When Kamat Junior showed up at home that evening with a note from the teacher, Mr. Kamat Senior was not at all pleased.
The school teacher had an issue with Kamat Junior. She said in the note that in spite of her repeated attempts to teach Kamat Junior to pronounce some words the correct way, he insisted on doing it his own way. For instance, the teacher wrote, no matter how many times she corrected him, Kamat Junior would pronounce the word “Ability” as “Abidity”. The teacher was frustrated.
Next day Kamat Senior went to the school with his son and picked an argument with the teacher. The teacher tried to explain to Mr. Kamat, what was going on. His son could pronounce the words the right way, she said, because Kamat Junior did not have any kind of disability. It is just that he choose to pronounce certain words, such as Ability, his own way.
Mr. Kamat replied furiously. “What do you mean, won’t pronounce the words the right way? He is trying isn’t he, what if this is beyond his “capadity”?
In this episode I have a conversation with Raj who claims his Dad has a pissing problem. I am lost not knowing whether to laugh or sympathize until Sharma comes to the rescue.
So my Dad comes to America to visit me and I want to impress him with America’s technological prowess. I remembered that in India a simple task such as making coffee can be an arduous process. First, you have to go buy the coffee beans. Then you have to roast them. Grind them. And then using a contraption make coffee decoction. And then you mix it with milk and sugar and then finally you have made coffee!
“Not so in America!” I tell my Dad proudly. I show him a jar of instant coffee. I walk to the hot water dispenser and press the knob to dispense steaming water into a mug. And then I use a packet of instant sweetener and a spoonful of instant coffee and rapidly stir it with a spoon. “See how easy it is to do things in America! I say as I proudly sip the coffee.
“It is much easier in India!” says my Dad to my astonishment. “I can do it without moving an inch from my seat!”
Frankly, I am puzzled. I remember my Mom spending an ungodly amount of time to make coffee. “How do you mean? “, I ask him.
“In India you always have a dozen people standing around you doing nothing,” Says my Dad. You point your finger at the nearest guy and say ‘Hey, you! Go get me coffee!” He sprints out the door and runs to one of the many street vendors, who make their living selling coffee and snacks for a few pennies. Within a minute you will have the best coffee in the world delivered to you and in your hands!
My friend Suresh had this old beaten up car which he claimed he got in exchange for a toaster oven and an old Indian rug. Since I had no car and the bus service in Iowa was rather spotty we would use Suresh’s car for commutes to college or the grocery store or to a friend’s house. One day we were driving to a friend’s place for a party and I told Suresh a very funny joke. We both laughed so hard that we accidentally banged on the floorboard and it fell off the car! We were quite startled to see the ground beneath the car as we drove but like Tony Soprano would say “What you gonna do?” So we continued driving but the car engine shut off while we were waiting for a signal light to turn green.
I suggested to Suresh that we might be able to maneuver the car forward from inside the car much like the Flintstones rather than get out and push the car. Suresh agreed. It was winter in Iowa and the weather was cold. The friend’s house that we were going to was only another half mile away so we started pushing the car from inside the car. Suddenly, we could see police lights from behind our car and a voice bellowing “Pull over!” So we pulled over to the side and a cop peeks in and says “How in the world is this thing moving forward without the engine being on?” He is rather stunned to see the floorboard missing. He must be a nice cop because he admires our Indian ingenuity and lets us go on our way. So we get to the friend’s house and have a rather nice party.
So when we come out of the party a few other friends join us to help start the car. We fiddle under the hood and pretty soon get the car started. Now another problem crops up. The car’s forward gears didn’t engage and the car could only go in the reverse gear! We think for a while and figure that since our house was only a mile and half behind us perhaps we can drive to our house in reverse. So here we are going in reverse and again get pulled over by a cop.”What the hell is going on here?” he bellowed as he approached our car. It turns out that it is the same kind cop who again admires our ingenuity. “I guess I could declare this car not roadworthy but I like you guys so I will let you go!” he says and as he leaves us. Just as he is leaving a thought strikes me. I ask Suresh. “Which side of the street should we be driving on? Should we driving on the other side and join the opposing traffic or drive on the side we are now and keep going in reverse?” Unfortunately I couldn’t check this with the cop because he was already gone.
Suresh had only 2 months left to graduation so he didn’t want to fix the car or buy another one. So for the next two months we made quite a spectacle driving the Flintstones car in Iowa. People actually became rather fond of our car with no floorboards and that would only drive in reverse and they accommodated us wherever they could and even greeted us with honks. Suresh never told me what he did with the Flintstones car upon his graduation. I hope he exchanged it back for his toaster and old rug.
When I was a student I have an “accent” problem getting the Iowa Electric Company to understand me enough on the phone so that they could give our apartment a connection. I call upon the pro, Sreekantamurthy Thammaiha, to the rescue. After all, I figured, Sreekantamurthy Thammaiha has been in the USA for a year and a half and surely he will know how to get across to the Iowa Electric Company!
I run into Bernard, a French guy, that is an executive for a company. He and I have an “accent” problem when I ask him where the coffee machine is.