Non Resident Alien

This is a chronicle of my tragi-comic life as a foreigner in the United States. My official status when I started school in 2004, was that of a Non-Resident-Alien and that's where the title of the blog is from. My status has changed to Resident Alien since then. My personal experiences are a unique roller coaster mundane everyday experiences for locals, but unique from the eyes of a foreigner. I started this blog to share some of my experiences beginning my third year living in this country.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Hat-trick!!

The Aussies have done it third time in a row. They are the champions of World Cup Cricket 2007. It is a well deserved win. If my memory is correct, they have had an all win streak this time. Adam Gilchrist was the champion of the day in a rain washed match against Sri Lanka. The Lankans were a valiant lot but in the end had to succumb to Aussie pressure. Great job teams! India better be ashamed of their usual lack of reliability in big matches. It would have been awesome to have had an India Pakistan final. This year's world cup will go down in history as the most embarrassing for both these veteran teams, one of who lost to a rookie team and another to an almost rookie team. All that said and done, the day and the Cup belong to the Australians, the mighty champions.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

A nation in mourning


I kept away from discussing the recent Virginia Tech incident here because it has deeply affected me. This past monday, a very highly disturbed young man gunned down 33 people including himself at the University campus. My heart goes out to the parents of the killer who have to live with this the rest of their lives. I am deeply saddened and feel for all the victims, their families and their loved ones. I have students in my class who are affected personally by this. I am reaching out to the community to see where I can help. The one thing that is amazing here is how much the University and the whole nation is reaching out through several measures. There is special counseling for those who want to just to talk about this. There are groups specifically for people who are affected in any way. It is indeed a whole nation in mourning. I cannot help but notice the contrast between here and back home. Back home we are used so many accidents and terrorist acts. We see it everyday and just lose sensitivity to it. Besides there is no support group back home. People just deal with it the best way they know, or don't deal with it and go on with their life. It is impossible that such acts of terror leave no impact on people in general. I wish we could be more sensitive and do something for the mental health of the affected people back home.
I am writing a paper for my Ethics course right now, in which I argue that some of the more advanced needs of life can be fulfilled only after the basic needs have been satisfied. So in developing countries for example, issues like mental health will become important only after basic needs like food clothing and shelter are taken care of.
But for now, I am part of this nation and millions around the world who are in shock and grief. I cannot even begin the fathom the grief of the parents at losing a grown child. I am sad that the killer was driven by loneliness and desperation to do something as horrible as this. Unlike many people, I strongly believe that it was an impulsive act of rage. There is a huge difference between thinking about something and acting on the thought. I am sad that he did not get the help he needed and that if he had received the help this incident may have been avoided. There are so many things we can speculate on right now, but we cannot go back in time and change things. We need to find the best way to deal with this horror and move forward. All I can do is pray for everyone and hope they find peace.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Courting the Kiss

