Of, By and For (our people)

So everytime I get to the Washington DC airport to board a flight back to India, I’m really happy – I’m going back home, to my mother land, Vande Mataram (the Rahman version) is the background score in my head, you get it – intense proud-to-be-Indian stuff.

Then, I see them. Not native American Indians, don’t get me wrong, but some of my own kind, Indians from India.

And that’s a problem.

Need I say more? Don’t shake your head like that.Yup, I know what’s running in your head, “She spends five months in America and now she has the nerve to insult her own people. Outrageous! What has she seen of the world?!” And you’re not only muttering to yourself that you know-already-know how arrogant “these youngsters” are nowadays, but you’re also coming up with excuses to defend our people. “We’re much more in number! We’ve so little space! We’re such a poor country! We’re just 60 years old! We have corrupted politicians! You can’t expect us to be bothered about decorum and sensitivity!” and following all of that is the infamous “And yet, India has come a long way”. It’s like I can read your mind, eh?

Honestly, I’m on your side. India HAS come a long way in a short while, that’s a given. But next time someone slams the door on your face instead of holding it open for you, even though you’re right behind them, convince yourself that it happened because we have corrupt politicians. Oh I have a better one. Next time you go through a whole day without receiving so much as a greeting, a word of gratitude, or even a smile, convince yourself that it’s because we’re just 60 years old and we need more generations on earth to strengthen our skills at being human.

What’re we doing, people? Being a poor country did not stop us from picking up on the “dating culture”. Having so little space did not stop us from looping in McDonalds, Pizza Huts and Victoria’s Secret into our communities. It definitely looks like we got all the memos on the latest fashion. And all of that’s cool, heck I love Victoria’s Secret. But all I’m saying is, why do we ignore the things that really could make a difference in the way we live?

My intention is not to preach or advice. I know, many times, I don’t fulfill my own intentions of being sensitive, when I’m in India. One of the reasons for that, very sadly, is the fact that we Indians are used to second hand treatment. We don’t expect “thank you”s or “goodbye”s or “how’re you doing”s and neither do we expect other people to expect it out of us. We’re ok with being treated like we don’t exist or worse, like scum. And we tolerate it extremely well. It’s when someone is nice to us that we think something’s fishy. “Hmmm, I wonder why that guy just smiled at me. I wonder what he wants”.

I met a very interesting person this time when I went to Virginia. His name is Robert Swap and we got into a conversation about how people don’t respond to crimes and victims of crimes; how they’re forgotten by everyone else except the family of the ones affected. He said to me “Every single day I walk past someone and I don’t acknowledge them, I’m contributing to the community that doesn’t care”. I thought it was a revelation. It’s something I had never thought about.

I’m posing a question to all of you and to myself. Why don’t we try? You know, I myself think about how it is humanly possible to say hello and smile at all the people we walk across on the street everyday. Well then don’t. But say hello to the sales girl when you walk in to a store. Ask her how her day is going. Smile at the waiter when he takes your order and tell him that he did a good job. Hold the door open for an old couple when they’re a few feet behind you, leaving a restaurant. Smile at the customer when you’re delivering flowers for his/her birthday. Oh it’s not always easy. When I saw the tired, cranky, immigration officer at the airport, I almost didn’t want to wish him good morning. But guess what, when I did, he actually smiled. Though at first he looked at me as if to say “Are you on crack child?”. But he did smile.

We need to wear some new attitude around here. Shake things up a bit. I’m going to start today. I’m going to start acknowledging people around me, being sensitive to them, even if they think I’m nuts beyond the line of no return. There will be some people who *ISS me off (like the sales girl at the grocery store who lets people break the line if they have one item to bill), but heck, I’ll try and be nice to them too. P.S: DON’T BREAK LINES, LINE-BREAKERS!

It’s really simple actually. We’re actually pretty cool people – poor, young, corrupted politicians and all. We just need a little bit of heart. I’m still proud to be Indian.

Most of the time. 🙂

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A warm eulogy for the beloved Road Romeo

Hello Road Romeo,

Quite a fancy title you have there. This will probably be the closest I will get to a “civilized” interaction with you, so here goes. Jumping straight to the point,  do you know how many women are out there in the world who would love to wring your neck, multiple times, just to see you struggle for one single gasp of breath? Every single day, we step out of our doors, wrestling with the universe for a whiff of fresh air, devoid of your existence.

