Sunday, September 09, 2007


‘Thanks for calling Dell, this is Sandy, how may I help you today?’ asked Saroja (who is now Sandy) from a Dell BPO in Bangalore. Saroja has been doing this job over a year now, and she is already done with the fake accents, racist comments, and all her wannabe western friends. She was all set to get married to Radakrishnan, a Silicon Valley engineer. Radakrishnan and Saroja have been talking over Skype for about a month now, after their engagement was over. Soraja has been reading all about the San Francisco bay area on wikipedia and has been reading ‘how to behave in America’ by Morgan (Muruganandam from Mannarkudi originally). One of her close friends Anita just moved to New York City and has been sharing her city experience with Saroja recently. She had told her about the view of her rented Condo on the 34th street, the various cuisines they try every weekend, about the central park and all about their city life in general. This is exactly what Saroja wanted too, and was all geared up for her bay area living.

Radakrishnan flew down to Chennai, they both hanged out in some hip places, got married, went to kuladeivam, said bi-bi to their family and they flew back all exited to start their new life. They arrived at the Oakland airport. Saroja stepped out and got the fresh American air and was all exited to see all those people that she thought she talked to in her job in India. For every white person that passed by, she would relate it to one of the conversation she had for a computer malfunction. So far so good for Saroja. ‘So what train should we take to get to the San Francisco downtown?’ asked the innocent Saroja. She did not know that Radakrishnan had taken an apartment in one of the sub-urban areas. It was kind of a last minute decision for him too. She was ok with that and they boarded the train. After an hour journey their station read ‘Fremont’. It was already 11 PM, and she did not have a chance to take a look at the neighborhood at that time. Saroja reached home, the apartment was nice, but definitely not a high rise, as she expected.

After some jet lagging, Saroja and Radakrishnan decided to take a trip around the neighborhood. Since they just moved in, they were yet to get their internet hooked up, so they were trying to see if there were any free wireless connections available. To Saroja’s surprise, she could see 10 available connections, and they read Ramu, Nandhini, Thirugyanam, Parthasarathi, Sivaji-TheBoss, Thala and so on. This was her first shock in the new country. She was expecting more on the lines of Lisa, Tommy, Timberlake etc., She enquired Rada, and he hinted that there was little Indian crowd in this apartment complex. She did not get the intensity of the statement then, but she was about to.

Before going around the place, Rada wanted to draw some money and they go into the Bank of America. Inside Saroja sees a bunch of Asian and Indian tellers, and a lady greeted them, and her name tag read ‘Prameela’. Saroja know how to greet from her BPO experience and she went ‘how is it going?’ Prameela replied, ‘namaste ji, mey apko kya madad kar sakta hoon?’ This was her second shock of her day. She kept talked in Hindi for about 10 mins, and then realized that Saroja and Rada don’t know a bit of Hindi. Then they continued with English and completed their transaction. This trend continued even in Target super center, where ‘Kalyani’ checked all her groceries out. They asked Kalyani about the restaurants nearby and she gave them a sheet containing all the restaurants. The sheet read Anjappar unavagam, Saravana Bhavan, Dosa place, Sri Krishna Bhavan, Udupi palace, Murugan Idly kadai, Komala vilas, Burrito place (err…she read it wrong) Barotta place and the list went on. They finally ended up in Barotta place and had a kothu borotta and iddiyappam paya. While they were having their food, along came a call from Anita (the New York girl…remember?). This was pretty much the hardest part of Saroja’s day thus far. She knew that she had do explain all the desi stuff here, as compared to Anita’s downtown experience. She quickly ended her conversation saying that she was a little busy at this time. Saroja’s experience so far was not even close to what she had expected or what she had read while she was in India. In fact, she had already met more Indian people here than she would have in Bangalore, in any given hour. Saroja, for a moment thought that Rada lied to her by calling this place America. She did not talk to him for the next 2 days, and their neighbor ‘Savithri’ had to come over to patch up things between the couple. She called up Anita, who has now lived in New York for about 6 months now. Anita, this time was all upset and was worried about her safety in the city, as there was a break-in in her neighbor’s condo. She complained how difficult it was to lead a life here without any Indian friends nearby. There was not a soul in her condo to share her Indian life style. One Saroja hung up the phone, she slowly realized that it was not that bad to live among our own people in a country far away.

While she was realizing these facts, a truck pulled up in front of their apartments. This was the movers that they have arranged for all Rada’s goods. A Sardar was driving the truck and she got out the truck with a receipt in his hand, which was made out for Saroja. He yelled, ‘Saroja…..Saman Nikaloo’. She was in all smiles and happily unloaded all her stuff inside!

No comments: