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August 11, 2004 12:52 IST
I work with a leading publisher in the US.
One morning, just as I entered my cubicle, I got a call from the person in charge of security of our huge building.
He wanted to know if I had taken photographs of the campus and the building. I explained I had taken those photographs because I needed to produce them at the US consulate in Chennai so I could get a multiple entry stamp on my H1-B visa.
I found the call puzzling; it had come almost a month after I had taken the photographs. Still, it never occurred to me to ask the reason.
It was only when I logged on to CNN later that I realised why he had called. The US had just gone on high alert after the arrest of an Al Qaeda operative who had surveillance photographs of financial institutions.
For a moment, I felt sick.
Surya Desaraju, US
How many children do you have?
During the first week of my school in Canada -- I was here for my MS -- I applied for an international tuition fee waiver scholarship. One of the queries on the form related to 'day care' expenses.
I come from a small town in India and had not been exposed to much English. 'Day care' expenses, I figured, meant my scholarship amount would be decided on the basis of my daily expenses.
The next day, I got a call from the scholarships department. The lady wanted to know how many children I had. Shocked, I told her I was not married. She said that did not matter and again asked how many children I had!
I had to get to the root of the matter. After a few minutes of conversation, I realised she was referring to the amount I had filled as day care expenses, which mean the expenses you incur when you keep your child for some time in a day care centre.
Rohan Deshmukh, Montreal
Shamed in Seoul
I was flying from Mumbai to San Francisco. Desperate for a smoke, I took advantage of the stopover at Seoul to light up as I waited for the shuttle outside the airport.
A group of Korean teenagers were waiting nearby for their ride.
I finished my smoke and chucked the butt on the pavement.
As soon as I moved away, one of the teenagers picked up the butt and ground it out in a bin nearby. Then he walked up to me and, in broken English, requested that I use the cigarette bin the next time I finished a smoke.
I was stunned that, at an age when self-involvement is at its peak, this young lad made it a point to approach a stranger and request him not to litter the streets of his country. In a language he was clearly not comfortable with.
Embarrassed,I apologised profusely.
It was a life-changing incident. I have not smoked for the last eight years (this incident took place nine years ago).
Anand Jayram, Houston
My mother was visiting us in Japan.
One day, we took her to Kairakoen Park in Mito city for an evening stroll and happened to bump into my husband's Japanese colleague, who was there with his wife.
My husband introduced us in Japanese. While introducing my mother, he said, "Okusan no otoosan [my wife's father]."
I chuckled silently, even as my mother smiled at them.
My husband's colleague, who had noticed her salwar-kameez and long hair, was more than a little startled. Then he softly explained to his wife, that the person in front of her was my "okaasan [mother]" and not my father.
Later, we all had a good laugh.
Mrinalini Sen, Harrodsburg, Kentucky
Illustrations: Uttam Ghosh