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America, America !

February 15, 2018

Many children growing up in India dream of attending American universities someday. America is also affordable, not beyond our orbit these days. As normally perceived, it is not merely in pursuit of materialistic goals that Indian kids want to go to America.  America offers scope and opportunity for the thirsty mind and willing aptitude of our ambitious youngsters. My son too wanted to go to America – to gain knowledge first and foremost. America has been good to him and his friends. Their way of thinking has changed in mere 2 years. India offers to America brightest and clean kids who America seems to fine-tune to perfection. This is what I can say. Wherever I went in America, I could see a remarkable Indian presence. Imagine bumping into an Indian family on vacation from India every few steps in the Disney World. Or hearing the Hindi bath in the Grand Canyon. Or about Mandaveli matters in Tamil while on elevator to the Hoover Dam.  You don’t feel alien in US soil. Indians are not mistaken for Arabs or Blacks. Americans easily figure out that you are from India. Buddha and Yoga and surprisingly Lord Shiva too are everywhere! The rapport enjoyed between Americans and Indians is apparent. The two groups are very comfortable with each other. In fact, an american friend of my son came home (home in the sense, the shared apartment) just to eat my curry food. One thing that connects these two communities is: knowledge sharing and yearning to grow and develop. Besides, Indian kids are not on drugs or alcohol or whatsoever. They’re clean, disciplined, hardworking, law abiding, which goes well with academically oriented American kids.

I still wonder why my son never eveR thought of going to UK or Europe or Canada or Australia for his higher studies. India has its fair share of good universities, the IITs but he is not IIT material either. Mostly, it is only kids who cannot get into American universities via GRE-TOEFL exams who opt for Australia or UK.

Cannot even imagine what can go wrong in this great nation United States of America. Average intelligence is very good there for even high school drop outs. It is not like in India or generally in Asia. In India, the literate also are not always very smart. Smartness does not go with your academics. Whereas in the US, as far as it struck me at least, the average americans are highly tech-savvy, they know what is going on around them, are smart and are intelligent. Their basic schooling is different from what we have in India. In India, basic schooling upto Standard 12 is very rigorous but that hardly teaches us smartness or life skills. The Indian syllabus however enables us Indians to easily adapt to American universities so may be there is something right about our schools as well. Still, I get the idea that the American school is too good. Because even a matriculate there seems to be well informed whether or not he/she must have stepped into university campus.

But what I did notice however in America is, the high prevalence of drugs. Guns of course which we do not get to see as tourists. Mugging is supposedly very common. We were told, we could get killed for something as cheap as even an I Phone if we’re in the wrong place. Similar warnings in Europe too. Imagine, in India, in my hometown Chennai, women walk freely wearing diamond jewelry. It is perfectly okay to withdraw heavy cash in our ATMs in full public view. Crimes happen in my city too (of late happening because of migrant labourers from Bihar), still Chennai is a far, far safer place to live in.

Right in Miami airport, we were warned, drug peddlers and petty thieves were rampant. So we were tense there during the 2-3 hours waiting time. I don’t think I have seen a drug addict before in my life, but I knew one when I saw him for the first time in America. Drugs seemed to reek everywhere. To tell here frankly, for the first time in my life, I was scared like i had never been in India or even in Middle East. Here it seemed very different. Finally, heaved a sigh of relief catching the flight to Orlando.

Homeless people too were everywhere. I didn’t notice first. Because we in India, call them bluntly ‘beggars.’ Beggars in India are in rags always, handicapped, asking openly for alms from passersby. In America, the homeless remained in the shadows, hardly visible to our naked eyes. But once I learned to spot them, I could see them in tourist destinations, in front of malls etc. They appeared better dressed, a bit haggard that’s all. Even while begging they seemed to have some dignity in my opinion. They never asked for money openly. Passersby stopped on their own volition to give them some cents.

Someone told me in America that I seemed to be an elite Indian and that I could belong only with elite America. Not at all. I am middle-class Indian. In our society, we accord utmost importance to academics and professional career. We have engineering graduates and doctors in our family for over 3 generations now. As for America, it is a strange society to me and I cannot place people readily to whichever background they come from. All Americans seem one and the same to me.

We have to take whatever is good anywhere. Academics is too good in America. I love America for giving Indian kids knowledge over anything. One good reason for me to love America is that, my son loves America. Whatever is my son’s choice, I shall love unconditionally. Full stop.

My son never liked Middle East. He has been here on school vacations. He could not come to terms with loss of freedom here. We the expat Indians are here only for money. We have sacrificed our independence for the sake of a few precious greenbacks.

What I loved about the US was that, I could be free there as I could be in India. There was so much similarity. The freedom of the mind, the freedom of the spirit was there in America, which I didn’t have to suppress. Only in India otherwise I have that privilege.

