Firangi Desi

"Hey everyone. I'm Deepa Subash Mysore, from San Francisco, CA. Well, Medical School is something that happened to me out of the blue and hence, unlike all you guys, I don't have a specific reason as to why I 'wanted' to be a doctor. Other than that, I love playing the keyboard and partying. Well, see y'all around. Cheers". 

That was my fresher's speech at the most boring 'freshers' day' ever in history! As I awed at the oil-factory in the samosas and pakodas that went with tea, and the dress-code of 'salwar kameez' that I couldn't even spell; my batch mates awed at me being an ABCD, which in their lingo was old-school for American-Born-Confused-Desi. Here I was, at a City that made my Surname and yet, a place to where I had never been before.

My Parents, both Indian Physicians, had migrated to the United States Of America way back in the 1980s, even before I was conceived. They fancied that country more than their Motherland and as time passed, work and the country kept them busy enough not to get back to India, not even for vacations. The fact that most of their kith and kin also had made America their abode, gave them all the more reason to stick around there. As I grew up, except for my name, family and skin, nothing in me was 'Indian'. Infact it took time for me to even know, that there ain't any language as such called 'Indian'. When I was done with School and was to get into College, my Parents insisted that I get into Medical School. But I, always thought Medicine and Law and the like were for boring people and not for me. But, unable to convince them that I wouldn't be enjoying it, I made other plans. I intentionally didn't fare well in the MCAT Exams. Nevertheless, my strategists Parents dumped me in a Medical College in Mysore, India, after paying a large amount of money, that was the norm for N.R.I. students and sparing me the Entrance Exams.

Things were fine until my flight landed at the Bangalore International Airport, and I boarded the Vaayu Vajra Volvo Bus to the Bus Stand. But after that, I felt I was living a nightmare! Why on earth was the Bus Terminal at Bangalore called 'Majestic'? What was so majestic about the place? It looked like the biggest chaos I had ever seen in my life! Preparing myself for the pleasant and not-so-pleasant surprises that were yet to come my way, I reached Mysore. I got myself geared up to spend the next five and a half years of my life at the campus of J.S.S. Medical College. In a couple of days,Lectures started and I sucked!. I found everything weird, and weirder. The bossism of the teachers didn't do down well with me. Rules were rigid, competition was too much and I suffocated. The students fighting over every chance to dissect the Cadaver, the Histology diagrams always going wrong, pricking one's own finger for those drops of blood for the haematology blood-count experiments, and worse - so many things to get by-heart. Aarrgh! I hated it. Very soon, the N.R.I. me was an outcast. I couldn't figure out if the students had made me one, or I myself had.

Come weekends and I hardly had any company to hang out at a pub or so. The city being a small one, went to sleep early too. As they say, destructive things are easier to happen, I befriended a couple of students from Uganda, Australia and USA, pursuing different courses here. What followed was obvious. I stayed away from classes, partied hard, went on vacations, flunked exams , and basically- wasted time.

One fine morning, I realised that this was not what I was here for. Being a useless-bug was not me. I wanted to do something with my life and the best option that was in front of me, was to go back to College. But that wasn't an easy task for me. I realised that I needed a break and hence, decided to travel across the region I lived, alone. What I had in store, was nothing less than a treasure. Who said India was a poor country? The sea and beaches at Kanyakumari, the hills and tea estates at Munnar, the Jog falls and the Western Ghats in Karnataka, left me wanting to see more of India's rich nature. The hospitality and harmony with which the people lived here was something the world could learn from. There were petty villages with poor people sure. But the broad smile on their face and the authentic cuisines which changed from one region to another were so Wow! We are always taught to treat guests well, but only in this country do they mean what they say- 'Athithi devobhava'!.

