Monday, December 05, 2005

America

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This post was written shortly after i arrived from the US concluding my month long stay there as a part of my work.
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Hyderabad-Chennai-Singapore-Tokyo-Los Angeles-Seattle-Redmond-Seattle-San
Francisco-Hong Kong-Singapore-Chennai-Hyderabad.

This was the snowqualime falls. Seen here are Prem Arora, Sataej Sirur and Me.















This was on the way to the top of Mount Si. Seen here are: Shashank bansal, Prem Arora, Ranajoy Sanyal and Me.












When i was about to board my plane back to India. I stopped for a moment and took stock of it all. Oh, how can I say what i feel right now. It is such a dilemma. Such a conundrum. As I was about to aboard my flight to back home and I don't know what I was feeling. Maybe this was the only time that I had some moments to contemplate on the new land I was in. While the first impression that I had when I landed in America was simply a one of awe. I was particularly awed by their infrastructural developments. This was my first flight trip to outside India. I took a very long way to Seattle. My flight started at Hyderabad on it way I had to stop at the following cities: Chennai, Singapore, Tokyo, Los Angeles and finally Seattle. Going to America was a dream come true for me. I was always obsessed with this country. At any point of time I had my list of obsessions. It ranged from Walkman's when I was in School, Growing long hair when I was in college (and the obsession continues till date), electronics etc. Even though it may not sound good, I react to most of these obsessions by yielding to it. If there was one unsatisfied obsession that I harbored for too long a time, it was America. The country of America has always fascinated me. A country which I had always read about. The one country which stands for Capitalism, globalization, Free trade and all the other jargon which people love to hate. A country so young that there is no identity of being an American. You can be an African, Asian, White whatever, and still call yourself an American. Also what thoroughly fascinated me is the fact that even such a seemingly great country have such poor leaders. Going to America has certainly helped me to come handle my obsession about America. Leaving the philosophies aside for a moment, let me go over to my journey. LA was looking like a PCB (Printed Circuit board) when looking from the aircraft. I could not but gasp at the seemingly chaotic network of roads. When I landed at LA, I was invited by a bevy of security personnel, who were doing everything from taking my fingerprints, to taking a picture of me. Showing my Microsoft ID helped a little. They keep asking me the same old set of questions: What is the purpose of your visit? How long will you stay at America? etc,etc. With my long unkempt hair, appearance and my Asian looks, It seems like I was looking like a likely PMD (Person of Mass Destruction J). Other people coming with their family were exempt from such interrogation. But i did not complain. In fact they were justified: With 36 hours of non-stop travel, I was thoroughly jet-lagged and by the looks of it, it could have as well walked away from a Taliban hideout in Afghanistan. I let them do their job. (As if I had choice) Finally I went to the real America, outside the Airport and took my flight to my final destination, Seattle. Seattle was less imposing a city. Mt.Rainier overlooked the city of Seattle like an old sentinel, whitened by age, keeping watch over his people. The land transportation in America is so good. Everything is smart, fast and cute. Well talking about smart, cute and fast, I got my first Chevy. During my stay at Redmond, I drove a white Chevrolet Classic. It was an awesome car. Back in Chennai, I was used to the feel of the good old Maruti 800. So handling the monstrous Chevy was pretty awesome. The one thing I really liked about America is the freedom of expression you have. It is one FREE country. Well the more interesting fact is that most people exercise their freedom. Let me give you an example: You have people having placards outside their house proclaiming: “Bush is an A**hole”, “Stop the war”, etc. My stay at Redmond was very short but I was very busy all the time. The only time I really went out was the weekends. Every weekend we used to go to some trail, trek etc. It was physically very challenging to go through the different trails. The best trail we went was of course the ones at Mt.Rainier. It was beautiful. Apart from the trails and the treks, if there was something remarkable about the trip, it would be those late-night discussions we had with Satej, Ranajoy and any other occasional gatecrasher who could not sleep as he felt lonely. It was in circumstances like these where you are far away from your family and everything you know, that you realize the simple and profound joy of good company. We talked about our dreams, our latest obsessions and our thoughts about life, love etc. As my trip came to close, I finally had some time to look think about the country that I had visited. As I said, It would be incorrect to say that my feeling was mixed. The feeling of going home was one of unequivocal happiness. And the moment I was in my mother’s arms at Chennai Airport, I knew I was home.
Chennai was in the midst of seasonal rains. Unlike what was told to me, I did not experience any kind of uneasiness to settle into the polluted airs of an Indian city after staying in the relatively cleaner American cities. But the difference was striking. As I was traveling around the city in the metropolitan buses, the difference was even more evident. As the rains was lashing the city, I could see the city’s existing infrastructure crumbling. Buses breaking down in the middle of an important road. Passengers from that bus scattered around in the road. Other buses roaring past the stranded passengers as they were already crowded three times over their actual capacity. So on and so forth… Watching the unnecessary pain to which the people were put into, after seeing what is possible, pained me. It was as if we are so knee-deep into this infrastructural backwardness, that It simply stopped to astound you anymore. At one point of time, it was simply amazing to just see the city pull on for one more day. The people of Chennai facing one more dawn. As they get ready to go to their work all washed up and powdered. Standing in the morning sun under the dilapidated bus stand drenched in their own sweat. Steering clear of the muddy water which is splashed onto the footpath when an occasional vehicle runs over a occasional bump. It is mind-blowing to think of what the city and its people can do if these unnecessary troubles are healed. I really hope that in the coming years, the government delivers what the people deserve.
The practical side apart, this was the best time of the year in Chennai to pamper your bibliomaniacal side. There is nothing like settling into a Michael Cricthon on a rainy morning in Chennai. Basking in the warm sun, under the overcast sky shortly after breakfast. Talk endlessly with your aunt about your latest adventure. Discussing politics as we watch the news during the mid day. Watching a vintage Mani Ratnam movie, after the meal. Go for an evening stroll in a nearby park as the sun goes for its daily siesta. For all its problems, I still love this city. J

2 comments:

mishi said...

Well, home is home, at the end of the day. Chennai, for all its problems still is the most serene metro and a great place to be. Esp. after spending countless number of college days wandering through Adyar and at the Bessie.

merridian said...

It was fascinating to read your account of your first visit to the USA. Come time for Samyama to roll around again, I will be taking my first trip outside of my own country, like you did to come here. Only I will be flying to your country. I am thrilled to be going to such a spiritually rich place. I feel so honored to be able to go. I know it will not be like the USA, but that is one of the reasons I seek going. I want to know the world. I am awed by diversity. And I cannot wait to meet people everywhere I go. I feel this will be a life-changing event for me. My life seems to be winding down in preparation for it somehow - is that weird to say? Anyway, it is great to have found your site. Hope to see you around,
Theresa