Some stupid lawyer has filed a case against actress Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere for 'obscenity and nudity in public' Their offence??!! Gere kissed Shilpa's cheeks during an AIDS campaign in India. Both of them were fully dressed and it was a harmless kiss to propagate the idea that kissing does not spread AIDS. I saw no nudity or obscenity in the video footage. Does the lawyer not see any Indian movies at all where the level of vulgarity and obscenity both in visual form and in dialogue is very common? Why does not anyone sue movie companies or the censor board for wrongful depiction of women? That is totally acceptable, while Gere kissing Shilpa with her complete consent is obscene and demeaning to women!! What a bunch of hypocrites Indians are. I see a huge public choice and interest group argument here. Who has the incentive to promote such a campaign? Obviously some Xenophobic wannabe politician, who can talk at length about how Western values and culture are corrupting young Indian minds. He is obviously some kind of a protectionist who is serving the interests of some film association union. It is likely that an Indian actor was refused when he wanted to do the campaign and is using this as a spring board to serve his own purposes. Two or so weeks from now, they will have all the women's groups worked up about this issue. All the more important issues will be shoved into the background while this issue will take front stage, and the Shiv Sainiks and Bajrang Dal will go on a rampage in major cities burning art and movie theatres with Shilpa Shetty movies. Reminds me of the incident several years back with Shabana Azmi kissing Nelson Mandela. Javed Akhtar (her husband) had no problems with it, while the rest of the country thought she had committed a huge sin.All for a kiss!! Here's something I copied in my Journal from a newspaper at that time.
When Shabana Azmi greeted Nelson Mandela with a kiss, the following eulogy was written in praise of the act by Principal B.S. Bhatnagar of the Indian school A1 Ghubra, Sultanate of Oman.
A kiss is that which you cannot give without taking, and cannot take without giving.
It is a contraction of the mouth due to an enlargement of the heart. It is a course of procedure cunningly devised for the mutual stoppage of speech at a moment when words are superfluous.
It is lip service to love and the anatomical juxtaposition of two orbicularis oris muscles in a state of contraction. A kiss is a peculiar proposition.
Of no use to one, yet absolute bliss to two. The small boy gets it for nothing, the young man has to steal it, and the old man has to buy it. It is the baby`s right, the lover`s privilege, and the hypocrite`s mask.
To a young girl, faith? A married woman -hope? To an old maid- charity. A kiss can be a comma, a quotation mark or an exclamation point. It is also a pleasant reminder that two heads are better than one.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Who and what you can shoot!!

As an amateur photographer, I have been acting on the safe side since I came to this country. This being the land of laws where paternalistic attitudes prevent me from smoking inside my own car or home (I am not a smoker), I am always sensitive about what I shoot and if I can publish it. Quite by accident I tripped on this page and paused to read. Legislation is so tangled up that I can trespass, shoot pictures and publish them but only be punished for trespassing. Funny iznt it!! More often than not I am unclear about my rights as a person living and working in this country, and it is not always that I go to lengths to find out what I can and cannot do. If I am unsure I just don't do it. It is much less inconvenient than trying to untangle legislation. The article linked above states in clear terms my rights as a photographer.

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One moment's thought

All it takes is a moment of thoughtfulness before doing anything. Read Ali's experience here. That grown men and women who are educated and well off in life still do things like this makes me very sad and angry. It is a strange concept to Americans, but not to us from the East. There is a Sanskrit statement:
"Matru devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava, Aacharya Devo Bhava". Roughly translated it means revere your mother father and teacher in the same order as if they were God. People of other religions may not agree with this, but millions of Hindus say these words everyday, go to temples and do other religious stuff, and if you look at their personal lives, you will find them mistreating their parents. What good is all their religiousness if they do not respect their parents. Besides all it would take is a moment's thought. One day they will be old as well. Is this how they would like to be trated by their children? Here the Golden rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" can be easily applied. If this is how people want others to treat them then there are a lot of psychologically sick people in this world.
I personally am deep rooted in my culture and cannot dream of abandoning my parents. I am not deeply religious, and I am not doing this as a purely selfih act, but I do want to do something good for the two people who have made many sacrifices for me and who have loved me unconditionally even before I was born, and who are always there for me and who have never lead me to believe that I am alone. All it takes is one moment's thought.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Flashing blue lights!!

For the first time in my life I experienced flashing blue lights behind my car this evening. Yeah! I got pulled over. I had a bunch of girls who I was giving a ride back home from school. For quite sometime I thought I had been speeding, cause we were all talking and I did not pay much attention to my speed. But I never speed, and I always follow road rules, so it was a surprise that I got pulled over. It did not strike me that I could get pulled over for other reasons. The Officer was very polite, and informed me that he had pulled me over for a busted tail light and cause my front license plate was about to fall off. He also said he would give me a break and asked me fix it as soon as possible. I was even afraid to get out and check my car without his permission. That is what comes out of watching World's Wildest Police Videos and such where the Cops get paranoid if the driver tries to get out. I guess they also profile, and I am certainly not the type they would call a trouble maker. So much for my anarchist views. I turned out a wimp. But then again, bravado and an argumentative mentality would have only landed me in serious trouble. So, I guess as a utility maximiser and self-interested individual, I acted in my best interest. The end result... it was a perfect ice-breaker in the car, and I got to know the funny side of the girls I was giving a ride. :)

