A story from 2001/2002
What’s a man got to do with his wife?
[[nothing !! well then your wife is “goinnu” leave you ;)]]
I have this great friend I made long ago, way back in 2001. Not quite as long as my high school days. But in graduate school you have got to be quite inspired to get to know as many people as you can. And I am this guy who always has friends as soon as he arrives in a place.
That’s not happening as much anymore but that has to do with how I have become this online zombie over the years.
SO David was this tall handsome hunk always wearing a big smile on his face. This smile has got nothing to do with his intellectual curiosity. He was not that bright academically and had to struggle quite a bit with his homework where I was of some help but only a very few times.
He was not the only guy that would turn up to me for some quick solutions to the tricky problems. His smile had to do with the phony remarks he would make every now and then and he was a delight to be around. I always liked him. He always wears those pants with cargo pockets in them and I was always a fan of the American dressing fashion.
He comes from Washington DC every weekend and spend the week over the graduate school. He was in the army and wanted to add to his academic degrees because it helps. Now I was also quite a bit interested to make a friendship with him because I wanted to learn a lot, what Americans are all about.
He would always make remarks gleefully as gleefully as the mathematical theorems in high school. And he wouldn’t buzz when he would make any remarks on the international Professors at the Department at Tech. He was mad at them for their sucking English abilities and sloppy communication. He was often riled for not understanding them.
He was a strongly opinionated American and I liked that very much. It was a great learning experience that way. He was like, these Chinese Professors don’t understand the American culture and China is a danger to the freedom of American civilization and so on. Boy, I can go on and on and on and still would not come to a halt for another ten minutes if I were to tell all the opinions he had about everything.
I was possibly the guy he liked a lot. He would later send me an email or two to Japan when I moved to the country.
(I have a story about Jeremy Garrot and a story about Jeremy Makola (danger) and all the other blacksburgians. I also have the story about Blacksburgs mayor.)
SO David used to drive between Washington DC and Chrstaainsburg (Christiansburg) a lot. On one of the occasions, I wanted to go to the capital to apply for a Visa to Japan. For that I had to go to the embassy in Washington and the Indian and the Japanese embassy come quite close to each other. I am just telling you so you know I am not faking you a story.
Pretty much all embassies are close to each other, a triumph of how the American cities have been designed. I think I have made like at least 5 trips to this city and it’s a beautiful city and in my latest trips I drove to the embassy of Nigeria and this one is located a bit remote, miles away from most of the embassies.
I have many stories of all the cities I have been to, but I will possibly remember them as I grow old, they are still being processed to come out exactly like I intended them, so why they would happen in the first place. Its a tall claim indeed. But we can see something to be tall, so that’s not really something I find a problem with.
Basically its up to you to decide they are stories about me or stories of all these cities. SO David promises he would give a ride to Washington as he lives by the suburbs of the city in a place called Fredericksburg. He lived there with his family. It was then a great chance for me to see how the Americans really live and if there are any aboriginals near the Nations capital.
Washington DC is a 4 hours drive from Blacksburg where Virginia Tech is located. And Virginia is a beautiful state. You take US 460 bypass from Blacksburg, reach on towards Christiansburg, drive towards Roanoke by the ramp to I81 North.
Once you are on, its pretty much straight forward. Keep on going, blue field, West Virginia, Charlottesville … Maryland …. and you turn right somewhere to go towards Washington DC, I think before you enter the Baltimore Maryland region.
I am not referring to map quest so please correct me if needed. But I strongly suspect I am screwing it up. So I am backing it up with a little map quest. OK you don’t go towards blue field neither you go towards Charleston or Charlottesville, they are just all there, nearby. Neither do you go towards Baltimore Maryland.
Once you have reached Roanoke as I said, continue for Harrisonburg and at Strasburg turn right towards DC, Front Royal. So without map quest we are going to make a mess of our commuting lives. We wouldn’t know where to go, where to turn if we were to make a choice of driving around and we would end up somewhere in the wild woods.
(I have a story to that as well, in Indiana, Boy, have I seen the United States, I have stories to tell about New Delhi too, give me some breathing time, just being boastful but I like both, being boastful and telling stories when I recall them, since travel has taken much part of my life what else can I tell you)
So we reached in Fredericksburg where David put up with his family and we spent the night at this place. We had a plan to commute to DC as soon as possible in the wee mornings as it was otherwise going out to turn a morning sickness of driving worries. It could be crowded and we could miss our appointment with the embassy.
So this place is quite wet with water droplets from the winter. Beautiful. And I am only 8 months into the USA, this beautiful country of which I have no idea, but I am in absolute love with it.
(I will never have an idea, they say, because they think I am a handsome guy and I should have had made plenty of girl friends or at least a beautiful family for myself but I am this eccentric guy going around all places and yet not finding for myself a shelter )
SO David’s place is beautiful. It always amazed me the prosperity the Americans have for themselves. You can work in the armies and make for yourself a beautiful house in the state capital, a wife and 3 kids, commute to one whole another city for hours over the week end and study in one of the good places.
