It was now officially past mid-night. 2 January 1982. It was very cold. This migrant had never experienced such cold. He used to make a big deal out of the “Oh, it is so COLD!” winter mornings in Bengaluru where he used to go out to the milk vendor’s shop at 5:15 am, wrapped in a shawl, and shivering. Compared to the cold now, those trips to the milk vendor were walks on a warm beach!

Two Bewilderments


So, the room was cold! Mr Migrant thought, “Well, this is AMERICA! So, there MUST be some way of making the room warm.” But how? That was the key question.

So, he looked around for something that he could do to warm the room up so he could take off the bulky coat he had on. He did not fancy sleeping in a pile of clothing.

After much searching, on a whim, he parted the curtains at the one window that the room had. And, bingo! There it was. A huge box-like contraption attached to the wall. The curtains had hidden it. Now, how to operate it? No visible switches anywhere.

An ‘under the window’ room heater/cooler. An older version of this freaked out our migrant friend. [Image courtesy:

So, he did what any right-thinking individual would do. He started poking and prodding the box. Eventually a poke flipped open a small lid and there … in all their glory … were many switches and knobs. With the thrill of discovery, our man flipped the switch from ‘off’ to ‘on’.

There was an instant roar and a hurricane blew out of the grid on top of the box. The curtains flailed madly, as if they were being tortured. The loud roar really unnerved him and he literally fell back on the bed from the startle. He sat on the edge of the bed for a while. Then, he tentatively put his palm over the roaring winds and felt its warmth. “Aaaaah”, he sighed. But now there was another worry. What if the curtains catch fire and the whole place burns down with him in it?

A few minutes’ vigil pacified him and he decided he had to bathe. This led to the second of the bewilderments of the night.


“I’ll now take a bath”, is a simple enough thing when thus stated. But not so fast!

Mr Migrant entered the bathroom. Wow! What gleaming white ceramic surfaces everywhere. The mirror, flawless. The knobs on the faucets (taps) gleaming. And on stand on the wall, towels of different sizes … two large ones at the bottom, smaller ones above those, and still smaller ones above those. All pure white, looking formidably clean.

No buckets or mugs anywhere in sight. However, that was not a problem. Our man was used showers in Bengaluru where the bathroom had a rigged shower made of a length of rubber hose pipe and an ancient but very good shower hear fitted to it.

However, the technology here was far more solid and formal. There was a faucet below, and two knobs … one marked H and the other marked C (H = hot; C = cold). Much fiddling around and finally glorious bath-ready warm water flowed with such gusto, it was thrilling.

One problem still remained.

How to get the water to come out of the shower above? More fiddling around and, oh, you just pull that knob up and there is a veritable monsoon coming down on you!


The shower curtain was inside the tub … then there was a flood! [Image courtesy:

But then, there was shower curtain to deal with. Never seen this before. Instinctively he knew he must close the curtain before entering the shower. But the bottom end of the curtain was inside the tub.

He put it out.

Curtain closed, he had a fantastic, relaxing, warm shower. Cleansing and soothing at the same time.

Done with the 20-minute shower, he pulled the curtain open, and put one foot out on the floor to reach for the towel.

Uh-oh! Problem!

There was about an inch of water all over the bathroom floor. And it was COLD! He got the towel, dried himself, but worried about the water on the floor. He decided that the tub was leaking mightily. So, he inspected the tub very closely for any tell-tale cracks. Nothing.

So, he took the other towels and proceeded to mop up the water and wring the wet towels in the washbasin. After a while, he got fed up of this and went to bed.

Called the reception desk and requested an alarm call for the morning.

And surrendered to sleep.


  1. Why was the weather so cold in Columbus, OH that night?
  2. Why was the idea of a heater in the room such a bewildering experience for the migrant?
  3. Why was there water all over the bathroom floor at the end of his shower?
  4. As he arrived in JFK and then in Columbus, OH, our friend felt very tired and sleepy even though he had slept a lot on the plane. What might be the geographic reasons for this?
  5. What other bewilderments do you think he might have encountered but are not reported here?

An earlier version of this essay appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition.

Featured image: Shower in a motel. [Image courtesy:


No responses yet

Share your thoughts

%d bloggers like this: