About two years ago, when not one month had passed since I had entered the US, I once got a free bike from CU Boulder’s Bike Station. It’s a great service where any student or faculty member can rent a bike for forty-eight hours, for free. Since it was time to return it, I cycled up to the UMC, near which the bike station sits under a large tree. As I was returning the bike, it started to rain. Afraid for the newly bought iPhone in my pocket, I went into the shed and hid from the rain. Two guys were working at the station that day. The one on the inside showed me a Lenovo laptop that was basically everything proof – shock, water and temperature. It was given to the bike station specifically because it faces all the elements on nature all the time. Continue reading
I complete, today, one full month in the US.
This day, one month ago, I got on a plane and left India. I have done that before, but this time it seems that the time gap when I will be getting back will be a lot longer. There’s no sense of regret and sadness for me today. It is not that I am indifferent. It’s just that I know that here, I am building a future of which I will be sure and in control of.
So, here I am, a one month-old adult in the US, working for myself and I present a few lines from a paper I am writing about Leadership qualities to be submitted tomorrow…
No one is born a Leader. This is the premise in which I have believed all my life. We all have certain qualities which if nurtured properly, can make each individual a Leader but no one can stand up on their own and become a Leader.
Some random thought – Whenever I sit in a park or anywhere close to nature, I immediately start examining the stones around me. It’s a habit I have kept from childhood and as a result I have collected stones from the deserts of Rajasthan to the shores of South Africa, from the beaches of Mangalore to one which came out of my Father, taken out by a mystical healer woman somewhere in the Himalayas. Today, as I sat waiting for a bus, I once again started looking at the stones around me. However, today I did not collect any stones. I realized today that they are always the same type of stones. All my life, from all the various places that I have collected stones in torn and over-loaded jeans pockets, I have always seen the same stones. I am not a gemologist, but today I am bored from those valueless stones. I want new stones. Or perhaps that’s what is wrong with my outlook. I will probably not collect stones from now on. I will no longer look down at the earth to pass time. I want to look up, I want to grow. I want to collect the clouds now.
This happened a few days ago but I have been delaying writing on this topic primarily since I had requested my friend Shyam Chandrasekar to write on it as a guest speaker on my blog. He has refused my offer and hence, I must write it myself. The reason why he should have written it is that the incident largely involved his resolve to do the right thing.
Few days back, upon a strong craving of ice cream, I and a group of friends had hit Boulder’s Pearl Street to find and plunder the tasty Glacier Ice cream company’s stall. We found a girl managing the stall and asked her for various flavors and made our order. She completed the delivery and whipped out her cellphone to tally the bill and tell us the whole amount but I insisted that she write it down on paper as one of us was going to pay and then everyone would give their share back to that person…
She agreed to the demand and looked around helplessly to find some paper to write on. I took a pen out of my pocket and gave her some tissue paper from her own stall to write down the bill on. She quickly summarized a bill of about $19.40 and I took the money from our today’s bakra(We still need to give our share of the money back to this person!!!) and handed a $20 bill to the girl. She casually commented that it was so late and she was so tired after having studied at the University that her mind was just not working. Having said this, she gave me the change and thus ended our transaction.
As we walked off, my friends enjoyed a nice, cold, tasty ice cream treat at the expense of our bakra while I wondered as to who it really was at whose expense we were really enjoying! You see, there were a total of 6 people in my group and most of us had opted for a single scoop of ice cream with a waffle cone which is slightly costlier than usual. So a total of under $20 was just quite not right. As I pondered over this, my friends chided me for going into deep thought again, as is my habit and asked me to join them in the conversation. I did that, but before doing so, I called Shyam to one side and told him about this dilemma which we now faced. I did not know the correct prices of a waffle cone but I knew that we had under-paid the woman by a huge amount. Shyam too expressed his suspicion of the same and having been more resourceful, quickly summarized the actual bill. We found that we had to pay this vendor a total of $28, that is, we had paid her $8 less!
