The Immigrant Diaries – Edition 4
Friends, thank you for all your comments on Editions 1,2,3. It took me a while to get this one done, but here it is. I do appreciate your time and comments, so please let me know what you think. You can find edition 1 here and editions 2 and 3 linked.
They were back now and a photograph showing the blazing blue sea and the two of them on either side of a sea lion adorned the living room. Life seemed easier somehow, she was more at home. The holiday had broken the monotony. She even felt she was ready for a job search. Each morning, she would set aside an hour or two to look for a job. She would wake with Arjun and by the time he left, she would be at the computer.
By eleven, Dolly would usually come over or she would pop over to her house. Afternoons were still hard, with TV shows filling the blanks. She was addicted to ‘Law and Order’ now, in its many manifestations, and could watch it for hours. They were, however peppered with commercials trying to convince her she had an exotic illness.
‘Do you shake your legs a lot? You may have restless leg syndrome’ the voice would say and she would catch herself shaking her legs many times a day.
Or ‘Do you have an overactive bladder? Are you unable to go on a hike without going to the bathroom’ – it did seem her trips to the bathroom had increased, and there was that time on the beach when she had to run back…
And then the worst ‘Do you feel sad a lot? Do you cry a lot?’ – she did. ‘Do you have trouble getting out of bed’ – very often. ‘Then you may be suffering from depression. Depression is a disease. See you doctor, blah blah blah’
Before her holiday, she had become almost convinced that she was depressed. It was only the pleasant voice that reminded her of side effects while a smiling lady jogged across the screen that had held her back from mentioning the fact to Arjun, or worse still her parents. Constipation, nausea, dry mouth etc, etc. She was not quite ready to be depressed.
But of late, she had noticed a change in Dolly. She was no longer up for long walks and seemed to have lost color. Dolly said nothing but Ruchi wondered if the eighteen month old ‘arranged marriage’ was working.
And then the news -
‘I am pregnant’ said Dolly, suddenly, looking up from the bhindi, dal rice lunch they were having.
‘Oh’ Ruchi said, ‘That is great’
‘I am tired of staying home’ Dolly added, ‘I want to use my break – I would have had to stay home for a while anyway, after I had a baby, so why not now’
This matter of fact, practical decision slammed her but she wasn’t intimate enough to discuss it. Instead she asked ‘Do you have a doctor?’
‘I just got one. Recommended by someone at the office. If you like, I will give you her number’.
Not yet, she thought, but she thanked her just the same.
So was this what it was going to look like a year from now? Trying to get pregnant to use her downtime? Back home she dedicated herself to the job search.
Many of the job listings threw her out when she mentioned her visa status. The jobs were listed as for those who were already eligible to work in the US. She didn’t venture to apply.
In the meanwhile the newsmagazines were talking of a downturn. Arjun was worried – some projects had fallen through. There were talk about Dot-bombs. The age of the techie seemed to have hit a road bump.
But as far as she looked, techie jobs still seemed easier to get. Though she had worked in a software company, her job was in HR. Network, coaxed the career sites she visited. She could only think of two ways – invite Arjun’s friend, and call Mr. Pandey, the sole contact her father had given her in Atlanta.
She and Arjun decided to thow their first party two weeks from then. And she called Mr. Pandey that evening. He was avuncular, affable and she warmed to him instantly as he praised her father, mentioning his generosity and sense of humor. Those were traits of her father she had grown up with and heard mentioned by all and hearing it in Atlanta made her at once relax, yet long for home. He was also very helpful. Asked her to send her resume, and he would forward it on to a few people. He mentioned they were busy a few weekends but his wife would call and invite them over.
She toiled the next day on the resume, cancelling her lunch with Dolly and getting Arjun to read and critique it. Then she sent it off.
In a way it happened too fast. Mr.Pandey sent it off to an impressive roster of people, copying her each time. She Googled those he sent them to and was mildly flattered. Most offered her advice but one, a Mr. Medhu Rawat wanted to meet. Apparently he had time the week after. He was the CTO of one of the leading local software companies, one that Arjun had mentioned. They employed a lot of Indians. They would know about H1s.
The rest of the week she spent in imagining all kinds of scenarios. Could it really be happening? And so soon? She imagined herself wearing Western clothes, the kind she saw on ladies in restaurants and window shopping at The Limited. She imagined herself going into work every morning; driving her car (she was yet to have her license, but minor details). She imagined a drive thru at the Starbucks and what she would buy with her first paycheck. She imagined breaking the news to her parents, who had been overjoyed that Mr. Pandey had proved to be of such use. She found new interest in her TV viewings, believing her days of doing nothing to be numbered. She mentioned nothing to Dolly about her expectations, but began to feel a distant with her first trimester tormented friend.