Who gives you the right to look at a woman, visually stripping her in your mind with your repulsive looks? Who gives you the right to put your filthy, vile hands on her? Your gender, you say, you’re a man, you say. Now hear me correctly. You are filth. Your morally repugnant behavior, why,  your sheer existence, puts every other respectable man to shame.

Do you know what you do to the psyche of a woman just by being what you are? Do you realize that you build in her a loathing so deep, enough to annihilate any ability of trust? No you don’t. You don’t see the worried mothers, sisters and girlfriends, all the time praying that their beloved girls should not encounter one of your kind. That even if they do, they should have the strength to ignore you, to bear the damage that you unleash. Sometimes it makes me wonder, do you have no mother and sisters, fool? Did your mother not teach you to respect her and the women around you? Did she not say that a true man always protects and upholds the dignity of a woman?

One would think that you would learn, that you would realize that your cat calling, visual raping and random groping is the lowest level you can sink for the sake of cheap pleasure. One would think that someday, it would dawn on you, the price that so many women paid, because you took it upon yourself to be such a low-life. But then again, one would think wrong. You, whoever you are, have sold your soul to the devil. You are cursed, your existence is abhorred by millions, your self esteem is spat upon. You were never worth the pain your family went through to bring you into this world. You are nothing but a leech, a sadistic, unwanted leech.

Hey, on a final note, you may strut around in your fancy pants and act the fallen Romeo all you want, we don’t give a flying duck any more. If loathing looks, abusive words, and slippers don’t work on you (they don’t seem to), we’ll find a way. All the pent up anger, frustration, wrath and resentment will not stay pent up for too long. Just keep your hands and eyes to yourself unless you want to walk to your grave without them.

Stay away.

Dear John and Chris

That's Chris with his girlfriend Christine

16th March 2010
Charlottesville, Virginia

Dear John and Chris

I’m going to address this blog post to both of you whether you read it or not because that’s how I can best put down what I shared with both of you this past month. I haven’t posted in over a month so this may be a long one! Honestly speaking, when we heard that both of you were coming down for your internship, the first thing that struck me was, “Damn, we’re not the new kids anymore!”. And in no time, WE were the ones putting together welcome baskets and designing welcome posters. WE! The Indian interns! Ah, how fast we grow out of fashion. But let me tell you before I say anything else, I am pretty darn glad that Dave and Colleen decided to have you both down here.

Chris, here’s a secret: When we came down to the airport to pick you up, Sneha and I found you really cute. Ha ha, but that was until we discovered you’re insane and live in la-la land with Christine .

The welcome poster

It was immense fun to put together the welcome poster. (Sorry Johnny, we squeezed your name in later ) You should’ve seen Sneha colouring with those crayons (she had trouble keeping within the lines), it was like her life depended on it! And even though Ms. Katie Martin decided to snort at our creation (she actually laughed and asked “who made this?? ha ha!”), it was pretty cool. I especially like the M-CAM Inc. symbol – that was way cool.

Monster drinks, Fruity pebbles, snow mobiles, 90s rap, dumb old funny movies. What do all these things have in common? John! a.k.a Josep. Our dear old Josep :-). I have said this before and I will say it again, John, you are one of the most well mannered, well brought up, honest and loving kids I’ve ever met in my life.

Josep with his cake!

Right from the day you came from Wisconsin, you made it a point to be one of the family and guess what? You are. It’s just so wonderful to see you helping to set the table, helping to get the groceries in, pitching in wherever you can with the cooking, always volunteering to shovel the yard, and doing all this with all your heart and not because someone told you to. That’s a heart winner right there John. Not very many people have the ability to do that.

Chris, dude, did I ever tell you that I kept trying to get you to talk just so that I could hear your accent? Jokes apart, I definitely think we broke the ice the day I saw you with that gorgeous camera. The day we went sledding down the hill, I remember you had your camera and you seemed quite content just holding on to it, catching shots when you can. All of us hulligans rampaging up and down that hill, screaming and shouting and falling over, and you were happy in your own world, very glad, I’m sure, with an opportunity to click.                                                                     

You see, I relate to that. I’m positively excited if there’s a chance for me to click and the rest of the world doesn’t matter at that time. All I want to do is look at it from another angle, another perspective, capture something no one else would’ve seen or noticed. I guess that’s how every photographer is. And by the way (this is for the people who weren’t there that day), Dave, Zach, John and Akash bulit ramps on the sled path down the hill, and when I went down, I went up so high in the air and landed so hard on my behind it wasn’t even funny.

