Friday, December 01, 2006

Park, Ride and Date

I was forwarded a joke recently about a smart alec desi who offers his new Rolls Royce as collateral for a $5000 loan to a bank in NYC. Two weeks later he returns the amount and $15 interest and takes his car back from the bank's underground garage. Turns out that the dude is a multi-millionaire with the smarts to figure the best way to park a car for less than $20 for two weeks in NYC.

At first I laughed at the ingenuity and but the car park, NYC and desi dude trigged some not so pleasant recollections. Five years ago, my cousin Sumi graduated from Wharton and was dating a desi classmate. The boy was the kind of son-in-law that scores high with the family. Good looking, polite, smart, articulate and friendly. He had found work in Wall Street and Sumi's family lived one of the nicest parts of NJ.

I remember seeing this big black truck on their driveway when I was visiting with them one weekend. It belonged to Vineet, her boyfriend. Inside, they were sitting on the couch watching TV as my aunt was getting dinner ready. Introductions were made. Vineet had made a great impression on the family. That weekend he helped Sumi paint her room. I was a little shocked to see that they slept in her room at night with the parents and visitors at home.

My uncle noticed my unease at the arrangement and commented "These kids are so Americanized that its no big deal to them. We have learnt to take these things in stride". I was embarrassed that he had thought it necessary to provide me an explanation or excuse for Sumi's behavior and wished I had been more opaque in my reaction. I was amazed at the selective "Americaniztion" of this utterly Bengali family who lived like they were still in Calcutta after thirty years of living in the US. Once inside their home - particularly at the dinner table, you would be hard pressed to remember that you were not in India.

I had chance to meet Vineet at breakfast the next morning with Sumi fussing over him, making sure that he had eaten well. We chatted about his new job and his new found independence living and working in NYC. He had a small studio in the city and kept his car parked at Sumi's because he did not need it except for the weekends. I could tell that this whole arrangement with her was a matter of convenience. He was getting friendship with "benefits" and free parking just for being nice to her and her totally gullible family.

Had I been closer to my aunt and uncle I would have given them my read on him but that was not meant to be. They were already planning Sumi's wedding with him like it were a foregone conclusion. I would hate to dampen their enthusiasm with my skepticism. My aunt said to me "They will be married by next December. I need to make a shopping trip to India. Sumi won't have the time to come with me".

I asked her if she had met Vineet's parents yet. "Oh, he has not told them anything about her yet. They are very conservative people so he has to break it to them gently" she explained. Her naiveté left me paralyzed with fear. I had no idea how they would deal with the bursting of their bubble - I hoped it happened sooner than later so they would hurt less.

Two years later, Vineet moved to Boston and out of Sumi's life. Like her parents, she could not fathom why everything changed as soon as he left NYC. With the black truck gone, there was enough room for my car on the driveway. Inside Sumi was recovering from heartbreak and her parents from profound disappointment.

Like the desi of the joke, Vineet had found the best deal for long term parking just outside NYC with home cooked food on the weekends and a live-in girlfriend thrown in for good measure.


SFGary said...

The first is a funny story, if its not an urban legend. The second one, not so much. In fact these type of predators give guys a bad rap.

ggop said...

Gosh HC, I hope your cousin Sumi found someone way more worthy. I'm sure it must have been devastating..
Thanks for sharing,

cheti said...

and you say she graduated from Wharton !!! I knew these are over rated !

I wonder why you waited to dampen their enthusiasm with my skepticism. You might have spoiled your realtionship a little bit at that time, but atleast seeding a little caution might have helped !

time and again I wonder why we, as people, stand as observers of disasters in the making in the lives of ppl around us AND in our own lives ! Defies Logic !

Priyamvada_K said...

What a heartbreaking situation to be in! I agree with Cheti. Its sad that too many of us stand as observers. I think in each of our minds is the doubt that we may be wrong, and we don't want to come across as intrusive, especially when someone is not close to us.

Cheti says:
"and you say she graduated from Wharton !!! I knew these are over rated !"

Cheti, Wharton graduate or not has nothing to do with how trusting a person is. There are those who believe that people are mostly good, unless proven otherwise. I think this is a kind of innocence, open-mindedness, naivete' perhaps. But naive or not - such people are a pleasure to be with.

Too bad that someone chose to take advantage of that basic goodness and treat her like a commodity to be taken advantage of. She's probably scarred by that encounter. Shame on him!


Heartcrossings said...

SFG - How true about a small subset of predators giving the species a bad rap !

ggop - Sumi is still single and looking and I daresay more than a little disenhancted with love.

cheti - I don't know about overrated schools but infatuation being mistaken for love can be a dangerous thing specially when you are so long and feel like you have arrived in life. It's easy to make mistakes when you feel so invinscible

priya - You are right. I could not have told her parents - it was not my place to do so. I could understand Sumi being blinded by love but expected better from her parents.