A Xerox At The Park

Through the course of a five-mile walk at Ortega Park with a friend, I was baffled by the demographics of the park. An all-Indian birthday party was in progress inside the gazebo at the center. A few minutes down, close to our walking path, eight boys kicked a ball on the green: Seven Mowglis in seven t-shirts and seven shorts and seven shoes and one ball.

On a bench, an old man and woman sat in glum resignation to the soundless life of the American suburbia. As we trekked past, we nodded absently, all four of us—as all immigrants do in their adopted country—in silent acknowledgment of the truth that we were all xeroxed faces hailing from a land that produced high technology, high-calorie samosas and high SAT and GRE scores.

For a few cruel seconds, I felt like a migrant hoping to banish all the other migrating beasts to another savannah 10,000 light-years away.

I felt like the zebra at the head of the herd. No two ever had the same set of stripes. Yet they blended into the distant landscape, becoming one in the daze of heat and dust. I sensed the zebra’s frisson of discomfort: If and when the lion came, how would it tell one rear from the other? And, heavens, would there be enough grass for all? Plenty of Bermuda grass? Enough red grass? What about legume?

Further down the trail, I passed one more of my ilk. Right away, I sensed the mild panic leaking at the pores of the Cupertino species: Would there be enough fresh coriander and fenugreek at the farmer’s market the following Friday?

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Designs On A Designer

 The day we were about to drive out to San Francisco with friends, I realized that I’d left my sunglasses at home. “Do you have one I can borrow?” I asked my friend. She ran into her daughter’s room and returned with a nice pair. They were designer, BCBGMAXAZRIA, and, according to the label inside, made in China. When I glided them over the bridge of my nose, I seemed to feel slimmer. I glowed with the chic of Milan.

My own pair of sunglasses, the ones at home, cost me ten dollars at Walgreens. I don’t invest in expensive glasses anymore because when I buy one, they never stay with me. When I took one to India, they forgot to return home with me. I bought another pair when I returned. But whenever I drove out in our van, I discovered too late that they were in the sedan. Almost always, my sunglasses were in the purse that I was not carrying at the time I needed them. I was always looking everywhere under the sun for my sunglasses.

But the day I received my BCBGMAXAZRIA, they began to feel right on my skin. I’d been given them with the tacit understanding—between close friends—that they were meant to be returned.

I never mean to not return something. When a friend gives me food in her container, I keep it in the fridge for a day or so and then, when I’ve consumed its contents, I toss the container into the dishwasher. A day later, I shove the clean container into a kitchen drawer. In less than a week, I forget all about the container and about the friend.

Sometimes, I’m also a victim of the “no return” policy. People have forgotten to return my books. A friend borrowed our lawnmower eons ago. No one in either family now remembers the incident, least of all, my husband, who will not look directly at our lawn anymore unless it stares back at him from a picture on Facebook. Just ten days ago, a friend borrowed our keyboard. Soon, she’ll begin to think she has always owned a Yamaha keyboard. And I’ll forget that I was the one who bought it.

Of late, I’ve been taking my BCBGMAXAZRIA on walks around the block. They look svelte even when I’m in sweats. They stay tight when I sweat. I may have designs on them but the truth is they were designed for me.

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Lame Excuse

This morning the oldest man in our home tried to ban his wife from taking her first walk out here in Saratoga. “I warn you. Dogs are going to bite you. Don’t regret it!” Mo’s dad said.

“No, no, you must walk,” I told Mo’s mom, opening our front door. “You are so lucky to have such lovely weather here. Besides, it’s good for your legs.”

The octagenarian came up with new excuses for his wife.

“How will you know your way back?” he said.

“She doesn’t need to know no way back,” I said. “She’s going to go down this road. And back again. That’s all.” Meanwhile, my mother-in-lawchecked the door number and repeated it a few times under her breath.

Mo’s dad warned of other dubious things. “And then there might be thatplant. You know, that plant that we have back in Vellore. You know, theplant that’ll cause you to forget your way back.”

Now that was a fascinating one. I turned to him. “Really? There’s such aplant?”

“Of course, there’s such a plant.”

“A plant that makes you lose your way? Wow.”

The truth is my mother-in-law’s brain is more leading edge than Garmin Edge. She’ll zip back to Saratoga even if her trail led her into Santa Cruz.

“Yes, a plant that makes you forget your way back,” my father-in-law said. “It intoxicates you so much you’ll never ever return from your walk.”

You Must Not Walk

This morning the oldest man in our home tried to ban his wife from taking her first walk out here in Saratoga. “I warn you. Dogs are going to bite you. Don’t regret it!” Mo’s dad said.

“No, no, you must walk,” I told Mo’s mom, opening our front door. “You are so lucky to have such lovely weather here. Besides, it’s good for your legs.”

The octagenarian came up with new excuses for his wife.

“How will you know your way back?” he said.

“She doesn’t need to know no way back,” I said. “She’s going to go down this road. And back again. That’s all.” Meanwhile, my mother-in-law checked the door number and repeated it a few times under her breath.

Mo’s dad warned of other dubious things. “And then there might be that plant. You know, that plant that we have back in Vellore. You know, the plant that’ll cause you to forget your way back.”

Now that was a fascinating one. I turned to him. “Really? There’s such a plant?”

“Of course, there’s such a plant.”

“A plant that makes you lose your way? Wow.”

The truth is my mother-in-law’s brain is more leading edge than Garmin Edge. She’ll zip back to Saratoga even if her trail led her into Santa Cruz.

“Yes, a plant that makes you forget your way back,” my father-in-law said. “It intoxicates you so much you’ll never ever return from your walk.”