The Terrible Economics of running a Restaurant

A new Indian restaurant had opened within walking distance of where we live. We, actually, discovered it on the day of its inauguration (Muhurta). The owner politely told us to come back the next day. We did. We were fifth in the queue on a long line outside the restaurant. A phone call came in from an acquaintance. The call was a good way to pass an hour-long wait. We would have certainly left the queue otherwise.

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In a remote village in Thailand…

After renting a moped in Thailand, I stopped at a small shop to ask for a petrol pump/gas station. Instead, the shop owner handed me a bottle of gasoline for purchase.

“Must be a peaceful country where they can sell gasoline in bottles.”, I said to myself, “In most parts of the world, people would use this as a petrol bomb during violent protests and riots.”

Petrol/Gasoline sold in bottles in Thailand

Petrol/Gasoline sold in bottles in Thailand


He is living in Europe.
He is an American citizen.
His parents are from Mexico.
In Europe, he is an American.
In America, he is Hispanic/Mexican.
In Mexico, he is a Mexican of European descent.

My rm -rf moment

Yes, it did happen, and no, I am not stupid enough to execute rm -rf *. It was a bit more convoluted than that. I was trying to prepare a customized SD card image for the Android emulator. The fastest way to do that was to mount the SD card on my GNU/Linux machine and modify the files. The files on the SD card have root as the owner. Therefore, the easiest way to maintain a clean state was to make all modifications using sudo. My script included a command rm -r ${base_dir}/${old_file}. While executing the script, due to an error, both the variables were not set. It took me a few hours to recover; I never committed the broken script, so, I did not harm anyone else. But since then, my bash scripts have always included set -o nounset.

American vs Indian doctor

Indian doctor

After having continuous hiccups for ~24 hours, I walked to a nearby doctor’s clinic.
Uncle kaafi der se hitchkiyaan  aa rahi hai, iska…” (I am having hiccups for a long while, can something…)  [interrupted]
He replies in a loud voice, “Beta, hitchkiyoon ka koi ilaaj nahi hota, kai baar mujhe aati hai” (Son, there is no cure for hiccups, sometimes, I have them for days)
The tone was part patronizing and part condescending.
Total Bill: 0 ₹
Embarrassment quotient: 10/10

American doctor

After having continuous hiccups for ~24 hours, I drove to Palo Alto Medical Foundation. Checked in for urgent care by showing my insurance coverage and waited for ~30 minutes for my name to be called out. A nurse took me to a weighing machine to measure and record my weight and height. Then she measured my blood pressure. I was wondering if blood tests would be done next, but thankfully she took me to a room and told me to wait for the doctor to arrive. It took another ~15 minutes for him to arrive and my hiccups died in the meanwhile.
“So, I am having hiccups for ~24 hours now”.
“You do not have them right now”, he replies in a pleasant voice.
“Yeah, it stopped moments before you entered the room, but you know, I can feel it, they will start sometime soon.”
“You know hiccups just happen, there is no cure for them, you just wait for sometime, and they will stop.”
I left, and as expected, hiccups started before I turned on the engine of my car.

A week later, I received the bill.
Total Bill: 200$ (I paid 20$, my employer paid 180$)
Embarrassment quotient: 0/10

The clash of cultural expectations

“I need the address.”, the immigration official shouted at her, as she, a septuagenarian Indian woman, with her limited English, repeatedly, pointed to the paper containing the phone number of her daughter.
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At a local bus stand in Mexico…

[At a local bus stand in Mexico]

After I explained to my mother that to ask for time in Spanish (Espanol), she has to start with ke time se (Haryanvi), replace time with hora and reverse se to es.
She turns to her left and asks the mexican mujer (woman), ke [que] hora es.
The mujer shows her watch and tells the time in espanol, which of course was incomprehensible for us.
Las dos mujeres (The two women) then laughed.

It all went as expected till the mexican mujer asks my mother “habla espanol” (do you speak spanish), to which my mother (learning from my previous interactions with Mexicans) replies poquito (a little bit), and I gave her with a perplexed look.

