Yay! Yay! Yay! I drove a car for the first time on the interstate. Yay!!!
Life is going to be a pedestrian 5 mph from now on.
The plan was to go to Johnson Creek for some 4th of July shopping. The ulterior motive, was to get a chance to drive. So, Brahma and me were the drivers for the day. We went to the airport in the morning to rent the car. I drove back to pick up the others, and then Brahma took the wheel for the up journey. The first time, unsupervised was amazing. I was always scared (even in India) to back-up out of parking lots. But that went well. I think, I got honked once at a right turn. But, Brahma does not think so. Anyways, we were not doing anything wrong. It was a red and cars were zooming past on the main road. So I had to wait.
Johnson Creek was a amazing shopping place. I never knew, I was such a compulsive buyer. I did not buy everything that I liked, but my eventual shopping expenses topped everyone else in our group by nearly 100$. I got couple of shorts, t-shirts, a shirt, a pair of sunglasses and a pair of slippers and a jeans and a tie.
We then drove to Milwaukee to eat at Bombay Place. The guy at that restaurant was obnoxious, and their music selection was Om Shanti Om on the repeat. But the food was good.
Then, came the most interesting part of the day for me. My turn to drive back to Madison. I was scared. Of all the things that I was least confident about, was lane change. And at 70 mph, I was horrible at it. My friends, had a their eyes closed and a prayer on their lips, the first few times, I changed lanes. But, after some time, it turned out OK. Returned home, and Brahma and me decided to make the most of the time left with the car and drive around. We drove, all the way on the beltline. This time, I got much better.
The thing with lane-change is that, if you don’t see a car in the rear view, the chances are very less that you will have one in your blind spot. But, I just keep looking back for a couple of extra seconds, fearing that suddenly some car will appear in the blind spot. And, I could not judge distances clearly using the rear view either. The confidence booster was, before getting onto the highway, Brahma asked me to go to change lanes. I saw the rear view, and the car was close. I decided for it to go past. That somehow, increased my confidence in lane changing. Later, to take our exit out of the beltline, we realized pretty late that we had to take the Whitney way exit. I was on the leftmost lane, and had to execute three lane changes in a short time to get to the exit. And, I did it like a pro!!!
Although, I also got honked twice. First one, I am sure was because the driver behind me was in a hurry. There was a patch of road, in which construction was going on. The speed limit was 35, but I was lot slow (around 25), because the lanes were curving and ending, and there were dug up roads and all. The dude behind wanted none of that, and honked me. The second was my mistake. I was all set to go to a turning lane, when I realized that I was to take the next left. I came back to my lane, halfway into the lane change. And got honked.
Came back, saw some fireworks, and drove back home in the night. Often, there has been worry about driving in the night. But it seemed pretty OK.
It was the wedding of a lab-mate on Saturday. So, I got dressed up in a suit and tie and all, and went to the church for the ceremony. The catholic wedding ceremony, seems to be a filtered version of the hindu ceremony. Sitting there, in the church, I realized that our prayers are not that much different.
Coming back to the ceremony, the groomsmen and bridesmaid, were usherd in first. After them, the father of the bride, walked her daughter into the church. Everyone stood up when this happened. The groom came in earlier with the priest and was standing there. Then, the music played for a few minutes, and everyone were standing and praying and contemplating (atleast, I was praying then). Then, the priest invited the fathers of the groom and the bride to read from the bible. The passage that they read, was also sung by a person. The priest, then read a passage himself, and then explained all the three passages.
The marriage ceremony, then began, with the bride and the groom saying ‘ I accept’, ‘I do’ to a series of questions asked by the priest, regarding taking accepting the other person as their spouse. That, I think, was the point where they were legally (or religiously legally) married. They, then lighted a candle together, kissed. Later, the kneeled, and the priest, read out some more religious sermons, and they exchanged rings. That was the marriage then. Then all of us, joined together in thanking the lord and praying.
Relegions are not all that different . The priest explained the passages from the bible that was read, and the essence of the passages, was something that we all believe are the foundations of marriage. Only that, in hindu weddings, these readings take place in Sanskrit, and not many of us understand them and appreciate them. The promises made, were in old-english, but easy to follow. If only we knew Sanskrit, or if the purohit, took time to explain things, maybe our weddings will not look like the groom and the bride going through some actions. Even the final thank-you prayer, was like the english meaning that I used to write for my Veda/Moral Education classes in school. It was like our Pushpanjali in the puja, thanking God for the myriad small things in life and praying for happiness.
Later, the couple and the wedding party, took off in a limo, and we went to the hotel for the reception. Americans are masters of small talk. And, I was like fish out of water in the reception. Firstly, the couple, the wedding party and the parents had stood in a line to thank all of us. I just knew the couple, and I congratulated them. But after that, I had to go meet all the other people in the line, and I had no idea what to say. I just said, I worked with the groom, and the other side nodded. Later, I saw the Americans go talk to these people. And they seemed to speak for nearly 45-60 seconds with each person. Our lab-mom ‘Mary’, who was just like me, that is, knew ony the couple, took around 5 minutes to come out of meeting everyone, and I took 15 seconds. Later, at the dinner table, me and my office buddies, were joined by the Girl friends of the grooms-men and another random couple. For nearly an hour, this group of people, who hardly knew eachother were chatting. The same was there in another table, where, a professor (co-adviser to the groom) joined a group of friends of the couple. And, I could see that by the end of dinner, everyone in that group were freely chatting with the prof. On my table, everyone got into small talk. I just answered questions directed at me, and was talking to my brazilian office mate, sitting beside me.
A cute ritual in the reception was that people, will start making the ‘ting-ting’ noise using the spoon and the glass. Slowly, everyone will start doing it, and the couple will have to kiss. This happened every now and then, and as the number of kisses grew, the crowd started to oooh-aah and clap, only as the length of the kiss grew too. Later, the groom started it off. I was wondering what that meant. He started to point to his dad, and then his dad and mom kissed to applause. It was fun to watch. Around the time dinner got over, the best-man and the maid of honor made their speeches. Unlike the movies, it was not a loooong one. The best-man made the customary funny speech and the maid of honor, the girly speech. Later, lots of people came up and started speaking about how great the couple were.
I did not wait for the dance to begin, as there was an hour more of mingling and small-talk before the dance began. Knowing that I will not dance and I cannot small talk, I put escape at the first possible moment.
Typical of all sundays, I slept till afternoon. Watched Jaane tu ya Jaane na in the afternoon. The movie has got good reviews. But, I thought it was just OK. A good feel-good time pass movie. Currently, I am reading the Days@ISB blog by Raja Banerjee. Nicely written, providing snippets of a B-school life (something that I will not get to see anyway). Made Rajma chaval, ate it and have been typing for the past hour.
Another lazy summer week awaits me.