Adieu India

A letter to friends on the eve of my departure to USA to start my Ph.D. at Syracuse University


Dear friends,

One is all set to depart: sixty-four kilos of luggage worth a princely sum of twenty-five thousand rupees and sixty kilos of me…well, I don’t know my worth, but I am insured for one lakh USD until September 6! Accumulating these have occupied a good part of my three months stay at Chennai. You won’t believe what an inveterate shopper I’ve become: each time I pass a mall, I’ve been stopping by to purchase things. And you won’t believe either what a heavyweight personality I am becoming: I have added almost 6 KGs to my weight in the last three months. At this rate, you are going to see a really changed me the next time, keep your fingers crossed!

I had some grand plans of visiting Paris for a week, but I had a strange luck that I found no ticket from Paris to NY!!! My enterprising travel agent found a ticket at last, with three days to go for my departure. I made a beeline to the French Consulate at Pondicherry, only to hear them say that they take their own sweet time to process a tourist visa, which will not help me leave in three days. I reconciled to the idea of seeing Paris from the airport as I left Pondicherry. By the edge of the town stood a huge billboard sporting the picture of a wine bottle with the caption: “Get a taste of Paris: excellent grape juice“. A perfect analogy on my visit to Paris, I thought.

My focus has shifted west of Paris now. It looks like news has traveled to my relatives that I am fond of cooking as well as baby-sitting. This has suddenly increased my acceptability and I am getting invitations from all over to spend time with them. At this rate, I can keep myself super busy for the next few years (considering that there are more babies coming!).

I am all set to board now, and I should be off in a couple of days. I am now trying to cope with the sophistications of air travel. I amused no end at the list of things I can and cannot carry. I am told that even shaving foam and nail cutters are not encouraged! But the best was my trip to choose a book for in-flight reading. I wanted to make sure that I carry something that I would like for sure. The most popular book on stores is Harry Potter, which I don’t want for sure. One good book on stand was “Loosing my virginity” – an autobiography of Richard Branson (CEO, Virgin Inc.). I am fond of biographies and I am told that this one is well written. But this book would have sent rather wrong signals, specially to my mother, so I dropped it. I generally like JK, but the titles were too repetitive. I checked other books such as “The goose is out”, “Surrender to existence”, etc. but all had their problems. I finally found one title of Osho interesting – ‘The art of living’. But the book had a frontal image of Osho with a long flowing beard. In the odd event if my customs officer in the US is not philosophically inclined, he may mistake it to be ‘Osho ma’, which would have some adverse consequences. So I had to drop that too. Finally I’ve settled on “The inscrutable Americans” by Anurag Mathur. The book is about the experiences of an Indian student in his Univ days in the US. I guess it’s appropriate and may even escape the customs official.

With the book chosen, the shopping done and the packing almost over all that’s left is saying goodbye to my friends here. The good news is that I am able to meet many of my friends since they are in Chennai. I’ll have to contend sending this mail to the rest of you.

Let me cut short my rambling here and get to the point of the mail. I wanted to convey that I’ve very fond memories of you and hope to keep in touch. I hope to send you occasional mails on what’s happening on my side and hope to receive regular mails from you too. Do keep me posted and give me a slice of my days here when I am far from home. And in case you plan to come by US, I am close to NY, Philedelphia, Boston, Niagra, and most towns in NE USA. I am also close to Montreal and Toronto in Canada. I’ll look forward to a chance of meeting any of you who happen to come by US in the next few years.

If all goes well, I should be back in India by December 2006. Till then, good bye.

With fond regards
S Vivek

About Vivek Srinivasan

I work with the Program on Liberation Technology at Stanford University. Before this, I worked with the Right to Food Campaign and other rights based campaigns in India. To learn more, click here.

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