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August 10, 2007

A journey with many stops...

So, our predominantly singles gang in Lex has now jumped teams and most of our members now fall in the to-be/just/recently married category. For someone who has lived here for the past 7 years, this is another of those changes that I initially need to make adjustments to accommodate, and then adjust and finally assimilate. I remember a comment I heard recently that the real friendships are forged during your College days (For some reason, this reminds me of "Musthapha Musthapha..." from Kadhal Desam - I saw it in Bits and loved the experience - a bunch of us lit candles although it was forbidden, threw paper bits, it was riot!) but I have gained some meaningful experience and hopefully a few long-lasting relationships after Bits...In terms of social life and relationships, living in America has been quite an interesting journey for me.


GOLU @ my apartment.

In 2000 (the year I came to the US), I had no idea that I would be sharing a one-bedroom apartment with a 30 year old woman from Hyderabad who had spent several years living in N.India and then Canada and had an almost fanatical urge to keep everything squeaky clean (let's call her R~), a 20 year old from Hyderabad and a 22 (25?) year old from Madras. So the 4 of us managed to co-exist in that apartment for about a month when R~ decided she had had enough of us and she would prefer the apartment to herself. So, we packed our few belongings as R~ scrubbed the kitchen floor and we shifted (one of my many moves as a student) to a 1BR apartment in another block. Life was all hunky-dory. The 3 of us decorated the apartment, unpacked as much as we could (I kept most of my Indian dresses and winter wear in my humongous "India-suitcase") due to the limited closet space. I learnt to cook (still remember the first dish I made -a pulav with peas, three spoons turmeric and less salt, k taught me to make maggi and tea!), kept my first Golu, and was thrilled about it. My gang was predominantly Telugu-speaking and I picked up the language fast and even watched a couple of movies (Murari?, Manasantha Nuvve...). And wished I could also watch Tamil movies at times. Unfortunately the small Tamil gang at that time was pretty closed, under-grad friends who didn't seem like they were accepting new members :p

Never thought I would learn to even stand upright on skates!


Several exciting, stressful, happy - trips, fights, confessions, talks, moves later, I became friends with a Marathi/Hindi gang. Around this time I shared an apartment for a short time with a memorable room-mate, a 65 year old Bengali lady who stored a huge fish in her fridge everyday - it was always there, stored above the vegetable tray - I stopped storing anything other than milk in the fridge, I also stopped cooking at home. How I came to stay with her is an interesting story, about my not having an apartment and being declined temporary accommodation from all the senior Indian girls in the apartment complex :p Anyway, by then, I had moved away from my earlier gang, just a general drifting-apart in some cases, conscious moving-away in others and I began to fit in with my new gang. I wished I could speak/see/hear some Tamil though. Finally, k probably bored of my constant complaints suggested that I start a Tamil Cultural Assoc (at that time the Indian Students Association frowned upon regional movie screenings and any thing presented in a language other than Hindi/English), around that time I remember meeting D~ (my first impression of him was "Gosh, this guy is critical of everything in Lex!" - he found it strange that we did not have dinner in big groups and sometimes ate alone, he mentioned it about three times the first time I took him to Walmart and I thought he was a strange sort of guy! D~, by the time you get to reading this post, it would be pretty old anyway, so am hoping this will kinda slip by unnoticed :p), so anyway, I had my first real conversation with D~ about starting a Tamil Cultural Assoc and the rest as they say is history (Yeah, yeah, I like to gloat! So what?). Finally I had my beloved mother-tongue all around me and I reveled in her embrace!


During my trip to Arizona (for some reason, I had an impulse to try out pigtails :p)

Around 2003, I had a good mix of Hindi and Tamil speaking friends and then a Gujarathi (Yes, I insist on the "H") room-mate. More drifting-apart, fights, make-ups, messy birthday parties and impulsive road trips later, I now find myself in a predominantly Tamil-speaking mini-community. The surprising outcome of organizing cultural events is that I got to know the mamas and maamis in Lex and in some strange, comforting way they filled a gap in my life - I still missed my parents and relatives back home, but now I have people to remind me of them, to ask me where I purchased the pattu podava I am wearing, was it one of my marriage sarees? Someone to say, not unlike relatives back in India - "You should drop by more often, we are at home only, come and join us for dinner sometime..."

My very first car, my cute '93 Camry which I lost in an accident :(

Talking about relationships, I enjoyed working with the professors @ UK, I remember having interesting discussions, academic and otherwise with my professors - my Math TA prof, my Statistics-TA prof, my advisor. And I cannot forget the day when the wretched lady in my department insisted that I had forged my professor's signature on my defense slip and perhaps, I would never be allowed to get a degree. In retrospect, I think I shouldn't have cried and depended on my advisor to sort it out, I should have handled it myself. But, he was an angel that day, who convinced her that I was a good student who deserved her degree :p God bless him (although he made me edit my project report 11 times - each time the proposal would be smudged with red lines - "Dangling participle", "Active, not passive!", "Wrong use of the word 'example'", "The density of red on this page is too high for me to continue!").


