Saturday, October 23, 2010

Like poles attract each other???

A taxi pulls over in the parking lot. A young man in his twenties, his parents and two of his close buddies get down from the taxi. The driver helps them unload two American Tourister bags from the back of the car. The driver then hands over a blank bill to the lad. He is dressed in a jean, an overcoat, a pouch around his waist and a heavily loaded backpack. Well... He is any other Indian software engineer getting ready for his maiden voyage across the globe. Even as he is boarding the flight he has his agenda ready; He should visit the statue of liberty and more than anything, the Niagara Falls. As a matter of fact one would see more Indians in these two places than the locals there. If you are a bachelor your trip is not complete without a visit to a strip joint. If you have not visited one you are considered a disgrace to manhood. Apart from this, what does he do during his stay? He works, of course, he cooks, eats, shops, surfs and sleeps. What does any foreigner do on a visit to India? Goa, Taj Mahal, five star hotel room, swimming pool and the closest mall. There are some people on both these ends who explore beyond these boundaries and get to know the real land, real people and the real culture.

When Kevin invited us to a party at his house, I was hoping to cross this cultural boundary and understand the US way of living. I had no clue on the events that were to unfold. What Kevin had in store for us was way beyond my imagination and that of those who accompanied me.

The year was 2008. Burger King Corporation in Miami after 6 in the evening would transform itself into an Indian market place. Hindi slangs would fly in the air non-stop. It doesn’t matter to me though; American English and Indian Hindi were the same, I can understand neither.  Single guys, girls, newlywed couples, families with infants, families with kids and even a married guy whose wife visits him every weekend, together it was a nice big Indian family in Miami. Mine was a three month long visit and was not a long enough time to get home sick. In the back of my mind I wanted more exposure to the local culture than the Indian parties what I am so used to.

 Kevin was a local and worked in the same team as Farooq. Kevin comes across as a man in his late thirties with striking white hair and a reserved but cheerful personality. He had invited Farooq over for family parties at his place twice in the past year. Farooq never had a good company to accompany him. Farooq was single then and I was sharing his apartment along with Nagesh. Kevin had invited Farooq for the third time and the guilt was bogging him down now. When he asked me and Nagesh if we would go with him, I was thrilled by the idea and readily accepted the invitation. Nagesh did not want to be left alone over a Saturday evening and he too accepted to go with us. Sidharth was also invited by Kevin and he decided to join us. So, the four of us were all set for our first American family party.

First stop, liquor shop. Farooq explained us how people must buy liquor when attending a party. After memorizing the names of all the alcohol bottles and cost we were still undecided on what we would buy. Champagne, whisky and vodka were our discussion points, finally we agreed on Tequila and Margarita. The store keeper breathed a sigh of relief when we finally left. The GPS was reciting the path and I was deciphering the lanes when Farooq finally drove us to Kevin’s house. The car park was crowded when we reached. We did all Indians proud by reaching late as usual. As it turned out we were not the last, which was a consolation. The house was huge, even for American standards with swimming pool and a big garden. The backyard was overseeing a huge lake with houses around the shoreline. Few houses even had ports on the lake with yacht tied to them.

Kevin announced that it was a Mexican night and the theme starting from the decoration of house to food and music were in line to the theme. Our managers and senior managers were present with their husbands and wives, so were our peers. We were the anomaly there until late in the evening when some of Kevin’s personal friends arrived. The evening started with lot of humor and food; the food was good from the outset, while it took some time and effort to understand and appreciate their humor. There was one person in particular who was stealing the show, the husband of one of our peer, Chuck. Must be a man in his mid forties, he was explaining us why Obama will lose his campaign and how John McCain would make a better president. He was sighting the foreign policy stands and so many other intelligible arguments. I was amazed at how no one had counter arguments and finally realized that others were too preoccupied with their food. Sitting right opposite him in the big dinner table and with zero knowledge in current affairs, I realized how the monkey must have felt when N!xau advises him in “The God’s must be crazy” about the empty coke bottle.

Kevin served us with Tequila and Margarita on crushed ice. Nagesh rejected the offer to Kevin’s disappointment, while the rest of us accepted. Chuck continued on his childhood travels to parts of Asia and how he loved those countries. By now Kevin was showing everyone around his house and that was an excuse to move away from the table. The duplex house appeared like a palace and Kevin introduced us to a tall balding man in his late thirties as his partner. Kevin then explained the real estate boom and why he bought such a big property near Miami. Almost everyone there explained how they were not natives of Miami and how they moved in from different states of America. I am sure most people in Bangalore or Chennai would have such stories.

