The night before, Sudhir had graciously given me a tour of Dallas, with its imposing glass-covered skyscrapers and wide open spaces. As we munched through some of the best barbecue ever made, he was his normally talkative, humorous self—Sudhir finds something to chuckle about on a regular basis. This morning, however, he’s hunched in the driver’s seat in a tense scowl, his eyes hidden by sunglasses. Jyoti, too, though she’s affable as always, has a look of concern clouding her face. Samir is the only relaxed member of the Patel family. After a burst of nervousness earlier this morning, he now chats easily.
The good luck charms are in place. Jyoti, at her son’s request, wears her purple pantsuit that Samir feels brings good luck—she wore it during 2003 Nationals, when he placed third. To further court good fortune, Samir carries in his pocket a small red envelope decorated with a Chinese design, given to him by a family friend, with $20 tucked inside.
Jyoti, who is Samir’s coach, had remained a bundle of busy energy until today, wanting her son to study until the last minute. But Samir didn’t want to—he works hard until the day of competition, then lets go. To ready himself for a bee, he spends time with his father; Samir finds Sudhir’s presence calming.
Samir, in fact, seems to have a calm of his own…