Dave and Collen - the crashed versions 🙂

It was an amazing experience for me, personally, to see you guys go through training in office. One, it felt so awesome to actually know what Dave and Mr. Pratt were talking about. Just to shake that head in response to what they were saying felt so cool! But two, when you guys asked certain questions, the only thing I could think is “Oh my God, why didn’t I think of that!”, and I cannot tell you how  enlightening it is to sit in on a discussion and have other people look at things you think you know from a different angle. It’s like zooming in on a picture you think is clear just to find out that it was fuzzy all along and now you can see birds on all of those trees! I admired how you, John, kept asking questions that would help you figure out why you had to know this, why this training was important to you, how it would help you in the future. And I think that’s awesome because you never really learn something unless you know what to do with it. And I posistivel loved how Chris would find ways to better things, whether it was a suggestion for the system, or for an analysis, or for sentences in a paragraph (eh, Chris? ;-P), he would stick it out there.

I made this cake! Ha! (with Colleen's help :-|)

It was quite a party on Sneha’s birthday with the Martins, Adam, John, Chris, Sneha, Akash and me. Colleen helped me bake a cake for her and it was absolutely gorgeous. By now you’d have figured out I fall in love with things I create with my hands and what anybody else says after that doesn’t matter. Chris, I think on of my favourite moments with you was when we were playing Dutch Blitz. Ok, rest of the world, imagine a game where four-five people are standing around the table, cards flying all around, people banging them on the table, shouting and yelling at each others’ partners to be faster, flushed, excited and yelling Blitz! Well, Chris happened to be in on one those scenes and he was playing. Now, all of us were excited. Chris was doped. He was jumping up and down, laughing like a maniac AND throwing stuff around. It was so intoxicating seeing you so happy Chris! You should come out of your room some more and jump around a lot more!

A marked moment in history would be the day I gave John the name “Josep”. It fits him perfectly and if I ever get to meet Mr. Bob Kendel, John’s dad, I would suggest a name change. For those of you who’re wondering what I’m going on about, it was just a name that stuck to my head after watching this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cxXemG19Eu4 (it’s a Jo Koy show)
and I realised that in my head, John had always been a Josep
Oh how much we used to rag the boy about his accent (it’s supposedly how people in Wisconsin talk and it has a marked difference to the accent we’re used to in Charlottesville), which is really wierd, because we were INDIANS teasing an AMERICAN about his own accent . It was so nice of you to be so sportive about all the teasing John. Oh, wait. Didn’t you shoot me with that silly nerve gun for all of it? Then I guess it serves you right mister.

At the end of their one month internship, these two kids went for a trade show where they faced real clients (huge ones at that) and were actual representatives of M-CAM Inc. With all their learnings of one month! John, we heard you did really well at the pumper cleaner show. Dave told us all about how you never gave up and how you kept going out there, even if you messed up. Good job buddy. I bet your parents would’ve been proud. And Chris, even though I met you after the show, I want you to know that we’re really proud of you for being brave and giving it your best shot.

John and Chris are two boys I had never known in my life, spent time with for a month and probably will never meet again in my life. But the fact that I miss them so much right now shows what broadened minds, expanded horizons and a good healthy environment can do for human relationships. There was no necessity for John and Chris to open their hearts to all of us, give us a place in their lives, neither did we. But we did. We did because it wasn’t a necessity, rather it was a pleasure to accept each other with all our differences, culturally and individually. In the period of one month, we spun out beautiful relationships that will live forever. You know what the beauty of all this is? If I meet John or Chris ten years from now, even twenty, we can pick it up from where we left it, and it will not be marred by anything else in the world. Thank you David and Colleen and everybody else, for making M-CAM a platform for growth, because that’s what it is. Well, maybe we have hope after all, maybe we’ve found the ark that could save us when 2012 is upon us. I’m not talking about M-CAM, rather I’m talking again, about a society that accepts and embraces. Peace.

One of the bestest days!

