Akhil was two months old in America. He was a FOB (Fresh Off the Boat). Even though he flew in from NewDelhi. No Boat involved.
All Indians around him, even the ones who had been in the US for years were FOBs. They would remain so till, well, forever. Along the way, they would get married, and have kids. Their kids would be ABDs (American Born Confused Desi). But they would be FOBs forever. Anyway, this is about our favorite DBD (ABD – American + Desi = DBD). Akhil.
Akhil was a 24 year old software engineer. He chucked his well paying tech job to come over to the US to get his masters degree. All paid for by the university. He was after all, a bright kid.
His flight to cross the proverbial seven seas stopped over in Paris. A starving Akhil went to get a coffee and was horrified to find a cup of coffee priced at 4 dollars. 200 rupees!!! There was no way he was going to drink that. Then he found his new friend from the flight – a fellow to-be-FOB who agreed to share the coffee. And Akhil had the costliest half cup of coffee of his life. Yet.
That was two months back. Since then he had spent many dollars. Many of them on starbucks’ caramel machiato that cost 4 dollars for a cup. But not one of those dollars had been spent without converting the cost into rupees and doing a comparative analysis to decide the worth of whatever he was considering.
America confused him. He had always heard so much about it being such a great magical superpower. So far he hadn’t really seen any of that magic. Same roads. Same cars. Same shops. What was so great about America he used to wonder. Sure, the roads were cleaner, there were no power cuts, water was available all the time. But he was expecting something grander than a 24 hour running water supply.
One thing was nice though. On the road, people used to greet him as he walked to school (they said school when they meant college.) People seemed friendlier and more courteous. One point to America.
Walmart was the hugest-est shop he had ever seen. You could buy anything there. From vegetables to clothes to guns to bicycles. He was awestruck. There were so many Indians all over the place. And they always seemed to ignore him, just when he was on the verge of going to give them a hug as a fellow indian.
It was a different world alright, but not all that different from where he was coming from.
He had gone through all the american culture cheat sheets he could lay his hands on. He knew that Americans called their currency notes as bills, and the cars filled up with gas not petrol, and a hundred such points. But he was still insufficiently prepared for the subway (eat freshhh!) trip where he asked the cute girl to put some capsicum on his sandwich, and she looked at him like he had just flown down from some other planet. Some sign language later, she told him that what he wanted was called pepper. These FOBs!
Later that month, he offered his research colleague some biscuits, only to get laughed at again. Biscuits apparently were some American bread that they sold in Walmart and you baked in an oven. He didn’t know that he had been eating a cracker all along.
Akhil discovered that not all FOBs were same. There were some who were proud of being a FOB. Some became American as soon as they got off whatever boat got them to amreeka. Some were recent FOBs. Some were FOBs of five years. Some spoke with thick punjabi accents. Some spent all their time perfecting the American tongue. Some devoted their attention to pursuits of straight A’s while some others’ pursuits were directed towards the ladies.
And there were, of course, the ABDs. They were the same thing..till they opened their mouths. Their was one of his ABD friends whose accent was so strong that Akhil could only understand half of what he said.
Akhil though, didnt mind his FOBness. His professor was a desi (10 year FOB). The head of department was a 30 year FOB. Half the research group was desi. He had his mini India setup right here in America.
All that was missing was the chai that he was so addicted to. That was the one thing America sorely lacked. Point to India.