Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Disembarking - Part 2

August 19 2008

It’s been one year since I landed in America. I stayed there for three months.
In hindsight, those three months were “an important three months” of my life.
Of all the things that I gained, the most important was the right perspective of USA that came from a first hand experience.
I was finally able to drain all the various preconceptions that had clogged my mind for so long; preconceptions given to me by that motley mix of people I told you about in part – 1.
The trip also changed my outlook on certain aspects of life.
The first thing you notice is that, the system is so orderly and organized! Even an unheard of small town like Folsom has better roads than some of the metropolitan cities of India. Material abundance is the next thing. Food, clothes, cameras, computers, stationery, mountaineering equipment….. An entire mall dedicated to each item…and their variety... I was impressed and overwhelmed.

Prosperity, opulence, splendor, richness...wherever you see. It felt soooo good! I felt such pride when I saw the flag of USA fluttering on the many buildings of San Francisco, as if it were not the American flag but the Indian tricolour!
The experience at work, which was the purpose of my visit, was most satisfying.

First, the nature of my work was well defined. Unlike in India where you are expected to do so many things, I was expected to do just one thing – draw process diagrams. Communication and analysis were the two main skills required to do the job.

Second, the people I worked with and their attitude, their demeanour was most impressive.

Everyone respects time. (In India, if you say 5 O’ clock, it means 5:30)
People are assertive. (In India, a lot of assertive people are accused of attitude problems, yours truly being one among them)
People have a high level of self esteem. They are fully aware of their rights and they understand that they are important. I am sick and disgusted with spineless people in our own offices who take a lot of shit from their managers and lack the courage to call a spade a spade.

Lastly, everyone communicates effectively which comes as a welcome relief. The only thing I don’t like about their English is that it’s not British but American. I wonder why they even needed a separate version of English when the British version was sufficient in every way and the American version apparently serves no special purpose. Even the spellings are different. To me who is a purist, it is a sacrilege!!! (Note: I am a purist in certain matters, but radical in certain others!!! Did I tell you I am a bundle of contradictions?)

But one thing is certain. Indians in general are sharper and more knowledgeable. All they need is to be more professional and more disciplined. Of course, they need to attend accent neutralization classes to rid their English of the Mother Tongue Influence (MTI).
In just three months, I could not socialize much.
But my interaction with various people like the hotel staff, the tour guides in San Francisco, my colleagues, the sales staff in malls, waiters in restaurants, etc.. was very pleasant.

I appreciated, for the first time, the beauty of demeanour and composure.

(In our own country which is overflowing with people, there is such chaos and people are so frustrated that the slightest of provocation is enough to make people lose their composure and start yelling, screaming, fretting and fuming.)

People are polite all the time - while waiting for a bus at a stop, while standing in a queue at the billing counter, while placing an order in a restaurant, when they greet you, when they disagree with you…everyone is polite and smiling.

I did not see even one person frowning, leave alone yelling or shouting.

An impulsive, short tempered girl like me had definitely a lot to learn from this. And I did. I do call a spade a spade as always, but without losing my composure.

While the calm and cool give a polish to your personality and control those impulses that have the dangerous potential to manifest as facial expressions that can make you look ugly, on the flip side, the same qualities of calm demeanour and composure make all people alike in a certain way, making it difficult to tell from the true nature of one person to that of another. Uniformity, in general has certain inherent problems.
On of the most important things about a continent is its landscapes and geography that distinguish it from the others.
In three months, I managed to absorb as much as I could. Miles and miles of granite hills that define the Yosemite valley, Red wood trees that are hundreds of feet tall and hundreds of years old, the cold, blue, vast pacific ocean, the aromatic grooves of pine trees around Seattle, the beautiful blend of green pastures at the foot hills and the snow covered top of Mount Pilchuck and the crystal clear pristine blue waters of Lake Tahoe.
For the first time I realized that autumn could stand not just for despair and gloom but for beauty and splendour as I saw the maple embellished with magical yellow, orange and crimson colours of the fall.

India is very rich in natural beauty and diversity. We have the tallest mountain range in the world, the Himalayas in our country. We have vegetation that is much more diverse than that in USA. We have more sunshine and more rainfall that are conducive to more of life.
But I admire the western countries for respecting what they have been bestowed upon. From the small ones like gardens and waterfalls to vast expanses of nature like the Yosemite Valley that sprawls over hundreds of miles, every natural resource has been protected and cared for. Everything is either a national park or a national monument.

We have not only natural resources but thousands of temples, edifices and heritage sites that have endured time as kingdoms rose and fell in the last five thousand years. But what a pity! Everywhere you go, you receive an ugly welcome from urine, plastic, spittle, paper, garbage and pests thriving on them.