The weekend was spent at Macy’s again, this time buying her first Western suit. Arjun tried to calm her expectations from the interview, and as the day neared, doubt did begin to filter in. The day before, on Arjun’s suggestion, she wrote to Medhu Rawat confirming the time. Which was just as well since Mr. Rawat pushed the time from a respectable 10 am to a 6:30 pm in the evening.
‘Will it be safe?’ she asked Arjun
‘6:30 is nothing for software firms. Plus, that whole company has workaholics. The office will be full’.
And he did know Mr. Pandey….
The day dawned and proceeded from minute to minute with the speed of coagulated ketchup from an old bottle. She dressed two hours early and then undressed, afraid she would rumple her suit. At 5:30 pm, Arjun arrived and drove her over.
The building was large and beautiful. Colorful flowers decked the two storied driveway and the glass doors opened into a high ceilinged lobby centered around a glass sculpture of an eagle.
An enormous security guard pushed out a sign in pad without looking at her and then grunted ‘second floor’. Once there, a young woman with short, straight hair, a fresh face, pink lips and a pinstripe suit (looking so like she would look one day when she went to work) happened to meet her at the door .
‘O Medu’, she said, leaving out the ‘h’, ‘I will get him for you’.
She came back with a ‘Come on in. He asked you to wait’.
She was outside an office with ‘Medhu Rawat’ on the door. There appeared to be a meeting going on inside. Nice lady in suit offered her a chair and left.
She was sitting close to what appeared to be an assistant’s desk. ‘Raquel Hollister’ read the name card and there were several pictures of Raquel and family on vacations around the desk. The rest of her view was a passage splitting rows of depressingly gray cubicles clusters. She had her resume in a file but little else to do or read. She tried to look as business like as she could as she waited.
Twenty minutes passed. Then thirty. Then forty five. But Medhu’s door remained closed.
She could tell of other signs of life in the office. Occasionally people would pass her by with a surprised glance or a hello.
Nice Lady in Suit walked by again, this time with her bag on her way out.
‘Oh’, she said ‘Let me check on him, he must have forgotted’
An opened door, some murmurings. She came out.
‘He will be done soon. Would you like some coffee or to use the restroom?’
She said yes to both. A coffee would give her something to do. She didn’t have a cellphone, so she asked if she could use the phone. Nice Lady pointed her to Raquel’s phone, showed her the restroom and break room and left.
She called Arjun, who had gone back home. Arjun was characteristically unfazed.
‘Just call when you are done. Don’t worry. Best of luck’.
At the hour mark, she wondered if she should leave. But the door swung open and three tired white shirted men filed out. In a minute followed Medhu a wiry, semi-bald man with round glasses.
‘I am sorry. We are very busy and it took long. Go into my office. I need a cigarette and will be back’.
And she stepped in, hoping to catch him fresh after the cigarette. Though her expectations from the interview had begun to plunge, at least it was now a few puffs of smoke away from happening.
He returned after 45 interminable minutes. No apology. Just ‘So how do you know Mr. Pandey?’
And so began her first interview in the US. But it seemed to her that Medhu was more interested in telling her about his life – his graduation from IIMs, coming to the US with a software outsourcing company, breaking off and forming this company from the beginning. He talked of the hard work and the many things he did to get there. At another time, it may have been fascinating. But Ruchi was tired. She felt he was trying to intimidate her, and put her down. And it was when he reached the part about how his wife had spent years not working after coming to the US, supporting his schedule that she realized it was going nowhere.
But she did the best she could in the few minutes she spoke. And when she walked out, she felt strangely humiliated. The build up and crashing of her expectations, the waiting, and the lack of apology and the hour long soliloquy had burnt her out. It seemed to her that the entire exercise had been orchestrated by Medhu to pamper his ego, let him wallow in how far he had come, show off his achievements.
She called Arjun from Raquel’s desk and was surprised to learn he was downstairs. In the restroom tears started stinging her eyes. In the car she started crying, freely, startling Arjun who had never seen her cry like that before. The next morning, she didn’t get up till twelve, and then only because she remembered the voice ‘Are you having difficulty getting out of bed? You may be depressed’.
Down for now, but not out.
(Continued, click here for more)
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