21 years ago today

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21 years ago today

Post by rasāsvāda on Tue Jul 31, 2018 2:22 pm

...her highness set her foot in this great land... 

hehe

It was quite a day and journey actually. Dad and I set on this journey 3-4 days ago. Mom was already here. 

Dad was pretty adamant that he won't take a 1 or 2 am flight out of India, so as not to break his night sleep. So he booked a 6 am flight out of Delhi by Air India, via a ticket agent of course. I think the departure out of Delhi was on 31st itself. Dad wanted to leave hometown on 29th, reach Delhi on 30th morning, and then take the next morning flight out. I used to be highly superstitious at the time (to some extent still am). So I consulted a hindu calendar for auspicious travel dates and times and determined we should leave town on 27th instead (or maybe it was 28th, forgetting). We had a huge showdown. dad did NOT want to stay 2 extra days in Delhi for NO reason. There was NO way I was leaving the country on an inauspicious day. Mom had to be involved over long distance. I won. 

We went and bought many suitcases, students on 1 way ticket were allowed 3 suitcases. when i had gone to Bombay to get my visa, i had already done my clothes shopping there. Bhabhi packed entire ration pots pans utensils that she could think of. I could have easily opened a kiraane ki dukan in the campus here, heh. 

Our train departure time was in the late afternoon. I went to get facial bleach in the morning. The assistant girls were not there when i went, so the main aunty did it. She wasn't used to my skin, so she burnt it. I freaked out. I was going to meet XH after 1 year with a burnt skin? she stayed calm. Did all possible treatments she could - mud mask, cocoa butter, rose pack, you name it, with icing in between. Told me to ice it the rest of the day. So when my friends came to see me off, I was sitting there icing all the time. Guess it took some gravity out of the situation. And all those treatments made my skin heavenly. I was looking pretty radiant, if i can say so myself. 

One friend made it to the train station to see me off, and she wasn't even my close friend. When we were leaving, the usual crying happened, and she cried so much, and I was inside like - 'wait why is she crying so much?' I assumed she got caught up in the moment. Was kinda comic though. My crying stopped by the time we left our station area. To think of it, that was the last time i ever travelled by train in India. 

Now that we were in Delhi for TWO extra days, my dad wasn't gonna SIT home (we stayed with my mausi). He decided we should get visa for Canada. So off we went, not knowing much about visa for Canada. That didn't work out, the embassy was closed or something. Now what to do. I remember feeling suffocated in hot Delhi (realized later it was pollution). He had another brain wave. Let's go to Air India office and get vusa(spelling?) tickets. (vusa tickets i think were for 100 dollars flat rate for any us domestic travel if you buy in advance). So off we go to air india office. They looked up our tickets. Up and down, inside and out. Then said, this is wrong. Wrong? What do you mean? They said - well your flight number is correct, 201. The departure time is also correct, 6 am. But that flight is out of Bombay, not Delhi. HAIN? I mean, a big HAIN?!!! After they confirmed it's an honest mistake, they reissued our tickets, to fly out of Delhi at 1 am (hahah poor dad). Then catch the same flight out of Bombay. 

This got me a chance to tell dad, 'See! this is coz we left at a good time. Otherwise we would have reached Delhi at 4 am only to learn there is no flight!' Got no contest from Dad. although I knew it would have still happened if dad wasn't so restless by nature. 

The evening before the flight, dad got the great idea to re pack ALL our 6-7 suitcases. So he took ALL the stuff out and laid it in my mausi's dining room. I was like what is going on. My friend was over to see me off. At the time she studied in IIT-D. She couldn't watch the chaos anymore, and quietly and quickly arranged everything neatly packing all the small - 2 dozen of them - bags within each suitcase. Surprisingly, dad let her and was thankful and appreciative for days. 