Back to College, I started afresh. All I had to do was return the smile I got from my batch mates and they were more than happy to help. Friends, happened within no time. Dhanya, a half Punjabi and half Mysorean, who later went to be my best-friend-forever, insisted that I shift base from the hostel to her home. Her family, unlike what I expected, were more than welcoming. Inviting an outsider to stay at your place for 5.5 years wouldn't have been something I would have done. But well, this wasn't me. It was them! Within a few minutes after I stepped into their house, I had turned from 'Deepa' to 'Beti'. So much affection in so less time? Was again another point to be added to my 'What I love about India' list. The bond that Indian families share is one of a kind. They don't come together at Thanksgiving or Christmas. They live together, all the time. They share duties and responsibilities, joy and laughter, sorrow and tears with so much ease as though they have a gene in their chromosomes just for this. Relationships weren't as simple as brother and sister or uncle and aunt. It was specific for every kind of it - anna, akka, thangi, thamma, maava, aththe, chikkamma, chikkappa, dhodamma, dhodappa; well, the list continued. And there were different versions of this in different languages too! Such small things were what made these relationships so special I guess. As I stayed there and it kinda became 'home' for me, the essence of India slowly started to sink in. Festivals followed and the pomp that came with it- prayers, rangolis, sweets, lights, crackers, was nothing less than a cultural extravaganza. It was only at Deepavali, that I understood the actual meaning of my name. Deepa - A Light to lead the world away from darkness. I couldn't hold my tears when Ajji said, 'When you become a Doctor, you shall treat the sick and lead them into the light of health from the darkness of disease.'

At college, I fared nothing less than 'great'. Though I had frowned upon my Parents' decision of making me join this College earlier, now I was thankful to them for the same with all my heart. I started learning the languages too and ended up mixing Hindi and Kannada with English. My friends were the best language tutors I could bargain for. The first line they taught me in Hindi was, "main tumse pyaar karthi hoon", supposedly meaning, 'how r u?'!!! The Nurses at the Hospital, addressed as 'Sisters' and 'Brothers', were a sweet bunch to work with. Every morning, they would greet me with a 'thindi aaytha?' (meaning 'had breakfast?' in Kannada) and I would fluently reply 'aaythu'. From being an almost-firangi who couldn't pronounce a patient's name if it was Savithramma, I went on to be able to convince a patient to undergo a procedure by assuring that it would be safe for him. And all that, in Kannada!

Within no time, the 5.5 years passed by. When we Graduated and were administered the Hippocrates Oath, I had two families by my side - my biological one and the other, who made me one among themselves for the past 5.5 years. As friends parted ways after promising each other a million times to be in touch, Dhanya's wedding happened and it was indeed a Big Fat Indian Wedding. The Rokah, Sagaai, Sangeeth, the Mehendi, the music, dance, joy, relatives, celebrations, Baarath and the final Phere and Mangalsutra; the whole journey was amazing.It was Culture at its peak. It made me tell myself, 'It happens only in India'.

India is rich. India is glorious. India has so much treasure in itself, that the more you experience, the more is left to explore. India has something to offer to everyone who come here, be it oldies or youngsters.Tourists and the like have amazing experiences here and come back for more. For me, it had helped me realise my roots. It had helped me be who I was born to be. I was no more an N.R.I.. I was an Indian, one among the lot. With Utmost satisfaction and at the same time, a heavy heart to leave the country, I stopped my tears and boarded my flight to San Francisco. Today, on the 15th of August, far away from India, at the St.Antonio Hospital, San Fransisco; as I sat in my cabin staring at the miniature India Flag on my table, these memories raced my mind as though it were happening right in front of my eyes. I was just telling myself, 'India is indeed incredible', and there was a knock on my door. It was turn for me to see my next Patient. As he walked in, as Destiny would have wanted it, I noticed that he happened to be an elderly Sardarji! Well, I couldn't help, but stand up and great him with, 'Satsriyakaal Papaji'.
Article by Dr. Chandana Shekar who blogs at The world around me!

comment 14 comments:

Ashwini on August 16, 2010 at 5:27 PM said...

hey Chandana
You'v done it again..:)
there's no better place to learn languages than in a hostel...I remember the Tamilian students in Mangalore who were taught choice Tulu abuses & the 1st line in Kannada they learnt was "nange koli maamsa beku"...brings a smile till date :)
versatile, colourful & most qualities of India & Indians
Nice gift on I-day
Cheers !

