Walk on the Great Wall of China reminded me of my first visit few years back. It was a perfect bright sunny day for a trip to the Great Wall. Zhao, my Chinese colleague, translator, guide and a great friend drove us there is his own car. We started climbing the wall along with thousands of young local tourists. Zhao found that it was a day of field trip of final year students of Beijing University.
“With the Great Wall, you get to see a lot of young girls today,” talkative Zhao said happily.
Zhao constantly talked. He did not need a reason to talk and knew how to start and continue conversations for long time. The only problem was they spoke in Mandarin and I would become a deaf, dumb uneducated creature during his conversations.
“Don’t even think of flirting. Even I can tell, they are half of your age,” I urged him.
“Do you want to talk with them,” Zhao asked in a deceptive tone.
“Yeah right ! I have learnt perfect Mandarin in two days,” I said with sarcasm.
“What if they come and ask you for your autograph,” charismatic Zhao said with a big playful smile on his face.
“Zhao, typically people ask famous celebrities for autographs. You know what it means,” I seriously thought he did not know the meaning of autograph.
“Yes, same autograph. Are you ready to sign your name on their books?” he clarified.
“It is impossible,” I replied.
“I am going to tell them that you are a Bollywood star but now work in Hollywood,” he said laughingly.
I could not resist laughing at his bizarre idea.
“Zhao, most people say a frog is more handsome than me. Even my mom never said that I look good. They will never believe you,” I tried to show him the obvious flaw in his mischievous plan.
“Watch my magic or what you call charisma,” Zhao said with conviction.
Zhao was right. He spoke with a group of young girls for a few moments. Within no time, all of them circled around me for photographs and autographs. Some even tried talking in English on “my” new upcoming movies. Zhao happily started capturing moments of glory in pictures. As the photography session ended, the girls looked for paper, notebooks, napkins or pocket books for autographs.
Wonderful moments of the artificial celebrity fame ended with a ring on my cell phone.
Noticing the caller id of a close friend of Raleigh, I pressed the green button, “Hey Sanjay, What is up?”
Sanjay replied with his usual cheerful tone “I just wanted to speak with you.”
Realizing it was 11PM in Raleigh I asked, “What is the time? Is not it late?”
“It is around 11PM, were you sleeping?” Sanjay did not remember about my China visit.
“I am in China and it is 11AM here. Remember I called you from RDU airport.”
“Oh yes. How is China? Hey listen, if you need me to do something here, let me know,” perfect salesman Sanjay offering help even though he knew that I would be back next day.
To minimize the long distance charges, I came to the point, “Sanjay, what can I do for you?”
He replied cheerfully, “Can you give me Raj’s cell number?”
“Did you call me to get Raj’s number? Raj is your next-door neighbor.”
“I am not sure if he is still up. That is why I want to call his cell number. I know you memorize everyone’s number. Also I wanted to hear your voice; it is been few days I spoke to you,” Sanjay said second part with utmost sincerity.
“Ok. Write it down 919 489 …”
“Just give me one second. Let me grab something to write,” Sanjay made me wait.
I communicated the cell phone number of 300 feet away neighbor from a distant 7000 miles Beijing through at least four Communication Service Providers and multiple telecommunication equipments in the network.
While on the phone with Sanjay, the girls started giggling on Zhao’s funny statement in Mandarin.
Sanjay asked with curiosity “Who is around you and why are they laughing?”
“It is a group of Chinese girls touring the Great Wall.”
“Why are they laughing?” Sanjay repeated his question.
“I don’t really know. Probably they are laughing at me,” I replied.
Sanjay said teasingly, “I think they are laughing because they are looking at a Sardar (Sikh) first time.”
With a smile I replied, “Sanjay, you know, I rationalized long time back. I am clean shaven and don’t wear turban anymore.”
Sanjay said with a laugh, “That is exactly the point. They are laughing because it is first time they are looking at a ‘Mona Sardar’ (clean shaven Sikh without a turban).”
It took me couple of seconds to understand his joke and I could not stop laughing for some time.
Trying to breathe normal, I said, “Sanjay that was great joke. I will never forget it.”
Sanjay said playfully, “That is what great friends are for.”
Laughing stopped with ache in the stomach.
Driving to Beijing airport from the Great Wall, I asked Zhao, “What exactly did you tell them?”
Zhao replied with glee on his face, “Precisely that you said.”
“What do you mean?”
Zhao replied, “I told them Hollywood was looking for an actor uglier than a frog and they picked you.”
I did not know whether to laugh or scream but said sarcastically “Thanks a lot.”
“That is what great friends are for,” Zhao replied.
Simply speaking that was one of the most hilarious day of my life and always makes me think, “With great friends like these, I don’t need ..…”
(Author's Note:- Dear Readers, please send me the comments to fill the blanks in the last line. Also let me know what you think is the fictional part. This story is based on actual events but changed the names of my friends.
I dedicate this story to all my friends and members of vibrant Sikh community who always support humor.)