A walk in San Francisco

“Give me your wallet, bro” he said in his heavy accent while holding a gun to my forehead. It seems, out of pure curiosity, I have walked into this shady neighborhood of San Francisco. “Pull out your wallet,” he shouted, “and count the cash,” this time bringing my full attention to him. I pulled out my wallet, carefully counted all the nickels, pennies and dimes and said, “13 dollars, 59 cents, and one Indian Rupee”.
“That’s it,” he blustered at the peak of his voice while I stood sweating profusely on a chilly night. He was not amused and pulled the trigger.

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A visit to Gadar Memorial in San Francisco

Getting Inside

After getting misdirected once to 436 Hill St, San Francisco which is the old original address which does not exist anymore, I eventually reached 5 Wood St, San Francisco.
It was the time of sunset, I knew I was late, but finally, it felt good to see a nondescript apartment marked “Gadar memorial”. Least, I expected locked doors. I did not drive 40 miles to stand in front of this locked door. There must be a way to get in, I contemplated, as I noticed an Indian woman walking upstairs towards me.
“I am here to see Gadar Party’s office”, I asked as she stammered while replying in English.
“हिंदी बोलती है आप ?”, I inquired.
“जी हाँ”, she confirmed.
“मैं आशीष, south bay से आया हूँ ग़दर स्मारक देखना था । “, I said, while pointing towards the building.
“आपके पास consulate से permission है?”, she asked.
“consulate से permission?”, I inquired.
“consulate से बिना permission लिए यहाँ आना मना है । “, she confirmed.
Even for bureaucratic Indian govt, taking permission from the consulate to visit a first world war era memorial is perplexing. I believe this is the only such Indian memorial in the western hemisphere. Of course, I was not ready to yield and drive back another 40 miles before paying the homage. We both stood there motionless with an awkward silence.
Someone had to blink, thankfully, she did.
“एक बार मैं अपने husband से बात करती हूँ । “, she said.
She unlocked the door and went inside, and after some chatter, they both came out, and after some quick conversation, he allowed me in to visit the memorial. The rest of the discussion with them was pretty friendly.


The memorial consists of a single hall with locked showcases filled with books in English, Hindi, Punjabi, and Urdu. A few posters and pictures were hanging on the wall, labeled in one or the other of the languages mentioned above. I didn’t visit the memorial expecting an audio tour but not finding English, or Hindi labels on the items were depressing. The whole space lacked maintenance. After thanking the Indian couple who seems to have been appointed by the consulate to maintain the place, I left half an hour later. The treatment of the memorial, which is the last symbol of this movement and Indian students who started it, by Indian govt is deplorable. Especially, given the fact that this is the only memorial of its kind in the USA.

Departing thoughts

The treatment met out to defenders of the nation, dead or alive, uniform wearing or revolutionary, determines its destiny. A second world war story of France vs. the UK is apt in this context. “Before World War II, it was not uncommon to see placards hanging outside some restaurants in Paris which read “Dogs, lackeys, and soldiers not allowed”. On the other hand, even pregnant women used to get up and offer seats to soldiers on London buses. When the war broke out, France capitulated in no time while Britain remained undefeated.” [source]

Bloody Banana Bread

I grumbled that I have to go through security check on a connecting airport. It turned out that my domestic flight had landed in the international section. There was no secure passage connecting it to the next terminal. I crossed the security checkpoint at LA airport, and after wearing my shoes, I was waiting for my bag to come out of the scanner.

“Sir, is this your bag?” a tall African-American TSA personnel looking at me, said, “it turned the light red on the scanner, we need to recheck it.” I was pretty sure the bottles were empty. I was not carrying anything sharp except keys which TSA people have seen before. She opened my bag in front of me, checked and pulled a banana bread out. “We have to test this,” she said.

I purchased that banana bread earlier from a Farmer’s market (“mandi”). I did not get a chance to eat it, so, it was wrapped around in unmarked polythene, there was no receipt either. Could this banana bread be carrying narcotics? How would I prove my innocence? How would I explain this to my mother? The thought sent shivers through my spine. I felt a strong impulse of grabbing the banana bread from her and swallowing it right there. But fear of five TSA men jumping on me and Mercury News/Punjab Kesari publishing that news held me back.

Less than a minute later, she came back and said: “everything fine, you are good to go.” I finished that banana bread right there while she watched with bewilderment.