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Posted March 3rd, 2003 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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It is a busy Thursday afternoon at the Fox Chase Cafeteria. People are queuing at the cash register, eager to fill their hungry stomachs and a little irritated at the long line in front of them. The African American woman at the register is working briskly ringing the purchases of each customer. It is the turn of an old man, who is trying to clutch and his walking stick and also pull out the required change. The people behind are getting impatient with the old man’s clumsiness. Finally he manages to get the money out and pay the cashier who bids him good bye with her customary “Thanks baby!  Have a nice day”. The old man smiles wistfully and mutters “Wish I really was a baby”.  The woman at the registrar doesn’t miss a beat, “We are all babies in the eyes of God”.
All the people in the line smile spontaneously, their minor irritation vanishing abruptly at that interaction. Sometimes that’s all that takes to get a smile on one’s lips!!

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I am walking to office, head down trying to stop the wind from whipping around my ears. I take each step cautiously, testing the sidewalk for ice. Last week, in my haste to catch the bus I slipped on an icy patch and went sprawling down. I did not want to repeat that experience again.. Cars are whizzing past on the road beside me. I pay no attention except to cringe at the torrent of air that whooshes past me. A gray van pulls up next to me and I hear somebody shouting. I don’t look up. I did not want to raise my head and miss my stride. I keep walking. The voice gets louder and I start making out the words. Somebody is speaking Malayalam. I look up quickly. There is a lady in the car who asks me in Malayalam “Are you going to the hospital, Do you want a lift?”. I goggle at her. She has to repeat the question thrice before I comprehend what she is telling me. I juggle the offer in my mind…Childhood lessons have instilled the fact that “You Shalt Not Accept Lift From Strangers”. But then again how often do you meet a fellow Malayalee in a new town”. I accept the offer …she asks her driver to move the pile of magazines in the passenger seat next to the driver. Before I get in and compose myself …she fires a volley of questions. Siddharth Basu couldn’t have done better in the final round. Where am I from, where do I stay here, when did I join, which department am I in, where are my parents, what do they do, why am I here…..
I try to reply to that quick fire round. But the buzzer goes off before I complete. We are already at the hospital entrance. The driver, who turns out to be her husband (the only information she revealed about herself), leaves us at the hospital entrance. I turn to thank her for the lift. She brushes my thanks off and rushes off to her office. I go off towards mine….I stop and turn around to ask my benefactress her name and some questions that suddenly occurred to me :How on earth did she know I am a Malayali and a FCCC employee but she has already vanished.

It has been a week since that incident. I have not seen her again.
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Radio Bakwas , a Princeton based radio station , is airing the live commentary of any cricket match that India features in. I figured that out while we were driving back from office during the India-Pakistan match and I let out such a cry of delight that David (my colleague from PEM Technologies) thought he ran over a doctor (or worse a lawyer, in his words) . After I explained to him the significance of the match and the fact that India was winning THE match, he tried to enter into the spirit of the things. But in vain!!David was totally amused at my exclamations and reactions on hearing the commentary. The commentators were biased, kept talking about the “tenacity” of the batsman, virtually appointed Rahul Dravid as the next Indian captain and applauded each shot with the classic American “There you go!!..it’s a four” . Add to that my own excitement as the winning runs were scored, it is not surprising that David was totally amused.
The pièce de résistance came fittingly at the end of the presentation ceremony. After the man of the match awards had been presented, the Hindi commentator decided to add his own thank you speech…through a song. In true Indian spirit, he reworks the famous bhajan “Sabarmati ke sant, tune kar diya kamaal” to something like this

John wright tera ehsaan hi ehsaan
Saurav ko hataakar tune Sehwaag ko khilaya
Sachin tere balle ka kamaal hai niraala.

I couldn’t really finish hearing the whole thing before I was clutching my stomach and trying not to roll off the car seat. We reached my apartment before the guy reached Srinath ke karnaame ,where David gladly deposited me before zooming off to sanity

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