That's how we got into the first flight out of Delhi. While I was up there wired in every possible way, dad passed out even before the plane took off, and woke up only when we landed in Mumbai. Then came the task to catch up with him all over Mumbai airport. He was like a child in this respect. Would take off to check out stuff and invariably lose his way. You would be stuck. Can't keep up with him, can't leave luggage behind, and can't guarantee he will be back before boarding time. Anyhoos, i wanted to eat everything in the airport. He kept balking at the price of everything from tea to pastries to water to samosas to soda. But grudgingly paid coz i wasn't budging. 

The plane was to stop at London for 1-2 hours, but someone threw up on the way. So we were made to stay inside. I was sorta glad for it, coz i didn't have it in me anymore to chase dad in his favorite city's airport. Those times planes used to have smoking sections, and I saw my first non-indian people - white, black, tattooed, pierced, scantily dressed.  When they were cleaning the planes and opened the door, i realized London can be quite chilly in July, so dad was right all these years. Second half of the ride, I was passed out. 

Finally we landed in JFK. I had worn a white cotton turtleneck for the flight, which now had all sorts of blue and red fibers from the plane seats. Never wore white or cotton in a flight after that. As per the plan, XH was to pick us. Another aunt of mine was to pick up mom who was arriving at another terminal from another city about 1 hour after us. 

The moment we got out, I spotted XH waiting. he had a bouquet in his hands, and he was wearing the denim shirt I had sent him when he was here. One of his close friends was also there to pick up someone else in the same flight as mine. In all the confusion about how to find mom, I could not talk to him properly. At the time, none of us had any cell phone. So it was hard to coordinate. XH and i left papa behind to go looking for mom. It was so hot outside, especially in my turtleneck. While we were outside, I thought XH's friend is driving by coz he waved at me. I smiled and waved back at him. XH was surprised. 'who you waving at?' I am like, 'your friend there?'. He goes, 'no that's not him'. I am like, 'strange why did he wave at me'. Anyway, this became a joke with us friends for a long time, 'The moment tracy landed in America, it influenced her so much that she began waving at other guys, so forward'. LOL. 

Eventually we all connected and went to my aunt's house in Queens. I drove in XH's car. I had brought Pardes cassette especially for this moment (it was normal for me to gift cassettes to people those days). I played the song in his car - 'my first day in the USA'! Cheesy and all, but he was glad to get that album, and I was so glad to see him after so long. 

Aunt's place was a townhouse. For the first two hours I thought wow i must be dizzy from all that travel, the floor shakes when I walk on it. Then I realized it's not me, the houses in Amrika are made of WOOD! 

Soon aunt said, chalo it's dinner time. And I was like nope it's still not dark yet, only 6 pm or so. Then I looked at the watch and holy it was 8:30 pm and that's when I remembered how days are so much longer in western countries. 

So we had dinner, and XH left for his own place. Next day we did the must-do tourist activities of going to statue of liberty, etc.

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Re: 21 years ago today

Post by Seva Lamberdar on Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:13 am

Happy anniversary. Quite a hectic first trip to the U.S.!
You probably could have added more details about your hometown in India and the destination in the U.S. (Univ. and course etc.) in the nice write-up above.
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Re: 21 years ago today

Post by rasāsvāda on Wed Aug 01, 2018 10:02 am

thanks Seva! I grew up in a mid sized city in the cow belt of india, but it was a reasonably modern city, relatively speaking. A good combo of exposure and access to most things modern; and with slow pace, safety (back then), climate (back then), and short distances (back then, traffic is horrible now). Ideal for growing up or chilled life, but maybe not that ideal if you had lofty dreams in say, IT or related fields. i did my BE there in electronics, and coming to the US was the first time i ever left the country. I had never planned to do masters (not in engg anyway), but that was the direct way to move here and have a career. And I had never planned to move out of India, but had to move here coz i was simply following XH's footsteps. I did my masters here from state uni of NY (not in nyc), in elec engg, but apart from the core courses transitioned to comp sci coz the dept there was very good, and the IT market was booming at the time.

