More than two months into the US,sitting on the bench at the stop,waiting for the bus,listening to Metallica's 'I disappear',I see cars woosh past me at crazy speeds. But my eyesight travels faster to catch a glimpse of any pretty(read-PRAYING FOR AMAZINGLY HOT) ladies seated inside the cars. Yes! I see one. She's cute. I look at her,she looks back at me and turns to the driver seat, talks to a huge guy and then again looks at me.
I shit my pants!
I look away trying to act all nonchalant resorting to the head banging and the air-guitaring-cum-drumming. I sense the car slowing down and pulling over a couple of feet away from me.
I am dead! How I wish I could disappear!
I am thinking,"Anyone can carry a gun around here,right!" I try to act more involved in the song.
The girl leans out of the window and tries to talk to me. I look at her and take my earphones off. I hear her now.
"Excuse me, do you know how to get to V#$% college? It's somewhere near tva*#$^ zone."
I think for a moment. I can't talk Hindi here. I have to think before constructing an English sentence.
I gather my senses and respond,"What?"
She goes again,"V@#%^ college? Near Trade Zone."
I try to be helpful,but alas! New country,new place. I don't know the place she's asking for.
I reply,"Oh...no...sorry...I don't know."
The chic smiles,the huge guy smiles and waves and they drive off. I curse myself for not being to help out a chic! But the next instant,I realise it was a false alarm. I was not in trouble like I had imagined.
"Phew! Was that a close one? May be not!" Trouble gone,I wait for the bus. I didn't even want to imagine being beaten up by huge guys with tattooed biceps for staring at their hot girlfriends. The bus arrives and gobbles me up. As I am savouring my "escapade" I suddenly realise something. Something me and my friends back in India had joked about before I came here. Something that had stuck around since the past few years. Something which had started at the infamous 'katta' in Vijay Nagari,Annex-a place about a mere half a lifetime away from Thane station. Not everyone knows about "the curse" I am referring to. Try to relate to the curse.
I like to call it the "Seeked Syndrome". It starts out with an innocuous query about some building or an apartment while you are waiting at the katta for your friends to show up. "Bhaisaab...yeh B15,Annex kidhar hai?"
You instinctively give him the directions to the building and he leaves without thanking you.
You hardly care.
Some other day,some other time you are at the katta with your friends, some car pulls over and the fat family guy asks you the directions for the club house of Annex. It happens a few more times over the next week. Everyone at the katta senses some aura of query near the katta. Someone blurts,"Dude is it only me or have all of you been asked for directions when at the katta lately?" The ice is broken. The curse has come true. Everyone agrees. It is for real. It doesn't stop. This is just the beginning. We don't know what we all are in for. Enter:cars,delivery guys,internet set up guys,plumbers,bikers,laundry boys,et al. Age no bar,time no bar,gender no bar. Only this one time I was fortunate enough to have approached by a beautiful girl looking for some building in Annex,at 10 in the night while I was strolling in the neighbourhood of the katta.That's it-only ONE in a million chance of encountering a beautiful girl! Gradually the syndrome starts following you around wherever you go. It's as if there were a huge board floating above your head which says,"Free Map" with an arrow pointing down. Seekers now seem to have spread across the entire universe-at the station,at the bus stops,at the college gate,at a theatre,at a traffic light,near your friends' houses,at the hotels,at the the canteen,at the chowpatty,at the reservation counter,at the vada-pav stall and the list goes on. Seekers looking for either a bank or a shop or a building or a bus stop or the station,umm..did i mention buildings?
The syndrome now slowly consumes your non-katta friends too. You start hearing stories. "Rumours!",you shrug,but from the inside you can feel the chill. You know it's unstoppable. No one can help it.
As the bus drives around the block,I remember this one time when me and my friend Rohit were at the katta updating each other about the loads of digital data we had downloaded over the last month,when this 40+ guy pulls over his Humara-Bajaj scooter in front of us. We sense the syndrome striking again. But this guy takes it a step further! He asks us about which internet provider is good enough in the Annex area. What he didn't know was that me and Rohit have been around the Annex block long enough to have tried and tested and suffered the miseries inflicted upon us by the ruthless cable net providers in our area. After months of tyranny we had our first saviour ISP-Airtel. So we both had researched our asses off and fought our guts out against our parents to purchase the right plans suited for our insatiable hunger for downloading digital data. We knew in and out of every plan and what it was suitable for. We explain every necessary detail to the 'uncle' to suit his needs. After our seminar,the relieved 'uncle' rides off on his bajaj. While I am still struggling to come up with a funny punchline for the situation, Rohit snaps,"Abbey,uska kya naseeb tha!" And we both laugh our asses off for the next five minutes. Probably no one else in the entire neighbourhood would have given the 'uncle' a better picture of the net services at 10 in the night. Ahh the syndrome!
A few weeks ago while chatting with my non-katta friend Rajnil,he had joked about it too. Lately he had been a victim to the curse,specially more frequently after I left India. It was evident to us that he had inherited the curse from me.
I remember we joked about this when in India. My friends were sure that the cursed syndrome would follow me to the US. It certainly did!
I imagine hanging out on a dark night at the katta. I see a stereotypical crazy old wannabe saadhu approaching the katta.
The 'saadhu' yells at us,"Bachha...katte se door rahiyo...warna pachtaoge...saat samundar paar tak katte ka shraap peecha nahi chodega!"
We all try to ignore him and continue hanging out. We all feel a chill down our spine. But no one says a word.
Sure would have been more dramatic to have had a crazy saadhu warning us beforehand and we not paying heed.