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Friday, April 6, 2012

The Ten Days American Dream

Tickets- Check! Passport- Check!! Luggage- Check!! Dollars- Check!!

All was set as I boarded the flight from IGI T-3 at 2100 hours on July 8, 2011 to reach LAX Airport.

It was a dream, not merely mine before but it got added in my heart and soul within a year in such a way that it gave me a reason to move ahead with more sense of responsibility, commitment and contentment…

After the take-off, which I can never miss while traveling by air, I was lost in many thoughts, reading PS I Love You on one side and thinking on the other. Many a thoughts, many people came into my memories….

Miss Sharma,
We are sorry but the Embassy rules don’t take your case under emergency and cannot provide you an early appointment for the visa interview.Though this situation does not mean a visa denial, so you can apply for visa interview as per your convenience later.
-US Embassy, New Delhi

This E-Mail from the authority, with no offense to rules, was enough to shatter all my dreams, my thoughts regarding my first trip to States in July 2010.

It all started with a surprisingly awesome mail from the Worldwide Partner Conference Team which said that

Miss Srishti,
We are glad to inform that you have been selected to represent your country’s Students to Business team here at the Worldwide Partner Conference in Washington, DC, in July, 2010 onward.

Cloud 9, if existed, was not enough to explain the happiness, the devilish grin I had that day, with the thought of being selected as the only student from the whole Nation.

Soon, I was encountered with many not-so-fair obstacles that were needed to be crossed without any mark, to actually be there at WPC’10.

The first task, obviously was to convince my Father.

Papa, though bit orthodox and reserved, has never asked me to stay back from chasing my dreams. He has been a true source of inspiration and has always been there in every thick and thin.Papa was off course, happier to me but as always, he did not show his excitement. Never could I predict what stops him from doing so.

The whole fortnight was spent in running to Passport authority and getting all the formalities done to get the passport. I got the passport on June 24 and applied for US Visa same day.As ill the fate was, many reasons came up and finally I could not go to the WPC 2010.

I was devastated. But more was my mother, my father.

Their sad faces, the feeling that they got hurt, actually made me hungry for the WPC opportunity. And from that day, I did hard work more than before. Learnt as much as I could, to prove myself and enhance my skills every day, every moment.

It was not that missing the WPC opportunity ended anything for me. But it surely gave me many a reasons to give some answers to some people who were not even fine enough to raise their fingers with questions.

I was provided with tickets of the Emirates Airlines. The scheduled journey had a flight from IGI Delhi to Dubai and then from Dubai to LAX Airport. The WPC 2011 were held in Los Angeles, the Dream City to travel, for many.

After a good three hours flight, I reached Dubai Airport at 0100 hours (IST). The first thing I did was to buy a calling card and call back home as I knew my Mother would not sleep till I wouldn’t call to tell them I have crossed the first step safely.

I was nervous. Bit scared too. But as Papa left me at the Delhi Airport and I asked him to go home, I knew, I knew that from there onwards, I was alone.


After three trials, Papa picked up the phone. I could hear he did not sleep. And I could feel the satisfaction in his voice when I told him about fine arrival at the Dubai Airport. I was relaxed too.

The connecting flight to LAX was after two hours which gave me enough time for my first-ever-out-of-country Window shopping. Dubai Airport is surely a bliss for shopping sprees. I wanted to buy so many things, without being careful of the coming days.. Gosh!! I couldn't do that.

As I waited for the flight at boarding area, I could see some people talking about WPC. I thought about going and talking to them and tell them that I was also among them. But then, the never ending fear, the insecurity stopped me.

It was a 15 hour long flight. I was sitting in the middle area at corner with two sheikh sisters.
They were as beautiful and charming as I thought of them to be.Sleeping, watching movies, eating, and man watching (rare though). I spent those 15 hours with random thoughts of being in States for the first time and with list of Do’s and Don’ts..

The shuttle service, another good part in the States for every common and not so common man, was fine enough to make me reach my destination, The Hollywood Youth Hostel in an hour.

Surprisingly, while I was busy clicking pictures on my way to the hostel, all the other passengers were from different states, gathered in the city for one reason-WPC! It seemed as if the whole city had got a new name- The WPC city for a week.

As the girls left the shuttle at their hotel, I waved them bye as I said, “See you at WPC”. They smiled back and shook hands with same thoughts which I had. That start was fine and gave me positive thought for the days coming up at the WPC.

As I entered the Hostel, a young lady welcomed me with broad smile and shoulders. I asked about the internet connection first. She asked me to wait for 2 hours to check in and directed me to the computer room. I was more concerned about telling back home that I’ve reached, than getting room to take rest. I logged on but got disappointed as I could not see my brother or sister online. A friend helped in calling my sister and she was there in ten minutes.

