USA

Similar differences !


Walking by. Or may be flying past !

I have been asked ‘what was ONE moment / event in your US trip, that stays with you?’ Prefacing the answer with ‘choosing one is difficult’ is as close to truth as truth itself. Not only that, it is fashionable you see. Any famous director worth his film roll has these first words in response to ‘whats the best movie that you have directed?’!

In my trip, the grandeur of man made creations stand tall in memory best matched by the moments spent soaking up oodles of natural beauty and the sheer majesticity of nature, left less touched. Those were truly moments that took my breath away. Quite obviously a few will get detailed in these pages.

While those moments took my breath away, there were other moments that filled me with LIFE. Much as the mind races to recount the stories of the bay-buildings and beauty, quite unsurpassed as they are, the heart wills to share these other stories.

Stories of people. Moments tucked away in the suppressed mutter of a word, the resounding splendour of a ringing laugh, a quiet exchange of an idea, a shared understanding through a glance, handshakes, brush pasts and many others, all heralding simple conversation! Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Desis, Mexicans, Britons, Australians and many others. And ofcourse, Americans. Including the original Americans!

We met her in the Grand Canyon. Just as we finished our helicopter ride. ‘How was it, she asked ?” The slight quiver of her voice gave away an elderly age that was otherwise hidden by the spontaneity and a joyful zest in her words. That got the conversation started.


‘Mother nature maintains it for us. Like she has been doing for hundreds of years’, she said. With a hand movement that required her to take one hand off the buggy wheel! As we echoed her thoughts and waxed further eloquence, she warmed up ever http://premier-pharmacy.com/product-category/pain-relief/ more.

‘Been living here, ever since I know. Having Mother nature taking care of your backyard is worth it all’. With a wistful twist, she added, ‘She makes the big mountains, small rivers, and smaller people’. Her voice trailed off, allowing silence to complete the sentence !

We chatted for a while, about life, living, giving and contentment. Even as she maneuvered the buggy on a terrain that was tough, sporting an intelligence that was profound and an attitude that was humbling.

The Hualapai people, as they are called, are a native American tribe who live in the mountains of Arizona. Markedly distinct in their features, if not in their costume.



One of the attractions of the Grand Canyon is a skywalk, atop the canyon. Some sort of a cantilever bridge, built on an edge of the Canyon to give people a REAL view ! With strength enough to support 71 filled up Boeing 747s ! Some chutzpah ! Isnt it !?!


skywalk atop the canyon

Viewed by some as a money spinner that is so vital for survival and addressing basic problems that the people face here. Yet others see it as a violation of a sacred land!

Which brings me back to the lady and her sign off statement. I told her that I was Indian as well. But a different Indian !

With a twinkle in her eye, a sparkling smile on her lips and a warm hand placed on my shoulder, she responded, “The more different we seem the more alike we are. We are all from mother nature. Come again young man. It was nice talking to you”

I thought of us and our pangs around ‘development’, tradition, preservation, distractions and such else. It seemed to be the story of the world ! “The more different we seem, the more alike we are !”

Indeed.

The grandest of them all !

Faced with this choice maze on commencing sharing of the things we saw, the food we ate, the conversations that we had and such else, some logic had to get applied to get the first topic out.

So it was, and this post is about the Grand Canyon ! Imposing.Colourful. Instilling pride in people . Yet, so close to nature. Most importantly something thats stood around for millions of years.

Here is an attempt at perspective building : Imagine building a road that is TWICE the distance of Mumbai – Pune ( which would be a four + hour drive in sane speeds and simple cars). Quickly imagine ensuring that the road is 30 kilometers wide. Yes. 30 full kilometers wide. Even before that can settle down, think of digging the ground 6000 feet to make this road !

That’s the size of the Grand Canyon. 446 kilometers long. 30 Kilometers wide. 6000 feet deep ! All engineered by mother nature’s masterstrokes. One amongst them being the Colorado river whose continuous flow is said to have created this art in the mountain with corrosion as a tool!

Logical that the posts commence with the Grand Canyon. Isnt it !?!

