Going to California

Dearest Ranjit,

Greetings from America! How are you? How is your family? How is your uncle Jayanta? You should really speak to him about seeing a physician, as I am told that the gout can develop into something rather serious and unpleasant. Do you remember how poorly it turned out for our cousin Rupnath when he would not seek medical care when the snake bit him? I do not recall exactly what his reasons were for avoiding consultation with a health professional, but I am sure his plan, whatever it was, did not culminate, as actually transpired, in his untimely death. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as they say in the magazines in waiting rooms.

Please convey my most heartfelt greetings to your sister Dipali. Tell her that yes, I am very much looking forward to the day that she arrives here in the United States and we may fulfill the terms of our long-arranged marriage, and that, no, I am not visiting this country’s many nude dancing parlors, despite their commonality and availability. My thoughts are only of her, and what a lovely young woman she has probably become, and how impatient I am for her sixteenth birthday to speed her to me.

Speaking of the great flesh emporia of America, I am happy to address your questions. It cheers me to hear you are considering coming to this country; although Assam will be the poorer for losing you, it would be nice to have a good friend here. Most of my fellow taxi-cab drivers seem to be suffering from some sort of mental derangement, and it is difficult to make friends with other medical students since I do not share their mastery of the English vernacular, enjoyment of inexpensive domestic beers, or fondness for reality television programs. (Your parents will be pleased to know that our tradition of arranged marriages is shared by the American people, with the difference being that theirs are broadcast over the public airwaves, and seem to involve voting and dwarfs.)

I must first report to you that, while the weather here in California is beautiful, the work plentiful, and the people friendly and relaxed, it seems we were sorely deceived. Little did we know, listening to the popular American rock-and-roll songs on your tiny blue transistor radio as youths, that the land of California was very different from that portrayed in the honeyed words of pop stars. Unlike the beloved songs of our Bollywood films, which teach eternal truths — such as that pure-hearted fellows inevitably win a bride, lovers frequently meet by the moonlight, and the heavens themselves smile on the romances of those properly selected by your parents — the top hits of American radio programming are full of half-truths, at least regarding the state in which I live.

For example, one should, when visiting the city of San Francisco, be sure not only to not wear a flower in one’s hair, but also be prepared to explain the difference between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus to one’s drunken passengers. The climate and atmosphere are indeed conducive to dreaming, but most of my dreams involve finding a way to make my upstairs neighbor learn to operate the volume control on his stereo equipment. The aching in my heart that I experience infrequently is attributable more to poor diet and smog than to any inherent geographic wistfulness. I cannot agree that I wish they all could be California girls, if for no other reason than I am not very fond of silicone implants and trousers with the word “JUICY” imprinted upon the bottom. And while there are a number of hotels in the state, it is not true that you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave; in fact, most couples check out and leave within a twenty-minute span. (That said, it is true, as Mr. Randy Newman sings, that the city of Los Angeles is rife with bums who spend a great deal of time on their knees.)

To answer your second question, yes! It is plentiful and, while not exactly legal, can be acquired for certain medical conditions, or purchased from enterprising ethnic youths on street corners very close to where I live. This truly is the land of opportunity, especially the opportunity to buy, sell and consume narcotics.

Love to you and your family,

Jyoti

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