Now that three months have passed since my return from America, I find myself able to look back upon visit there with more perspective. So here goes, " A beginners guide to America - The north eastern part "
Disclaimer - I only saw a few cities and towns. Bits of Boston, Manhattan, Baltimore, DC, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. I saw a lot of Air Tran and also travelled by Greyhound, Amtrak, Chinese Bus Service, Taxicabs, Cars and on foot. I had never visited this country and my first visit was if not an eyeopener, but definitely a fresh experience.
Ever since my return from the US of A I have been trying to put a finger on what exactly it was that struck me as different. What was the character of the place that I visited. How did it make me feel.
As always when I cant think of a one word answer, I settle for 10. So there goes - 10 words that describe what I felt -
1. Scale - I felt everything was a bit out of scale, or atleast in a different scale than poor old india. The cars were bigger and so were the people. The buildings were bigger and so were the styrofoam cups. It seemed like everything had 10% extra, to make it bigger and better. Coming from a place where a lot of people share less resources and can't really afford to waste anything, the feeling of being in a place of plenty was exhilarating. It however did feel out of place, and not in sync with its users. The scale was not really so firmly linked to the Human Scale and sometimes one felt out of place in some settings, as if we were preparing all of this for some super being who would come and occupy the world we were creating.
2. Rumble - This was the soundtrack of America. The deep rumble of rubber on tarmac. No horns honking, no whistles blowing, no voices arguing, no brakes screeching, no birds twittering. Just the steady sound of rubber purring over the roads. Wherever one went, one was followed by this steady buzz and hiss. The roads were smooth, the cars in good shape. So no creaking sounds, no bumping sounds. Just a smooth steady rumble all day and all night, everyday and everynight, everywhere.
3. Sugar - This was the taste of america. Specially corn based fructose. Sweeteners. Additives. Sweet stuff everywhere. On donuts, in milkshakes, in fizzy drinks, sweets, candy and desserts. Some cold drinks had so much sugar, that if you let them stand for a while and then take a sip you felt like you were drinking syrup.
got tired...will continue later.
4. Alchohol - Alchohol was everywhere. Socializing means drinking alchohol. Having a good time means drinking lots of liquor. Amazing variety of wine, beer, whiskey, rum, vodka, tequila in the stores where one would almost get giddy drunk just browsing through the displays. Favourites- Sam Adams, Guinness, Jim Beam, all varieties of tequila. Put on lots of weight and developed a curious dependency on the divine spirit. Gradually returning to normal and drying out.
5. Sterile and Fertile - These two words kept popping up in my head when i roamed around america. Sometimes it seemed so cut and dried. So antiseptic and so squeaky clean. Sterile means
Not producing or incapable of producing offspring. Not producing or incapable of producing seed, fruit spores, or other reproductive structures. Used of plants or their parts. Producing little or no vegetation; unfruitful: sterile land.
Free from live bacteria or other microorganisms: a sterile operating area; sterile instruments. Lacking imagination, creativity, or vitality. Lacking the power to function; not productive or effective; fruitless: a sterile discussion.
It did seem like the last generation. There didnt seem to be anything new springing up, any new directions, new movements, fresh growths. America seemed stuck in the mould of itself. To grow is to change. To change one must shed some part of the old. Thats where I felt the society was a bit sterile, since to shed some part of the old now might get called Un-American. There was a bit too much predictability in the experiences one had there.
The land was fertile though. Very fertile. Lush turgid rivers, fat green trees, huge overfed squirrels and enormous quantities of food. The human layer which has been laid over the earth layer seemed incongruous, a sterile icing on a rich nutty cake. I kept hoping to find something organic, something that grew out of the earth and grew according to the constraints of nature. Instead of that, one could feel the heavy machinery and the imposing human will that had leveled mountains, flattened hills and build huge boxes of concretes called malls everywhere.
6. Smile - I never saw so many smiles in a day as I did in America. I felt happy thinking that the sight of me was making people light up with a big smile, but later I came to realise that its the default facial expression. Everyone had great white teeth, perfect dental work and the ability to keep smiling for longer than I would have thought physically possible.
7. Color - Black and White and the shades in between - For the first time I was living somewhere where most of the people didnt look like me, not even in the shades of their skin colors. I ended up sharing a house with a pale gentle commercial artist and a stocky grinning tanned engineer. It was nice feeling to see so much variety around. African origins, Asian origins, European origins, Middle eastern origins and the various other types were all mixed up in the malls and in the streets. DC was pretty nicely mixed up and I missed that when I travelled to Boston. Somehow there was less variety there. I saw a west african pub which was filled with the sound of reggae and shook with energy while besides it was a cafe pub with classic rock playing and white folks sitting around conversing. Parallel worlds which met and separated and met and separated again.
an "a to z" of thoughts, conversations, remarks, observations,musings about
auroville, bhutan, cricket, delhi, english, freedom, gurgaonwa, holy cows, india, journeys, kitsch, laughter, money, nepal, outsourcing, poetry, quotes, roorkee, sufism, troublemakers, urbanisation, virtue, war, x-rated stuff, yarns and zen.