[mystory.life.funny – Funny Short Story]
Even though I graduated as a Mechanical engineer in 1989 and there were hardly any computer science based subject in curriculum (except one paper on FORTRAN), I would always venture into the college computer lab and fiddle around with BASIC and FORTRAN programming on DOS. I would create programs to design “springs” and “camshafts” on BASIC and it even had graphics. I used send “code” written on inland letters to my twin brother who was doing his electronics at a more endowed engineering college to test them !. It was because one fine day I was barred from entering the computer science lab !.
So the urge to become a computer programmer was always there in me even though I was “given” a different engineering branch of speciality due to my so called “forwardcaste” mark(s) – pun intended, definitely !. Those were the days of the unproductive and still “unrepentful” ruling of regional chauvinistic political parties!. Even refugees from south of the border with local political clout were given preference and got into the much sought after Electronics batch than local “forwardcaste” like me !.
The software “bug” that bit me in 1989 resurfaced once again in 1992 . It made me venture out of my “mechanical” engineer “mold” forever. But this time it was also for the sake of money that was hard to come by and not only because it was my passion to create computer programs !. I quit my job and joined a full time course on software engineering that seemed promising. I braved to get “out” of my so called “domain” of expertise and dared to lose 3 years of work experience as a Mechanical engineer !. However during my later years I was disappointed to realise that such bold moves are recognised in India only when executed within an organisation and are glorified as cross-functional movement !.
Let us now fast forward to 1994. 1994 to 2000 were the years when many B.Com grads (with poorer pre-university marks than me !) were in the USA masquerading themselves as software “engineers”, fixing Y2K bugs , driving Camrys and backing up on freeways when they missed exits !. I was also deputed to go to the USA. I was turning a new leaf and so excited that I got myself “North Star” Jeans jacket and “thermals” during one shopping spree a week prior to my departure without realising it was peak summer in the USA !
Although I had not visited the USA I had read a book written many years before about the American way of life. It was a book which my sister had received as an award for an elocution competition she had won when she was in college !. In that book it was mentioned that it was customary for Americans to greet strangers with “Hey ! How is it going ?” when you looked them in their eyes !. It was much like “kya haal hai” (how do you do) except that it was a polite expression between complete strangers. In India we give cold stares and do not even smile at strangers !.
So, there I was. At Allentown,PA. A fine summer in 1994. Had just arrived in the US and getting to know what I was supposed to do in my job.
One day at work when “nature” called I went to the “restroom”. A co-worker came into the restroom , smiled at me and asked “Hey ! How is it going ?”!. I had never met him nor talked to him until then and I had still not finished my you-know-what-I-mean business !. I just smiled meekly without bothering to say “Great” !. His smile fell flat since I did not reciprocate appropriately. At that time, very naively, I thought it was inappropriate for someone to gloat about bowel or kidney movements !. Later I realised my mistake. It was a hilarious moment for me at that time and I could just not contain my laughter when I came back to my desk !. I also began to admire the Americans who greeted complete strangers using full sentences !
It is now more than 10 years since I returned back from the USA. So if you ask me when I am in a toilet “How is it going ?” I will reply and not give you a cold stare. Like a desi who learnt something from the USA I will use a full sentence – “It still stinks like it always did !”.