Chuck found me again and this time a more interesting conversation started. (A conversation, nevertheless). It was about our views on religion and spirituality. Being more inclined toward science, I found his views on Christianity a stark contrast to my beliefs. Both of us entered a mode where we felt we had to teach the other some sense. Farooq who was initially interested in the subject left us after a while, when after an hour we were still discussing he came back to avert any disaster. Singing and dancing started and we became cheerful spectators as couples rushed in to take part in the action. Few ladies were generous enough to invite us for dance, but we sucked big time and decided we do what we are good at, watch.

After an hour of singing and dancing the younger couples decided to hit the pool. We moved towards the smaller tables in the garden when Kevin introduced his friends to us. They were not taking part in the dancing frenzy and were having silent drinks. We sensed we might have finally found some likeminded guys in the whole of Miami, since it was the first time we saw a group of guys together without a girl. They all appeared in their late thirties and early forties. The guy to my immediate right introduced himself as a male nurse and everyone else introduced their self. Kevin with a final look at them which appeared like a warning left to attend the other guests. We were touching on general subjects like Indian culture, our hobbies and stuff.

The guy to my right explained that most of them in that group lived together in a similar house and had their own personal swimming pool, Jacuzzi and sauna. He even invited us to their house and complimented us of being very friendly and good natured. In my friend’s circle I am called 8085; 8085 is a very old modelled processor and is comparable to a sodium vapour lamp for its speed. But even my processor was quick enough to realize what was happening when Farooq announced over the table that we were all straight (Now you know what an 8085 is?). An unfamiliar twinge started running over my body all of a sudden and I wished I was in Farooq’s apartment eating some Chinese food. Suddenly everything was becoming clear; why Kevin introduced a guy as his partner, why these people did not mingle with the rest and why they were interested in us.

Keeping myself as casual as possible I reached to the buffet table, grabbed some steak and moved to the poolside where everyone was back to one more round of dancing. A game was then played where one was supposed to break a toy horse filled with goodies with a base ball bat. The horse was controlled by Kevin’s partner who held the other end of the hanging rope over a branch. He would pull the horse up and down when people try to hit it. (Yes, similar to the south Indian game where people break pots blindfolded). When it was my turn I had no difficulties in breaking the horse, thanks to match fixing. Finally, people started leaving one after the other and Kevin suggested that we are welcome to spend the night in his house. Giving no thought to sound apologetic we bluntly refused and left the house before we end up alone with the guys, rather gays.

That night I could not stop wondering about the experience of the evening and how it came to a shocking end. I have seen guys hitting on girls; never had I imagined that I would be in one such receiving end. The thought of one of the guys trying to seduce us showing his tattoo was haunting me for some time. I never really understood the concept of being a gay. The concept of monogamy seems to be absent in such relationships. People should be left to decide how they want to live, agreed that is freedom and democracy. So it is... the duty of every individual to keep in mind the greater good, peace and harmony in human civilization for which certain age old rules were defined. (I know, I know... I shouldn’t comment on something I don’t fully understand, couldn’t resist the temptation).

Anyways, thanks to Kevin, we had a glimpse at American life style. I may not be attending his party again as a bachelor, but, the families who had come were perfectly aware of Kevin and they have no reservations for another party. I surely did cross the cultural boundary :) was it worth it? Yes.


  1. 1. When did you cross your boundary ?
    2. Why is the title "Like poles attract each other???"

    Please enlighten me ex-module lead :-)

  2. i suppose u ve had a life time 'exciting' experience :P

    and i neva knew u were called as 8085 :D

    its quite long for a blog post., good one though! "was it worth it? Yes."

  3. awesome writeup of the events...

    Visiting your blog for the first time and impressed to see the great writer hiding within you for these many years... :)

    Every experience is worth its weight in gold...if you had decided to be reserved and rather spend your night in your room or eat a burger you wouldn't have been able to experience the party and write about it...

    Keep writing mate...

  4. Pitha, do you really think i am talented enough to enlighten "you"?

    Ras, thanks dear :)

    Monish, thanks nanba!! :)