• Manu Dhawan

Ivy League Barbecues

This is a story of new lands and amusing experiences.


Some good and some not so much. Because good experiences are almost preachy and socially forced (‘I had the time of my life’, ‘Such an incredible experience, or sometimes the Instagramic - ‘Yass’), I decided to talk a bit about the other experiences. The ones that teach you that change could mean just that. Change. Sometimes, it is not loaded with abused adjectives. Sometimes, it is not, exciting, exhilarating, enthralling and overwhelming but just different. Just moving. Just something that happens.


Every breath taken doesn’t need to stuff your lungs with adrenalized oxygen. Every sight you see doesn’t need to ‘blow you away’. Every food you eat doesn’t need to ‘put your taste buds on fire’.


However, this kind of change does demand that you rewire yourself. A complete re-engineering of who you are and how you approach the world. Look inside, find something new, bring it to the table and make a lavish meal of it. Make it count.


We recently moved to a new country. I made sure I wrote ‘recently’ so I could remind myself its only been just 6 months. My sub-conscious thinks it’s been a lifetime and I am trying to have an adult conversation with it while I write this. While I fail miserably at it, let me get back to what my ‘conscious’ is trying to tell you.


So, like I said, we moved countries. We got fresh breathable air and the kids got ‘gifted’ with adapted and confused accents. We started driving on the other side of the road (sometimes not, when nostalgia took over our traffic senses) and stopped ignoring speed signs. Our real-world mailboxes are now checked regularly and found full of coupons and bills. Buying grocery is a thing. And so is checking the weather before stepping out.


Never have we been so petrified of missing a credit card payment. Credit scores judge you. Also, insurance is God. If when even he doesn’t help you, you deserve it. Shame on you. We also realize now that suburban life is not just about barbecues (my ‘sauces’ lie unused) and pool parties (my trunks still have price tags) but also about train connections and snow shovels. Or that knocking on the wall of your room feels like knocking on a hollow (not heaven’s) door. You miss concrete sometimes but the ease with which a nail goes into a wooden wall makes you forget it. Wall studs are hidden life support systems which can be discovered with sensors. And if you don’t know what wall studs are, maybe you should go back to where you came from.


Speaking of discoveries, we also discovered our inner chefs. We went from one culinary high to another. Exotic marinations, tapenade recipes and several wine pairings later, the smoke alarms started blaring late one night. Fire! Fire! Beep beep beep. Fire! Fire! Are you one of those who’s mind stops functioning amidst noise? Well, I am. Thankfully my neighbor isn’t. And he knows more about smoke alarms than me.


We learnt that mobile data, wi-fi and cable is substantially expensive. So you either don’t use it or make enough money to not have time to use it. So far, we are doing neither. What we are also not doing is baking cakes for the neighbors. We are 0-6 in the game, thanks to the fear of smoke alarms. Instead, to make up for cakes received, we gift them wine glasses. We thought it is just the right amount of personal and fresh.


We are also very late in the race to Ivy League for our children. They are neither world beating gymnasts nor soccer Gods. For them to become that, we would have to go back in time and put them in after-school classes much before they started school. So that by the time they are 12, they would have played every sport in the world and discovered which one they excel in, reached 4th level black belt, become robotics specialist, joined a choir, played with the philharmonic, won Master Chef and achieved world peace. We are very very late in this game. Maybe it is time to take out my time machine. But it does need wifi so I am not so sure.


So millions of such unobtrusive changes sneaked up on us and we let them in thinking they were nothing. But they all amounted to life and such.


Yes, life changed. Every time I think about the minute differences between the two ways of living, I take a step closer to jumping over to the new side of the fence. And suddenly my old life is a curious alien to me. Something inside is changing but I don’t know what. Maybe this whole talk of change is just a dressed up way of dealing with a mid-life crisis regardless of the color of my passport. Or maybe I am an evolved human deeply conscious of my minutest internal transition. Either ways, life throws experiences at you whether you want it or not. And what you attribute it to is just noise. And now you know what noise does to me.

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©2019 by Manu Dhawan.