Nihal Singh Goes to America
Age Rating: 7 +
Nihal Singh loved his mother very much, and so did the mother. Though she was in Punjab, she sent many gifts and letters to her son, Nihal Singh, in New York. One such letter is given below:
My dear son,
God bless you,
I am writing this letter slowly; because I know you can't read fast. We do not live where we did when you left home. Your dad read in the paper that most accidents happen 20 miles from your home, so we moved. I won’t be able to send you the address as the last tenant who stayed here took the numbers with them for their next house, so they would not have to change their address.
This place is really nice. It even has a washing machine. I am not sure it works too well. Last week I put 3 shirts, pulled the chain and haven't seen them since then. The weather here isn't too bad. It rained only twice last week. The first time it rained 3 days, and the second time for 4 days. The coat you wanted me to send you, your aunt said it would be a little too heavy to send in the mail with all the buttons, so we cut them off and put them in the pocket. We got another bill from the funeral home. It said if we don't make the last payment on grandfather's funeral, he will come up again.
Your father has another job. He has 500 men under him. He is cutting grass at the cemetery. Your sister had a baby this morning. I haven't found out whether it's a girl or a boy, so I don't know whether you are an Aunt or Uncle. Your uncle Jatinder fell in a whisky vat. Some men tried pulling him out, but he fought them off and drowned. We cremated him and he burned for three days. There is not much more news this time. Nothing much has happened.
After a few days, Nihal Singh got another letter that his uncle was very sick. He decided to go to India. He could afford to be there in the hospital and he did want to help them.
The uncle was in the hospital, near death. As Nihal Singh stood beside the bed, his uncle’s frail condition grew worse, and he motioned frantically for something to write on.
Nihal Singh lovingly handed him a pen and piece of paper, and the uncle used his last ounce of strength to scribble a note. Then he died. Nihal Singh thought it best not to look at the note just then, so he slipped it into his jacket pocket.
Several days later, after the funeral, Nihal Singh was visiting his uncle’s family. He realized that he was wearing the same jacket that he'd worn the day his uncle died.
"You know," he said, "My uncle handed me a note just before he died. I haven't read it, but knowing the uncle, I'm sure there's a word of inspiration there for us all."
He unfolded the note and read aloud, "You're standing on my oxygen tube!"
Nihal Singh was very happy to meet his relatives in his home town. He boasted about his lifestyle in America. People were generally impressed by the way he spoke English with an accent which sounded like the deliberate cheap copy of the original American accent.
Anyway, my good friend was not offended by any remarks which the better educated people in the town often passed on to him. He took everything as a compliment.
One day his uncle came to him and informed him that the local kids were stealing watermelons from his field. Nihal Singh thought for a while and then came out with a solution.
After some careful thought, Nihal Singh came up with a clever idea that he thought would scare the kids away for sure.
He made up a sign and posted it in the field.
The next day, the kids showed up and they saw the sign which read: 'Warning! One of the watermelons in this field has been injected with cyanide.'
The kids ran off, made up their own sign and posted it next to the Nihal Singh’s sign.
When Nihal Singh returned, he surveyed the field. He noticed that no watermelons were missing, but the sign next to his read: 'Now there are two!!!'
The kids had definitely outsmarted him and he realized that people back home had also learned a few tricks.
Nihal Singh had a friend named Bholu Doctor. He was not a doctor but he practiced ancient medicine with the mixture of modern allopathic treatments. Though he had no degree or diploma, his practice was flourishing in his village.
His working style was unique. One day Nihal Singh went to this Bholu Doctor with one of his NRI friend. The NRI friend told them a story:
“One day I visited a VET in America. My dog just died and the damn vet charged me Rs 10,500.”
The village friend said, “Wow that is pretty high. What did the vet do?”
“Not much. I took the dog in there and told him, you got to help him Doc, this is the best dog I have ever had.
The vet pokes at him for a few minutes and says, ‘I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do.’
I said ‘Come on doc, this is my best dog, there’s got to be something you can do.’
The vet says, ‘OK, we can try one more thing.’
He goes over to this cage and grabs this cat and brings it over to the dog and swings it around the dog’s head.
The vet says, ‘sorry but he’s gone. That’ll be Rs 10,500.’
I said, ‘What! Rs 10,500 to declare the dog dead?”
He says, ‘Yeah. Rs 500 for the office visit and Rs 10,000 for the CAT scan.”
Nihal Singh had many acquaintances in and around his town, and most of his time he would be visiting friends and relatives. One day he came to my house. Obviously, I could see from his panting and sweating that he had been running.
I was curious to know, and I said, “What happened to you, Nihal Singh?"
"There was this nasty big bull in my street that nearly killed me today."
