Thursday, October 17, 2013

65 PERCEPTIONS My American Daughter: My Daughter from America - T he TITLE CAME TO ME ON THE WAY back after dropping her at the airport. Twenty years back she had immigrated to USA in search of the elusive pot of Gold at the end of the rainbow, this time she had come searching for an even bigger pot at this end of the rainbow. Having explored Bangalore, Cochin and back waters of Kerela, on a short business trip, she entered the flat, after the evening flight, distraught, confused, elated and disorientated. The next four days of her stay were chaotic, difficult and stressful for all. She now an American citizen, with American values, appeared a bit lost, a some what confused a bit sad and a bit upset. Not knowing what she wanted ,was annoyed because she did not have it. In side the house she was missing her mother, father being no substitute, for the girly talk; unburdening of the soul to each other. Outside the house, possibly diffused by the trauma of her mothers passing, impressions of Delhi/India were not so vivid this time. And India has much changed in the last ten years, since her last visit and so had Delhi and Noida. The Delhi of yore, of her teenage carefree days, had been totally absorbed by the so called progress that had since taken places : the milling crowds, the chaotic traffic, the blaring horns, the daredevils on their, guided missiles the motor cycles, the three wheelers, randomly, weaving in and out of the traffic, the jay walking pedestrians so alien to her eyes and the plethora of Malls, even a metro in Noida. The conflict of culture, now an American National with allegiance to Star and Stripes, the dilemma; to join or not in the community singing of Janaganaman, the explicit and strong business language picked over time still an anathema in the backward Indian house, the ubiquitous Laptop, a barrier to conversation and the unethical Indian businessman with whom she had to deal from USA and lately face to face in India. The unreconciled inner and outer conflict was creating stress and keeping her, most of the time, on short fuse. To make the matters worse, I, still living in the past was not making matters easy all around. REJOINDER - MY INDIAN FATHER: MY FATHER IN INDIA I was elated and excited. I was finally going to see my family. My brother came to pick me up at the airport. He was the same old big bear of a guy with a grin on his face expressing his pleasure at seeing me again. We checked the Virginian into a nearby hotel and drove to my father’s apartment. He met us at the door and I gave him a hug before walking in. I looked around. The last time I was here, was when my mother passed away, 10 years ago. It was a sad home at that time and I realized there was still sadness in the air. It was suddenly very difficult for me to be there. My father was still mourning. Over the next few days I realized that my brother and father lived separate lives. They rattled around the apartment each doing their own thing and sometimes passing each other like silent ships on the sea. Sometimes they took tea with me in the afternoon before they once again went their respective ways. Those were the best times. We talked and talked and talked. Delhi is one big dust bowl now. It has apparently finally “arrived” and is considered one of the big cities of the world. Traffic is now a gigantic snarl instead of just a jam. One evening on my last visit in November 2009, we were on Ring Road close to Red Fort area and were trying to get back to Noida. It was truly frightening to see the mess we almost got into had it not been for the quick thinking of the guy driving who turned off to take a less crowded road. There was a time when Ring Road was the quickest way to get around Delhi. But it has been 20 years since I’ve lived in India and things change. Whether it’s for the better still remains to be seen. On a small scale it is apparent. The electricity does not go off every hour on the hour. There is bottled water. The help have cell phones or mobiles as they call them in India. Better pharmacies. TV offers a better choice of programs some even educational if they can get away from riveting Bollywood. The big picture to me shows a jungle of itty bitty foreign cars that all “scream”. Where do people need to get to in such a hurry? This is noise pollution and as they say in America, “there ought to be a law against it”. Where is my Green Delhi? What happened to the simple life? Well it was “Relatively” simpler. Now there is Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day both very good occasions. But if you love your Mother and if you love your beloved isn’t every day a special day? Capitalism has caught on like a ‘house on fire’. Ugly billboards visible everywhere like weeds in a manicured lawn each one trying to out-do the other. “Look at me, look at me,” they each seem to be shouting. No sense of esthetics. What is the point of high-rises and overpasses and the Metro, all apparent signs of progress, if the idea of “maintenance” is not ingrained and an integral part of progress? I went to Bhikaiji Kama place to see a vacant office space. The inner courtyard of the building and its walls were covered in a sea of red from pan spit. Why does everyone say to me “yeh toh India hai bhai…time moves slowly here”? If that is so where are those "screaming" cars going to then in such a hurry? I realized that it had really been too long since my last meeting with my father. It was easy enough to carry-on a long distance relationship via the telephone with him every week but I was mistaken if I thought it would be just as easy face to face. Right there it morphed into a different story. He does not realize it but he has been living alone for too long and has become set in his ways. This is not so bad if one is an island. But interaction does require a little give and take. I freely admit that I am stubborn too so these are issues we need to work on. We need to probably meet more than once every 10 years. I have asked him to come to America a gazillion times.


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