Karthik Kulkarni on August 16, 2010 at 6:31 PM said...

KUDOS chandana. good one . by the way plz lemme knw hw to seee this mag Nzine . i get updates on my FB but dont know where to see the entire mag

darshan said...

why did u do mbbs if u can write this well......

Dr. Chandana Shekar on August 17, 2010 at 3:05 PM said...

I'm overwhelmed :)

@Ashwini- Thank u. I loved teaching such stuff to non-kannadigas.. Those days were amazing..'koli maamsa'??lolz..thats wicked.... Happy I-day to u too :)

@Karthik- Thank u :). arre, just log on to and click on the different sections and here u are amidst the ocean of beautiful write-ups...

@darshan- ah!! thanks so much.. well, i dono the answer to that question. maybe sometimes we end up with multiple passions in life :)

Thanks a ton all of u once again :)

smilemaker on August 17, 2010 at 3:58 PM said...

Superb :) Lovely Ending!! :)

Urvashi on August 17, 2010 at 10:57 PM said...

really loved this one yaar... Reading the title Ithto it wud some predictable kind of story but this was really different and out of the box....

Morever ur description in detail about the various occassions and facts like haivng a name for all relatives & being together on all days and celebrations etc were really remarkable and toching...

In the end, u made a point that its only our PERCEPTION that helps us to look at things and only if that perception is right, everything else falls in place..:)

Well done yaar once again..
Keep writing..TC :)

Dr. Chandana Shekar on August 18, 2010 at 1:29 AM said...

@smilemaker- thank u so much :)

@urvashi- thank u very much. really glad that u liked it :) tc :)

pavan kunch on August 18, 2010 at 9:22 PM said...

Nice...As always...:)

Dr. Chandana Shekar on August 19, 2010 at 12:22 AM said...

Thank you Pavan :)

Nandan said...

hey awesome re.. the way u finished was just amazing :) great job again :)

Dr. Chandana Shekar on August 25, 2010 at 8:08 PM said...

Thank you Nandan :)

Indian Pundit on September 3, 2010 at 1:36 PM said...

""Today, on the 15th of August, far away from India, at the St.Antonio Hospital, San Fransisco; as I sat in my cabin staring at the miniature India Flag on my table, these memories raced my mind as though it were happening right in front of my eyes. I was just telling myself, 'India is indeed incredible', and there was a knock on my door. It was turn for me to see my next Patient. As he walked in, as Destiny would have wanted it, I noticed that he happened to be an elderly Sardarji! Well, I couldn't help, but stand up and great him with, 'Satsriyakaal Papaji'.""

After all the wonderful sentiments Deepa Subash America returned to America!

Harini on September 5, 2010 at 1:09 AM said...

How did I miss this one? Its so amazing Chandana. I am bursting with pride for the below words.

India is rich. India is glorious. India has so much treasure in itself.

And I Completely agree with them :).

Dr. Chandana Shekar on September 7, 2010 at 8:04 PM said...

@Indian Pundit-Thanks for reading. Well, Deepa Subash Mysore happens to be an American citizen, even though her origin is Indian. And an Americal citizen is not allowed to write any Post-graduation entrance exams in India. And when she is doing good at studies, she wouldn't setlle with just an MBBS. To get a management quota seat, she would have to shell anywhere between 50 lakhs to 1.40 crores donation plus a fees of 5 or 8 lakhs per annum for three years depending on the college for a good clinical branch; which no intelligent student wouldn want to do.When you are getting a seat through merit, why shell out so much money?

On the other hand, if she does her residency is the US of A, she can give the United States Medical Licensing Examinations and get a Post graduation admission is a good branch and do well.

She hadnt fallen in love or wasnt gettin married to anyone in India. her family was there in the USA. everything was feasible there. Many of my friends who did their Medicine here in Mysore miss Mysore big time. their facebook status say so many a times. but not all of them can come back to Mysore and live here.Same way in the story...

Even though the story is a fiction, it is based in the real world.

@Harini- Thank you so much :)

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