I have always wanted to write a biography – ever since I had an opportunity to read My Days by R.K. Narayan. I know that my life is not THAT eventful to be chronicled, but I think that events and people have influenced me and my thinking. I really wanted to chronicle that aspect so that people, many them who do read my blog will be able to know the impact they caused (on me). This would be multi part reminiscences of the past 3 years.
I had passed the BE in June. While it was good to be a college graduate and all that, deep down inside I knew I was a quack. If somebody came then and there and gave me a motor’s parts and asked me to assemble it, I would have floundered. I still thought of holes as physical entities – as I was not able to visualize the concept of electrons travelling in terms of spatial lattice movement. That was one reason I did not have the usual BE based status in Yahoo! or MSN messengers. July 5th was the day I had my Visa interview. When I look back at that day, I cannot stop feeling funny for the fact that I wore my formal suit for the Visa interview – clean shaved, side parted hair and all that. My dad accompanied me to the consulate and as usual was trying to convince me that going to the US was not a good idea – now you know where I get my stubbornness from :D
The interview itself was a farce – the guy asked me about my university, whether I planned to work etc and then glanced through my financial documents which was quite a bit as I had, unknowingly, taken all my parent’s saving certificates and bank passbooks and any document which showed that my folks were owning a decent bit of money. The moment the officer said that I’d get my passport in 3 days and to have a safe trip to US, I think I got into some kind of high which you get when you are ecstatic. I remember vaguely that I jumped the curb railing and retrieved my motorbike from the parking mess and somehow made my dad climb on and drove quite haphazardly back home, of course with my dad warning me about the lorry ahead or the auto-kaaran, as is his wont. The day passed off in a hurry – visit to my paternal grandmother’s and generally trying to google stuff on Florida and Tampa – I came to know about Ybor City then ;-) My dad for his part somehow came up with a family friend who lives in Tampa L. I really surprised that all tambrahm families are connected somehow or the other. So much for my plans for going to US as it had no living family member.
The only other person to get a kick out of the whole visa approval process was my sister, A. A and me are the exact opposites in more ways than one – she is short, extremely fair, curly hair (I know – oh!-so-tambrahm! only), sema hardworking and prone to trying to impress her coterie with either her marks or something else. Though I believe that every tambrahm family in Chennai has at least one living relative in US, my sister put some vetti scene and all her friends trooped in to our home in the evening for some vetti talk. I was a one room wonder in our home. With my book-shelf and computer being in my room, I found no reason to come out of my room except for my bath, sandhi and of course, food. It was surprising for me to be asked to talk to makkal who were 6 - 7 years younger to me – thankfully they asked me pointed questions like where I was going and all that and soon enough, my sister convinced that any more conversation will take off the novelty factor from me, took them to A. Bakery to ‘treat’ them – PSBB KKN makkal will definitely know what A. Bakery is! For the others it’s a popular hangout spot near the school.
The next struggle was getting a flight ticket to US – every travel agent quoted some 36000 figure and soon enough, through some contact (yeah, everything in my family happens through contacts!), I got a ticket on the day my mom deemed to be auspicious – August 9th.
The period from July 5th till August 5th was spent in visiting every known person and God in Chennai and also in our native place – Mayiladuthurai. Visits to the older people (relatives or otherwise) usually involved conversation about how whether they would see me another time (a figure of speech used to imply that they will kick the bucket soon – this comment from the oldie meant that you’ve got to assure them that you’ll return to India soon), about how I might go astray (viz. beedi, kudi and kutty – for the tamil challenged, cigarette, wine and women), how US lacked the culture which India was rich in and all that blah. Visits to the middle aged makkal will result in they having a family member in some state – mostly amongst Calif., Chicago, Texas, Seattle or New England/Potomac area. The irritating aspect of this would be that they would force information about you – like email address, phone number etc – which I pretended to be taking down on a piece of paper. The last category of people were the best – BE class mates. My parents knowing the fact that my spoken language with friends around contained 3 swear words in every spoken word, avoided coming out to those ‘reunions’. I’d not been interested in going to the beach-house bash which my class makkal had organized before the end of exams and so caught up with small groups of people. And amidst all this, shopping happened. And also, the major thing – my educational loan was sanctioned.
The worst phase was the last one week. With my mom prone to crying at the drop of the hat – she was not able to bear the fact that I’ve lived all my life with her except for a brief 6 months when my sister was about to be born. My dad had his own ways of getting to my nerves – he advised me on every arbit stuff and most importantly I was kept under house arrest under pretext of it being too hot (in Madras is there anytime, when it is NOT hot?) – when the real reason was they did not want me to driving my motorbike the way I used to do back then.
Finally, the day arrived – August 8th. My sister, the ever sincere padips, refused to bunk school and so the whole day, my only source of entertainment was absent. Some hajaar phone calls from supposedly ‘near’ ones in the family literally repeated the same stuff about being a ‘samathu’ payyan – whatever that meant.
For my mom, the day marked a marathon crying session – exacerbated by the fact that due to imminent terrorist attacks, the airport security procedures were stricter – and so my family was asked to send me off outside the main entrance of the airport. It is still an puzzling thing that while my dad, mom and sis were standing with tear-soaked eyes, I did not feel emotional. I only felt bad at leaving my sister, who for all the uninteresting geek that she was, was a silent accomplice to all my shady dealings in the past 3-4 years – including a roaring CD writing business, my actual CAT marks in SVCE and other such stuff. The 3 hour wait at MAA passed in a flutter and man, it was good to be finally be on my own – in a land where I really had no strings attached – it seemed blissful – at least then.