Sunday, 24 April 2016

U S Visit - An Epilogue

In my preceding 3 pieces on this subject, i have narrated 3 of the places of interest that we visited during our recent U S trip. Here is an overview:

In the first, i have narrated how the first thing that the protagonist of the novel Half A Girlfriend by Chetan Bhagat notices during his maiden visit to U S of A is that there is no honking by vehicles on U S roads, as is common in India. He also felt that the sky is bluer in U S A. I too noticed these things. Roads are very wide and there are different lanes for vehicles with different speed.  The number of cars on the road is much larger but they move in a disciplined manner. When a driver changes the speed, he/she simply moves to the appropriate lane. There is no close overtaking and hence no need for honking. 

At Kennedy Space Centre, NASA,Meritt Island, Florida, U S A

The reason for the sky appearing bluer is that there is almost no dust. The two sides of most roads in India are full of dust and speeding vehicles blow these up into the air. In contrast, both the sides of U S roads are covered with grass, leaving no scope for heaps of dust. The climate is colder than that in India and this prevents the grass from drying up, leaving no space for dust.

   Entrance of Kennedy Space Centre

The minimum stipulated speed is 40 miles (64 KMs) and the maximum varies from 50 to 80 miles (80 to 120 KMs). (In USA, Metric System is not followed and so ‘mile’ as a unit of measuring distance is used and so are ‘pound’ and ‘gallon’ for measuring weight and liquids respectively.)  I did not notice any disorderly driving. Once i saw a road-sign saying ‘Traffic Congestion next 7 miles'. There is no disorderly driving even when there is a little congestion. I never saw crowded or disorderly vehicles as in India, particularly at railway level crossings. Whenever there is an accident, the police and ambulance reach the spot almost immediately.

I did not see any two-wheeler or pedestrian on most roads. Pedestrians were there in shopping areas. And i was struck by the habit of American drivers stopping their vehicles to allow a pedestrian to pass first. In India, pedestrians, trying to cross roads, create a zebra crossing for themselves by extending both their arms to stop vehicles from running over them! 

I did not notice any corner-shops as is the common sight in India. There are huge malls and almost all transactions are cashless, use of cards being the usual way. There is no M R P (Maximum Retail Price) concept. All packaged commodities are required in India to print the M R P on the packs. However, there being completely free enterprise system in U S A, malls decide prices basing on their cost, profit-margin and other factors and indicate the price on the respective shelves. Quite often, the price of the same product is different at different times and at different malls. Free competition is the most effective regulator of prices in U S A. I was reminded of a lesson which i had learnt while studying Business Economics in the M B A Course: In a competitive economy, individual entrepreneurs are not price-makers but price-takers. There is no bargaining while buying products in USA.

Another aspect of shopping i noticed is that if a customer wishes to return an item purchased, malls gladly accept it even if the packing has been opened. The amount is refunded fully without any reservation. In India, shop-keepers do not accept if the packet has been opened. Also, the amount is generally not returned; the customer has to buy another item of the same or higher price. Once i went to a shop near my house at Bhubaneswar to return an item and did not wish to purchase another one. The shop keeper gave me a kind of a kutcha credit note for the amount written on a piece of paper. I had to redeem it part by part by purchasing from the same shop other items. Each time, the shop keeper reduced the amount of the ‘credit note’ till the full amount was redeemed!

Buying on credit for any and every purpose is an American habit. I noticed that there were establishments which give loans against the security of car titles, i.e., against ownership papers. Once i read that if you have $10 in your pocket and no debt, you are richer than 75% of the Americans. Borrowing for all purposes is common in U S A. It is said that Americans love to spend tomorrow’s income today!     

While in U S A, i used to read, among other things, Odia newspapers on the internet. On the 1st March, 2016, the Odia newspaper The Sambad published an article by Bhagaban Prakash. It dealt with the book titled ‘Twenty-one Habits I Lost in India’ by the American photographer Rachel Rueckert. The first American habit she gave up in India was timeliness. Most of the things do not happen on time. The writer talks of the micro-oven culture of U S A; everything is done instantly and on time. She has said that the Indian habit of washing rather than wiping after visiting a toilet is healthier. The author had felt that churches taking a full one hour to solemnize a marriage in USA was too long. This, till she observed an Indian marriage which takes a full week and preparations for it start six months or more ahead. In the West, marriage takes place between two persons but in India, marriages are between two families and more of their extended families. She was also struck by the Indian system of arranged marriages.  The author writes that in India one comes across historical monuments and heritage every 50 to 100 kilometres, which are 500 to 5000 years old. In contrast, American civilization and history are only 400 years old.

During our stay in USA, we had visited among other places, Kennedy Space Centre in Merritt Island of Florida State. We also spent almost a full day in Disneyland. Photos taken at Kennedy Space Centre are at the beginning of this post. Those taken at Disneyland are here:

At Disneyland

This was my third visit to U S A; the wife had visited 4 times and had stayed for longer periods. At those times, we had visited among other places, the UN Headquarters, White House Visitor Centre, Smithsonian Institute, Lincoln Memorial, World War II Memorial, Holocaust Memorial, Empire State Building, World Trade Centre which had been ravaged by terrorists, Statue of Liberty and Niagara Falls. Here are some of the photos.

Statue of Liberty    

UN Headquarters

White House 

  Smithsonian Institution

Niagara Falls in the evening

Lincoln Memorial

Your support is so comfortable, Grandpa!
(With Grand Daughter I, 2006)

USA is very advanced as far as material wealth is concerned but in the pursuit of material happiness, a little of human values goes missing. A husband and a wife have to say many times during a day, “I love you.”, to show his or her love for the partner. Indians do not have to expressly say so; such sentiments underlie relationships and are understood by actions. Children on becoming adults, go on their own and live separately. Old parents have to fend for themselves. I read in a book by an Odia author about his feelings on a visit to USA. One weekend, he saw a young man, his wife and small children visiting a house adjacent to where he was staying. After sometime, he saw the couple bringing out a dead body from the house. The old lone resident of the building had died a couple of days before, unnoticed by anybody. The visitors, the old man’s son and daughter-in-law discovered his death on their visit to him at the week-end! Of course, as a price of ‘progress’, old parents having to live on their own, has started happening in India too. :(

I also found that 40% of the births in U S A are from unwed mothers.

While in U S, the wife and i had a very good time with the grand children, daughter and son of Daughter I.

Just before our U S visit, Daughter I and II and their families had visited us together. The Daughter-in-law, about whom i had written an earlier post, had joined us along with her daughter. Our home hummed with activity.

  Three grandchildren on a swing set up at our home (December, 2015)

We had a gala time together. :))))))) 

The children also enjoyed our company very much. I was reminded of how Dennis of Denis, the Menace cartoon strip feels great when his grandpa visits them.

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