Sunday, October 5, 2008

Rohit's American Adventure:Chapter 3. First visit to the university and last few days with the Parekh's

Finally the D day arrived. I had to visit my university to let them know that I had arrived and submit my medical documents. It was a 30 minutes drive from Raj’s place to the University and Raj was a cool driver. I was amazed by the sheer size and greenery in the University. It was heaven. The campus was so huge that they had a map to help the students navigate and find places on campus. I did find the health center and submitted my documents. Next stop was my department and we did find it eventually thanks to Raj. I also opened my bank account in Chevy Chase bank (that’s supposed to be the first thing to do done when you come to your university in US). The visit was rounded off by a stop at Pizza hut. When we entered the Pizza hut restaurant, there was a person who greeted us and took us to a table. Now that was sweet. I could see a high rise building through the window beside me. I looked at Raj and he knew what I was going to ask him. He told me, “That’s too expensive mann. We got to find a place for you to stay which is reasonable.” How I wish I had paid attention to those words, I was in my world hoping the honeymoon with the Parekh’s would not end.

With just a week left for my college to open, things were gaining momentum. The Parekh’s were eager for me to shift to a place close to campus, so that I would get settled in before my classes start. I was taking it easily. I was in touch with Mohan, an online friend who had been admitted to the same university. He had got an apartment which he claimed was close to campus and so I just stuck with him. That was a big mistake on my part. There was no concrete planning of looking for a place close to campus. I just assumed I would adjust and things would be fine. The Parekh’s had their own plan so they were eager for me to get going and I did not see anything wrong in that.

I did visit the Parekh's store in the Baltimore and was highly impressed. It was a small store but it had everything that was needed. Yogesh mama and Charu aunty and Narendra uncle took shifts. Raj and Jaimin worked on the weekend and on holidays. Their store was in a community mostly of black people, Spainards. I appreciate the way they were running their store being in an alien country and in a community mostly in news for all wrong reasons. Lotto(Lottery) was also big in US. I was greeted by Dophie, a 10 year old black boy who was a dynamite of raw energy and humor. I found it difficult to understand how someone so innocent and beautiful would grow up to be person who would mug you or even commit crime. Racism existed in USA and being an outsider you could easily tell people associated black people with most of the crimes. I personally spoke with a black guy at the store and he seemed friendly. I even meet a Spaniard who gave me a high five and taught me my first Spanish word, “Amigo”.

Yogesh mama was introducing me to his friends in the colony. People called him “Joe” and Yogesh mama replied,” Yup (in typical American accent) ”. He introduced me to an American family as, this is my friend from India who has come to study in USA. His parents have spend a lot of money on him. I shook hands with the members from the American family and they smiled back at me. One of the oldest members of the family looked at Yogesh mama and said, “What is this young gentleman’s name?”. Yogesh mama replied,” Roy rogers. Yeah you can call him roy”. The old lady smiled and shook my hand. She said, “Nice to meet you, Roy”. I smiled back at her and said the pleasure was all mine. Yogesh mama told me to call her ‘Mama’. He looked at her and said, ”So Mama, are you ready to go to Atlantic city for gambling?”. Everyone started laughing Mama replied, “Well, sure..but only if you give me your money to play”. We laughed again.

Charu aunty and Narendra uncle took me to Baltimore temple to take blessings before commencing my studies in USA. Narendra uncle had made donations to build the kitchen for the temple. I spoke with the Guruji at the temple and felt nice. The temple was the closest thing to India in US. The next closest thing was Charu aunty's puja on Friday mornings where I used to sit on the floor and pray with her. I spent the last night with the Parekh’s knowing that from tomorrow things would be different. I watched Terminator 2: Judgement Day with Raj on the big plasma TV in the basement. It was awesome to see one of my favorite movies on a TV twice the size of my TV back home with a surround sound.I had committed to Mohan of moving in with him and a friend of his to a place called Greenbelt. A new chapter was set to begin and the fairytale with the Parekh’s was coming to an end.