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.