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April 12, 2004 10:42 IST

We boarded the train home from Hardwar, thrilled at having proved everyone wrong. You see, when we initially planned a two-week holiday to north India, our friends were aghast and warned us against the hazards of two women travelling alone there. What we discovered, though, were warm welcomes everywhere.

The compartment was packed with men on their way back from work; they were to get down a few stations ahead. We were not too concerned until one smart aleck sitting in the opposite seat stretched his legs and began bothering us. When we requested him to sit properly, his co-passengers sniggered.

Irritated, I took out a sharp nail file and stuck it into his foot. Startled, he retreated but soon began his antics again. It began getting dark, but the lights in the compartment had not been switched on. Our bravado began to crumble.

At the next stop, a big group of college boys entered the compartment noisily, searching for their seats and generally being boisterous. We decided to trust them. Our new-found friends, who were from a military college, not only ousted the men; they became our companions for the rest of the journey.

Seven years later, we remain in touch though they are posted in various parts of the country.

Swapna Pikale, Mumbai

Pretzel caper

My friend's daughter Bharathi was to turn five. Her parents took her to Disneyland to celebrate. She was thrilled when her favourite aunty and uncle (my wife and I) decided to join them.

We went to California Adventures Park, which was full of rides. Bharathi was fascinated and wanted to try every ride. Unfortunately, one of the visually impressive rides, Orange Bowl, had a height limitation. The attendant didn't let her get on and she was very upset. My wife tried to make a point with Bharathi, who is a picky eater, by saying, "If you eat well, you will grow taller and be able to go on this ride next time."

As we walked on, Bharathi pointed to a pretzel shop and asked for a pretzel. All of us sat on a bench and started snacking. The next thing we know, she had finished her pretzel and was back at the Orange Bowl, talking to the attendant. The attendant took her near the height marker and measured her height. That's when we realised how seriously she had taken the catchline: 'Eat one pretzel and gain four inches.'

Jeydev Rajamani, Fremont

Hollywood, interrupted

I was in my apartment in Austin taking a nap when someone suddenly knocked on the door (which was open) and said, " Hey!! I am James Crawley and we are shooting for a movie. Our director wants to have a look at your apartment. You must have seen Office Space and King Of The Hill..."

Was this is an American version of MTV Bakra, I wondered. Not too happy at being disturbed so 'rudely', I replied indifferently, "No, I haven't. I don't have any problem if your director wants to come here."

Within a minute, the 'crew' had filled the hall.

"Are you making a documentary?" I asked (imagine asking David Dhawan this). One of them responded with a big NO and added it was a comedy.

I was still sleepy and in no mood to talk to them. The photographer was instructed to take some snaps and off they went, appreciating my "kind gesture."

Later in the day, I read a news article about how Mike Judge (the famous director of comedies like Office Space and King Of The Hill) was in Austin to shoot for his next movie, 3001. That's when it hit me. A Hollywood director was in my apartment and I didn't even take his autograph!

Jitendra Mohan, Austin

A stranger from India

On my second day in Paris, where I had come to do my masters, I left home early to complete some work. When I returned, my roommate was out and he had the apartment's only key.

My French was terrible, yet I tried asking my neighbour if I could make a call. She was understandably nervous and refused. It was pretty cold. After waiting for a couple of hours, I began walking around in panic. Luckily, I spotted a restaurant called Bombay Café.

I took a chance and went inside; there was just one guy there, cleaning the place. I asked him if he spoke English. He said yes. I explained I was from India and desperately needed to call my college and ask for a duplicate key to my apartment.

He replied in Hindi and gave me his cell phone. I spoke to the concerned authorities. As they set about finding my roomie, my new friend from Goa calmed my nerves with a glass of juice. Even today, Bombay Café is my favourite hangout joint in Paris.

Vikrant Deshpande, Paris

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Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh


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