Notes on studying abroad – Part 3

It is an unwritten rule that every Indian who travels to the US packs a pressure cooker. Some  use it , some don’t, then there are those like me who should not use for the safety of every body else.

” All of those?” ask  Namrata. She had just made it known that she did not like beetroot.

“Yes”. I answer chopping  250 gms of beetroot into uneven slices, cutting my finger in the process.

Namrata squints her eyes. Then  widens them when I add the chopped beetroot to the pressure cooker along with the potatoes, beans and carrots.

We  are going to have mixed vegetable curry, rice and a ready to eat paneer butter masala for lunch.

There is a knock on the door  and Vinay promptly enters with “Girls, have you finished the DO assignment? Last one was a joke compared to this one.”

I wonder why both of us don’t bother reminding him that he said the same thing last time. I have learnt the art of tuning him out. Namrata is only getting there.

He hands over a box of brownies and with that the sin of having uttered the word assignment on a perfectly good Saturday is forgotten.

Namrata unwraps the frozen paneer curry and flops it into the microwave while Vinay makes himself comfortable on the couch.

“Three minutes”, Namrata reads out the instructions from the back of the paneer wrapper.

“Make it five”, advises Vinay.

Namrata looks at me and then punches 3 on the  digital pad of the microwave and presses ‘start’.

A few seconds later there are sparks and abnormal sounds issuing from the microwave.

Namrata screams.

Then I scream.

Then Pause.

Then we both scream together hugging each other and closing our eyes in the process.

Vinay rushes to the microwave opens it and pulls out the *tin* foil wrapped frozen panner.

“Idiots you cannot microwave that! And please stop that screaming.”

Barely had he finished  when there was a *POP* and whistle, a swoosh  and a spray of pinkish red across the ceiling and on the kitchen floor.

Then silence.

Then a clank as the pressure cooker cover finally hit the floor.

The three of us stand around pink soup.

How in the world did I manage to blow up a pressure cooker?

“I have some patties in my fridge”, Vinay broke the silence wiping vegetable soup from his face.


Notes on studying abroad – Part 2

I had just got my licence. But then that did not really mean that I could drive, let alone maintain my car.

The things I could do was brake ( oh yeah!) and indicate that I was turning ( even if I was  moving slightly to the right on a straight road). The things I could not do involved changing lanes on the freeway ( without someone in the car looking back and telling me “Now, Now, Now!”, reverse and parallel park.  Reverse and parallel park were  part of the ten year plan ( still is!).

I was still figuring out how to drive without being honked at all the time when I had to move from Atlanta to Scottsdale for an internship. Needless to say the drive from the airport to my apartment took twice as long ( read distance and time) and vexed every single commuter who had the good/misfortune of sharing the  deviation riddled freeway with me.

I soon got better at changing lanes; every time I did only a couple of cars honked and not the entire ‘freeway’! Some of them honked even when I was not in the process of changing lanes. During my second week I realized that it was because slower moving traffic normally kept to the right side of the freeway. “Freeway etiquette”  said an article on the internet. But that was not very easy to comply with for every time I kept to the right I landed up taking an exit I did not intend to.

One  night I had just turned into the street a few miles short of where I lived when I was pulled over. Dutifully following procedure  as I was taught in the driving school, I rolled down my window and kept both my hands on the steering wheel. A middle-aged officer walked over and stood beside my car unsmiling.

“Do you know why you are pulled over?”

“No Sir. But I know I was not speeding.”

” Oh no. That you were not. Unfortunately I cannot do anything about you going too slow.  Switch on your engine please.”

” Can I take my hands off the wheel?”   – I did not want him pulling out a gun on me!

Struggling to curb a smile he answered ” Is there any other way you can switch on your engine?”

“No Sir.”

” Then please take your hands off the wheel”.

I switched  on my engine and my dashboard lit up.

” You see that blue icon? You know what that is?”


“I know lights, but what light?”  Exasperated.

“My car lights….?” — Where the hell is this guy from?

The officer did not  know whether to laugh or not. He looked at me a whole minute and then decided I was innocent, probably retarded!

“They are bright lights. You do not use high beam in the city. Do you understand?”

 If only he knew the effort it took me to find out how to switch on the lights! 

There were other blinking lights on my dashboard.  He pointed to the another one ( which I later learnt  indicated low tire pressure) and asked

” Do you know what that means?”

” Oil Change…?”