Brunch Sampler: Sarwar Kashmeri

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(Host) Once a year, VPR commentators gather for a brunch, during which they present short essays on a common theme. VPR records these essays to sample later on the air. "When Worlds Collide" was this year’s theme, and it reminded commentator Sarwar Kashmeri that *words* also sometimes collide – with interesting results.


(Kashmeri) So I’m Sarwar Kashmeri and my commentary is titled, "We Don’t Sell That Here."

"You want what?" the elderly lady behind the the college bookstore counter asked me angrily. I’d just arrived from India and it struck me that my accent might not be quite up to par yet, so I slowed down my enunciation. "May .. I .. have .. a .. rubber .. Please.." I asked. Now visibly distraught the poor woman exclaimed, "We don’t sell those here."

Well, the old world I’d left behind in Bombay, India, had just collided with the new world of Cahokia, Illinois, home of Parks College – the Aerospace Engineering school of Saint Louis University.

"But I need it for my drafting class," I continued patiently, as the line of students waiting to buy supplies behind me exploded with laughter.

Now I was totally confused.

There I was, enrolled as a freshman in engineering school, picking up my textbooks and supplies. One of the courses every engineer takes is drafting. And in those pre-personal computer days buying a drafting kit with compasses, protractors, and other shiny instruments was a rite of passage. I’d just finished picking up my kit. I’d bought pencils. And now I wanted to complete my drafting materials by buying, you’ve guessed it, a rubber. Only I didn’t yet know in the new world rubbers, at least the ones I needed were called … ERASERS!

"You won’t need a rubber in our drafting classes!"

"But I will," I said, holding up my pencils.

Then a light-bulb clicked on in the saleswoman’s face. She smiled broadly and said,"Ah, you mean you want an eraser."

And me with a sheepish smile, "Yes, that’s what I want – an eraser."

So we shook hands. Our worlds had collided. Fortunately instead of sparks we generated laughter.

Thank you.

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