Note the superlative of the superlative. I am officially high on life. It is one am in the morning and I’m still tingling with happiness and unable to sleep without putting some of my thoughts down. They’re all pushing each other around in there 🙂 Dumbeldore had it easy with his pensieve and all.

Haven’t you thought to yourself, on some random day, “Everything was just so beautiful today, just so RIGHT!”? I’m experiencing one of those moments right now. And I’m hoping someone, somewhere, having one of those days where you just want to tear up the hours into a million pieces and shove it down the chute, will read this, look back, and realise that, in the face of all the beautiful days that they’ve had, the bad day is, after all, a small price to pay.

Mr. Pratt, whom all of you should be very familiar with by now, was very kind as to take us to the felicitation of the UVA soccer team players on their emerging champions the last season. We got there early so that we could be the first of the three hundred who got the UVA soccer goodies, autographed by the players. Agreed, I didn’t know one player from the other. But it was just so awesome seeing people turn up to encourage and congragulate these guys on their victory. The city just started pouring in and it was amazing to see the little kids watch the players with so much admiriation reflected in their eyes. Mr. Pratt was giving us a heads up on who’s who and it wasn’t just him, but a lot of people I overhead, who actually live the lives of these players. I was struck by the fact that the young ones are encouraged to excel in sports too and not just academics. Coming from a country and society where academics is everything, scoring marks is the sole criterion for evaluation (been there, done that), this attitude was refreshing. In India:

if (career!=Medicine && career!=Engineer)
 career=Maadu Meyking (herding cows);
}

🙂 Yep, that’s why we have such a rich resource of brains, agreed. But that’s also why we lose out on so many brilliant artists, musicians, journalists, film makers, players, hidden in the children of our country. Anyway, back to the subject, we were one among the first three hundred to get there and we got really orange t-shirts and posters of the team signed by the players! 

Once we were done oggling the players, Mr. Pratt took us to the Martins’ place. They were grilling ham burgers (mushroom for me, since I’m a grass eater) for dinner and had invited us over. Dex, Kari, Ken and Adam (colleagues from work) were already there at the house when we arrived. Dinner was amazing. I never realised home made burger could taste so good! Most of all, I realised that I couldn’t think of one person sitting around that table whom I didn’t love. It felt so good to know that we had, each one of us in our own little way, contributed to the creation of a network laid on the foundations of love and acceptance and broad mindedness. I take the liberty of calling that network a family. I am so happy that my parents raised me to recognize and adopt love and sincerity wherever I go. I am what I am and I have what I have, because they raised me to be this way. 

After dinner, somebody had one of those things that just sneaks up on you without any context or warning. An idea. And so we dressed Colleen up in a saree she’d brought back from her trip to Ahmedabad, a pink one which looked absolutely gorgeous on her. She was walking around in it like as if she’d been wearing it all her life! Now, Mr. Martin, the sport that he is, couldn’t sit still while his wife was being Indian, so he went into his room and five minutes later, emerged a rajput prince, chudidar bottoms and all. And I’m just sitting there looking at them, the true filmy Indian that I am, “Sundari neeyum Sundaran nyaanum” (Beautiful[f] you and Beautiful[m] me) playing in my head. 

A little later, when everyone was American again and we were sitting by the fireplace, David Martin, Colleen and we, were discussing travel plans and all the places we could see during our stay here. When things like Niagra, New York, Broadway started featuring on the list, that’s the exact same moment Sneha, Akash and I started looking retarted. We were smiling that wide. Sometime after that, David Martin brought out his hymnal book, on my request, and sang one of the hymns from the book. The moment he was done, I was bursting to sing (usually the case when I hear a beautiful song – my heart starts to feel swollen and it could only be set right by singing), when Colleen asked me to do so, and I launched full on. “Sweet Child of mine” was possessed by me at that time, who ever heard of GNR or Sheryl Crowe? The energy around me was so awesome, with everyone clapping and smiling and oh having so much fun! I derive so much from being loved and being together with people whom I love. It just gives me so much joy that I drink it all up. I thrive in such an environment. I was having an emotional high and the only damper was that I was wishing so hard for my family to be there too :-).