Now it was time for either action or debate. While Shyam was more interested in the former, I chose the latter and brought the matter out to my friends. I told them that it was a matter of not paying what was due but also reminded them that it may be eight dollars for someone but it’s nearly Four hundred rupees for us! Most of them chimed in with the opinion that we should not pay the money back and someone even went on to say that we’re already paying through our nose just by being here for our studies so why not save some money while we can! While I was enjoying this debate and the reactions of my peers, we were joined by my friend and roommate, Abhjit Kaul, who had till now been talking to his family members on phone. When we told him about our situation, he instantly voted in favor of returning the money, pointing out the most important thing which tipped the scales of the discussion – that it may be eight dollars for us, but it’s an hour’s work for the girl!
That did it. Those reluctant were now quiet and Shyam quickly went back to present the money to the girl. He did not return for quite some time.
Oh, he did return eventually and told us triumphantly that the girl had been nice enough to give him a dollar off on the bill for his honesty!
Thus nearly ended a night when we had a taste of good ice cream and crowd mentality. We saw that Gelato is good and greed is bad. Finally, we saw that it’s not the amount of money which matters, it’s the amount of work which goes into making that money which counts and this reminds me, I better talk to our bakra and give back the money! 🙂
So here I was, standing with some friends at a McDonald’s in Boulder, Colorado and we’re excited at knowing that there’s a whole menu for just about a dollar for us poor Indian students 🙂
We stalk the lady at the counter asking her about the various options we had and we settled on the Cheeseburger as it seemed the most vegetarian and superbly cheap! We then asked her about the ingredients of the cheeseburger to confirm our suspicion that we had found a veg burger in the heart of one of America’s greatest junk food joints! She told us that the Cheeseburger has cucumber, pickles, onion and cheese.
Our ears were ringing and our blood pressure shot through the roof thinking about cheese. We quickly ordered three cheeseburgers and a large coke(another dollar~fixed price for any size) and received our order, filled up our coke, picked up some ketchup and sat down.
The first thing I noticed when we sat down was that the cover of the burger said something odd. It said “100% Pure Beef”.
As I looked at the packed burger and then at the happy faces of my friends, I felt a bit of guilt but I pushed it away and waited with bated breath. They opened the packages and dug their first bites into the burger. They looked at me and I looked at them. I was perplexed at their reaction, either they were supposed to react crazily to the taste of beef or smile at me and tell me that it’s really tasty. But they looked perplexed and were probably wondering why I was not biting into my cheeseburger! I slowly asked them how the burger felt. They responded in the affirmative. I noticed that there was a tikki(cutlet) in the burger. From past experiences in South Africa, I knew that in meat-eating countries, a tikki in a burger is bad news for vegetarians.
So, I got up and went to the lady at the counter and asked her a simple question- Does this burger have beef in it?
She slowly, sweetly, responded- Yes.
I was holding cow’s meat in my hands. I went back to my friends who had dropped their delicious burgers due to my suspicions and told them that there was beef in the burger.
They looked at me wide-eyed. Religion was in question here! They had just bitten into beef! A few remarkable reactions later, we were still confused about what to do. Then, a kind lady sitting next to us asked us what our problem was and told us to be firm and ask for the Manager and ask for a replacement.
We went to the counter, asked for the Manager, explained what our religion states and got the burgers replaced.
My appetite was dead by now and I just ordered a coke(another dollar down the drain) and finished it in peace.
For this strange reason, it wasn’t a typical ending to a day. After all, we had just experienced what the Real American Cheeseburger is all about!
My first few days in Boulder were nice. I was busy and had enough to do in terms of loitering about and meeting people apart from Univ work that it just did not feel odd. But yesterday, when I woke up, it felt somewhat odd. I woke up quite late to an empty house and a knot in my stomach…
All day, despite being with friends, I felt odd. After all, there’s only so much that friends can do specially since they probably don’t know you’re in an odd state of mind…
In the evening, I talked to my brother and in just a few short words, he told me something that holds true to the point that in no time, I knew that everything will be OK no matter what. He said –
It’s just a matter of time,
When things fall in line
and everything will be fine
and that’s just a rhyme!
For some reason, we forget that there are a lot of people whom we think are not approachable or that we cannot express ourselves to them. But we can and should. There’s always going to be help, from friends or family or even some random stranger writing on a Blog…
It’s tough being in a new place completely on your own, even if it doesn’t hit you immediately or you’re not able to express it properly… But it’s not impossible to pass through it unharmed. Just reach out and get someone to hear you out in any way possible!