In all my life, I have heard praises of nature. Songs, poems, essays and treatises have been dedicated to nature. But nothing special has been devoted to man or his creations. There is no dearth of criticism, however.
Even if they spare a word for an invention or a discovery, it’s half hearted and almost immediately followed by comparison with nature’s creations that can never be surpassed. “Man made jungles are ugly”, “Concrete jungles”, they sneer.

When a flood or an earthquake befalls a place and erases years of mans toil, they laugh derisively “Man can never conquer nature! Nature is all powerful”. Such cynicism! Such a sinister disregard by man for his own fraternity!

As I beheld the skyline of San Francisco from the 11th floor of Grosvenor Suites, the beauty and greatness of man made creations appealed to me as never before.
For the first time in my life, I spared a moment to praise mankind for his creations. I saluted the perfection that each building stood for. I paid a silent tribute to the symmetry, the perfect finish, the flawless design, the engineering marvel behind every brick that was laid, to the strength of those foundations that support their weight, to those men who envisioned these colossal structures..……every building has pride and dignity….standing tall, defying gravity….. Against the winds and in spite of the rains……their glitter and shimmer redefining beauty………..long live mankind that created the impossible! Long live its tenacity!!

I saluted man’s perseverance that saw him rising like the phoenix from the ashes left by many a flood, earthquake, famine, fire, atom bomb and war.

I could not stop staring at some of them as they struggled to balance themselves! No. I am not talking about toddlers who are learning how to walk. I am talking about young men and women who have forgotten how to walk, who need a car to get from their drawing room to their toilet, and who in the process have grown such huge bellies that they stagger from one side to another when they walk – within office space, from their cubicle to the cafeteria etc. where they are not permitted to drive!
And what health consciousness! They have a diet coke… but of course after having burger with extra cheese!!!

This would be the dreamland of any caricature artist! There are so many models all around to choose from.

Wasn’t it George Bush who commented that Indians were responsible for the food crisis in the world because there are too many people here and they eat more? Well, the dimwit guy should do his homework before blurting out nonsense such as that. Does he not know or does he pretend not to know about the glaring problem of obesity in his country? If the word gluttony ever became personified, that person would be American for sure!
Grandmother was right. The use of paper instead of water in toilets is absolutely disgusting! I wonder how in a system where everything else is so prim and proper, such a sickening, appalling practice found room!
So do I want to live there? Certainly, but only for a few years. I would finally want to settle down in the Indian soil. There are many reasons but one of them is that, the USA is perfect. There is perfection; at least, at the superficial level. Life is easier. Good roads, law abiding citizens, unparalleled facilities, a lot of personal space, no social causes and no communal violence.
While all this is very convenient for living, there is no food for thought.
This I realized after returning to India.

During my stay there, there was a passive calm about my being.
Not the calm that one feels after meditation but the kind one experiences when the mind is idle, when there is perpetual mental inactivity.

There was everything that I ever wanted and nothing to complain about and nothing that I wanted to change. When I was there, I hardly wrote except for some travelogue for there was nothing to write about.

The day I landed in India, I could feel so many ideas like the seventh orbit electrons buzzing about in my mind colliding with each other and with the ends of my mind. It was such a familiar feeling!
The moment you step out of your house, and give a sweeping 180 degree glance, a hundred things will grab your attention all at once. There is so much to do!!!

I felt no mixed emotions as I said goodbye.
I felt only sorrow as the plane took off. I must be a true world citizen. I have lived in a lot of places other than my native town; and no matter what the duration of my stay, every time I departed, I felt heavy at heart as if I really belonged to that place.

Last week I had a strange dream. I boarded a plane from Delhi to go to Bangalore and I landed in Seattle! I saw the space needle in my dreams. I woke up with a strong feeling of Nostalgia.
Even as I write this, I am longing to go back to the US, just to see the Grand Canyon once, to the Tulip festival in Seattle, to the Niagara falls, to the Golden gate bridge and the skyline of San Francisco!


Erikk Ljungberg said...

Nice observation. Good article.

Erikk Ljungberg said...

one small correction. 'stationAry' should have been 'stationEry'. Typo. I know it just happens!

Erikk Ljungberg said...

"loose their composure" should have been "lose their composure"

Erikk Ljungberg said...

and similarly "without loosing my composure", therefore should have been "without losing my composure"

Sowmya said...

Thanks erikk for reading each and every line of my article...

May I know how you came to know abt this blog?

Anyway, do visit again... :)

deepocean2k said...

US no doubt is charming of sorts. :)No wonder so many are there and in attempt to making it imperfect may be!

Sowmya said...

No No, When Indians go there, they behave themselves... Only when here, they are fouling their own nest... so no worries... but yes.. I have a strong feeling that this migration will one day make an impact (to the US) in a way that was never expected!!! something is impending...