Another one of those sneaky little things in someone’s head sent us all to a place of no return. The world of Dutch Blitz. If you have never played this game, you have to put it on your bucket list! It had us all around the table, playing like our lives depended on it, eyeballs darting, hands flying, hair disheveled, screaming, laughing , apologizing, “Blitz”-ing! The funniest expressions come out on people’s faces when they’re playing so intensely. They just lose all consciousness of self and it’s hilarious to watch the twists of the faces, the bending of the eyebrows, the sticking out of the tongue, the only thought in their head being “Damn, I have to Blitz! Now!”. It’s worse than wanting to pee! We played on for hours until Colleen and Ken won the game (or at least they said they did ;-P) and all of us were wiped out. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.

Mr. Pratt took us back home to our apartment sometime after the game. You should’ve seen the looks on our faces! Sneha and I couldn’t stop smiling for a good one hour. We hadn’t done anything extraordinary, we hadn’t accomplished anything great. But we’d had one of those exceptionally good days when everything went just right. We had no expectations and time kept surprising us, and lucky us, they were all good surprises! I’m just so glad I’m here and I hope you’re glad I’m here too, because now you get to experience all this, through me. I’m going to bed now and I hope we all dream of rainbows and leprechauns 🙂

What I learn from Mr. Pratt

First of all, a very happy new year to everybody! I hope this new year brings a lot of joy to every one of us and also gives us the ability, in some way, to bring joy to others around us.

Today I want to introduce you to a person, one Mr. David J Pratt. But before I tell you who he is, I am going to put down the life lessons I have gained from being associated with him for the past one month.

1. Ask.
We were sitting around the table having lunch when one of our colleagues asked Mr. Pratt, “so how did you develop such an enormous amount of secondary education?”. Mr. Pratt said something very significant then – “You have to ask people questions. They’re always ready to answer.” How true is that statement! Think about all those times when you’ve heard people talking and there’s a question right underneath your tongue, trying to poke it’s way out, but you don’t ask because some small, vile creature inside your head, usually called “fear”, is telling you “Oh, I might be interrupting”, “Oh, I might sound stupid”, “Oh, they might get offended if I ask”, “Oh, I can’t open my mouth because it stinks”, and you ultimately end up not asking your question, thereby remaining ignorant.

Or, it would turn out that some other brave soul ventured to ask the same question you thought of and you’d be busy berating yourself for not having asked it yourself, ulitmately missing the answer, remaining ignorant AND feeling stupid. I have always wondered how Mr. Pratt has the answer for almost everything. He can talk about the weather, he can talk about politics, he can talk about culture and history, he can talk about sports, name it and he will have something to say about it. He is one of those people who, when he talks, sends out the message that he knows what he’s talking. The wealth of knowledge that he can display is an object of envy. But I have come to understand that this knowledge comes to you only if you take the pains to ask questions, display interest and let your inquisitiveness out of the locked chest.

2. Listen. Give your time of the day.
How many times have you pretended to listen to someone, all the while nodding your head, taking care that your eyes don’t go all moony and your mouth doesn’t drool, and all that while, thinking about something that has got remotely nothing to do with with what the other person is saying? Oh come on! Don’t kid yourself, we all know what we do. But what if I tell you that Mr. Pratt not only pays utmost attention to what anyone is saying, but also, at our staff meetings in office, at general discussions that we may have, when someone is presenting their views, or if someone is sharing knowledge, I have seen Mr. Pratt, with his notepad and pen, writing down what he hears! It doesn’t matter who is talking, whether it’s me and my friends, or it’s David, or Colleen, or his own daughter Ciara, he gives them the time of the day to listen, and if he feels it’s useful information, he writes it down. If you stop to think about it, we miss out on very important huge chunks of information because we just don’t listen. And if we do, we don’t care about it enough to want to record it for future reference. Things we have never heard of and may find interesting could hit us SMACK on the face, and we wouldn’t even notice. I’ve learnt to  try and increase my attention span to listen and absorb as much as I can, to take the time and write down things that might interest me or someone else in the furture, to not underestimate what I’m hearing, be it from anybody.

