For the sake of the privacy of Mr.X, I will refer to him as just “he”. Thanks for your patience in going through this blog till the end. The narration is a bit long, but you will find it amusing.
I knew him from my childhood days until he suddenly vanished from my radar. During one of my trips to India one fine afternoon in my hometown Bhubaneswar I was visiting a local temple barely a mile from our home. After my visit no sooner I start my Scooty to return back home than I felt a hand on my back, “KIRE BABLOO, MOTE CHINHHI PARUNU – Hey Babloo (my nickname), can’t you recognize me”?
I frowned at him for a moment. Same tall guy with bright, sparking eyes, now with a receding hairline. I remembered him having a good figure, and doing regular workouts but over the years he has developed a slight paunch. “Are you, So and So” – I blurted out. “See, you were amongst the toppers in our class with a sharp memory. You haven’t lost a bit of it”, he replied. I got flattered by the compliments and equally glad on bumping into an old friend after a long hiatus.
“You know, I was a poor student” – he continued. But unlike most of the toppers in our school, you were not haughty and snobbish. I remember you allowing me to copy your Science paper during an exam. You got the highest mark and I got a decent score for someone who could barely pass. It made our Science teacher suspicious. After comparing he discovered the similarities in the answer papers and beat both of us – me the culprit and you the willing partner in crime. Do you remember that incident?
“Yes, I do remember it. What are you doing these days ?” I asked him. Come with me, let’s walk to the school next door where I teach Yoga, Asana, and Pranayam. I accompanied him to a mid-sized hall where a dozen students were practicing Yoga. He took me to the adjacent room and ordered tea. His next question – “Where are you now ? It feels so refreshing to see you after so long”. “I live in America”, was my reply. “Oh America, MU BI AMERICA RE THILI (I was also in America)”, he said nonchalantly.
I thought he was bluffing and looked at him in disbelief. He could read the skepticism in my eyes – “You might be wondering how this GADHA (Ass) and GANDA MUKHA (Deep rooted moron) made it to America. It’s rather a long story. He took out a photo album from his drawer and showed me the pictures. I could clearly see a starkly visible American landscape, nicely mowed green grass, moss-filled tree trunks, roads, and houses typically American. In one picture I saw a short hair brunette in the background standing next to my friend confirming he was in America and telling me the truth.
He went on. Years ago one day after he had a tiff with his parents he went out, drank himself silly, and returned back home staggering. The smell of cheap liquor was conspicuous in the small flat (apartment) which housed multiple family members. He went straight to the kitchen and puked. His parents were furious and threw him out of their house.
The next day he boarded a train to nowhere and landed up in a well-known temple town in North India located on the bank of the river Ganga. He found an Ashram (abode) where a Baba (mendicant) took him under his tutelage. He found the job of a Yoga instructor, for he was strapping six feet with a flexible, muscular body with a flat stomach. There were many female students and one of them was an American girl from Oregon who came from a broken family all the way to this temple city from America to escape her stepmom and a drunken, abusive father.
Their eyes met, and sparks flew. She had more of a crush-filled infatuation with his yogic body than any bond of love and attraction, for they hardly shared any trait with zero commonality in between them. They didn’t come in search of spiritualism. Both came to escape from turbulent family lives back home. She was looking for some attention and solace for her soul and fell for someone who instantly filled that void. As told by my friend, his muscular yogic figure with a flat stomach probably clinched the deal.
He introduced her to BHANG (cannabis paste), a sine qua non of most temple townships. Under intoxication, they went to the next level and started living together. Soon they got married at a local temple exchanging garlands (he skipped a few pages on the album to show me that picture). In my friend’s own words to the envy of many Ashram dwellers he managed to get something they coveted and secretly wished for – A US Visa and a flight ticket to America. He got both and landed up on the west coast of the United States.
I was glued to his narration, sipping my cuppa tea and listening to his spicy, titillating story with rapt attention. In the excitement, I burnt my tongue as I took a bite of the freshly fried Bengali SINGADA (Samosa) fetched from a local kiosk.
Their initial days in America went well. Time flew. The structured, regulated life in America was anathema to my friend, a lifelong vagabond. The cold Oregon weather didn’t suit him as he always had perpetual issues with his sinus and stuffy nose. Soon differences cropped up between them, as different as the words orient vs occident. She was as American as Apple Pie, while he was as Puriya (the guy from Puri) as Chuda Ghasa Dalma (typical Puri diet).
A typical coastal Odisha guy, he was brought up with his staple diet of rice and fish curry which was his bread and butter for him. But his American wife hated the smell of curry when he ate gulps of rice after liberally blending it into DALMA, an Odia dish of boiled vegetables and lentils. My friend never liked the Western toilets and almost broke the commode when he squatted on it. He expected her to shower after using toilet paper and detested her when she touched the cupboard immediately after using the loo where he kept his deities for worship. When he protested she would give him a damn, retorting back – “It’s non of your effing business”.
She didn’t tolerate him using his big LOTA (water container) and spilling water on the bathroom floor. Once he got mad when he saw her hugging and kissing the cheeks of her male friend. When he complained she reciprocated by showing him her middle finger. He couldn’t instantly understand her gesture but later on, got the message.
For days he led a laid-back lifestyle, doing nothing and looking at the cold, gray Oregon sky which made him more depressed. He started to put on weight. One day my friend’s male ego got hurt when his wife was curt at him – “I am the one who brings bacon home”. He tried to find a job. But his skill as a yoga instructor didn’t come in handy in small-town Oregon.
He eventually got bored with his life in America and his wife also started to get bored with him. Putting on pounds he lost that edge of physical attraction he once had which had already fizzled out. Moreover, familiarity breeds contempt and with time their intimacy tapered off. The American girl didn’t know how to cook and occasionally made some bland pasta sprinkled with black pepper. It barely suited the taste bud Puri origin boy who kept dreaming of a good Odia meal of Rice, Dalma, fish curry, etc.
However, their main bone of contention was beef. A devote Hindu he stayed miles away from beef. His American wife clearly told him that she can’t imagine a life without beef and won’t eat “that shit” cooked by him. She brought home Hamburgers and french fries for dinner. Though her act was inadvertent, his cup of patience was full when she touched the cupboard where he kept his deities without washing her hands after eating beef. He got tired of his wife and his wife got tired of him. The relationship was as good as dead, soon to be doomed.
The American girl now called it quits. As a token of gratification for the companionship he provided she offered her to stay in America and pursue his citizenship. He refused to take the offer and returned back home.
It was a good, enchanting story that kept me engrossed until I realized that it was getting dark and late. “Your story made my head heavy, even after a cuppa of black pepper and ginger-soaked tea” – I told my friend. Don’t worry, I will teach you this 2-minute Asana which can make your head relax and shrug off your jaded nerves. The Asana he taught me that day still works.
In the meantime, one of his students barged into the room. Sliding the curtain she bowed with a gesture of “Namaskar” and without waiting for my response reminded my friend – “Sir, class”. Our Sir replied – ARRE JA JA, MO SANGA ASICHI ETE DINA PARE (Go back inside. My friend has come after so many days). I told him, “You shouldn’t keep your students waiting. I need to run some errands too”. I bid adieu to him.
While pressing the ignition key of the Scooty and wiping off the dust and sweat from my forehead I was wondering – “Google may have shrunk the world to a global village. Yet, East is East, West is West, and never the twain shall meet”.
(Author is an Odia technocrat living in the USA. Views are personal)