"Oh really! What happened?"
"I was just walking quietly wearing this red shirt, when the animal came charging at me like a locomotive! He almost got me!"
"So, how'd you get away?"
"Well the bull kept slipping. He slipped three times, and that gave me a chance to make it to the fence and jump over."
"That’s scary, my good friend. If it'd been me, I would probably have shit all over the place."
"Oye! I DID! What do you think the bull was slipping on?" Nihal Singh looked very confident and firm now.
Nihal Singh’s son was almost two years old now. Nihal Singh and his wife decided that before going back to America, they must visit South India and pay their homage at certain temples.
After making the trip of South India, Nihal Singh, his wife and his son were returning to Punjab in Tamilnadu Express. Nihal Singh was occupying the lower berth, his wife the middle berth and his son the top most berth in the train.
When train stopped at one of the stations on the way back the son requested Nihal Singh to bring him a cup of ice cream to which my good friend readily agreed. When Nihal Singh and his son returned they found that a South Indian who couldn't understand Hindi had occupied his son's berth.
Outraged, Nihal Singh called the TTE and asked him to help. TTE requested that he could not understand Hindi/Punjabi so it would be better if Nihal Singh explained the whole situation to him in English.
Nihal Singh explained, "That man sleeping on top of my wife not giving berth to my child".
I still remember the incident which one of my friends had described to me in a letter from America. It was related to Nihal Singh.
In those days, Nihal Singh was a new arrival in New York.
Nihal Singh received an invitation, to a party which said “Black Tie only”!!
When he went to the party he was surprised to find the other invitees wearing trousers and shirts as well!!!!
The innocence of which my good friend Nihal Singh was the owner was beyond which can be described in words. I could write the longest epic on his adventures which provided fun and entertainment for many people.
Nihal Singh loved his wife so much that he did not ever hesitate from demonstrating his love in front of his relatives and villagers in his mother land. However, his wife did not like his hugging and kissing all the time.
Nihal Singh thought of a scheme to teach his wife not to hate his American life style. He bought a piggy bank and told his wife that every time he kisses or hugs her, he will put a rupee coin in the piggy bank and at the end of month she can open the bank and buy a new sari with the money. The scheme worked very well. The young wife showed more willingness to be kissed and hugged.
At the end of the month he gave her the key and told his wife to open the piggy bank. What he saw did not please him. There were many 5 and 10 rupee bills along with rupee coins in the box.
“Where did these come from?” he demanded angrily.
“I’ve been putting only rupee coins. Not everyone is as miser as you.” replied the wife.
You can imagine how much mental agony my poor friend Nihal Singh must have gone through. But, he never kept anything in his heart and he happily forgave his wife. After some days everything was back to normal.
After some days Nihal Singh decided to take his wife to Delhi and Agra. He hired a tourist cab for sight seeing. When taken to the Taj Mahal in Agra, he asked how many years it took to build it. The guide replied 20 years. Nihal Singh tried to show his newly acquired Americanism and remarked, “You guys are lazy, in America we can build some thing like this in 5 years.”
At Red Fort in Delhi he asked the same question. The guide reduced the period to impress him and said Ten years.
“Only ten years,” Nihal Singh retorted, “Didn’t I say you guys are slow workers! In America we could have built it in 2 1/2 years.”
It was the same story everywhere. He admired the places but reduced the period to 1/4th.
The guide got irritated by this American Singh. Next day when they were near Qutab Minar, Nihal Singh asked, “What is that tower?”
The guide replied,” I‘ll have to go and find out. When I was passing by this side last evening there was nothing here.”
Nihal Singh realized that the modern Indians from urban areas are definitely clever and ready wit.
Nihal Singh often shared his American adventures with me. He related the stories with a lot of spice and flavor. One day he told me about a story which definitely made me a little ashamed of being an Asian.
Nihal Singh begins the story:
There is this Good Old' Barber in some city in US. One day a Florist goes to him for a haircut. After the cut, he goes to pay the Barber and the barber replies:
'I am Sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I am doing a Community Service'.
The Florist is happy and leaves the shop.
The next morning when the Barber goes to open his shop, there is a Thank you Card and a dozen roses waiting at his door.
A Cop goes for a haircut and he also goes to pay the Barber and the barber replies:
'I am Sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I am doing a Community Service'.
The Cop is happy and leaves the shop. The next morning when the Barber goes to open his shop, there is a Thank you Card and a dozen Donuts waiting at his door.
A Indian Software Engineer goes for a haircut and he also goes to pay the Barber and barber replies;
I am Sorry, I cannot accept money from you; I am doing a Community Service'.
The next morning when the Barber goes to open his shop, guess what he finds there?
He finds a dozen other Indians waiting for free hair cuts.