Vijay followed Marathe into the apartment # 309, Sehwag's highest score", Marathe indicated as he unlocked the door. As they entered Vijay saw a shoes popping out of stack onto the left and unwashed vessels overflowing from the sink on the right. Stinking socks smell compounded with stale smell from the sink had an fragrance that could make an empty stomach throw up. 24 hrs without a shower, and with hot and humid Chicago summer Vijay didn't smell any better. "Aage Sey Right", Marathe showed Vijay his room.
"Chay Peye Ga", Marathe asked him as Vijay was unpacking his stuffs, Vijay nodded his head for an yes, "Ek Cup Mere Liye Bhi Bana", Marathe replied. Vijay froze for a min with eyes wide open, "You are the first south Indian in my apartment so I will make TEA, don't worry", Marathe laughed loudly. "You south Indians drink only coffee right, we can get some coffee when we go to groceries this week", Marathe told him. "You were playing some game you said when I came in, which game?", Vijay broke the silence while dipping in ParleG biscuit into the tea. "CRICKET, what else a DESI plays in a tennis court". "That's one good thing the British did when they left INDIA, taught us CRICKET". Red Label tea with ParleG began to taste better as he heard the words CRICKET. "You play CRICKET right, that is an important condition in this apt", Marathe questioned him. "Yes I do", Vijay replied.
"'Chal', Lets go, they are waiting for me downstairs and you can meet all your south INDIAN friends there". Both finished their tea and walked towards the tennis court. "Tu Naseeb Wala Hai", you are lucky to be playing cricket right after you stepped into US; 'Sala' it took me a year and half to find a real man who played cricket. In last three years this is what I have created, he showed Vijay his team. "Dharmraj Patel, left arm medium" a fair slim guy introduced himself, "Vijay Arjuna, right arm fast medium" Vijay replied. One by one every introduced themselves, it looked like like a national team selection camp than grad students introducing themselves. They played cricket for the next one hr until the game was curtailed due to a fight over wide. Dharmraj Patel, Bhimrao Marathe, Vijay Arjuna walked towards their apartment complex, "wow we form the first of the three Pandavas in our apartment", Vijay spoke in excitement. "We had Karan Agrawal in this apartment before, now that 'drohi' dejected us for an old friend of his". "You know Karan right, the guy who picked you from the airport", Marathe replied.
While walking back Vijay suddenly realized that he had completely forgotten about Priya, neither had he taken her phone number nor her apartment number. The sight of lady in red top and blue jeans with long braided hair the entering the opposite building caught his attention; and with her luggage size one could say she was a grad student. From distance her body structure resembled Priya's and fading light and tired mind led into believing in it. Vijay desperately wanted to meet Priya and apologize for not meeting her after the flight had landed. It wasn't his his fault either, Claudia and the immigration had taken a toll on him. "You guys leave I will have to meet some", Vijay told both of them and headed towards the opposite building.
By the time he entered the main entrance she had just stepped into the elevator and doors closed before he could sneak a peek at her, 4th floor was what elevator showed. In INDIA stairs are close to the elevators, but in US stairs were far away from the elevators Vijay realized this when he had to walk a long way to the stairs. He then gathered strength and began climbing up the stairs, the fourth floor looked serene, no sign of any activity, neither Priya nor her luggage. Dejected Vijay walked back to elevator and headed down, just then apt 409 opened and the lady in red walked towards the elevator. She pressed the elevator button, Vijay got of the elevator and walked out of the apt complex kicked the stone with his right foot and walked into his apt complex. Lady in red walked out of the elevator and headed towards the car to pick her remaining stuffs and headed back.
`Mila` your friend, Marathe asked as he had his cheese pizza. "No I lost her before I could talk to her", Vijay replied as he sipped his sprite. "Her!", "saala you have a girl friend in US already," Marathe crushed his empty can of coke. "Friend! who happened to be a girl, she came along with me in the flight" Vijay replied. "In the last 3 years even the shadow of any female hasn't passed our apt", Marathe trashed his can in anger. "Girl friend for his creature!" Vijay spoke to himself as he smiled. "I don't know why girls run away when I talk to them" Dharmraj joined. "Stop chewing and spitting tobacco, someday your luck might turn around", Vijay replied. "`Abey chikne` stop giving me your advise," Dharmraj got furious. "Baccha hai, leave him"; "Your capital investments grader, whats up with her?" Marathe diverted his attention. "`Saale` stop rubbing on my wounds, if I don't focus on studies she will turn me into a disinvestment this semester, boss MBA is tough" Dharmraj replied as he drank his Pepsi. "As if knocking the mouse in the lab is easy!, one day I will get a cat and kill all the mouses", I don't know why I am doing a PhD, should have been an umpire or a cricket commentator", Marathe put all his frustration on the cheese pizza and finished it.
While laying on the bed random spark of thoughts began in Vijay's head, whether it was a good choice quitting his 5 figure salary for higher education, whether he would get an on campus job, whether it was the right apartment and whether he would meet Priya again. With the last spark he dozed off.
to be continued ...