3. You don’t have to do fun things. You can make things fun.
Mr. Pratt doesn’t do anything that is not fun. That’s not because he does fun things. But because he finds his fun in every little thing he does. If he’s training us on something, it’s fun, if he’s picking us up in the morning to go to office, that’s fun, if he’s stuck at home because of the snow, that’s fun too! It’s amazing how he finds something fun in everything he does. But that trait makes him such a fun person to be with. There will never be a moment’s worth of lull in his company. We all say things like “see the glass half full”, “see the donut and not the hole”, and then make a face  as though we’ve said the wisest of things and look smug. I’ll tell you what? I think some of us are capable of just that. Say stuff, look smug. And then there’re people like Mr. Pratt, who not only see the glass half full, but pick it up and fill it to the brim too. It’s amazing how much energy and good vibes this one man gives out. He taught us the good old song of UVA, not only taught it, but also printed out the lyrics for each one of us. He took us for the “First night at Charlottesville” carnival on new years’ night, and watching the Mark Twain show, and dancing at the Beatles show with him was the perfect celebration. He bought us party hats and light sabers and other goodies and what do you know, we were the craziest group of four at the downtown mall. We saw the fire dancers, heard the high school choirs, saw the ball drop at twelve and counted down to the new years’ at the top of our lungs. See what I mean? He’s fun 🙂

David Pratt is currently the Executive Vice President and Managing Director of M·CAM©, Inc. He is 53 years old and has served for ten years on the leadership staff of the United States Senate, as a Senate Officer in the role of the Secretary for the Majority. I respect him and admire him for his energy and passion for life and I can definitely say my list of role models is one person longer.

New kids on the block

That’s us, Akash, Sneha and Sharadha. We were the vistors from India. On the very first day, after we had moved in to our suite, where a gift hamper awaited us (it had fleeces that said ‘Virginia’, Basmati Rice, Dal, Kurkure and Haldirams – talk about making us feel at home! and lots of fruits), we went grocery shopping with David and Colleen to Harris Teeter. Grocery shopping with the boss… ha! how many of us can claim to have experienced that? 🙂 (if I’m being pompous, bear with it). Harris Teeter, Staples (the electronics store), the roads, the scenery, the people, everything was so new to me. I wished I had an extra pair of eyes and half a brain more to take in and process all of it. The Martins’ house is beautiful and the Christmas tree was up and decorated with lights when we arrived. That day, we had our first dinner with the Martins’ and a few other colleagues, namely Adam and Kari, both of whom are wonderfully animated, uniquely interesting people and will feature a lot more in my later posts. One more personality whom I have grown to love over the past few weeks is Scooby, the Martins’ dog. The fellow is uncannily human, I kid you not! I think my favourite part of my first day at Charlottesville was when we were taken to the office at night, and I saw a picture of the three of us (which we’d sent to Colleen earlier) stuck on the wall outside the room which would be our office for the next five months. I think it was at that exact moment that I started getting high on happiness combined with exhaustion. The day ended with a very beautiful concert at a nearby church in which Hunter, another colleague, sang as part of a choir. My shutting down process began the moment the song ended and after that I only remember the soft light as the sun’s rays poked me awake the next morning. Apparently, we’d kick started with style.

When we went to office the next day, which was our first day at work, I could take in much more of how the office was set up and the seating arrangements, now that I had let out a few snores. We learnt that everyone shared information about their work, updates and random bits of news during the first hour of the morning, it being called the ‘staff meeting’ after which everyone proceeds for a coffee at mud house. The downtown mall happens to be right behind where our office is located and that place was a whole new world for me. It was like stepping into a postcard! People hurrying along in coats, hanging on to their coffees, college students on their morning run, people with instruments playing and singing to their hearts’ content, without a worry in the world, every shop and restaurant and fast food joint looking like the ‘store around the corner’ and above all, everything about it seemed to shout ‘America!’. I am yet to explore the mall, I’m sure it’s worth an entire post.

I’d like to take the liberty to say that the three of us blended into the office atmosphere as though we’d always worked at M-CAM. One thing I noticed very prominently is that the people at M-CAM are very passionate about what they do. It’s a very rare thing nowadays, to find one’s passion and one’s job integrated at the same point. We were reminded time and again by David that we were here, not to “tick boxes”, but to contribute, with passion, to what could be made better or create what could make better. The first two weeks at office flew past and all the while we were getting to know people, the business, the IT requirements (our field of interest), basically getting our bearings interleaved with our first movie here (New Moon) and an American football game. We also had the chance to go down to where Mr. Pratt, one of our colleagues and a board member of M-CAM, sold Christmas trees with his boy scouts. If you ever get a chance to take a whiff of the stump of a pine tree, you’ll realise it’s one of the freshest aromas you can ever treat your nose to. My friend, Akash, is reading as I type out this post and he was wondering out aloud why I would post this “documentation” as a blog, for the world to see. I’m posting this because the reception we recieved and the love, not just cordiality or warmth, but love, with which we’re being treated is an experience all by itself. It’s an experience that revives the essence of a society that includes and embraces rather than excluding and outcasting. Mere words cannot explain this concept, but I hope the instances that I have put down will give anybody who is interested, an idea about how it all looks, through my eyes. We aren’t visitors anymore, we’re part of the circle.

