Friday, August 28, 2009


The work is kinda slow today (oops I probably jinxed it) well that gives me a chance to quickly jot down my thoughts and most of all touch base with all you folks out there. So how’s everybody doing?

Summer is slowly slipping away and the subtle cold winds in the evenings remind me of chilly winters. But well, why think of it when its not in sight right? Working in Seattle has been quite some experience for me, for one it feels like the elite FORT area in Mumbai. Everyone’s very well dressed, except me ofcourse. I continue to wear a sloppy pair of jeans and t-shirt, many times salwar kurta and find myself standing out in the crowd. I can feel the eyes on my back when I get into the elevator especially on days I wear kurta. But frankly I am not the only one, I have seen some others who like me wear Indian attire, not in the company I work for but I have seen some on the bus. Then is the ride back to Bellevue, that kinda of quite too, everyone has their head dug either in a book, are in deep sleep or are listening to music. You may find someone get in the bus, asking driving when to get off and completely lost. There maybe 5 others who know about the place this person is trying to get to, yet no one offers help. Which is strange to me. However, this experience contradicts the one you may come across when you travel to downtown, university district and such areas within Seattle. I once got on a bus to go to downtown, near university. Ofcourse this was the first time I was travelling in that direction or to the destination, so I asked the driver, then with a scared rabbit face I sat as near to the exit as possible. I strained my ears to hear what the bus driver announced. The bus was filling up with people and this scared me even more, after a while the exit door was out of site. But between the stop I go on the bus and the next one, I had nearly 4 people ask me where I was trying to get to. One guy told me he is responsible for me getting off at the destination. I was surprised and quite happy. These people kept looking at me at each stop and nodded, showed they were concerned and kept the promise of helping me find the destination. Next day as I took the 550 to Bellevue I realized how indifferent everyone was. Have you experienced something like this? Is there a reason for this behavior? While you think and ponder, I will check if avalanche of work has come in :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

To Go or Not to Go- Pratibha Kamerkar

Our marriage was a quick one- chaat magni paat biha. Ashok got vacation approval only for few days, it wasn’t closer to December so he wasn’t able to combine the long weekends with his vacation. Within a few days of his arrival we were married, actually almost in a hurry and then he flew back. It was only then that the real rituals started-post marriage: visa, immigration and most of all constant reminders of "jaldi jaldi apne ghar jaana" (go to "your" home soon now) from closer relatives….all this only for few months. Even before I could think about their nagging suddenly I was on a plane and landed here, in our new rented apartment in US.

I had insisted on buying some high heels sandals, but as soon as I landed the extreme cold and slippery tiles in the airport both hit me. Nonetheless US was like a fantasy world. Beautiful broad roads, tall sparkling buildings, speedy expensive cars…..everything so perfect..just like a painting. No crowd, no smoke and no dust.

And my home..home was a single family rented apartment…wall to wall carpet. Big kitchen, big bedroom and everything included-washing machine, dishwasher, microwave, cooking range, oven. Everything was just perfect!

The very next day after I reached US, Ashok rejoined office. That evening I dressed up, got ready and was waiting anxiously for him to come home. I thought, he would definitely say, "Let me show you our new city, lets go out". But when Ashok got home, he was extremely tired, "Oh, dinner's not ready yet, come on now lets eat quickly, I am so hungry"-says Pratibha Kamerkar

"What? Dinner at 6.00 pm?" she wondered. But in this fantasy picture perfect place, this was the norm. Here you would find seashores but no butte wala bhaiya neither the sound of chana-kurmura-shengdana lo….There was beautiful greenery everywhere, at every corner there was a flowering plant but no sign of bhel puri.

Back home newly married couple would hold hands and go for a walk to a closeby park, chit chat, eat bhel, kulfi and come home. But here this did not seem possible.

No one would come to drop off bottle of milk in the morning. No bai will come to clean vessels. If I go out to buy vegetables, I wouldn’t recognize any vegetables in the mall. If I wanted a cup of milk or sugar I couldn’t go next door and ask. Milk would be purchased in a cardboard carton, which would then go directly in to the fridge, just like that. For nothing would you go to anybody nor would anybody come visit you, cause there werent any real neighbours here. All this suddenly zoomed in-says Pratibha Kamerkar

These were some of the very first experiences of a girl from a very small town in India. One who was used to eating food served in a steel plate, drinking water from a glass made of steel, sitting on the floor to eat together with her family. One who didn’t even know an electric stove existed. She experienced pitch silence through out the day. Every neighbor's door closed. She could hear sound of the cars leaving and entering garages,but that was about it, for most parts it was pin drop silence.

Back home, she lived in a big joint family, someone or the other would be constantly talking, Gandma would always be reading some stotra loudly, Mom would always be nagging the servant. In the morning Dad would loudly ask for his tiffin, next door Lata would call out Pratibha's name and Pratibha would run to the balcony. Lata would always be on time to reach college. There was just a wall separating Pratibha and Lata's home which she could easily hop across; and most importantly back home there were thick friends. For Pratibha who grew up in such an environment this was similar to a lonely cage…ofcourse made of gold. Neither was she familiar with the country nor the customs. Neither could she go out nor was there enough work at home to kill time. Moreover the climate seemed extremely weird. Stingy cold winds, lush, thick, big, dark trees everywhere and to add to that cloudy skies. It was all new to Pratibha, who had never seen a day go by without the sun shinning bright in the sky. And here during winter there would be days without any sign of sun. She was unfamiliar with this, with the surrounding, she tried to relate to all of it but yet there was nothing she could relate to.

This is a glimpse of the first experience of Pratibha Kamerkar who migrated to US around 1950. She talks more about not being able to call her family due to the high phone charge and if at all they did manage to call home after saying "Everything is fine, I am happy here", she would start choking on her tears. The only means of communication with her family was through letters.

What did I feel after reading her experience? Did I relate to it? Did you relate to it?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

And America's Got Talent

Anyone watching the show? Any comments to share. While the tag from Neeraja is still pending, I wanted to throw some words together and build a quick post. After hearing constantly about the heat wave on news, Seattle has returned to its normal cloudy,almost raining, slightly cold self.

So about AGT, I have been watching the show this season, there is this one dance group (Indians)who danced on Jai Ho! It was fabulous, i loved it. And I am hoping to see more performances. Today there were 12 teams participating and all extremely talented but of those I simply adored these-One 14 yr old awesome singer, a group of guys dancing while wearing skates (yep skates)and an hilarious 75 year old Grandma Lee who creates the perfect comedy.

One other things I want to share with you all is the latest book that I am reading- For here or to go. Its in regional language and is basically a collection of interviews. Interviews of the first Indian immigrants who came to work in US. It gives an insight into what was the reasoning behind those who stayed here and why did some return back home. I have to sit down and write, share about what I feel after reading each interview. Each interview pushes you to think, ponder, sometimes tears just come to my eyes without knowing and sometimes I choke trying to not cry out loud. Sometimes it makes me proud reading stories of those brave people who didnt give up, who came here to test the strength in their wings and who flew to great heights. More about this book and the interviews coming up soon...