Guess who managed to graduate!


Anyway, coming back to Tamil, k's complete sentences in Tamil surprise me every now and then. All my years at Lex, I yearned to experience my mother-tongue and finally it had come true. k says I tend to exaggerate when I tell him how all my life, I have wanted to learn and be near Tamil, as if "she" were a real person, a friend I sorely missed...I don't think he believes my story that I cried for weeks together when we shifted to Bangalore from Madras in the 80s, I sense his mild skepticism when I tell him, 5 years later no-one was happier than I when we shifted back to Madras; I insisted on taking Tamil as my third language in-spite of 5 years of Kannada and Hindi and I actually did pretty well (thanks to my mom's help with essays on Bharathiyaar) :)

So, believe it or not, I know "exactly" what the phrase below means...perhaps I needed to be away to realize how much I missed it...Bharathantyam and living-in-Madras are other example s of this same feeling (Not only am I repetitive, so are my feelings!) but that's a whole new post!

"தமிழுக்கு அமுதென்று பேர், இந்த தமிழ் எங்கள் தமிழ் இன்பம் உயிருக்கு நேர்..."

Talk about digressing! I started writing about marriages and friends and landed up in languages! Gosh, I can think of a million other things to write about my student life here but it's lunch time and am starved! Anyway, I discovered some old photos and thought I would add some visual touches to my disconnected reminiscence.

Life...can be strange at times. Memories too. But, in a comfortable sort of way.

Fall in Lex (when we were still students @ UK)...a season when our sleepy little town explodes in colors!

p.s - apologies for the spelling mistakes in Tamil.

14 comments:

Gopinath Sundharam said...

As I live in bay area (proudly (?) called as little-india), I'm so surrounded by zillions of tamil singles (mostly males searching for single females.. where the h**l are they anyways?). I would forgot a language called english, if I wasn't working with americans.. ;) phew..!

Vamsee said...

Good ol' times - the first move, was it to G block? Funny that you remember Murari/ Manasantha Nuvve and I remember Alaipauthey/Dumm Dumm Dumm and several tam songs that you translated for me ;)

and hey, was H~ really 25 by then? ;)I still remember the day we(well, she) did the house warming pooja...Anyways, very true on the "exciting, stressful, happy - trips, fights, confessions, talks" part - it feels like it has been several ages ago for all the silliness yet for memories, it is as fresh as just yesterday:)

Good post, mosakutti :)

dinesh said...

Good try, but did not go un noticed. :) Strange sort of guy eh? Now, I have to let the world know what I thought of you when I saw you first...I am going to make a post on that...you thought you were going to get away with this or what ?

Zeppelin said...

a very good post mosakutti!! :) as i near my 6th year mark i am pretty much in the same mood nowadays... reminiscing about all the good ol' times.. :)

and D I guess, hasnt changed a lot has he? still critical about everything.. :)

dinesh - machi, please ignore the previous comment..that was directed at D..not at you... :D

Parth said...

"Good little memoir", says a Gujarati reader who insists on not having the H :-) Good to see you trace your path with little milestones.

IBH said...

that was very sweet :) i have been having problems in accessing blogs at office :( boo hoo...so not able to read my fav ones :(

SK said...

Nice post. :--)) Brought back some grad school memories. I should write about them some time.

UK is Univ of Kentucky ? I kept wondering how come your prof is in UK, as in United Kingdom :--))

Muthukumar said...

en ennoda comment post aagalai?

Muthukumar said...

"machi oru chinna matter, nethu panna rasam iruku enga veetla, neenga ellam edhavadhu avaiyal, chana, chapatahi nu kondu vandhingana, chumma oru potluck mathiri vechikalam, apdiye chumma oru pattu session vechikalam, apdiye chumma oriu get together.." ipdi oru call varume andha kalathila!. just kidding. Tamil makkal groupa aanadhu niraya credit dins and unaku undu. kalakitinga!

RS said...

gs - Hmm, that has its own advantages and disadvantages... :)

vamsee - Yup, look at us, we sound so old! Like we are a bunch of aunties recalling the good old times! :)

dinesh - Remember, I wrote that nice post on your birthday :p :)

arun - :) So, when are you coming to Lex?!

parth - :))

ibh - How's life treating you? You must write about the work life in India!

sk - Sure, you should! Yes, UK is Univ of Kentucky :p

pb - :), I also remember the day before your very first drama on stage...it was so spontaneous, one night practicela you guys did a great job! We should do something like that now!

Muthukumar said...

I think it is high time dins, arun visit lex. Many of us are married now. Adhukagavavadhu oru get to podalam!

Brat said...

first LTCA event - remember the movie we watched in Youngs ... 50 % of the people who watched the superstar movie were non-tamil ... K and P.

PH said...

I just realized - very unintentionally, accomplished your tag for a book review! Kudos to myself! :)

RS said...

PB - I agree!

brat - gosh! And I remember you always helped with the food committee!

prad - cool! Reading... :)

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