change of residence.

Once every three years, during the h1b renewal window I like to play a game called – let’s move back to India. The last three rounds were a sham, this time tho (owing to heavy uncertainty in getting approvals on time) the game veered into for realsies territory.

On broadcasting my intent to the extended family WhatsApp group, I was bombarded with messages of support :  ‘don’t come..stay there’ ; ‘Simon go back’ ; ‘not now beta..especially when the dollar is soaring’ ; ‘no beef here..chew on that’ ; ‘fly you fools’ ; ‘have kids and then come back’ ; ‘withdraw your 401k but pay attention to Article 23 of the the India US Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement’ ; ‘you will need to get an aadhar card and a PAN card’ ; ‘do you even have a voter ID card?’ ; ‘get chocolates in bulk from Costco’ ;

Since this is a board game, it required a  map. I arrived at this list based on availability of a residence from day one.

Ignoring the previous messages of support, I shared this  in the extended family WhatsApp group.

options

It then became an Amazon HQ2 like contest (the irony!) with everyone vouching for their city – weather, pollution, traffic, economy, political – statistics and all that. We finally decided on Hyderabad because that was the plan all along. kek. Hyderabad is always home.

The game came to an abrupt end because my h1b approval came through and my landlord said I couldn’t break my lease mid-term. And so it goes.

fiscal austerity, y tho

As a matter of principle I never go out drinking with people from work, because work is all we end up talking about. Such a waste of beer.

But once in a while I make exceptions to this rule, like I did last last month. Post exception I always regret.

Colleague who is a ‘VP grade’ desi WhatsApp’s me, “Bhai let’s go to pub cxyz in Harrison for drinks.”

I’m like, weird flex but ok.

Also, he’s a VP.

I don’t quiz him on the motivations behind selecting this bar because I’m thinking: since he pick, he pay.

In retrospect, it makes no sense to journey from Manhattan to Harrison,NJ for beers at a bar. If he’d said beer, persis biryani and patel brothers it would have sounded plausible.

Anyhoo we meet up at the WTC Path Station and head off to good ol’ Harrison. I’ve been to Harrison only once before. And that was way back  in 2009 when  I accidentally got down from the PATH train assuming it was my stop. The then girlfriend did not. Stand clear of the closing doors. So it goes.

The bar, The beer, The bartender – none of them are worth musing about.

The Budweiser was stale. The barkeep was hairy. The bar was airy.

I couldn’t hold back my righteous indignation any longer,”Why THIS bar…Bruh?”

Background: The VP is older than me by 10-15 years. Arrived in the USA via the 1997 wave of f1-h1b visa trapezers. Married. Has two kids. A cat named Shaktimaan (don’t even ask.) A Tesla. Lives in a two bedroom co-op in Manhattan on the west 90s’ and Riverside Drive (as per some accounts Tina Fey lives in his neighborhood). Basically, our guy has all the trappings of a successful NRI.

He replied, “They have a good happy hour. $4 beers, $5 cocktails, $3 samosas. Also the availability of  $2 paan and $1 goldflake in the shop down the street.”

my inner monologue,’THE FUCK BRO.’

“OK COOL. YEA..that sounds like a good deal…HOW DID YOU EVEN FIND THIS PLACE MAN?”

“Oh..my friend’s cousin’s son is pursuing a Masters at the NYU Schack Institute of Real Estate and lives around the corner from here. I ran into him recently at a family Diwali party and he told me about this place..so I decided to check it out, to see if it’s really that cheap.”

inner monologue,’MOFO.’

additional inner monologue,’and why the fuck did he pick ME to come all this way with him.’

VP : “Really cool na..”

“oh..you bet.”

We get plastered on $4 beers, $5 cocktails and $3 samosas and talk and talk about- RGV’s Satya vs AK’s Black Friday. Bollywood’s #MeToo movement. Deepika’s upcoming nuptials. Justice Antonin Scalia’s opinion on District of Columbia v. Heller.

When the bill arrived I expected he’d reach for it with a flourish and say something like, “Thanks for coming dude…this was fun.”

Instead. . .  “Are you on Venmo/Google pay/Splitwise ?”

“None of those. Only paypal or Zelle.”

“hmmm…I’ll figure something out tomo. For now let me take care of this..anyway it’s only $70 for all the drinking and eating we did..haha so cheap na..”

The floor is lava and we are sauntering down the road like tumble weed… I see him pull out his phone and am expecting he will call an Uber (pool  at least!) for us. Instead he says, ‘oh nice the next PATH train to Manhattan is 23 minutes away..we can easily make it.’

“Dude we are really really plastered…I don’t think taking the train in this state is a good idea. Call an Uber..you can afford it LOL.”

inner monologue,”MOFO makes $450K..I know this because he is  listed in the p(VII) sec.(A) of the 990s”

“I know I can afford it…but you can take me out of Mumbai but not the middle class out of me haha..come let’s walk. Careful..watch your step..there are needles over here.”

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Finally when I get back home at 3 AM the missus asks,”So… did you Boys have fun ?”

“He did.”