it takes 30- 45 minutes to get a darshan. On Tuesdays, it takes 3-4 hours to get a darshan. Since it was Sunday, we had a quick and wonderful darshan. On our way back, Dad was insisting on visiting a shop from where mom and dad used to purchase clothes for me, when I was a kid. We did find that shop and guess what the shopkeeper recognized my parents. Guess what my parents had only planned to purchase bermuda’s(khaki's) from there and ended up buying everything; right from kurta’s, nightsuits to formal shirts and warm clothes. What the hell, my parents were happy and I was happy too. On our way back, we stopped by another temple. I prayed to God hoping everything fell in place. We also saw police(cops) taking a dead body of a person with his blood leaving a trail to his body from the windows of our car. I was happy when we finally reached home.
I rushed to Kalpesh’s place to get a DVD rom and saw Band of Brothers part 9 that night. This was a pretty eventful Sunday where everyone was happy at the end of the day.In the days to come, shopping consumed the bulk of my time.

When I saw Band of Brothers part 10 with my brother, I felt great. I wasn’t too much into war movies but had feel in love with the Band of Brothers series. When the credits rolled, I felt happy and at the same time sad. I thought of the different phases in life I was going through when I saw different episodes of Band of Brothers. I had seen the first three parts in one go. Later on, I used to see them one at a time. Then there was a long break and after a lot of effort I finally got hold of Band of Brothers DVD to see the last two parts.

With just a few days left to go, I had one last outing with Hakim, one of my other good college friends. We met at Inorbit mall, the same place where I had met Minal. We went for this movie, ‘The world’s fastest Indian’. I also happened to meet my student Pauline at the theatre. She was one of those girls who looked Chinese but refuted all claims that she was one. She had come with her friend from the call centre. When I entered the cinema hall, it was empty. It seemed like it was a private screening. This just went to show how multiplexes were burning a hole in their own pocket by having exorbitant ticket rates and with dvd rips available on the internet, who would want to spend so much money and watch it in the theatre. The movie was good and I enjoyed it. Hakim had got a gift for me. It was unusual but he gave it from the heart. It was a pack of 5 CD’s containing songs, mp3’s and other stuff which I will not mention wrapped in a custom made cover painted in black. We spent the rest of the evening fooling around. We went to stores in the malls and saw some hot chicks and one of them even came near us. So that was fun. We took some pictures later on and since Hakim had brought his car went on a short drive. We parked at one place and started talking about how our friendship had evolved, how it had survived tough times, how we had evolved as people since the first time we had meet and what future had in store for us? Hakim had got admitted to a university in UK and I was happy for him. So he was also about to leave India after a month. I didn’t want the evening to end. I just wanted to keep on speaking. However all good things come to an end. Hakim got a call from his dad and he had to leave. Mumbai is a totally different city at night. It has its own feel. I was kind of feeling emotional when I was seeing the city I had fallen in love with through the window of my bus. I loved Mumbai so much that I criticized it to extreme limits but at the end of the day, it was the place where I was born and brought up in and it will always be a special place for me.

I went to Gokuldham temple next day with my mother. Gokuldham is a wonderful temple located in goregaon. Idols of all deities are there in Gokuldham temple. We were fortunate to have arti of Lord Balaji. I felt nice visiting the temple. I went to see this movie, Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man’s chest and loved it. On my way back, I met Shailesh Bhai, a very popular person in my locality. He was very impressed on hearing my plans for America and insisted that I stick to it. He told me how he regretted coming back from abroad. He had been to Russia and 5 days down the line, he broke down on hearing his daughters voice on the phone asking him to come back. He also said how emotional his father was. His father used to go his sister’s place and cry everyday. His sister finally informed him about his father. He was emotionally broken and had also fell sick in Russia. He had trouble communicating his problems with the doctors in Russia and ultimately came back to India. He looked into my eye and said he regrets his decision till date. He thought he would have been better off today, had he been there in Russia for at least a year and done some business. Well, his story just ended when I was near the entrance of my building. He shook my hand and told me to go to USA and do well.

I was sick the last weekend before leaving to USA. So was confined to the four walls of my home. I spoke with almost all my relatives on phone because it was impossible to visit everyone in such a short time frame. On Sunday, I went to Amar’s place to get some movies. I had an interesting conversation with him regarding movies and future goals. I enjoyed every bit of it. Amar was a nice guy and I seemed to get along with him well more than any one else in our group who used to play in the basement of his building. I hugged him one last time and left. In the evening, it was raining heavily but I wanted to visit Anu madam, one of my favorite teachers before leaving. So I went with my mom to her house and had a nice time. My mom got along well with her and they started speaking in Tulu language.