David always opined that Virginia Tech is just an average school which was quite true about the Department and he opined I should have gone for Caltech given my brilliant aptitude for the studies and the high scores I was making for myself in the courses.
I explained how given where I come from this indeed is a great chance and does not really make much difference to me, I was at Virginia Tech or Caltech. Physics is such a study if you do not go to the best of the schools you can still make for yourself a good career if you were to persist really hard and toil like a true student even when you are well settled.
Once you are a physicist you will always have to write and work a great deal, through the nights, like all these other hardworking people, and once you are hardworking, it all sets in you to make a progress for yourself no matter where you are.
SO David had a big house. One bedroom for each of his kid and so on. He still had a room where I slept the night with the other guy we had with us for Visa paperwork. David then showed us around his house and his refrigerator asking us to feel free to take food if we feel hungry.
The Americans are a generous people when it comes to sharing food with people they make a friendship with.
And he showed me how his son had a copy of the great Richard Feynman best seller Surely you are joking Mr Feynman. I already knew about this book but never had read it. Actually he also had the Feynman and Weinberg Character of Physical Laws but that I thought was a bit more technical for anybody’s taste.
It’s a great tribute what a legend Feynman had been and how he had really been revered around the nation and the world and with all these interesting private incidents you can see the great amount of truth and brilliance Feynman exuded and scattered around the world.
David was married to Stephanie. Timothy was his son and Bailey was his daughter. I think he had another son and I am having to have a bad memory from old age. It was all 8 years ago. These kids were all very cool about meeting someone from another country and we all enjoyed.
The next morning we went for our trip to Washington DC. David had a old car and it all started raining really bad. I could hardly see anything but he was driving like a real maestro. You could remember from my other driving stories where I told you how I learned driving how I did not know a thing about the American highways system, it was all very mysterious to me.
Couple years later and then another year after and I was driving the same way. Like a real maestro. It all takes a lot of expertise at learning everything in a new culture among people you don’t quite understand a hell lot about and yet you can be so friendly. Once you are set in your ways expertise gradually pours in.
SO it was a bit difficult to drive around in all that rain. But that was the part, which should have come later in my mind. What actually happened is we reached Washington DC swiftly as we were 3 people in the car and we could use the fast lane. If you are two or less you can not.
We reach our destination and then looked for a parking place. We found it a few blocks apart. We parked it, the car, there. And while we walked back we got talking about the beautiful women passing by. David was excited and I noticed. And I was always onto humor about anything, more so with women.
David asked me to be kind enough not to tell all of this to Stephanie and I agreed. It’s culture etiquette among boys. So we had to go to this 7, 11 store around the block and if you know there is this big circle in Washington DC where this is all located. So we purchased the stamps required for the Visa to Japan.
Funnily enough Japan charges you only $7 or so for their first Visa. Then the story begins; don’t be elated about not spending a huge lot. You enter Japan for a year and then they require you to renew your Visa every year at $100 and the reentry permit at another $100.
So you end up paying $200 every year and at that rate you pay $1000 for the 5 years, you intend to stay if you do. But you pay only $120 for your 5-year stay in the USA towards Visa. And in Japan you pay a hefty lot for acquiring license to drive or your driving permit, you pay $800 for a year towards something called Hoken and $300 per year towards something called Saken which is the road tax.
If that’s not enough you pay $100 towards insurance per every month. I am not complaining here but giving you an idea of what’s involved when you live in a country like Japan. It’s a beautiful country and you will certainly like so many things about it. SO it all comes up to $2500 just for the car every year.
There are many other things that you may learn from me about a life in Japan but here I am not done with my story about my great friend David and his love for women folks that he wanted to hide from his wife. But if for one thing you should never hide stuff from your wife.
Women are dangerously revengeful if not very educated and willfully sexless if educated. What does education do to them? But if we have to have a choice we even go for other guys. It’s a free world and free association is the buzzword.
SO in Washington DC we are walking around from the parking place to the 7, 11 and from there to the embassy when I realize I dropped my passport somewhere. Its blamed to the jokes we had about the women that were passing by. It was a serious overlook, all droppings are a serious overlook, don’t just apply it to the droppings of the atomic bomb over Japan.
Now I am in a pickle. I am in DC to get my Visa and my passport where they will stamp the Visa is lost. We go back, like we came along, in the hopes that we find my passport just lying somewhere. We then go to the 7, 11 and this huge black lady that was working there said she wouldn’t have my passport.
She was more like feeling guilty when we were begging her help or rather mercy. SO we came back and go to the Indian embassy instead. The Indian embassy advises us to lodge a police complaint and come back to the Embassy with all other documents like the utilities bill and so on.
We went finding a nearby police station and it’s called something I don’t remember. This is when it started raining badly. We somehow found the police station and it all worked out easily because we had our American friend David driving us. The cops at the police station asked us to first go to the embassy and get a letter on the embassy letterhead and come back in writing that I had a passport.
SO David drives us back to the embassy and the embassy head, whatever he is called, says the same thing again, go and get a police report first then we will write a letter. I think it was a severe ego clash between the police department and the embassies after the September 11, which was only 7 or 8 months past. They all wanted the other to suck up to their own ass.
