A foreigner in Boston

It’s been over a month here in Boston since I began the new chapter of my life. Right from the moment, when I was peeping down to have a look of blue Massachusetts Bay from my plane’s window to now, I have felt puzzled, amazed, stupefied, and complete silence. It’s like the scene from Harry Potter book-

“Seventeen silver Sickles to a Galleon and twenty- nine Knuts to a Sickle”, Hagrid said to awestruck Harry. “See, Harry, I told you. It’s easy enough!”

This past month I have been playing around, and learning to find how things work here and I find it’s not that easy. At least for me. I have tried to learn to answer “How you doing?” spontaneously when asked, “How you doing?”. However, since I don’t expect random people to greet me when I am walking on street, I am too slow more often than not and then I just manage to put a fake smile to acknowledge their greeting.

While I am trying to rhyme my can’t with ant, and learning to say bell-pepper (capsicum), eggplant (brinjal) and trashcan (dustbin),  I have to stop myself really hard from running to every Indian I spot on the street. Whenever they see my eager eyes, they consider me for a moment before pulling over their unfriendly mask of I-don’t-know-you. I start hiding my craving for everything that is Indian, and let my instinct become visible only when I am relishing pakoda  while I am reading Jhumpa Lahri’s Sexy (set in Boston) in the private confines of my kitchen. I count the number of American jokes which I have understood and the ones which I have laughed at the right time, and I convince myself that I am doing a decent job. It seems that I have began blending in with the heterogeneous crowd, being less conspicuous in the sea of diversity and finally adapting to my new life in Boston.

However, this all pretense gets tossed to the wind, whenever I wake up in the morning, and I find myself lying down on a mattress in an half-empty room. Everything around me is familiarly strange.  I find my eyes on the same level as the white pair of shoes kept on the floor. “No, I can’t be sleeping on the floor!” For a moment, I forget how I end up being in that room. The reality evades my consciousness. “It’s my new home, idiot!” I frantically look for my smart phone so as to call up someone. I can’t find it. It’s not surprising, I must have kicked it during my sleep. Then in an attempt to calm myself down, I convince myself that it’s just a strange dream, and then my mind says, “Only with one difference. Unlike others, this won’t end”, and with that, I fell into the endless trap that mind plays with you often. The girl whom I kissed yesterday night comes flooding back, and I get lost into her fragrance. I have got the stupid smile on my face as I keep staring into something beautiful from my nostalgic past. It takes me longer than a moment to break the trance. The azure sky with white patches of cloud visible from my window reminds vaguely of a day which I have spent playing cricket with my friends in my childhood. The view comforts me a little and everything starts seeming normal.

And just then the American red squirrel stares at me amusingly from the tree outside my window, and sniffs something foreign in air.

The last fall?

I heard somebody talking from far away. The surface on which I was lying was as hard as the floor but still had some warmth to offer to my tired back. The sound became more desperate as it approached nearer. And then suddenly somebody started to wake me up shouting, “Johnny, police, police!”. I shrugged off the hand that threatened to disturb my sleep. The only thing which mattered was to get more sleep. How did I end up being here? I pushed this question away lazingly. I had got tired of running, shouting, growling, fighting, smoking and strangling. Wait a second! Smoking? Strangling? This is not me. No, I definitely could not kill anyone. It’s Jonathan, not me. Uff…I should cut down my time spent in drama practice. Oh right, now it made sense. I was lying on the window-seat waiting for my next cue on the stage. And so, it was my accomplice, Einstein who tried to wake me up. I opened one of my eyes to have a look. The ceiling fan faced me. No, this could not be possibly true! How could I end up being in my mundane hostel room? The mechanical, regular tick-tock coming from my clock kept on study table tried to soothe my nerves. I changed side and tried to go to sleep again. It was clear that more than my body, my mind needed to rest.

As soon as I was descending into the comfortable alley of darkness, there was a loud thud. It must be Matthew falling. He wanted to get as far as possible from Officer Ganjawala who was bent upon telling him his film story. This was my cue. I turned to the other side on the window – seat as Matthew freed his legs. Officer Kartik came to Matthew’s rescue and pursued Officer Ganjawala away from Matthew. They passed by the window-seat. Spandan didn’t want to hurt me much. So, he just brushed against my arm to remind me as he ran after Officer Ganjawala. Then the next instant I fell off the window-seat. The audience laughed seeing two people falling one after another in quick succession. So, my fall was loud enough. The wooden stage smelled of dust and didn’t offer any warmth. ‘OC is coming.’ This was my next cue. I stood up with my back towards the audience. I could feel the gaze piercing through my back. All were waiting for my next move. I said, ‘what?’ Policemen asked, ‘what?’ ‘You think you have caught me, eh? …’ The next instant I found myself in a sharp pain. Something hard had hit my head. I turned and before I could see who he was, I crumpled to the stage with a large thump. Silence hit the auditorium. It was all vacuum. I felt relived. My shoulders felt light for the first time in last two months. I discovered the joy of submission. Now nobody could disturb my sleep. This was the last fall. It was all over. Now no more repetition. No retake. Now there was no need for me to shout on my team to be there in time; no more arguing with props team to do their jobs; no more running to catch the 5:10 pm bus to reach auditorium and no need to walk the whole distance back to hostel in the dead of night.

‘Those last five years were the busiest and happiest of my life.’ It came out from the hidden depth just when I was going to close the lid on this chapter of my college life. This blow was the hardest I felt within a few hours. Suddenly I craved for my tight schedule. I got afraid of the vacuum which engulfed me. “I want it back!” I wanted to shout but my throat was completely dry. Jonathan should not have smoked so much. Before I could make another attempt to shout, I felt my body hanging in air and taken away as if I were a corpse. Instead of shouting ‘Please don’t take me away!’, I shouted, “Please don’t take it away from me!”  Again no words left my throat but this time it was not due to my dry throat. It was my courage that betrayed me. I didn’t know if I could shoulder the whole of it again. The two policemen let go off my unconscious body as we left the stage. I was in a free fall again. Thud!

When I woke up, I felt my legs tied up. I got up with a start and untied them with my free hands. My arms were aching. Somebody had tied me really hard. Just then a policeman was running desperately after me. I instinctively ran away from him and passed by the window-seat. I slowed down my pace there, lest I accidentally wake up Jonathan who was lying down on the stage.

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