As we stood on the west rim of the Grand Canyon and looked at the myriad shades of crimson on a series of walls that seemed to extend forever and beyond, greed announced its arrival with a desire to take a closer look. Perhaps touch the sands of the Colorodo river? At a depth of 6000 feet?

America singularly stands out for being a land of choice. If a desire is implanted in the mind accompanied with a wherewithal to act on it, there is always a way to make it happen! At a cost. Ofcourse !

In what can be called a truly Californian moment of budgetary rashness, wringing the last dime in the wallet dry, we chose to have an unplanned helicopter ride.

The ride operators promised to fly us from the western rim of the Canyon, all the way down to base where the Colorodo river runs its meandering course. Plus, take a boat ride in the river! The allure to see the work of mother nature over time, was simply irresistible. We signed up at a speed that could have blinded Lewis Hamilton.








Every wring of the wallet was worth it. The rock pattern dramatically changes colour every few feet the chopper drops, like a synchronous seamless background screen change in a show. At the end of what seemed like an unlikely landing point, the chopper landed and we were face to face with the Colorado

The boat ride in the meandering river showed much of the continuous work at beauty by corrosion! As the June Sun showered his unmerciful rays with a protracted wistfulness, beads of sweat showed up on tanned foreheads, copious sun tan lotions notwithstanding. All of it compensated by a gluttonous feast for the eye and a strange peace in the heart !

The big eagle !

To think of the Grand Canyon a month later, still evokes the same feeling. Of an exceedingly fetching view with a history that can really show what ‘long long ago’ could mean !


Please scroll below for earlier posts on the US Trip. Or find them here


Back from the Bay Area !


So there ! Am back. Armed with a little more than the usual courage to wallow in prose hoping that jet lag and such else, will tug at the sympathetic sides of your brain and aid you in giving me some more allowance.

The Bay Area is a beautiful place. Clean air, copious food, cool breeze, warm people and an eclectic mix of experiences have left me pouting the good life in the the US of A to any who would care to ask me ‘how have you been’! With a preponderance that can only be matched by the now pronounced pot belly that is making its presence felt, best supplemented by the dark circles under the eye!

I come armed with stories and pictures. Of a land that’s far away yet seems so close. So different yet so alike. So familiar yet so distinct. Ofcourse, these stories will find a way to get to the blog. Or so I hope.

My Grandmother used to tell me many stories. Amongst them, one darts to the forefront is about an ass who starved to death. Oh, no. He wasn’t practicing yoga or whatever. He starved to death because of the two bales of hay that were kept on his either side . Yet, the ass that he was, died in braying glory, unable to choose which side of the hay he start his food with.

Places seen. People spoken to. History that’s not so long ago. Natural beauty that seems to have been around forever. Contexts. Conversations. Reflections. The pictures that abound the hard drive and the stories that jump around in my head has lead me to the same problem the other ass had : The problem of plenty! Which leaves me reeling about what and where to begin !

I flew Korean air. But time flew some other jet, that flew far faster ! The only time in the entire trip when time seemed to go on frame-by-frame slow motion mode was on the 24 hour return journey. For a variety of obvious reasons !

But am back. Back from order to chaos. From dollar to rupees. ( My multiplication skills have jumped manifold, especially if something is to multiplied by 47). From silence to noise. From left hand drives to right hand drives. From tissue paper to the good old mug in the bathroom.

Am back home and feeling good that am back home !


PS: Please scroll down for earlier posts on this trip, or read them here and here.

Conspicuous Absences

The trip to the US continues. The roads are clean. Traffic is orderly. The level of orderliness merits a separate post ! Every other street corner seems to be replete with an effort to blank out ‘grey’ and possible ambiguity, announcing several aspects, including one that announced ‘uneven surface’.
When your immediate context is Mumbai or Chennai or any other city in India and you are used to entire valleys (if not Marina trenches) coming up , where roads existed till the night before, to see a sign that announces ‘uneven surface’ is a matter of great preponderance.

What strikes you most is the absence of people. Vast empty stretches of land, occasionally signalling to you, the existence of life, by a passing car ! That ‘once in a while’ passing car is an important

event, but for which the entire neighbourhood could pass for still image resident in a tourist’s camera. All of this ofcourse, in California, the most populous state in the US !

