Here and there

Here and there

The city lights of San Francisco glittered like a hundred jewels, warmly welcoming me after a long and arduous flight. The roads, with their zooming cars and no potholes or traffic jams, made me gape. The route from the airport to my daughter's house saw me looking out of the window, taking in each and every sight like a small child.

The next few days were a blur. Jet lag, the new environment, the cold weather, the friendly people, clean and green public spaces and a general holiday feeling. The overwhelming feeling was a sense of longing and sadness. We, back home in India, had everything. Resources, money, talent, people… So, why weren't we more organised? Why do our streets have to be littered? The poeple who went out of their way to be nice and friendly to their adopted countrymen, looked down upon their own kin. Most of my classmates, who migrated to the US about 30 years ago, turned down their nose at the mention of their motherland. Their wives were adamant about not returning and most children had a few protected glimpses of their country of origin.

The hygienic public washrooms, the availability of sanitary pads for a small fee, the general concern for the next user, the automatic flushes and the dry areas there made me think of the hardships women undergo here in India. Finding a clean washroom with running water remains a challenge in even the so-called posh areas. There was no staring, no groping or passing demeaning remarks at even the scantily clad, cleavage-showing women. No one gave a second look at cuddling, kissing couples, except, perhaps, yours truly!

The pedestrians were given first priority. It amused me when all cars stopped for a single person crossing the road. Back home, he would have had a volley
of choicest abuses hurled at him by all, only if he was lucky to have no one hurtling him to the netherworld with their speed, aided by the potholes on the road.

The friendliness of everyone stumped me. It reminded me of the Bangalore of yore, when all were greeted with "akka" (elder sister) or "anna" (elder brother). Every conversation there, be it with a mall attendant, a waiter, a taxi driver or a clerk started off with a "Hi, how are you?" It was very similar to our " coffee aaytha" (Did you have coffee?) to all and sundry.

I landed in Bengaluru after the vacation. Soon enough, the traffic jams, two-wheelers on pavements, pedestrians crossing blindly and the loud honks made me feel at home. An empty chips packet, hurled from a passing car, hit me straight
on the nose! The sight of men using walls as urinals and people spitting indiscriminately made me wince. I looked away as a girl in jeans was ogled at.

"How was your trip?" asked friends. "It was wonderful, it showed me what our country has contributed to other countries but failed to do so here!"

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