Ok, it’s our Independence day. It’s the day when India gained the freedom to make it’s own mistakes, to quote what Gandhiji had said once…
But I was not celebrating independence today. Woke up at 11 AM(11:30 PM in India, half an hour to the Midnight of that dawned…) and realized that the software companies in India had finished celebrating our Independence on the 14th as it was a working day. Then I got dressed and with a few friends, went out to Wal-Mart, apparently the most famous and amazingly cheap store of the US. The concept of Wal-Mart is inspiring but it’s fodder for another blog post, so, later…
The Bill was about $78 for three people(reason- we had a girl in our midst!).
While returning, we boarded a bus from outside Wal-Mart and told the driver to take us to the closest Bus Station. When we had settled, the driver started the bus and without turning, softly said to us three Indians- Happy Independence Day.
I looked at the driver. He was an American. He was educated. He was an educated enough American to know that three Indians had boarded his bus. He did not assume that we were Pakistanis. He knew for sure that we were Indians. I know this as he said that Pakistan had gained independence a day before us and all he had noticed was that we were speaking in Hindi.
So here I was, sitting in the heart of the US of A with two Indian friends and getting wished by an American on a date which is of grave consequence for every Indian and which we had completely forgotten about. For a second, it was a haze. Was this true? Was this happening? Really? Wow.
I looked at my friends. They were as amazed as I was. This was weird beyond a great degree. I talked to the driver a bit more. He knew a bit about India but a lot more than one would expect him to know. He knew we had a bit of a tiff with the Chinese. He knew we had a nuclear bomb, though not the year when we got it. That was a piece of fact even I didn’t remember! He even had a stereotypical view about some clans in India. I was glad to clarify that India has never been a nation of Attackers but instead defenders. We only retaliated in case there was a threat against us. He was glad to have to talked to me. I was still in shock when our destination came.
I got down. The air was fresh, the wind was a light breeze and caressed my face with a loving touch. The sky was a deep blue color with the clouds playing with the setting sun. This was a foreign nation. Back in my country, people we getting up and wishing each other a Happy Independence Day. I looked at my friends and wished them a Happy Independence Day, with a twist.
Yes, it did. But not on our dreams and aspirations. Rather on us. It was beautiful rain. Soft, drizzly at first and slightly harsh later. Not something which would make me regret being out in the open but just perfect. Of course I’m getting ahead of myself. First of all…
Train! A Train! A Whole TRAIN!!! I still cannot believe that underneath the Denver International Airport, they have a whole damn train!!!! It goes from one end to the other, taking passengers from any terminal to the next and even to a completely separate Luggage Collection Area where people can just pick up their stuff and move out to catch transport. First time I’ve seen anything like this, a completely dedicated train service just for passengers travelling through the airport and I am amazed!!!
Next up, Boulder. If you take a cycle and start on one end of Boulder, you can cross its breadth in about an hour of slow sightseeing! Boulder may be a small town but it’s extremely scenic and it’s beauty reflects in the attitude of the people. It’s rush hour and there’s traffic on both sides of the road. A few cyclists have just come to one side and are waiting on the pavement for a break in the traffic so they can cross. Suddenly, traffic on both sides comes to a complete halt. The people in their expensive cars are waiting for the cyclists on University-rented bikes to cross. Awestruck, I peddle forward with two of my friends, the cycle groaning under me. It’s a good concept. The University loans out bicycles to Regular students of CU-Boulder for 2 days for free. The students have a means of transport and can easily appreciate the good nature of the people of Boulder and the city controls the urges of students to buy cars to commute from one end to another.
But, I save the best for the last. Boulder has pine cones and mulberry trees both in the gap of a few feet. I love pine cones but there’s nothing comparable to the Mulberry and its soft deliciousness lingers on my tongue for long.
Even before the journey started, I had envisioned writing about how I’ve found Riverdale, the place where Archie and his friends reside, in this peaceful College Town. I’m happy to say that I haven’t.
I’ve found Boulder.