The last two days passed by quickly. Till the day of my departure, we were still going around shopping for things. I did do a goof up, which I regret. I had come home totally drenched in rain water. I handed over my wet jeans to mom, to put it out for drying. I had forgotten that there was mom’s cell phone in my jeans pocket. So when my mom, put my jeans out of the window for drying, my mom’s mobile fell down from the fifth floor and banged right into the ground. When my mom brought the phone back home, it had done well to survive such a fall. I had pictured it breaking into pieces but it was intact. The display of the phone had gone and we couldn’t hear what the person was speaking on receiving a call, thereby the phone was completely useless now.

So, finally I took my shower in my beloved bathroom, used my toilet for the last time in India. I loved the toilet in my house. I didn’t fear eating anything because of the toilet I had in my house. Anyways, moving on, I put on my clothes, prayed to God along with entire family, took everyone’s blessing. I ate idly chhatni before leaving, one of the many things which Grandma prepared and I really liked it the most. So everything was in place. My friend Swapnil dropped in at the eleventh hour at my house to come to the airport to see me off. I was happy. We had a small photo session below our building. I gave some money to our watchman. We had arranged a Qualis (huge van) so that everyone could come to the airport. I sat in the Qualis, along with Swapnil, dad and Asit uncle, our neighbor. My grandma, mom, Vivek and Sangita aunty were coming in our Santro car. When the engine started roaring, it was time to bid adieu to my home for 18 years. In a few minutes we were on our way. My friends were coming in a maruti car to see me off. Hakim was also expected. Minal couldn’t make it because he was tired. He did send an SMS to me which was cool. Along the way, I got a call and guess what, whose call was it?? It was Ashmi Turakhia, the girl I had been talking to online for the past 4 months. I was surprised to get her call and ended the call quick.

Finally I was there at the airport. We reached at the wrong gate first. We had to take a turn and go to the opposite gate. Once I reached my gate, everything went in fast forward mode. Asit uncle helped me unload my baggage and I was on my own. I hugged my grandma and moved on. I saw Shradha and Kiran on my way to the gate. Tusshar and Rajan, my college friends had come to see Shradha off, so it was good to see them.

I passed the cops with my passport wallet in my hand and within a few minutes I was in a queue to check in my baggage. There was some problem with my cabin baggage. It didn’t fit in the British airways specification. There was total mayhem for some time in my mind. One of the airport helpers helped me out. He took me to a bag store where I had to purchase a new cabin bag. Luckily, my brother’s cell phone was still there in my pocket and so I called Dad and mom was there outside the gate with the cash in her hand. I purchased the new bag for Rs.2000/- very expensive but had no option, transferred my clothes and stuff into the new bag and went out to give the old bag. I gave the old bag to mom and in the crowd outside, I saw my friends Amar Kandha, Kalpesh, Vicky, Hitesh waving to me. I also saw my grandma, stick out a hand out of the crowd and I took her hand in my hand and she kissed my hand. I didn’t want to leave that instant but had to. On the baggage checking counter, I was so nervous that I forgot my passport there. The person at the counter was kind enough to let me know about my passport and told,” Boss why are you nervous? Don’t loose your passport, it’s your identity “ I thanked him and smiled back at him. Then I headed to the immigration check in counter with my phone constantly ringing. I had planned of finishing all the formalities and then coming out of the airport and spending time with my friends and family. After the Immigration check, I found that I couldn’t go out now. So I called up Dad and told him. He told me to keep the phone and get a new one for Vivek. My friends also called and wished me good luck. Amar Khanda told me to look out for a Pakistani girl for him. Kalpesh was jokingly asking if he should come in there at the Immigration counter. Hakim wished me luck and told me he had given the sweets and farewell card to my mother. After all the checking, it was time to board the plane. Vicky called me one last time wishing me luck. Amar Khanda took over the call from Vicky and told all of them were at Juhu beach. I abused them on the phone and told them to have a good time. Finally when I was seated in my seat in the plane, all the efforts I had undertaken for going to USA flashed in my mind; appearing for GRE, TOEFL, attending university fairs, short listing colleges, sending application packets, Letter of admit, visa interview, last few days with family and friends. The plane was gaining momentum and was moving fast and in a few minutes, it was up in the air. I saw the aerial view of Juhu beach from the window in the plane and imagined being there with my friends. Slowly Mumbai disappeared in clouds and I was on my way to America!!!