India has 1/3rd the size of the US and three times the population !!! That could define ‘double whammy’ perfectly. Every other factual comparison however obvious morhps into a tiny sliver of inconsequential information when viewed through the lens of ‘1/3rd the size X 3 times the population’ !

Ofcourse we have a huge population in India. The entire of population of the state of California is less than the population of just three metros Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata put together. Remember, California is the most populous state !

‘Oh we have far too many people’ is an argument that can pass muster with consummate ease against any other factual comparison that could be made based on whats seen here and whats missing back home. Perhaps not without reason. However, that argument doesn’t fly all the way and gets a rather specious shade when its thrown as a defense for any and every sore pore !

The other obvious absence is ‘litter’ ! Boards which carry a message ‘$ 1000 fine for littering’ anoint every other crossing. That is a lot of a money and is a Mt.Everest of a financial barrier.
On the same keel, the super efficient garbage collection methods with more than adequate opportunities for people to dispose their litter completes the circle !

Every house has three bins for three types of waste. ( Yard, Recyclable and non-recyclable). Trash gets collected over a week. On one pre-scheduled day, trash shows up on the roads. In orderly trash cans like this.

Specifications on how and where to place them, can pop an eyeball. But when a large truck comes along and does some serious robotics ( said to be equipped with cameras et al to scan through the waste ) to pick the cans with precision that’s seen in an automated factory, the necessity of following specifications become obvious.

In a flash the trash is taken. Not a drop spilled. No drips on the road.


Perhaps employing all of three people. Driving three different trucks for three different trash cans. Quite obviously the capital expenditure on such trucks and technology could trump full economies of countries. Obviously this is not recommended in India !


What perhaps is recommended for India is another form of cleansing to begin with, which you, the reader, can arrive at far accurate conclusions than what can ever be articulated on this blog!

On another note, for many ages now this blogger has been given enough of an education by his missus that cleanliness begins at home. Only now, does he have some response. Which could go like….’Sure, cleanliness is next to Godliness. But for ‘Godmanliness‘, there is no answer !’ America gives courage to the married man.

Whatsay !?!

The other post is here

From The west of the west !

The cobwebs are getting dusted and its all just settling. I pick the pieces and start writing. Again ! Many reasons can fill in the silence in this space as a cogent explanation that range from ‘plain laziness’ to ‘bloggers block’. However, none gives it the exalted status of an exotic excuse in my mental map like ‘travelling’ !


Yes. I write this from the west of the western world. The ‘Bay Area’ as they call it. Our time here has been one of travel, catching up with the family. Resulting in several things, the chief amongst them being a mind that is calming down and sorting out priorities in life that REALLY matter. Quite obviously, this blog is back in action !

🙂

There are countless stories to tell of this land. A land that I have heard of ever so often. A landscape that we have attempted to explore by road, by sea and by air. Criss crossing a few states, experiencing snow, rain and Sun. A landscape thats ever so familiar yet ever so distant. A people that are polite, courteous and let you be.

I have been warned enough that I could well seen to be singing paeans to the American way of life, in a rather blind sort of a way. Other well meaning friends have cautioned me against looking at this ONLY through an India centric lens. A few others have encouraged me to just stand, stare and absorb for the ‘the truth is somewhere inbetween’.

Over a few next posts I am going to tell it like I have seen it and experienced. I just read that statement again, and it sounds like this blog is going to give some serious competition to wikileaks or something of that ilk ! Bah ! Regular readers know how farther away from that truth that statement is !

Ok here are some immediates. The tongue has been smitten by Starbucks coffee. However, the mouth refuses to close from the awe triggered ‘open’ position it took, looking at the sizes. ‘Tall’. ‘Grande’. ‘Venti’. ‘Trenta’ are how the sizes are named ! ‘Trenta’ is about a year and two months of my consumption. Well, almost.

More posts are coming. Will try and keep this space as updated as possible, snatching time between travel and such else.

Oh yes, there is something else that I have enjoyed quite a bit here.

