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Tuesday, October 10, 2006
the america diaries
Less than a month left of my american trip. 3 months is probably not adequate to see this country properly. I concentrated this trip on trying to see the north east corner and meet as many people as i could. Somehow never got around to seeing the touristy things. When I realised that the water of the niagara falls is used for electricity generation and is released for a few hours when the tourists visit, I decided not to get into any tourist type activity again. More important for me was to visit as many old friends as I could. After we left college almost a decade ago, everyone scattered all over the globe, and one way or the other ended up in the US of A. Its been nice to catch up with them and revisit the reasons that we became friends those many years ago.
I thought I would sort of group the people I met so I could make sense of it all. So here goes. First let me start with the Indians.
The various categories of Indians are -
1. Old Old friends - This was the main reason that I accepted the assignment to come to US. I missed my friends, and I am glad I got to meet most of them. Arshad, if you are reading this, get your act together, and meet me asap. Mostly they are all the same as I knew them, but have just grown a bit more. They no longer have unkempt hair ( if they have any left), the social skills are more developed, less goofy, more complex, busier and smarter, richer and fatter :) etc etc. Whenever I met someone whom I used to be friends with many years ago, it just took a little while to get through the interference and get a clear signal, and then we were back in sync and happily chutiyaoing along.
2. Work Gang - This is mostly people in my office. All of them have been in the states for a long time and pretty well settled in. All drive Honda's and work on laptops. They gave me a crash course in "how to live here when you get here" and then were always around to help me get settled in. Its amazing how theres no insecurity, office politics, pushing and shoving at all, as compared to any similar setup in India. Its a reflection of the American work ethic perhaps. I have been very impressed with how professional and punctual most american office workers are. Theres a matter-of-fact attitude and a unhurried but efficient way of working thats really fun to see. From a secretary, to a waitress, to an airline pilot, to a senior executive, the pride of "just doing my job" is great to see.
3. The software engineering gang everywhere in the cafes, in the indian store, in the restaurants, in the housing blocks, on the aeroplanes. They are ubiquitous, ( hope i got it right, i think it means - present everywhere ) and are easily spotted. They know their way around america, having spent years here on many trips, on projects in many cities and they know the exchange rate down to the last cent. They know which is the best place to buy anything, the best way to cook indian food in a hotel room, the cheapest option of travelling anywhere. They can live without air or water, but if you shut the wi-fi off, there will be a croaking noise and they start dropping like flies.
4. The waiters, the cooks, the cleaners, the cabbies, the motel workers and the bums - I put that last one in in the hope that there would be one Indian bum in this country. For the future of this race, there must be a few square pegs in round holes, a few misfits, someone who didnt study his ass off and instead grew long hair and became a bum. Havent spotted one yet, maybe the species hasnt arrived yet. Still I am hopeful.