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Saturday, 27 October, 2007

The "Curse" Follows!

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.

27th october,2007.

Saturday, 6 October, 2007

What a day!

He could not believe it. For the past few years he had been dreaming of this and there it was, right in front of him. He rubbed his eyes in disbelief and read the letter aloud for the fifth time,

"....Mr. Salil Agarwal,we are pleased to inform you that you have been appointed as a Field Application Engineer at Chips Inc...."

Years of hard work had finally paid off. He remembered the day he had landed at the San Fransisco airport. Almost two years ago, he was just a student - an International student on F1 visa - like thousand other F1 guys. He had to start right from scratch in this new country. A whole new world. He was high on expectations then. Now he could see nothing but a blur. Wiping his moist eyes, he called up his parents back in India to tell them the good news. He could imagine the look on their faces while he talked to them. Everyone was exhilarated. Later, the calls continued - family, friends, roommates.

But not her. He wanted to give the news to her in person and had made sure no one ruined it for them. Though neither had confessed, he knew they had something special; she knew it too. It was just a matter of time before they made it 'official'. "What better day to go for it than today!" he thought. As usual, they were supposed to meet at the bus stop in the downtown. He still had an hour. He hurried to a nearby jewelery store and bought her a beautiful necklace. He assumed a ring would be too American. He was not an impulsive guy and loved the fact that she was neither. But he was high on life today.

There were ten more minutes for the bus to arrive. The clock seemed to tick a few seconds backwards as he waited for the love of his life. He had no idea what he would say to her. This seemed more difficult than the Computer Architecture course he had aced last semester. He remembered the day they had met in the cafeteria, about an year ago. She was a fresh International student struggling with the coffee machine's menu. As an Indian, she was not used to black coffee. She wanted something as simple as a hot mixture of milk, water, sugar and of course coffee to keep her awake through the boring lectures of Database Systems. She noticed that Salil, an employee at the cafe, was an Indian and asked for help. He had been a perfect gentleman and helped her get a smooth latte, much to suit the Indian taste buds. That was how it all began.

The screech of the halting bus brought him back to the present. He saw her get off the bus. She was beauty simplified for him. Her simple yet elegant sense of dressing melted his heart. Her smile drove him nuts. Before he could say anything, she ran close to him and asked, "How was the interview? Did you get it?" He simply smiled and nodded. She shrieked in joy and gave him a warm hug. He held her close and tight, never wanting to let go. "How clichéd!", he thought. A moment later, he let go of her and then took out the offer letter from his bag handing it over to her. She read it with the cutest smile and tearful eyes. "I'm so happy for you!", she exclaimed. A moment passed and neither of them said anything. Both were lost in each others' eyes.

Out of nowhere they heard a husky voice,"Hey....hey...ain't she pretty...jus...just look at her...ain't she the cutest of all..." A bum was standing next to her and blabbering. Startled, she snuck up behind Salil's back. He grabbed her hand tight. The bum continued uttering the same words over and again. It was obvious he would not let go easily. Salil had to get rid of him as smoothly as possible. She was growing highly uncomfortable by the second. Suddenly it struck him. He had an idea. Looking the homeless guy straight in the eye he said, "What..? You think she's cute..? Then you have got to check out the babe who just passed by this street." The bum replied, "Wh....what babe..i don't see any one but her....ain't she just cute...." Salil continued,"A girl walked down this lane just a second ago. She was the cutest girl I have ever seen in my life. She had big blue eyes, the face of an angel and smokin' hot body!!". He noticed that the bum was falling for it and so he kept on describing how beautiful the girl was and finally tricked him into crossing the street and taking the next right turn in the pursuit of the so-called babe.

Salil turned back to see that she was sitting on a bench, with her head down on her lap. With a sense of heroic pride and achievement, he walked towards her. He had proven to be her knight in shining armour. He could not believe how delicately he had handled the situation. This was the best day of his life. He sat beside her and held her hands. But before he could say anything to comfort her, she suddenly got up, slapped him hard on his cheek and with bloodshot eyes snapped at him, "You pig!! All men are pigs. I always thought you were crazy about me because of my simplicity. But the truth finally came out today. Catch hold of the hottie you just saw. I know that's all you guys always want - a hottie. Don't ever talk to me again. Follow your babe and marry her. I don't want to see your face again, ever." Throwing the offer letter at him, she took off. As he tried catching the letter carefully, lest he tore it, he watched her cross the street hurriedly. For a moment he stood there, numb, like a log.

"Was that supposed to be funny?" he wondered as he scurried to catch up with her.

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