Pushing the button to stop the traffic is cool just to let us cross the road. Back in Mumbai, an outstretched arm to stop is all that is needed to stop a humungous truck. ( Well, you are reduced to a small newspaper snippet, If the truck doesnt stop).

So people, I have been pushing this button, with glee that perhaps adorns the face of a rogue dictator when he pushes missile button !

Schwarzeneger is fading here. But then, I’ll be back !

Concrete Hope !

On a city jaunt, once, i spotted this small flat, in a middle class neighbourhood. And there was an impeccable image. Of an open window. A few clothes that were seeking to shed their water weight by seeking the sun.

Plastic cans which perhaps held something else before, holding the soil. The soil holding firm for the roots to take shape. And the roots supplying all what the leaves required to stretch and seek the world.

The makeshift window sill was thin, and obviously not designed for these. And the window pane in their shadowy soot, had a far worse tale to tell. A foot away, was an old drainage pipe. And the wall was bore tell tale signs of seepage. Or perhaps, it was leakage.

It could have been an ordinary sight in a strange neighbourhood. But for some reason, my legs refused to move. And the eyes refrained from the odd blink. The cars honks around me grew fainter.

All i saw was the leaf deftly dance to a wisp of a breeze and that lonely red bud, tease the wind. In some time, i realised i was deaf to the honk and blind to the seepage.

I dont know for how long i stood there. But long enough for friends who were with me to nudge me to check if i was expecting someone to step out and wave. Perhaps climb down the drainage pipe and run to me. Like the types they show in Bollywood movies.

But there i was. A stranger. A stranger to that window and to that green. But in that strange distance, the appalling exterior melted away and all i saw was a coat of hope, beauty and possibility.

Those green leaves, the deft move of a stem responding to the faintest of breeze, those washed clothes that were drying, the promise of the lonely bud and the thought of those simple folks who nurtured this all, brought an incredible amount of peace to me.

And that’s exactly how i feel about Obama’s inauguration tomorrow. Sitting many thousand miles away, i feel better for the world. Don’t ask me why. Call me a wishful thinker. Dub me whatever. I still feel so. I hope so. I wish so.

In the midst of seeping concrete, i found hope the other day.

Just as i will. Tomorrow.

Yes We Can !

So, a new history is being made out there. And a new history is being created for the world ! I have watched in great awe as the US Presidential election unfolded. And what a magnificient canvas it provided ! This blog has stayed away from politics. Well, atleast, has attempted to. But this post is not about policies or politics. This is about the what resides within us : human beings.

I for one, cant fathom what runs in the veins of an ordinary man, causing him to raise so meteorically. Combating a stiff headwind. One after the other. In the name of race, religion, powerful people et al. And to be a complete rookie, yet ooze confidence that befits a seasoned veteren, and most important : pull it off !! Thats a tall order.

So it is, a tall order. To be 72 years old. And take to the rigours of campaigning. Day in and day out. With a vigour that is eclipsed only by the power of a campaign that can be described as some kind of a mass movement ! A campaign who knew that the cake was baked much before it was ordered and yet kept the battle on, right till the last curve. Thats a tremendously tall order too.

As much as i winced at the acerbity of the contest, today I marvel at the grace of the acceptance of the victory. So too, the elegance of conceding the defeat. As much as i am sure of machinations that would work at a furious pace beneath the surface, what i see, moves me. Beyond a point.

Colour. Caste. Creed. Age. Resources. Education. History. Family background. Etc. Etc. Two men, as different as chalk and cheese on each of the above, just seemed to believe ‘all things were equal’ ! And carried it to the finish line.

Personally, that sets a new contour. A new context. That indeed it is possible to climb mountains. And scale them, even when there is a strong headwind. What perhaps is more important is a steady clinical resolve to keep going !!

Only one made it. But two men showed that it is possible to fight. To disagree. Yet accept, hold hands and move on. There have been very few moments in recent times that stood on the precipice of hope and possibility as this one. And suddenly it does seem we as a race will make it.

The networks dont call before its over. But i am no network. Suddenly, ‘Yes We Can’ seems to take a new meaning.