Saturday, November 29, 2008

Updates From Minneapolis

"It's sad what happened in your country man..... So any of you guys from Mumbai?"

"No..but we have friends there."

"So where do you wanna go?"

"mmm.. Downtown.. we dont know exactly where though..."

"Ok. I'll take you where all the bars, restaurants and the discs are. Ok? You guys can then just walk around and have fun.."

"Sounds cool!"

Abdul, our Somalian driver, gave us a fantastic ride to downtown. He gave us tips on driving in the US, his opinion about the 'lazy Americans', the Minnesota winter and such things. He dropped us at the heart of downtown Minneapolis with the Target Center to the right and Hard Rock Cafe to the left. The near zero temperatures were definitely a first for us and after going around the 1st Avenue for half an hour or so, we decided to head to HRC.

The waitress there was the cutest ever. So much so that my friend and I made sure that we 'timed' our drinks so that we finished it just when she was around and not the other dude! Needless to say, our conversation was limited to something on the lines of 'So you guys doing fine' and '..whichever sauce u suggest ..' (That was the starters though. And she suggested Hot Sauce which was just fine)
A few drinks later, we went to the store and bought some HRC merchandise - sweat shirts and T-Shirts, and then decided to go out and do some more exploring.

Just as we had stepped out of HRC, we heard drum beats. Really loud ones. We followed it to find two guys sitting in front of the Target Center working up a rhythm with empty buckets and cans. A small crowd had gathered. I cursed myself for not having brought my camera along even as I watched them with amazement. They also did an improvised version of 'Eye of the Tiger' which really got the crowd clapping.
Unfortunately though, we had found them towards the end of their performance and about 15 minutes later, they started to wind up. The people went away but the two of us stayed back to chat with them. Soon we were talking about India, vegetarian food, tabla and basketball. They were locals and were planning a trip to India sometime in 2009. My tall friend talked about basketball and how he wouldn't have the height advantage that he has back home! A few 'Amazing show guys' and 'See ya again dudes' later, we were off, smiling cheek to cheek.

It has been good so far. Very different. It hasn't snowed yet but the cold will take some getting used to. There are very few people on the streets, the trees are naked, cars come from the opposite direction and then stop for you to cross the road and strangers invariably greet you with a smile or a 'How you doing today'.
From Abdul to Qasim - a Pakistani from Peshawar who enjoyed Bollywood songs but didnt speak Punjabi; the cab drivers have been varied too. Then there was Aaron, the salesman at the shoestore who spoke passionately about Bush and 'Change' and how it amazes him that so many people from India want to get into the same profession. He gave us a crash course on shoes as we looked to buy a pair which would see us through the notorious Minnesota winter. He said how, a common American doesn't want too many people coming from outside into his country and even though the Bangaldesh - India analogy didn't strike a chord with him, he is one salesman I won't forget in hurry.

I also did loads of shopping (I dont think I have shopped so much in my entire life) on Friday. We got up at 5:30 in the morning and by 6:30 had hit the stores, after walking for some 20 minutes in the cold. There was no rush as we had been told but from 7 to 11 I bought everything from jackets to full length T-Shirts to shoes to jeans.

And yes, on Thursday, a friend came over from Greenbay, Wisconsin. We got the shock of our lives as we found out the hard way that everything is closed on Thanksgiving. Fortunately, his friend knew of an Indian restaurant which was open and so at 3 in the afternoon, after having wandered through downtown with an empty stomach and a cold wind shaking our bones, we finally managed to dig our fingers at naan and palak paneer and some chicken biriyani. It was heavenly.

Lots more to say but for the time being, this would do.