Last time I was in India, I went to visit a long lost friend. When I arrived at his place, on agreed upon time – like an idiot, he was not home. His dad assured me that he would return soon and insisted that I waited.
My friend’s father, Mr. T, was an interesting guy, interesting being an euphemism for creepy. There was no end to his questions. He seemed to have an ax to grind against Indians living in the US too. He didn’t sound like an average curious George, he sounded more like a lawyer arguing for my death sentence.
Mr. T: Where do you live?
I stated my name and address for the record.
Several questions followed that reiterated the accusations against me.
Mr. T: How long have you been living in the US?
Mr. T: Do you own a house? How much did it cost? Oh my god, for that price you can buy two houses in India.
Mr. T: Which company do you work for? Do you they have a branch in India? Oh, they will, soon.
Mr. T: How frequently do you visit India?
After it was established, beyond reasonable doubt, that I had been happy living in the US, he continued scornfully.
Mr. T: What platform do you work on?
These days, everybody in India, including retired Math teachers, know everything about software. Not to worry, I have prepared answers for these questions.
Me: I don’t have a specific platform. My strength is in adapting to various platforms.
That answer worked well in job interviews. But he looked at me like I was retarded. He proceeded, speaking very slowly.
Mr. T: What language do you use?
My answer would’ve started with “Language is just a tool,” but I knew Mr. T would interpret it as “I don’t know any software languages. I am a complete moron.” So went with an answer he could appreciate.
Me: I use C
Mr. T smirked like a lawyer would when the opponent’s witness makes a blunder.
Mr. T: You use C? In this advanced age, even people in India are using modern languages like Java, Oracle and Cisco. You are living in America and still using C?
I didn’t know which part to correct first. But I knew any attempt to enlighten him would be futile.
Me: Yeah, I never learnt Cisco.
At this point, Mr. T decided to stop beating around the bush and determine my worth.
Mr. T: How much do you make?
A question that is not considered too personal in India. If one evades the question, it would be assumed that one has pathetically low income. I gave him some vague number.
Mr. T: Do you get housing allowance? Vehicle allowance?
After I confessed I didn’t even know that they were, his Math-teacher-brain worked like a super computer. He took my salary, compensated for inflation, dollar value fluctuation, housing market downturn and draught in Ethiopia. He arrived at an arbitrary adjusted net salary.
Mr. T: My cousin’s brother-in-law’s son, who works in Bangalore, makes gazillion rupees. Considering his house and car loan allowances, he is making almost as much as you make. So what is the point in your living in the US?
He rested his case.
My friend arrived and bailed me out before I could make an opening statement. I don’t know how he interpreted my lunging to hug him and saying, “Man, you have no idea how glad I am to see you.”