Life in the boondocks of Colorado, far away from the coasts, is something that would be very difficult for most desis to even imagine. We are so high above the sea level my head practically scratches the stratosphere and I only breathe pure ozone. But it may come as a surprise to many that the Denver area gets more sunny days than Florida in a year.
And I live in a small village. There are cows and horses everywhere. Sometimes they would wander on to the roads and then the cops come and chase them off, creating minor traffic jams that the whole village talks about for days on end. It is like living in a village anywhere else. They take personal checks everywhere, without even checking IDs, whereas elsewhere, they used to demand IDs even when I was paying by cash. You don't even have to lock the doors, they say, although times are changing. The same village barber cuts everybody's hair, imposing his unique style uniformly on everyone. After two years of non-stop haircutting, fearing that hell might freeze over soon, the barber took a much-deserved vacation for a week, rendering the whole village barberless. This caused much identity crisis and the cafetaria chat at work always revolved around when the barber would come back from his cruise. The entire village operates in slow motion. Even a McDonald's meal is served only after much chit chat.
And this region may forever remain the Last Frontier for desis. There is hardly any desi community to speak of. In fact, after the Kevin Costner movie, 'Dances with wolves', it has become fashionable here to claim Indianness, that when mention I am an Indian I get the 'Oh, yeah' look. Once, when I mentioned I am from India, someone responded that his ancestors were from Italy. Also, for the first time in my life, I met a guy who did not know where India was in the world. The one Indian store, some sixty miles from here, serves not only our area, but also Montana, Wyoming, New Mexico and ... But the nearby town, Boulder has a lot of desi influence, despite being lily white, demographically. There are many Yoga institutes, two Nepali restaraunts (more per capita than even in Nepal) and even an Ayurvedic clinic, where probably an Indian granny would personally apply Brahmi Amla Thel on you or a hulk would give you a relaxing 'champi'.
Last week, me and my friend Sooth, went to a bar where they played Rhythm and Blues. The patrons, beering and smoking, were waiting to be saddened. The small ensemble was led by someone calling himself 'Barbecue Bob', with 'Troubled Tom' to keep the rhythm and 'big Wally' biting into his harmonica. Big Wally was hardly bigger than me and on a good day, I could knock him flat with a left hook. Bob himself was like a huge heap of spaghetti. If you mentally subtracted out all that hair, you could actually visualize two beady eyes, which enjoyed depressing the bar patrons. After about half an hour of drumming and strumming, the hair mountain suddenly realized that he needed sing out the vocals and bent forward and quizzed the mike "Wheh hav yu bin, daahlin ?" After another forty five minutes of crooning and adlibbing, it became crystal clear to the audience of twenty odd people that Bob's 'baby Rita' has just left him, still very mean to him whenever possible and he was going to go to 'Nyo Yok' to start over. Apparently, the lyrics were based on his true life incidents and that is why he has come to be known as 'Barbecue Bob'. Dig ?!
And Denver also has a professional basketball team called 'Denver Nuggets', which is probably the joke of the whole league. They used to get sexually harrassed by every team that played them. The team is so pathetic that the very mention of the name 'Denver Nuggets' would bring bemused smiles to even the grouchiest people. They were so pathetic they didn't even finish last in the league. However, they did manage to sign the Georgetown star, Dikembe Mutombo (a student from Zaire) for a multi-year, multi-zillion dollar deal. He is supposed to be much taller than people like you and me, that he can actually change channels on his TV from his sofa without using the remote. When reporters asked him about his new 'deal', he simply told them "Mutombo khush hua". At any rate, he has a visa problem. He came to this country on a J-1 visa and now has to go back to his home country for two years. That will be two best years of his career. So visa gurus, how can he solve his problem ? Send replies to the Denver Nuggets office and make this town happy.
Last night we went to a party. John Thomas (Kerala born unconfused Kuwait brought-up, US living guy) and Sooth (from Ganga) went off to Seven Eleven to buy cigarettes and when they came back, John had an incredible story to tell.
He said, "We went to the store and were looking around for some candies too, when this oldish woman, around sixty or so, looked like sort of hispanic, came up to us and started staring at me. It was a pronounced stare, and just at me. Then to avoid her we moved to another aisle. There she came back and stood close to me and continued staring. I got irritated, turned to her and said 'Lady, haven't you seen brown-skinned people before ? Quit following me and staring at me, like I am some kind of an animal.' whereupon, she broke into tears. It was embarrassing. She said I reminded her of her own son, who is now stationed at Saudi Arabia and she was missing him. and here comes the incredible part, she asked me to call her 'Mom'. I said no, I can't do it. She pleaded with me and I was adament. I don't want to yield to some sentimental old lady. She talked for a couple of minutes, went to the counter and bought her stuff. Me and Sooth were shocked by the whole thing. It was unbelievable. Then as she walked out of the store, she waved to us a big goodbye and said 'Bye, son'. At that point, I said what the heck and said 'Bye mom'. One of those good samaritan things. We were still in a state of disbelief as we walked to the counter and got our cigarettes and candies. The clerk at the counter said 'That would be twenty four dollars and forty two cents'. I said 'What ? For cigs and some dumb candies'. The counter clerk replied "That plus about twenty dollars for what your mother just bought. She said you would pay for her.'
John continued."My mom ? That was shocking. Imagine being tricked so easily, that too by an old lady. I left Sooth at the counter to explain to the clerk and maybe even pay up if we had to. I rushed out, just in time to see her in the parking lot, just slamming the door of her car. I raced to her car, an old beat up Chevy. Luckily, the dumb woman had her windows rolled down. I could grab her and asked her to cough up the twenty bucks and that we won't be conned. Mom, eh ? She turned violent and started screaming that I was attacking her and robbing her and trying to rape her. Imagine her cheek ! I got even more angry. I yelled at her to call the police, because I had my friend Sooth and the store clerk as my witnesses. I tried to pull her car keys from the ignition. God, she was strong. And desparate. But an old lady is no match for my strength. I pulled the keys off in a brief struggle. She then unexpectedly kicked the car door open, almost knocking me off backwards. I got absolutely mad. I didn't care for any consequences. I wanted to pull her out of the car. I reached down and tried to pull her legs, just like how I am pulling YOUR legs now...."
Wonder who made this story up. I wish I did.
As I lay myself down to sleep,
'Morrow is in my thoughts, foremost
Will it be joy or sorrow so deep ?
I rest, 'cos there'll always be a 'Looking for ...' post.