On a Friday night in September my wife and I went to New York City to see our twin girls who had recently started their first semester at NYU. Thankful for finding a parking spot, we pulled directly in front of Founders Hall, the 26 story modern residence hall near to Washington Square Park, the famous arch, and the East Village. As I pushed the car windows down, Avanty, wearing a colorful floral pattern dress “suggesting cute and casualness”, as she was profiled in College Fashionista, came to the car with a Rubbermaid HipHugger white laundry basket full of stuff.
“I don’t need these shoes and extra bedding.”
She came inside, closed the door and demurred, “Dad…there is Suraj Sharma…. shhh... don’t point!”
There were three boys loitering just five feet from our car. For a quick second I made eye contact with one of them. He was of slight build, medium height, eyeglasses with thick black frame, unshaven and wearing sloppy clothes. I could not hear clearly the exchange he was having with his buddies, but his voice was familiar. Avanty explained that though she had seen him around the hallways, she was bashful to introduce herself. When I proposed we get out of the car and say “Hi”, she disagreed.
Avanty went back to her room on the 13th floor to look for her sister, carrying Gala apples and instant noodle boxes, the staple of college student diet. After waiting for 10 minutes I stepped out of the car first as the cluster of male students started walking.
“Hi - Are you Mr. Suraj Sharma?”
He smiled and said, “Call me Suraj” and continued to stroll along with his friends.
Who is he?
He was the lead actor in “Life of Pi”, which won four Oscars. The director Ang Lee selected him from among 3,000 applicants primarily based on “his expressive eyes and innocent appearance.” The story is about Pi (Suraj Sharma) as a teenager who survives a shipwreck but is adrift on a lifeboat with a Bengal Tiger. The movie has strong undertones of faith and God. Pi Patel says in the film: “I came to faith through Hinduism and I found Christ . . .”
“Hey Kaylyn, I just said ‘Hi’ to Suraj!” I announced to my other daughter as she emerged from the revolving door of her residence hall, with iPhone and laminated ID card in hand.
“Really? What did he say?”
“Not much. Asked me to call him Suraj because I called him mister.”
“Did you speak to him before?”
“Well, no, but I kind of saw him a few times in the elevator. He lives few floors above my room.”
As we were driving back home that night, Avanty texted me:
LOLLOL! Just offered Suraj Cup Noodles.