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Re: 21 years ago today

Post by confuzzled dude on Wed Aug 01, 2018 6:53 pm

rasāsvāda wrote:thanks Seva! I grew up in a mid sized city in the cow belt of india, but it was a reasonably modern city, relatively speaking. A good combo of exposure and access to most things modern; and with slow pace, safety (back then), climate (back then), and short distances (back then, traffic is horrible now). Ideal for growing up or chilled life, but maybe not that ideal if you had lofty dreams in say, IT or related fields. i did my BE there in electronics, and coming to the US was the first time i ever left the country. I had never planned to do masters (not in engg anyway), but that was the direct way to move here and have a career. And I had never planned to move out of India, but had to move here coz i was simply following XH's footsteps. I did my masters here from state uni of NY (not in nyc), in elec engg, but apart from the core courses transitioned to comp sci coz the dept there was very good, and the IT market was booming at the time.
Indore, Jabalpur? mine will be 27 years in about a month. I was very nervous on my way as I didn't know anyone in the US and was offered no financial aid; couldn't eat a thing on the flight other than the crackers served with the meal. Gentleman next to me figured it out and offered me his share of crackers and give me a pat on the back and said nothing to worry, it is very very easy to survive in US.

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Re: 21 years ago today

Post by rasāsvāda on Wed Aug 01, 2018 7:43 pm

congrats on 27 years! 

oh wow, I can't imagine going anywhere alone, at that age and time (or even now), where i didn't know anyone. Forget me, my parents won't send me, hehe. 

I had XH here, his family. My sister. Before school started, I had a chill time for almost a month. I saw our school, applied for housing, but didn't get an apartment, had to settle for a dorm room while waiting for apartments to be available. Tried to apply for an SSN but got rejected coz i wasn't working. Made sense, but was confusing coz XH had no issues an year earlier. Met his family, grandma etc. We browsed through NYC for 2 days. Went to Niagara Falls. Then to Orlando. I went one day to six flags and swore off them for almost 10 years!

One day we were eating at a mall, and I got my first fortune cookie. It said my finances will improve soon, or something. So dad was like, 'Maybe you will get financial aid in school'. I laughed it off. 

XH came to pick me on my b'day, and i flew back to NY with him. We were to go back home later that year to get married, so I wasn't feeling like omg i am gonna miss parents. But dad came to see us off wearing thick dark glasses hehe. Could clearly see he was trying hard not to cry, but I did catch him wiping under them a couple of times. He never cried (that I could remember), so it took me a big effort to not cry myself. 

(Dad and mom were to spend a week in London before going back - but then Lady Diana died. For some reason Dad didn't feel like going there in that chaos, so they rearranged their tickets to go back home directly. And then Mother Teresa died. What times!)

My school made me bring $10K to ensure that i had the means to cover atleast the 1st semester. Dad gave that. I think i made the traveler's checks, and in the orientation week we opened accounts in the campus bank, and the school applied for SSN for us. 

I was trying to settle in the orientation week. But used to feel like i am nothing compared to others there from bigger cities. A few of them had arranged full grad or research assistantship before coming here, which meant full ride + 800/month for working 20 hours/week. (I later learnt how they did it, but that doesn't change how I was feeling the first week). And at many places the lines or booths were separate for students with aid, and i would always mistakenly go in that line or booth, and people had to tell me i didn't belong there. They weren't rude, but I used to feel insulted for some reason. 

I was also trying to apply for campus jobs, dropped applications everywhere. Meanwhile, they said since I am in a dorm, I will have to buy a mandatory meal plan of 1100, which was like WTH. I had 2 suitcases full of food, but i have to stay in 500/month dorm room, and pay 1100 for the semester for food. For a recent desi, it was like 1100x39 for NOTHING (or was it 36?). 