Then started the endless questions I was expecting. I knew my Maa Papa would have been standing behind my sister, asking her to ask me their doubts and I was happy to assure them that I am ok and have reached safe and sound. Unexpectedly, the student group lead who was expected to reach by 0700 hours got his flight delayed. I was the first one to arrive and claim the keys. After an hour or so, I got the room keys but eventually, I was not willing to go and sleep. It was my first trip out of India and that too alone. I wanted to unpack my luggage and go down to the streets and hang around to explore the areas near by. It was the main Hollywood street. I stood at the balcony area and I pinched myself to believe that finally I was there.

At first sight, I could not see any difference in the people and their life in States than in India.

Like a kid, I wanted to go out alone but was afraid of getting lost in new surroundings, among unknown people. Finally I decided to put a brake on random thoughts and carried my bag to my room. Soon, I was lost in dreams again being too tired and alone.

I don’t remember the exact time when I heard knock, believed the knocks on the door. Wondering where I am, I got my conscious, believed the reality again and went to answer the knocks where I saw two guys smiling pleasantly and waving hands. I was not awaken completely. As I stared them with a bit surprise, the guy in front said, “Hi Srishti, I am Steve from US, your team partner and team lead.


 I got myself out of my dreams and replied with a smile and Hi.
So, here I was, with two of my team mates, Steve from USA and Israel from Spain. Steve and Israel, both had been to WPC’10, off course, when I could not join them. They knew each other well and I felt bit unknown. But both were generous enough to be good, in fact amazing. With no time, we three became friends and were talking anything and everything.
Luckily, there was Hostel party at the same night in our Hostel. Soon we went to the Party hall where the hostel served free drinks and food. I could not find something to eat except the green salads and was starving badly, with the soft drinks. 

Later, our other team mates, Tania from Portugal and Renato from Croatia arrived at the same night.

We all were unknown to each other, coming from Different states, cultures, life styles. But in no time, we found great friends in each other.

While Renato was tired after small introduction, I and my roommate, Tania was excited to go down to the streets and explore. Must say, I was lucky to find a girl with almost same thinking as mine. Steve and Israel were kind enough to say yes and join us. We four were wandering in the streets till 3 AM that night.

Walk of Fame, The Chinese Theatre, McDonalds, Zara store, HnM, The Hollywood Main Street. We felt like we would explore the whole city in one night itself.

I and Tania would have continued our exploration if the lead, Steve would not have made us remember that we guys had to wake up at 0600 hours to get ready for the venue. It was almost 0330 hours when we finally banged to our rooms and fell asleep.

Next day was my first morning in States. Pleasant, happy but hungry start. We all were new in the city. As we boarded the bus to the venue of conference, The Staples Centre, Los Angeles, I could see amazing views and people waking up to a new day like every place. We entered the Centre with lots of hopes and smiles, especially me, I was super-excited. After all the checks and entry, we were lost in the most amazing architectural view of the Conference centre we had ever seen.

We were accompanied by our other team mates by that time as well. We had Pawel from Polland, Jennipha and Philip from USA with us. Pawel and Renato shared amazing any-time-make-prank skills with each other, making all, smile every and any moment.

And there came the moment!! For which I had waited for long enough. It was time to meet the Lady, the saviour to me. The woman who got me to be there at WPC 2011 when I could not make it at WPC’10
Kimberly!! A Lady as amazing as her name and as charming and beautiful as her smile. Kimberly greeted us all well. For me, her words were “Hi, Srishti! So finally you’re here. Glad to have you with us!”
There was something in her way of expressions and talks that made me, her fan. I admire her as the most amazing professional I have ever seen, whom everybody loves.


After meeting everybody and seeking all the nearby buildings and venues for the coming days and sessions, we all rushed to find a place to eat. Guess not only me, but everyone else was starving. We could finally find a fine restaurant after a kilometre walk, keeping in mind that the girl from India is Vegetarian and would eat only Vegan food.
We were divided in team, each with two members. I was teamed with Steve. Tania with Israel, Philip with Renato.

The next 4-5 days were spent amazingly well and in such an organized way that I felt God himself was watching out for me and all that I needed there.

Every day was passing well with wonderful meet ups with unbeatable talented professionals, IT experts, CEOs and great techie geeks from various so and so firms while each evening, went well with parties, hang outs, late night talks and understanding each other’s lifestyle and traditions.

July 14, 2011 was the last day of WPC. Every one’s eyes had that feeling of satisfaction and achievement for which they worked tirelessly. There was a team of more than thousand coordinators and helpers . Our Team lead, Kimberly had to leave on 13th. But she went giving me another wonderful surprise.

