At the risk of being labelled immodest, I must say that the last month has been an extremely hectic for me. I got a serendipitous opportunity to visit the US on account of our company’s annual sales meet, and so have been traversing the globe for the past fortnight. I spent a professionally fruitful six days in an uncharacteristically gloomy Dallas, and then voyaged to a perennially sunny Florida for three days. But before I continue, I would be amiss if I did not offer my heartfelt thanks to our family friends Nandini and Shri, who played the perfect hosts during my sojourn in Florida. In addition to hosting me in their opulent abode, they took me sightseeing, shopping and fed me some gastronomically delightful meals. Other than their interest in food, their love for retro Hindi songs and Hindustani classical music, struck a resonant chord within me, which made our conversations refreshing and relaxing at the same time.
I have always complained about immigration and customs officials in India, but after a tiring two-hour wait at Dallas airport, I changed my opinion. The immigration clearance took an hour (but was alleviated by the very helpful immigration officer) and the subsequent customs clearance (by an absolutely grumpy official) took another hour – with just two counters to handle the humungous non-US crowd from more than five international flights that landed during this period, this was to be expected. In stark contrast, on my return it took me just 20 minutes to exit (with baggage) from Mumbai airport! You can usually gauge the vibe of a city through its taxi drivers, and the cabbie who transported me to the hotel was an affable chap who spoke amiably and jovially. So, barring the unwarranted tribulation at the airport, Dallas was generally good to me – the foggy weather notwithstanding. After five days of hectic activity in Dallas (the day would begin at 7 am and end only by 10 pm), I flew to Florida via Baltimore. Florida was sun and fun! The water-taxi ride down the Biscayne bay, passing the residences of some ludicrously rich celebrities was awesome. The enduring taste of salt on my lips (water splashing due to the slightly choppy lagoon), was nothing short of spectacularly memorable. I had always seen the (in)famous Miami beach and Ocean Drive in many American movies and TV shows. The blatantly over-dramatic Horatio Caine (David Curaso) strutting down this stretch in CSI: Miami had always made me envious, and a visit had been on my bucket list. So walking down the drive was like a dream come true – the day being warm and sunny helped in the place living up to its insalubrious reputation. I must easily have been the most overdressed person in that area that day! I also saw the Monarch Hill Renewable Energy Park (infamously termed Mount Trashmore) – a 225-foot high landfill, that currently takes in an average of 3500 tons of garbage every day, to be converted into bio-fuel. A visit to the Everglades was also on my list, but I have left it for the next time. But even in the notoriously iniquitous state of Florida, vehicle drivers are disciplined and follow traffic rules religiously. Of course there were a few who cut lanes dangerously, but this was more of an exception than a norm.
Which leads me to a disturbing trend which I noticed in America during Donald Trump’s swearing-in ceremony. For a country which is the self-proclaimed “greatest democracy in the world”, demonstrations and sporadic incidents of violence against a lawfully elected President, is unbecoming. The Indian media pales in comparison to its vindictive, vituperative and vicious American counter-part. In the few talk shows that I watched, the media seemed to be heavily favouring the anti-Trump protestors, while paying very little heed to his supporters. Even sane and unbiased voices were drowned in the superfluous cacophony created by the loquacious dissenters. In any healthy democracy both sides need to be heard without bias, which currently does not seem to be happening in America. It seems to have become a classic case of “us” against “them” with battle lines clearly drawn, and the hitherto concealed prejudices of Americans coming out into the open. Politicians in India definitely have it easy compared to their contemporaries in America!
Meanwhile I got a lot of forwarded memes which praised the way the outgoing American President walked away into a glorious sunset (rhetorical) without creating a fuss and moving in to a modest house (not entirely true), unlike our outgoing politicians who cling to pelf and perks even after retiring (usually after almost a century of “serving” people). But if you honestly reflect on this, you will realize that we are ourselves are to blame for this deplorable state of affairs. Even after almost seven decades of independence, we allow our democracy to die a slow death by manipulating ourselves to the whims and fancies of our media and politicians. So it is high time for Indians to clear the cobwebs of our mind…