I think it was the 3rd night that it overwhelmed the air out of me. I remember I laid down on my bed and CRIED. Not a silent cry, but shaking, loud, fill buckets kinda cry. I was crying and saying how I am no good, how I know nothing, how everyone else is better than me, i might fail, etc etc. XH was hugging me and kept trying to tell me it will be alright. 

When i had gone to get my visa in Bombay, a friend of mine who was now working there had come to meet me. He gave me a printout of 10 or so pages, which was their company's guide to what to expect when going abroad. Apart from how to dress in airplane and other normal tips, they all had warned that you first experience a big high, then a big low, and then you become stable. It had the graphs and all to show all the different moods. Now as I lay there crying, in my mind I could process that I was hitting my big low, but I couldn't help sobbing and bawling anyway. 

Anyhoos, i registered for classes. Made friends, some of them for lifetime. Would talk to my cousins or sisters all the time i was alone in the dorm room. 

On the first day of the class, used to be late evening classes, in the break someone came to the class and handed over 3 envelops to the prof. He called out the names and I was one of them. He said it's from the department office. I was like - oh my god, maybe it's some fee issue or something. I opened it, and had to read it like 3 times. 

It said that I was offered a half TA which meant half ride for 1 year and 400/month for working 10 hours/week. Woohoo! XH was like, see you were beating yourself up for nothing. The office didn't say what criteria they used, but all my friends speculated that it was probably by GRE scores (turns out mine was the highest among us). 

Next morning, I also got a cheerful message from Taco Bell telling me i was hired! haha, it felt so good to call them back and say i am not joining.

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Re: 21 years ago today

Post by rasāsvāda on Wed Aug 01, 2018 8:45 pm

correction - my gre score was highest among my friends, about 10 of us desis in EE, who had not gotten any aid at the time. Not sure how it was for others. The other 2 who got it with me were asian, etc.

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Re: 21 years ago today

Post by Kris on Fri Aug 03, 2018 11:55 pm

Amazing that you remember the day so vividly. Some random things I remember from my first days:

NY airport- after clearing customs in NY, they pointed me the exit door. It suddenly hit me-- this is it- new country etc. 

My cousin from Canada had called in to the airline and left a message to go to the counter and pick up some coins to take the shuttle to the terminal to catch the flight to CA. They announced this on the plane as we were de-planning and asked me to go to the counter. I am not sure what this coin stuff was about, now that I think about it. I dozed off and almost missed the onward flight.


I drank punch for the first time.

A Texan exchange student coming back from Germany, who sat next to me explained to me the unit system at US universities, and I remember grasping only about 50% of it.

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Re: 21 years ago today

Post by rasāsvāda on Sat Aug 04, 2018 9:12 am

Kris wrote:Amazing that you remember the day so vividly. Some random things I remember from my first days:

NY airport- after clearing customs in NY, they pointed me the exit door. It suddenly hit me-- this is it- new country etc. 

My cousin from Canada had called in to the airline and left a message to go to the counter and pick up some coins to take the shuttle to the terminal to catch the flight to CA. They announced this on the plane as we were de-planning and asked me to go to the counter. I am not sure what this coin stuff was about, now that I think about it. I dozed off and almost missed the onward flight.


I drank punch for the first time.

A Texan exchange student coming back from Germany, who sat next to me explained to me the unit system at US universities, and I remember grasping only about 50% of it.

somehow that made the list lol... I wonder what you would say if you were to finish that sentence, assuming you liked it 

I drank punch for the first time, and I never looked back 

I drank punch for the first time, and I arrived

I drank punch for the first time, and things were never the same again 

I drank punch for the first time, and hello mama 



hehe... my equivalent of it was 

I had orange chicken for the first time, and panda express it was for years.

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Re: 21 years ago today

Post by Kris on Sat Aug 04, 2018 11:37 am

I drank punch for the first time, liked iit but was not a consequential memory. Went to sleep right after. Years later, o read that it had its origins in India and my heart swelled with pride. Wink.

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Re: 21 years ago today

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