I noted the way the Americans respected law and order, how they followed the traffic rules (especially in Florida there seems to be NO ROAD RAGE), how they loved their nation, how they nurtured nature, how they preserved everything good… Whether it is in a park reserve or restaurant or shopping mall, everyone greeted me with a hello or a good morning/good evening which I did not see anywhere in Europe. The facilities offered in universities were tremendous. Very active helpline for foreign kids. Unlike what is reported in media, America welcomes fresh immigrant talent. If there is scope for using fresh talent, they do not hesitate to hire foreign students. Most of the masters degree graduates and research students in America are either Indians or Chinese. These young men and women are encouraged to work in the US.

Tech wise too I find America much superior to Europe. Not that I am a seasoned traveler. But i find Europe backward by 100 years somewhat compared to the US. Like we in India keep ranting about our glorious past, Europe too revels too much in the past. Besides, Paris is as dirty as India and so is entire Italy. India is not as bad as some poorer European nations either. Whether it is highway standards or reservoirs or latest medical procedure or space travel, USA leads the world and is head and shoulders over and above Europe. Knowledge capital of the world, if you ask me. America is contemporary. Sorry I am tired of the classic. America is refreshing. America is innovative. America is bold and daring and young and energetic and inviting.

Mass shooting therefore shocks me more now than before. Until my US visit, America was a foreign country to me. Somehow seeing my son there loving America, makes me feel like America is India too. Cannot help the emotional attachment with America now. Past is in the history. I don’t want to dwell over the Spanish invasions or whatever. It is from America I learned recently that we have to stop talking about past in India too. What is present right here and now matters more. Future is what is important. What a perfect system the Americans have created, a role model for the entire world?

When touring NASA, I was thinking of ISRO. The earliest IRSO satellite in India was carried to the space center at the back of a bullock cart and a bicyle. NASA unlike ISRO is rich. But the spirit of ISRO was evident to me when I was visiting NASA. The same quest, the same intelligence, the same mission … ISRO is what poor India can afford… but then over 30% of NASA scientists are Indians too. Like over 30% American doctors are Indians. Over 30% American software engineers are Indians. Sundar Pichai or Satya Nadela or Indra Nooyi are not lucky coincidences. They are Hindu Indian heritage proudly now American. The Hindu Indian contribution to America is immense. No wonder, in Grand Canyon, two peaks are named as Shiva temple and Vishnu temple. The cheeky me asked whether there was an ***** temple too and they looked at me like, ‘are you crazy!’

Admire the way the Americans have streamlined everything in their country, every procedure, every system… that anything you come across there is user-friendly. Highly organized, well thought-out and pre-planned. Even their casual countryside architecture made one stop and take notice, for the simplicity and uncomplicated mechanism it presented. No frills attached. Straight as an arrow. So what is going wrong still in America.

I can only find one reason: complete breakdown of family in American society for materialistic pleasures. Women in India are not subjugating themselves to their husbands. Americans must understand this basic fact. If I am today not working, it is not because i am lazy or that my husband wants to keep me within 4 walls. It is just that, we are doing this for our family. Family is important. Family is not about merely Mothers day or Fathers day or Thanksgiving. Family means much more than that. What India has that America does not have is this family advantage.

To record frankly here, I want my son to have a happy family life in India. Individuality is celebrated in America. But happy families flourish in India.

Rounding up this post soon :

In immigration, the officer asked us while entering US: ‘you two together?’ ‘Yes’ replied my husband. ‘Husband and wife?’ asked he next. “yes’ it was i who replied this time. ‘You two live in the same house? I mean, from same residential address?’ asked the officer. I was taken aback. ‘Of course’ I replied, ‘married for 24 years!’ After a few more queries he said, ‘Madam not many are like you, you know? even if you stay married so long, you don’t have to live together! and even if you are visiting your son together, you need not have to stay married for that! Nice!’ with that he returned our passports saying, ‘enjoy your stay in America, welcome to America!’

In under 2 minutes, the officer showed me a glimpse of America. I thought I had a pretty normal regular Indian life. This life in India, we take for granted. We look with envy at fast cars, foreign holiday destinations, shopping festivals etc., etc., and think our life sucks. But what we have in India, is something precious – hardly anybody sees that.

I am no expert in anything. But let Americans start believing in family once again and let them rebuild their families. I cannot understand this nonsense space. I mean, we all need space. But over a point, the so-called enforced space is too much. It turns people into islands. Unreachable. Remote. This is no good.

Now concerned for our kids in America. Please America, take better care of our kids. We have given them to you in silver platter. They are too good, you know. Sweetest, smartest, brightest. Made in India with such a love, care and trust. All the goodness of India packaged into our kids.

God bless America!

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