When in Rome…


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

I was like one of you. I so wanted to go to the US. And yes, 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 survived, few hundred dollars lighter in my pocket for the ticket.

My Dad back in India almost had a heart attack when I told him I paid thousands of rupees for a petty traffic violation. I think Dad would have been better off had I been gunned down in America (tongue in cheek)! 

About a week passed, and my colleague Bala told me, “Easy, man! Lets take a walk out 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 biting 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 something on the lines of, “Two masked men possibly carrying ammo trespassing into our property.”

In no time, we were face to face with the police. Bala almost died. I tried explaining to the cops but my broken English didn’t let me get my message across to the cops.

Anyway, after some frantic phone calls, it was all finally sorted. 

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

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

What on earth is that?” I asked.

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

After confirming on the website a dozen 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.

The glory only lasted a week. I had taken a day off and was relaxing at the hotel, when suddenly the silence was broken as 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, we’re from the FBI and doing a routine check. Can we have a little talk?”

FBI!!!!! “Sure”, I said (as if I had any choice!)

“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. 


Just to have some fun.

He pointed me to the gun hanging from under 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 was dying several times every moment.

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

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. Seemed like a proper interrogation.

Those were my glorious days in the US. 

Do you still want to go to the US?  Courageous lot, haa? Just remember: Those sirens… yes, 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. 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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