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Mr Bean in the US

chandigarh Updated: Apr 22, 2014 09:26 IST
Rajbir Deswal
Rajbir Deswal
Hindustan Times

No wonder "The Constipated Frenchman" of Khushwant Singh's short story died in alien land not being able to compromise with the hostilities of subsistence around. I, too, while being in the US almost became Mr Bean, who could do everything else but be sensible.

I fumbled at some places and I flunked some typical American situations. At times, I was the biggest fool around, although I thought I had adapted to Uncle Sam's mores and manners.

Coming back to "The Constipated Frenchman", I couldn't figure out how to use the toilet paper.

Imagine if the roll had finished. Hand drying after hand wash again had me take out my handkerchief, much to the amusement of the other washroom inmates. Most of them don't carry one in their pocket while I always have two.

Hot-air drying and using the coarse brown paper again is out of the question, since uncomfortable with that, I would feel like washing my hands one more time.

Every time I called my India home during the first few days, I had the police or 911 service guys descend on us. After the ting-tong of the call bell, my son would find them at the door seeking to know what had gone wrong.

He would enquire from me if I had dialled 911. I realised when told that since India code was 91, I sometimes punched the first digit of the city code, 1, quickly after, so the call would connect to the emergency response, while the system wouldn't register the next digits I dialled. To give me solace, he told me it happened to him as well, once in a while.

The other day, we had over in our Redmond house some children, who after the party began to pop the balloons. To make more fun out of the impish act, I put some ten balloons in a row, and popped them in a series. The phut-phut-phut sound switched on the burglar alarms. I got stared down like the most irritable problem child.

My son got me a new bicycle to go around during daytime, while he attended to his work. It was a 27-gear bike. Going downhill, one didn't need to exert much but I forgot it wasn't meant for steep cresting. I began to roll downhill, on and on, not realising that pedalling back could be tedious.

I thought the low and high gears would help me.

At the bottom of the ridge, I stayed for a while to enjoy the view. Then, I rode the bike and began to pedal. It wouldn't go even a yard. Soon, I was nervous, panting, and calling my son for rescue. He folded the bike, put it in the boot, and drove me home, but not before he commented: "Dad, don't you always be Mr Bean!"

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