It was one of those restaurants with a dim light, perfect for a romantic dinner. Although there were no candles that were lit, but it seemed as though there were. A lonely love song played softly in the background. The ambiance was such, it removed you from the others and inwards into your table. I and my husband sat there with another couple, sipping our drinks, as conversation flowed from one topic to another.
It was Thursday night. My husband had just returned back from his business trip with a fresh incident that occurred just the night before to a “fresh-from-India” colleague of his. He was put up at a hotel near the office as were the other consultants of the IT firm my husband worked for. Without going into the intricacies of a mind that is removed suddenly from the hustle and bustle of India, or the society where people live in joint households, this guy simply needed to wake up at night, his first night, to use the toilet. It was as simple as that. It was an average private hotel room, but see, the mind of a lonely first night is such, that out of habit, he locked his bathroom door from inside before using the bathroom. The trouble was that when he was done, and he tried to open the door, the lock snapped on him! Poor fellow did not know what to do. He panicked. He banged on the door until he was convinced the door was locked shut and couldn’t be opened. He did not have a phone in the bathroom to call for help. So, he decided to bang on the wall of the adjacent room. Lucky for him there was an occupant on the other side of the wall. Not so lucky for the voice that yelled back at the knocking – “Cut it out!!” “I need help, I am locked out!” yelled Ram Prasad. After a long back and forth of confused angry exchanges, I am not sure if it was understanding of the situation that made the neighbor call the front desk, or it was plain frustration, who really cares! Apparently when something like this happens at a hotel, a fire brigade is ushered in. That is intense for someone from India where people could get hit by a runaway car and bodies decay on the side of the road, here an emergency service comes rushing in on just being locked in a bathroom of a tall hotel building. So, the blinking lights in the parking lot heralded help for Ram Prasad who was cursing himself for using the toilet in middle of the night. But, he got rescued alright, as we laughed hard over his misery, rubbing the water from our eyes from laughing so hard.
This elicited another incident that our friend remembered happened to one of their friends who too got rescued by an ambulance. His friend had just come to America and just like Ram Prasad we will not go into the feelings of his lonely heart, or the long 24 hours of flight that preceded such a state of mind, or the moist goodbyes, and long promises on the other side of the world, let us just say certain anguishes just need being rescued by an ambulance dramatically. On this guy’s first night, the elevator got stuck. Imagine, coming all the way to America to experience on the very first night, the thought of spending the last few hours of your life being trapped, in an 8 by 6 feet box crashing to the floor in the darkness of the night when sun is shining on the country you boarded a plane out of! He screamed from inside as people looked at each other outside the elevator wondering what was happening inside. He too got rescued by an ambulance that night.
Yes, we were laughing at these stories but there was a tinge of sadness in all of us. For we all knew the nervousness associated with coming so far from home, from everything you have known in your life into another world maybe for a job prospect, or higher education, or for more superior dreams. We all had our first nights that we did not talk about that night, maybe our night wasn’t as dramatic, it simply involved laying in the dark not being rescued by the sirens of an ambulance, laying unheard and unspoken with unknown fear in our hearts staring at the dark ceiling wondering where our life would take us, and if the bold decisions we had made, were worth making, because I spent almost 5 years of my life not being rescued but terribly homesick. I spent all of my undergraduate degree here in the US, and then first year of my professional career, paying off student loans, dreaming of returning back to the country I came from. I was not rescued. It wasn’t until after I quit a permanent job to go back, and then returned a year later to pursue even higher education, that I was battling homesickness all over again when my car lost control on the Pennsylvania turnpike, turned upside down and then back on its wheels, meandering away from the freeway, away from the surrounded trucks and vehicles, on to the grass and down the cliff into infinite demise only to be stopped by a tree that the blinking lights of an ambulance and its approaching sirens made their way towards me. It wasn’t until then I was rescued by an ambulance away from my mangled car, into the safety of an ambulance where a nurse took my blood pressure and deemed I was fit enough to not be escorted into a hospital. That indeed I was fit to walk into this world without support. It took 5 years for me to be rescued by an ambulance!