Continuing Saga Of The Fresh Student

by Ramesh Mahadevan

Time has a way of diluting the intensity of anything, with the possible exception of Martillo's lunatic rantings. Me and this fresh desi graduate student, who forced his way into my apartment and sought asylum in my place, have kind of resigned to each other's presence under the same roof. We both have even developed a symbiotic relationship. He now makes coffee for me and fetches me beer at my beckoning and I take him to the mall and garage sales. If he stays with me for just one extra weekend, we might even become friends. He gets his other 'fresh friends' over and we have a lot of fun. There are the usual tales of some vegetarian guy eating a cheeseburger by mistake. And then there are the American English lessons like "you TAKE the GRE test and not GIVE it" etc. No, all radios sets here don't have short-wave frequencies. No, they are not killing each other, they are only playing football. Leave me alone, please.

Just last weekend we went to this 'rummage sale' organized by the local Presbytarian Church. A bunch of freshies picked up an iron, typewriter, plates, spoons, women's clothings for just a dollar. In fact, these desis and other international students cleaned the place out. Ashok, personally carried the cross, pulpit and altar for a few bucks despite the pastor's screams.

It was a hot saturday afternoon. We had barely entered the KMart and set sights on the row upon row of sale items, when not one, not two, but six freshies emerged from behind the camera counter, followed by a lively introduction. "Hi this is Ajay, this is Ramki, this is Achal, this is Palvayanteeswaran ..." "Hi", "Hai", "Hi", Hi".

"Accha, this umbrella is on sale for $ 5.98. Is it a good price ? Can it stand Pittsburgh rain and snow ?" a curious freshie I had just been introduced to, wanted to know.

"I don't know. I always steal my umbrellas. The price should be okay". I said without caring.

Boom ! In a jiffy all six of them disappeared and turned up a minute later each with an umbrella. "Accha, the sale brochure said this bedsheet would be $ 4.99, but the price written is $ 14.99". "That's because this is a king size sheet and yours is possibly a twin bed". "No, no, mine is only a single bed". Then a lengthy explanation of the sizes of beds. This was soon followed by a lecture on how many milliliters make a gallon, capped with a lively discussion on the concept of a 'raincheck'.

"Machi, look out there, Ajay is frrreaking out there with a fundu chick" exclaimed the beanpole, Ramki, loudly. In the KMart ? Isn't it against the tenets of Hinduism ? Well, it turned out that the 'chick' in question was just a cashier and 'freaking out' amounted to merely checking out, with his bowels in tact. We overheard the conversation at the checkout counter.

"Do you accept TCs of sorts?"...pimply desi to the clerk.

"Pardon me, sir ?"

"Do you accept travellers checks for purchases" and so forth. and then,

"Accha, Whatdo you recommendas a decen teating pla cearound here for light grub ?"

"Duh ? My Swahili is no good. Here is your change and have a a nice day, sir"

The scene shifts. My protege and four others have found a home in a house that looked very much like the haunted mansion in Bees Saal Baath. It is only a stone's throw away from the U. Pitt stadium. (and they actually throw stones, when U. Pitt does badly in any football games) When we climbed up a rickety staircase, we came up to a spacious apartment.

"How does it look? Doesn't it look neat ?" The freshie asked me.

"I would think so. There seems to be several closets" .. Me.

"No, those are actually our bedrooms and Srini is going to stay in the bathroom"

And just then, a prehistoric gigantopithecus, who somehow reminded me of Joachim Martillo, stepped out of the bathroom. It was smelling of denatured alcohol, tobacco, sweat and peanut butter and was muttering obscenities under his foul breath. "He is the landlord, I think he is very decent", the freshy informed me. "Yah, he sort of looks cute too" I managed to mumble.

My 'friend' finally left today. He gave me a sandalwood something and uttered a big thanks, which I am sure, was quite genuine.

Epilog: This article is based mostly on real life incidents. (Thanks to Abin for some of the incidents quoted) Also, this post is as much about my inability to cope with the situation as it is about the exploits of a fresh student from India. After all, I too came to this country as a graduate student, albeit more than a decade ago.

Copyright(R) Mahadevan Ramesh