This is my first story written in 1982, after I arrived in America in 1973. T
I tried to illustrate fallacies people in one country entertain about another country.
Six Blind Men
I began my preparation to leave for the United States of America. An ardent patriot and well-wisher told me, “Look, you are an unofficial ambassador of India. Don’t forget that you inherit the spirit of Gandhi.”
“Which one?” I asked timidly.
He cast a nasty look at me and left.
I have a degree in math. I can talk about the Pythagorean theorem. May be a little about Einstein. But about Sankara and Panini?
I rushed to the library and checked out fifty books on every conceivable topic–from Mahatma Gandhi to Indira Gandhi, from Aurobindo to Guru Maharaj ji, from babas to cobras, Hindu religion, Elephanta caves, Meenakshi temple, Brindavan Gardens,…
Then I talked to people who had been to the States and returned to India with valuable possessions and invaluable ideas. They advised me:
“Be yourself. Don’t imitate them blindly an bring shame on our country.”
“Remember, you’ve got to be a Roman in Rome.”
“Take plenty of cotton sarees. Cotton is very expensive there.”
“Don’t take any sarees. No one wears sarees in the States.”
“Americans are highly individualistic.”
“Americans are success-oriented.”
“Americans are honest.”
“Americans expect you to be on your own.”
“Oh! It’s heaven. The streets are paved with dollars.”
“The American girls are pretty and friendly. May be you can get me a date,” one of my brother’s friends hoped.
One of my nieces secretly told me that I should send her four packets of that revolutionary pantyhose which was advertised in the latest issue of a Bombay fashion magazine.
I was also educated on such details as how to hold a fork, when to say ‘thank you,’ when to say ‘you’re welcome,’ which car, which toothpaste..
Finally I arrived in New York with a suitcase that was half empty and a handbag loaded with Andhra pickles. If the customs officials thought I was crazy, they hid it very well.
After a week-long sleep-eat-sleep schedule, I woke up one beautiful morning. I looked out of the window.
The first snow of the season!
The first snow of my life!
Glistening white flakes of snow floating in the air, settling gracefully on the tree tops, roofs of houses, cars, bicycles, people.
I was thrilled!
I pulled my winter clothes out of the closet and put them on. I felt like a polar bear. But it was the most exciting moment of my life when I stepped out on the street and looked up to feel the snow flakes on my cheeks.
A BIG THUMP!
I slipped and fell.
I got on to my feet, lifted one foot and fell again.
I fell for a third time.
I rose to my feet again, and before taking that small step, which was not in any sense a giant step for mankind, I looked around. I knew I was being watched.
With a gentle smile hovering on his lips, he approached me and extended his hand. I grabbed it quickly and walked over to a safer spot.
As I was about to go on my way, I said to him, “You know I just found out something no one ever has told me before.”
“Yeah! One could slip in snow and fall!”
 The late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was at the lowest ebb of her popularity at this writing. The question refers to Indira Gandhi versus Mahatma Gandhi.
 A great Indian philosopher from 8th century. His interpretation of Hinduism is liberal and so accepted by majority of Hindus.
 The first Sanskrit grammarian in the 4th century.
(Published in Wisconsin Academy Review, June 1982. At the time, my name was Malathi Rao.)