When I first typed these words, this was going to an optimistic post about hope and positive attitude in life. Then, I went blind…
Let us rewind a bit. I have been in the USA for about a month now. Enough time for anyone with sufficient amount of pop-culture to settle right in. But I don’t know if I have. In a way I have, but a part of me still insists on speaking really fast, and walking on the left side of road. DISSENT 101.
But for all practical purposes, I am fine now.
But has the fuckery stopped? NO! God no!
So without any further delay, let me take you on a journey down the rabbit hole, to a magical land called ‘perma-fuck’. It is guarded by an airport official. Who manages to, and I really don’t know how, get my passport number wrong. In effect delaying the most important document (I-94) proving my immigration into this country. Now I am extremely used to people getting my name wrong (in spelling, spirit, and essence). So I tried every possible variant of my name to try and access my immigration document online. Three days, many smokes, and four deportation nightmares later, I was told that it wasn’t my fault, and it would be sorted out soon.
Meanwhile, classes proceeded at their normal (read: possibly criminal) pace. I read more than I ever have, before class that is. I sent mails to people requesting appointments without knowing what I was going to meet them for. But every time I came even remotely close to ‘settling in’ and focusing on studying, the ugly head of ‘admin’ would raise itself and shake me from my apparently undeserved stupor. But even that was being dealt with. Slowly and steadily, I filled up my forms and was ready for the final step: Social Security Number. All I had to do was wait for the I-94 to be rectified.
And then it was. I had it all; work authorization, stamped form from the relevant authorities, and freshly printed I-94 bearing testimony to my lawful entry into the country. That day, like many before that, actual studying was sacrificed for the noble cause of getting this done. I walked into the Social Security Office with a very pleased expression hoping to get over with it very soon. That was the last time I smiled that week.
My name was messed up. Everywhere. On my passport, on the I20, on the I94, and on the form. I was sent back on a Thursday, before the Labour Day weekend, to get ALL OF THE THINGS right. Needless to say, it didn’t happen. But something else happened. Walking between two offices, once again on the wrong side of the road, I was mentally spent in a way I had never been. I have been stressed before. I have been stressed by situations before. I have been stressed by other people before. Hell! I got psoriasis because of one. But never like this. Never have I felt this sheer level of co-ordination in things going wrong. And then as I walked on, it struck me. None of this was my fault. Admin here can fuck-up here just as badly as back home; it takes just as much maneuvering here as it would anywhere. I didn’t stand out walking into a crowd of oncoming people any more. I belonged there just as much as anyone else. They weren’t exceptionally different, just a lot of people walking from classes to other classes. One hundred per cent people. That I could handle. The frustration felt so normal and familiar that it was very calming. And that day I knew, I was going to be all right. All of this would sort itself out.
And then my phone screen cracked…
So that happened. While trying to sort out all of the aforementioned mess, my phone screen just cracked. No sudden incident, no droppage, no mishandling. It just cracked. I didn’t have a Social Security number, a driving license, no official proof to get my stipend, and then, no phone. I don’t think I have ever laughed harder. I couldn’t possibly react any other way. There is only so much a person can take before feeling the pressure. Thankfully my chronology of dealing with pressure is; crying, straight face, straight face, inappropriate jokes, and laughter. I had reached my limit with the I-94 incident, and then this happened. How could I possibly react when I had already stopped giving fucks?
Addendum: A phone is not just a bunch of circuits, LEDs, and a screen panel. It is also a lot of muscle memory, self-reflection, personification, and identification. In my case, it was my fucking passwords. Lost all of them. My accounts had to be reset. All of them. My bank account got blocked and much annoyance ensued.
None of this compares to the pain of watching your once beautiful phone, now completely invalid, incapable of even the basic functions. It felt like a futile exercise to keep charging the phone as the touch functionality died, inch-by-inch, by the hour. But I did it. Eventually, it was reduced to a mute spectator. Non responsive to my frantic attempts to make it react to my touch, even if for one last time.
On the bright side, it was a good occasion to channel my inherent promiscuity and order the cheapest Nexus phone.
That I did. Before I knew it, I had a new phone. My accounts were eventually restored. I got my Social security number, albeit with a combination of my name and middle name. And life slowly approached normalcy. That’s when I had the dream.
There is a myriad assortment of literature which deals with the experience of an immigrant (legal or otherwise) in a new country. A lot of them address the sense of detachment, alienation, and an equal amount of fascination with a new culture. Some of it is funny, some quite profound, However, none of it, as far I know, ever mentions dreams.
I had my first multi-racial dream two weeks ago. You might think it’s ridiculous to mention, but I think it is quite pertinent. I had never realised that I have always dreamed ‘brown’. On account of being, you know, brown. And dreaming is different from day-dreaming, or fantasizing. Because in the latter, I think you are sub-consciously aware of the false nature of the imagery playing around in your head. So when I woke up after a dream comprised entirely of non-brown people, it was slightly awkward. While the actual content of the dream was rather uneventful, the feelings that accompanied the dream were both normal and strange at the same time. Perhaps my brain has internalized the realities of my new environment, and is reflecting that in my nocturnal adventures. I think it’s always a good thing when your subconscious is on the same page as you. I guess it is settling in as well.
I have been rather busy since the dream, and after all the stressful excitement died down. I am reading more every day, putting in more hours of actual work than I ever have. This is not to say that procrastination doesn’t happen, or that last minute rushing of assignments has been eliminated completely. I am reading on space, power, race, politics, anthropology, digital technology, and social relations. And this is not even part of my course work. I am also listening to podcast lectures on modern social theories while walking to school and back. I finally know what Locke said, what Hobbes meant by the ‘state of nature’, the genesis of ‘separation of powers’. More remains, but I think it is terribly exciting to see the tremendous impact of these ideas on modern day systems of government and society. Most importantly, I finally know how to pronounce Montesquieu.
This was day before yesterday. And then it rained.
There are many reasons why growing up sucks. Taxes, I guess, is the primary reason. Weak knees is another. My problem is the fact that I can no longer get wet in the rain. When I was in college, one had a phone to worry about before stepping in the rain. Now it’s an expensive phone (recently purchased mind you) and a laptop. That means I have to always carefully consider any decision pertaining to rains, walking, unhindered wetting, and my general unpreparedness with water protection.
This particular evening I decided to leave the library, with the sole intention of coming back, cooking dinner, and calling it a night with this very post. However, I ended up buying dinner, getting drenched, and cooking lunch for the next day instead. I also managed to forget my glasses at the food store. As the realization, along with partial blindness hit me, I thought, ” Well I was smart. I have a spare pair. Well done me!”. I unpacked the new pair and hastily put it on.
My vision didn’t change, nor did the headache go away. It was then that I realized that my frames had no glass in it. The frame had broken. And just like that, within 15 mins, I went from 2 pairs to 0 functional pairs.
PS: This post is dedicated to the thoughtful employees of the shop where I forgot my original pair. This was written with perfect (assisted) vision, and all errors are a consequence of my klutzery, and nothing else.
PPS: I quite like the admin staff. They are extremely sweet, and supremely helpful. Please do excuse my rant.