November 9, 2007

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.

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21 Responses to “ F.O.B. ”

  1. rambodoc on November 10, 2007 at 8:08 am

    Sounds like the initial installments of a book. Would be interesting, too!

  2. pr3rna on November 11, 2007 at 2:23 am

    Nice post.Rambodoc is right. This could be a nice beginning fora book.

  3. Shefaly on November 11, 2007 at 8:28 am

    AD: Write it as rapidly as you can. Soon enough the hero will stop converting his dollars into rupees and then the story shall have to continue in India where paying Rs 125 for a coffee at the newbie trendy cafes will become as much a culture shock to his system as the $4 coffee at CDG once was.. :-)

  4. amreekandesi on November 11, 2007 at 9:13 am

    thanks Doc, Prerna and Shefaly.
    A book sounds so cool. Just not sure if i have what it takes to write a half decent one. For now, Akhil’s adventures are going to continue here though. A book would certainly be the best case scenario :)

    And Shefaly…that would be such a cool kahani mein twist. And it is indeed so true. India is no more what Akhil left it as ;)

  5. Pragni on November 27, 2007 at 10:50 pm

    no dont do a book.. its too clichéd.. its a great post, and a continued post sounds even more great.. also, New Delhi has huge stores, huge malls and huge spaces. 24 hour water is available at most places and 120 bucks for a coffee is common there.. and there is Hyper Market, which also has everything from furniture, to food to airguns to goat meat.. ( just a few, small corrections- hope you take it sportingly!!) but yea, chai is impossible here, and so are real good samosas..

  6. amreekandesi on November 28, 2007 at 3:00 pm

    Thanks Pragni. Welcome to my blog.

    And your comments taken sportingly, though i dont really see them as corrections, and have no reason to be offended by them ;)
    Of course, Delhi has everything.

  7. Anonymous on July 6, 2008 at 8:30 pm

    Short Story: FOB…

    Short story about the F.O.B. experience for people new to America……

  8. all talk and no action on September 21, 2008 at 11:53 pm

    I took time to get used to the amazing network of sky-walks and bridges…

    Also, people in Mumbai would kill to get their feet on to buses/trains…

    In HK I was a part of queues consisting of 20+ people :)

    Maybe you could have written on Indians abroad rather than the shops and roads…coz India too is on its way to getting there…

    But it would be more interesting to track how Indians changed when they changed shores…

  9. Its a Small World | amreekandesi.com on December 18, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    […] AJ was Indian. Kind of. His real name was Ajay and he was born to parents who had left India over 30 years back. He was an American citizen. He despised the link to India. It kept him down. It was stopping his progress. He was smarter than most kids his age, but he was exotic. Never really there. As much as he hated the expression, he was an American Born Confused Desi. An ABCD. Akhil, on the other hand, was a FOB. […]

  10. Kiran on December 19, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Great post! Never too late to comment I guess :D

  11. Fast Track American Dream | amreekandesi.com on February 17, 2009 at 10:58 am

    […] about 10-12 years you could hope to get citizenship, which makes you superman. You still remain a FOB […]

  12. Desi Confused by America | amreekandesi.com on May 13, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    […] she comes to New York, her Americanized husband starts feeling uncomfortable about her FOB-iness. Then when she tries adapting to a western lifestyle, he expects a traditional Indian wife. […]

  13. R.D.B. on May 15, 2009 at 6:33 am

    :) loved this post. …
    its prim n cliched’ n very 2 d pt.
    am sure evry FOB wll identify wid this ..

  14. amreekandesi on May 16, 2009 at 12:46 am

    @RDB - Thanks!

  15. All About Returning To India | AmreekanDesi on October 29, 2009 at 12:22 am

    […] The good news is that they don’t travel by boats anymore. No one in India will be able to call you a FOB. […]

  16. The Fob on November 16, 2009 at 9:22 am

    OH MY GOD!

    I felt like I was reading about myself! Shite! Especially these parts:

    A starving Akhil went to get a coffee and was horrified to find a cup of coffee priced at 4 dollars.

    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. (This actually happened to me!)

    It was a different world alright, but not all that different from where he was coming from.

    Then there’s the chai bit. Except that I packed enough tea to last me 10 years here.

    Also, I think I’m the proud fob, with the Punjabi accent.

    Sigh, like you said - once a desi, always a desi :)

    P.S. Love the illustration :D

  17. Sara on March 30, 2010 at 10:00 pm

    Starbucks serves chai.

    But if you don’t like Starbucks chai and want “real chai” you could start up a business in the United States that serves “real chai”. Who knows, perhaps you could start a new trend and become the new Starbucks.

  18. Kaushal on April 26, 2010 at 3:41 am


    Stumbled here by chance and have been reading this blog since the last 45 minutes, when I should be ‘researching’ minus the funds in the lab with co-FOBs!!!!
    Or as a FOB would say, “Dude- you’re awesome!!” :D :D

  19. Karishma Walia on September 10, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    a correction again! you’d find Wallmart in India as well. So I guess, India gets that point as well. :)

  20. Anurag Upadhyay on November 17, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Awesome.. I am just 3 months old in Amreeka. I got my first shock when I had to pay 5 $ for trolley at JFK airport. Things goes over my head when profs teach in US units like inches, pounds, kips.

  21. Curious Desi on July 1, 2015 at 10:37 am

    There seems to be an unwritten 10 year rule for FOBs which means that after spending 10 years in America, desis cease to be FOBs. That is when ABCDs are comfortable mingling with them :-). So you would’ve had to stay for another 5 years in US before becoming non-FOBby!

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