When in Rome…

H

ave you been to the US or  want to go to the US?
I hear a resounding Yessss!!

Great!
I was like one of you. I so wanted to go to the US. My great American dream was realized in February 2005 when my company sent me to the US, a.k.a. “onsite” for a project.

I packed my bags and off I was on my maiden flight trip and that too to America.  

Now, living in the US, you see, is a totally different experience – One of the first things I did was to get a rental car. I felt like I had arrived.

As I was driving one day, sitting on the black leather seats of my white Mercedes Benz, I heard a police siren. I pulled over and the police car stopped behind me.

Back here in India, I am used to getting out of the car in such a scenario, walking up to the cop and negotiating a deal. Little did I know that doing that in the US could be fatal.

I stepped out of my car, and must have taken just a step. I looked up to see two police guns pointing at me.

Please don’t kill me, sir!” I shouted, my trembling hands automatically rising.

Hands down sir, and in the front. Stop right there, and kneel down. Now!” he answered.

I somehow survived, 1100 USD lighter in my pocket after paying the fine.

My Dad back in India had a minor heart attack when I told him I paid 80k Rupees for a petty traffic violation. I think Dad would have been better off had I been gunned down in America!

About a week passed, and my colleague Bala told me to take it easy, “Easy, man! Let me take you out for a walk after dinner.”

We carried a bag with peanuts and wore layers after layers of woolens. And, how could we forget to wear our monkey caps to save us from the chill.

As we were walking, Bala suggested taking a short cut through a park. As we were enjoying our peanuts, we heard a series of police cars sirens.

Bala and I looked at each other. That can’t be for us, we thought!

Well, apparently someone had called up 911 and reported, “Two masked men possibly carrying ammo trespassing into our property.”

In no time, four guns were facing each one of us. Bala almost died. I tried explaining to the cops while we were being handcuffed and taken to the police station. But I wasn’t a Toastmasters then, so I guess I couldn’t get my message across to the cops.

Anyway, after some frantic phone calls to our employer, a relative, and with all our remaining self respect taken away, it was all finally sorted. We reached our apartment in wee hours of the morning.

I swore not to do anything illegal in America. In fact, I swore not to do anything at all in America for the fear of it being illegal.

A month passed “underground”, and then one day a senior colleague, Hari Prasad a.k.a. Harry called me. He had a grand idea, “Let’s go to Blue Trail in Connecticut. “

What on earth is that?” I asked.

“It’s a totally legal shooting range where you can practice on real guns and real ammo. C’mon, even 9 year old’s are allowed to practice there.”

After confirming on the website a gazillion times, I said “Okay!”. And eight of us went to Blue Trail in Connecticut and did what no man or woman at least on our Facebook friend list had ever done before!”

..and what do you do when you come back from an experience like that – Bury it in your heart forever or post it on Facebook?

Ignorance can be educated, Crazy can be medicated, but there is no cure for the stupid! 

Different poses of me with an AK47 sizzled the Internet for a week. So many comments that Facebook slowed down that week. Bliss.

But yes, the glory only lasted a week. I had taken a day off and was relaxing on my cushiony bed, when suddenly the silence was broken once again, by the sound of police sirens. Now, this, of course, can’t be for me.

My phone rang.

There’s someone to see you Mr Sawhney.

I came out to the hotel lobby to see two HUGE men. They sat me down on the sofa seats in the lobby.

“Mr Sawhney, can we have a little talk?”

Sure.

“Have you ever been to Connecticut?”

“Yes, I think I have been to Connecticut”

“You think or have you been to Connecticut, Mr Sawhney?

Well. Yeah, I have been to Blue Trail in Connecticut. 

“Why?”

Just to have some fun.

He pointed me to the gun hanging from his belt and said, “We have got some guns here, would you like to have some fun now?”

I don’t know what happened after that. I experienced dying a thousand deaths.

What if they detain me, torture me, kill me. I blacked out. Before they left, one of them said, “Take care sir. We have our eyes on you!”  

Apparently, they asked the same set of questions at the same time to each of the eight of us who had gone to The Blue Trail. It was a proper interrogation.

Those were my glorious days in the US. From that day on,

  • I’m so cautious driving that I get fined now a days for driving so slow.
  • Leave aside others property, I check my own Adhaar Card just to be sure I am authorized before entering my own house!
  • And as for Facebook,  I am not the Social media types!

How many of you still want to go to the US? 

Courageous lot, haa? Just remember: Those sirens… they are for you!

On a serious note, it is said that, “When in Rome, do as Romans do!”

But my advise to you would be to “First KNOW what Romans do. No matter how inscrutable it may be. Only then can you DO as Romans Do.”  


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This script is based on direct or indirect experiences and stories heard while in US captured as a speech for a Toastmasters project.


 

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