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

Goeff joins the Catholic church



Goeffrey Lea joined the Catholic Church today. I was there at the ceremony and it was simply awesome. It was a proud moment for us. I loved the service. Father Peter rocks!! It was emotional for me because I kept thinking of Goeff's mom and how proud she would have been of him, and that made me sad. After the service we all went out to Denny's for a late supper, and I had only my phone to take pictures with. This is the best I could do with it. Congratulations Goeff!!

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Une Femme de Ménage

A sad emotional story of a middle aged man whose wife has left him for another man. He finds passion in his young inexperienced house-keeper. It brings out the sadness without the excessive drama that bollywood is prone to. The emotions and sadness are there, especially those of anger and betrayal, but they are expressed in a non intimidating way. Jean-Pierre is brilliant as Jacques who is battling loneliness. The contrast between his mature nature and that of Émilie Dequenne as the young impressionable and emotional Laura is very stark. He knows that the relationship is only a rebound for both of them and that it couldn't be a lifelong relationship. But he is carried away by her passions during the vacation, and then when reality sinks in again it is just very sad but the truth. Brilliant action by the lead actors and like every other European movie is subtle in its handling of emotions and human relationships. Highly recommend it. There are a couple of graphic scenes that need to be tuned out, and Oh! Its French, so turn the subtitles on!!

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Cherry Blossoms




Last sunday I coaxed Brian and Ali to join me in DC to watch the Cherry Blossoms. I had missed out on the whole event last year and did not want the same happening this year as well. Since I knew I would be taking pictures, I wore my best shirt and off we went to DC. It was a glorious day, although there were slight rumours of rain the whole day. Although the sun wasn't shining it was bright and simply amazing. We walked around the Tidal Basin, and as luck would have it, 20 minutes into the photoshoot, my camera ran out of batteries and I did not have spares. Luckily, Brian's camera was in full steam and so was he, and I could ask him to take a few pictures for me as well. Brian was working his new camera and I got a lot of attention as a result, which felt rather good. :) Here's Brian's post about the afternoon, and here is the link to flickr where he has posted pictures. I really love that last picture!!

Tootsie

Ebert says its hilarious. Except for a few scenes here and there it is a rather uninteresting movie. Highly predictable. Dustin Hoffman does deserve kudos for his brilliant acting as an older woman. He looks very impressive, and this movie seems like some kind of a prequel to Mrs.Doubtfire. There is a slump, a tremendous rise, a crashing fall and then there are happy endings and lovers reunited which is a typical masala mix even for Hollywood. Some scenes do deserve credit, like for example when Bill Murray walks in on Hoffman and Dr.Brewster, the dialogue between Dustin and Bill is just hilarious. Similarly the one between Dustin and his agent, and the whole spin in the live show. These moments shine through an otherwise very predictable and kind of dull movie. If you want to watch it watch it with a bunch of guys who will make fun of everything and anything.

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Sunday, April 01, 2007

Au Revoir Les Enfants

A poignant and touching story of two little boys in World War II time France. It is based on Director Louis Malle's true life events. Its a story of friendship and young boys. It is both kind and harsh on Catholic schools at the same time. The kindness of the Principal, both as a spiritual leader and as a good Christian comes through the story. It is an emotional story about two young boys and their unusual friendship which does begin in strife. Be ready for some water works during the last few scenes of the movie. The cruelties of the war lie as an underlying theme, but the story is from the point of view of this young boy who is a strong bossy leader but nevertheless still is a young boy who misses his mother. What he learns about people and the war through his friendship with his new classmate is the crux of the movie. Highly recommended!! It is in French, so turn the subtitles on unless you know the language.

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