Saturday, December 11, 2010

American-born Confused FOB

I'm back in India and ready to continue the adventures! I was in California the past two months, visiting friends and family, meeting with my advisors, enjoying Cali food, weather, roads, and other amenities. Thus the lack of posting. I'm now back in Ahmedabad for what will be my final trip to India before graduation. Will it be the final chapter of this blog? Unclear. But what is clear is that I intend to bring it for you, my gentle readers, over the next couples months.

Couple stories/reflections from my trip home:

I had quite an experience boarding my flight home from Ahmedabad airport's new international terminal. I had to bribe my way to the gate.

I was carrying two bags filled with stuff to take back to various people, and when I got to the check-in counter I discovered that both bags were overweight. The attendant said I would have to pay a $50 fee per bag. But he suggested I transfer stuff from one bag to the other so that I would only have to pay the fee for one of the bags. So I went back to the waiting area to do that, when a boy who was working behind the counter approached me. He had heard that I was overweight and said he would help me so I wouldn't have to pay fees for either bag. He went back to the counter and brought out a cloth handbag, and told me to put stuff into it. I could carry that handbag with me on the plane, so I could check in both bags under weight. So he helps me do that, taking my bags back and forth to the counter to make sure they were within weight limit. I got the feeling that this boy had done this before, it was a way for him to make money on the side. I asked him how much I had to pay him, he said don't worry, check in the bags and walk toward the security line and he'll come by to give more instructions. He was all hush-hush, he could get busted if airport staff found out. Suddenly things felt very Jason Bourne. I persisted about the price, and he said $20. Steep, but still saves me $30.

I get back in the check-in line, and the boy, from behind the counter, motions me to cut the line to go to the same counter I was at. The staffer managing the line looks the other way as I cut. The same attendant at the counter now sees both bags underweight, and notices the new handbag. He knows what went down. He could have busted me for my carry-on luggage being overweight, but he looks the other way as well. A multi-person scam; everyone gets a piece of the action.

Then I start walking slowly toward the security gate, and the boy comes up casually behind me, and whispers in my ear, "meet me in the toilets", and walks by me and into the restroom. I get out a Rs.500 note ($10) and palm it in my right hand.

In the restroom, the boy is in front of the mirror, fixing his hair. I walk up to his side, pretending to wash my hands. And then I hand him the money discretely. I totally felt like I was doing a drug deal, it was so fantastic. He takes the money and walks out of the bathroom back toward the counter. I walk in the other direction. The deed was done.

Later on in security I got harassed about all the masalas I was carrying, maybe they thought it was gunpowder. They took a sample and put it through a gunpowder-testing apparatus. With all the bribery and gunpowder, it took me 2.5 hours to make it to my gate. A nice farewell from Ahmedabad.

Other thing I wanted to note is my feeling being back home. First off it was weird coming back for just two months and then heading back to India, it was like I was visiting America from India instead of the other way around. Continuing the trend from last year, I felt like a fish out of water in my own homeland. It seems like as I feel more comfortable living in India, I proportionately feel less comfortable living in California. I'm not an ABCD any more, but also not a FOB. Maybe an ABC-FOB. But in any case, it's a bit scary as I no longer feel totally comfortable/at home in any place.

I guess it's the cost of being international. The pros definitely outweigh the cons.

1 comment:

  1. Neil, your posts are hilarious!..but can I just say the last paragraph really hit me! I've been in India for 8 months now, and I totally feel that way--I feel so integrated, so loving every intricacy of India that I don't know if I want to go back. I think I will have reverse home-sickness for sure. But you are right--where is home? homeland or homegrown? Thanks for being candid and sharing your evolutions...