David is unhappy that my countrymen are supposed to help me out rather than take it up like a diplomatic weasel. The embassy head is then advising me to lie a little. You had a backpack and a passport and some 20 bucks in it that all got lost somewhere. I am like, I can’t lie. The head is like 7 billion people on the earth can lie and you cant.
I am like Sir its actually 6 billion but why I lie about this. So he comes up with his frustration. You stay in this country for another 5 years and you will know nobody survives here without the lies. SO it goes back and forth between the cops and the weasels and I got a letter or something.
Now I go back entirely tired from all the tough experience and return to Blackburg. I needed to return again with all my utility bill and other documents. So Leo, my thesis adviser decides to give me a ride back to DC. He asks me to come to the Department by the morning so he can drive me to DC.
I didn’t want to miss the timing and come up like a worthless fella. So I took the last bus of Blacksburg Transit which runs at 1.45 am and came to my office waiting for Leo to arrive in the early morning. Now I left the door open and slept a little sitting on chair with my head on the table.
Leo comes around the first time and didn’t come quite inside the office, goes around possibly for a coffee or looking for me, I wouldn’t know, comes the second time around.
By this time I knew that he has arrived, as I wasn’t sleeping but waiting with a little rest to my mind. And I have not been sleeping from that day onwards up until now. SO I am up and Leo is like where have you been I have been looking for you all around, I am like I was right here. His displeasure was quite visible for another half an hour, he kept quite quiet.
SO we started from Blackburg to Washington DC and he spoke for the first time after half an hour. He is like, you are hungry? I am all scared from my great mistake for not being quite there as soon as he arrived in the office, so I am like, but is it OK!! He is like we can get something drive thru and eat while on the car, driving.
So I am all bamboozled about the great country on earth where I have arrived where you can eat while driving. And he is the one who is trying to inspire me to check it all out that lies beneath your horizon. SO he pulls out to some MacDonald after a while and we get for ourselves some sandwich and coffee.
I wanted to get something else after we just pull out from the drive thru so I go back and order some coffee for myself and French fries while Leo is waiting at the car.
I offered Leo the French fries that I had for him, how much I thought about him. He is like, Did I order this or you were not told something like that and I went bamboozled again. And I am thinking who cares if you don’t get the fries for free. SO we pulled up again onto I81 as I had told you before and reached Washington DC in 4 hours.
Now he waited for me in the lounge of the embassy and making a joke like, I hear they all need a lot of oiling in India for things to get ahead. I didn’t quite understand he could joke, so I am a bit guilty again as I don’t want my country to be represented in any nasty way whatsoever. And look how much I have changed.
SO I got lucky this time, paid a hefty lot, $325 for a passport that is valid only for a year and you have to go all the way to India to get this renewed. Things have changed a lot, now you can get a new passport in USA itself for 10 years. Once we were done with all the paperwork and I got a new passport we thought we must go around the city. It was a great idea.
We saw a 3D movie about how a missile is shot and it all came like we are hitting it right in front of our eyes. It was this place called Smithsonian Museum. We saw a replica of the skylab, the Apollo 11 and so on. Leo wanted to inspire me on the great strides we make in science by showing and explaining me the working of a Jet engine. So it was all fun.
(Remember I was his new grad student from India, a very smart fella and he was my high profile thesis adviser, who knew everything, everything that I have to know I can ask him)
We then moved around the city. We parked his car @ $14 , on the basement, figured out how to get back there in a whgiff . I queried if Canada would be a cleaner place or US and Leo with his usually unexpressed opinions come up with his patriotic feelings. Canadian cities are way cleaner and USA cities don’t even stand a chance.
SO we took our stroll and came back to the parking place. We then wanted to go around in the car. He wanted me to take a note of the places by the buildings by taking a note of the buildings and also navigate him, but I think that was a complicated job for a new Teaching Assistant from India.
He even complained later how it was all a mess how I don’t know how to navigate, but when I learned driving it was all a great job at the driving wherever I have been, figuring out things in a whisker, before you even come up with the problem. I have driven around so many cities without ever going there before and I have so mastered all the rules and exceptions that you can give me the car and sleep like you have never slept before.
Now that I have grown quite old you may not see all the glory I had experienced while driving around the world, but what I know, try. So I returned him a favor this time when I drove him around in Hawaii, many years later. It was for my purposes but he saw me at the wheel.
The Mohan he and everybody thinks is such a worthless fella doesn’t take instant to come up with solutions real time. A tribute to the great scientist.
So we returned to Blacksburg, its almost evening when he took the exits out of downtown Washington and I didn’t forget to get a very tasty deli from some very nice eatery possibly just to irritate him. How much I loved the food. He drove for 8 hours in the day and I enjoyed it all. God I am the luckiest bastard in the world.
We arrived in Blackburg and I returned a check to Leo for all the gas and parking fees. But he was a kind person as he halved the parking charge.
1 month later I got a call from the embassy somebody found my passport and they sent via mail. SO I returned the one with one-year validity but it all helped from all the hassles as the old one was valid for another 9 years. The money I spent was worth for it.