My first day in the USA

Technically, this is my 14th day. I’m starting this entry by feeling sorry about not having started to put my thoughts down earlier. I’m already forgetting what it felt like to feel like a foreigner in a foreign country, the country being my dream, the US of A. Now, I just feel local. Charlottesville? Ah, that’s my city, you should visit sometime… and it’s only been fourteen days. Like my boss, Mr. David Martin said, “If you don’t capture your first impression of something, in any form, it is lost forever”, and I see what he means. If I’d written this entry on 6th Decmeber 2009, I’d have started it with words that probably suggested that I’m having a major case of hypermania caused due to excessive excitement. I know it’s late, but I want to try and recall any small detail that that will help me relive my first day here.

When we (Akash, Sneha and I) boarded the flight at Dubai, bound for Dulles, Washington DC, I was petrified. We were the only Indians apart from a very old couple and it’s one of those moments when you feel like every eye is on you and every laugh and snicker seems to directed at you. Often happens when you’re on foreign territory (I guess, because this was my first time). But we somehow managed to fumble our way across to our seats (only to have it rearranged later because each one of us were seated separately, flanked by overly built rugby team girls). I knew my journey of five months had started then, when:
* I realised every meal had meat in it, and vegetarian meals had to be pre-ordered (so I ate cucumbers).
* I started feeling like I was in a Hollywood movie where everyone spoke in an accent that some jokers back home tried desperately to imitate and failed miserably.
* It sank in, that in a few hours, I’ll actually be seeing Dr. David E. Martin, the reason we were going to the US and his wife Colleen, whom we’d only interacted with via e-mails. It was a particularly consoling fact that they’d be there at the airport to recieve us, for which they’d have had to get up really early in the morning and drive. The fact that they cared so much was enough to wipe out some of the alien feeling that had started to creep in.

The excitement started when the plane touched ground. An exhilerating mix of skeptism and a thrilling sense, both of which stemmed from the fact that we’re in foreign land now. Sparing details about baggage trouble (Sneha’s bag arrived late) and emigration (I think WE scared the OFFICER by looking like overly enthusiastic deranged people who’s smiles only threatened to get wider), we came through the swing doors to see the most welcoming face we’d seen in a long time. Everyone, Dr. David E Martin, CEO of M-CAM Inc., the company we are going to intern at. The only thing that could equal the joy of being hugged so warmly by him, was being received by Colleen, his wife, with just as much warmth and happiness. Right then, they’d given us our biggest welcoming gift, an invitation into their lives and world. First thing they did was  to let us call back home to let our parents know we’ve reached. I remember my mom’s voice then, full of excitement and happiness for me, and I knew my dad and sisters were somewhere in the background, all smiles. I remember missing them terribly. I also remember wondering then, why did these two people, one whom we’ve met for hardly a day, another whom we’ve never met, and both being the top people in the company we’re going to intern at, have to come all the way to the airport to recieve us? Why did they take all this trouble? I realised this tiny detail mattered to them, I also realised we were important to them, as in a later conversation we had with David he said “you three are here because you have to be here for the story to be complete”. That gesture of coming to the airport laid a strong foundation for our relationship, because it stated that we are of as much importance to M-CAM and to the people there as it is to us. I knew then that I’d made the right decision by coming here, I knew then that I belonged here. I was reminded of my parents, who take into consideration every tiny detail in all the realtionships that they maintain, and I realise now, that sincerity is what makes it work. The effort that goes into it is of elephantine propotions, but it pays off at the end of the day, because you’re left with a wealth of healthy and strong relationships. Dr. David and his wife were people to whom relationships mattered and with that realisation, I embarked on my five month journey at M-CAM and in the US… happily.