“Srishti, you’re here in States for the first time. Why don’t you extend your stay for a couple of days and visit nearby places and enjoy being here?"
Happy but concerned I was for my family and especially Maa, who I knew, would have been waiting for me counting each day.
“I would love to, Kimberly. But let me ask my Family once before I confirm.”
-“Sure! But let me know before I leave and I’ll talk to the travel arrangement team to postpone your ticket.”

Without any delay after the keynote, I went to the internet section and logged in to see if someone from family was there. I was lucky and found my sister online and told her all what Kimberly had just said. I asked her to talk to Maa and Papa and see if they allow me to extend the stay.
They all agreed! I asked Kimberly to extend the trip for two days only. She generously did that!

As a gift from her side, Kimberly got us free stay in the top rated Hotel Erwin at Venice Beach. We five, Steve, Israel, Renato, Pawel and I, got that special suite booked. Renato and Pawel had their departure flights scheduled for July 16 and I got mine for July 17 now.
We enjoyed the last two days after the conference at Venice Beach area, seeing all the beautiful places nearby including Pasadena, Santa Monica. Steve really played his role as team lead, guiding us to all places, well.

We had tears in our eyes while paying good byes to our friends at the last day. I remember what Renato said, “Girl, You’re coming to Croatia soon!”

After Pawel and Renato left, we three were there to spend this last day. Steve and Israel had their plans to go to San Francisco afterwards and Israel kept teasing me to extend my trip further to join them. I wanted to but could not do that as I was dying to get back home to make my family actually happy by then.

I had that last day left with a final wish. Papa gave me enough dollars even to rent a place for stay. I had not spent even $50 by that day. I asked Steve if I could buy a laptop as they are available on fine rates in States. Steve, as mentioned, was too good!

He found the location to the nearest Best Buy store where I could buy one. We got back by 1500 hours for breakfast cum lunch at the Subway opposite to our hotel. After all mornings at Beach and afternoon at shopping, we were back to the hotel, packing our bags side by side.
At 1800 hours, we went for our final party, at the hotel roof. It was sunset party sponsored by the hotel itself. We could see fantastic view of the beach, the nearby area and above all, the beautiful sunset. Those moments were the final moments being together.
It was we three who started the trip with a “Hi!” to each other when others joined us later. And here, coincidentally, we three were there at the final moments too. We enjoyed as much as we could. Clicking some wonderful pictures, teasing each other, discussing many random topics about each other’s life and styles, I had my last dinner in States with these two, strictly ordered from Domino's again keeping in view, my vegetarian diet by Steve.

After a hell busy day when Israel and Steve went to their room to sleep, I was not at all ready to spend those last moments in dreams when I was in dreamland in real life itself. I called up them and when Israel was so much tired in sleeps, while we tried to wake him up, I and Steve kept disturbing him and talked, shared pictures, packed our bags and were up till 0500 hours.

I had to leave at 0630 for the LAX Airport again. After all the packing and calling for Taxi from the hotel, I woke up Steve and Israel to bid them good byes. This time, not happy at all, leaving friends behind.

None of us was smiling..

I had tears in eyes and tried to hide them while we hugged each other and said our final GOODBYES…!!!
I kept texting Steve and Israel from the Airport while waiting for the boarding of my flight back home.
Following the same route, from LAX to Dubai, I had that tiring 15 hours flight. When I was near to home, I dialled the landline number again from Dubai Airport through the same calling card.

It was Maa! I was finally happy to hear her concerned but firm voice after ten days. Don’t know what made me cry and catch many eyes, but Maa’s first “Hello” after ten days was enough for me to tell her how much I missed her and all back home. She was happy and was waiting for her daughter to reach as soon as possible by then, making her favourite dishes for welcome, like all wonderful mothers.

The flight from Dubai to IGI Airport arrived at 2020 hours on July 18, 2011. As soon as I switched on my cell phone, It was Papa, calling from outside. I started receiving messages from friends and family who knew my arrival time.

“How was it?” “Where are you?” “Did you try non vegie food?"
These were the random queries from friends.

Like always, I was the last one to get my luggage at the conveyor belt and it took me almost an hour to come out after the immigration checks.

I could see Papa smiling with satisfaction. Could see the proud and at the same time, relief in his eyes when he saw me. Brother, as always was the first one to find me. Papa hugged me after long, long time and that hug was enough to take away all my tiredness.

With some days’ worth whole life, memories that would stay for a lifetime, endless talks and funny moments which still make me smile any time I recall them and with some always remembered friends, I got back home to my family, my life again.

We still talk, via chats, messages. We still share all the major things that happen in our life. We still are, Connected..

Never ever in my best dreams I thought of visiting States with such a remember able reason, neither I ever wished to stay outside my own country. But WPC’11 will always remain in my most wonderful memories with all the amazing folks I met in those ten days.
This, is a dedication to all the WPC S2B team members and our wonderful Team Lead!!

Thank you! :)

Someone well said, it was a true “Ten Days American Dream”!!