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jaipur, rajasthan, India
retired Army Colonel

Sunday, June 26, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 11


“Saarikaa, my daughter, has two free passes to spare for Bronx Zoo. Would you like to come with us?” Mr Garg asked me on the phone. I immediately jumped at the offer. Yuvraj & Vidushi being away on White Water Rafting to Poconos in Leigh River, we could not have had a better way to spend Saturday and save $60.00 too. Mr & Mrs Garg are from Jaipur and met us a month back while doing grocery in Grove Street. “What is this Bronx?” I asked Sarika. She informed me that Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Staten Island are five boroughs of NYC. I realised, except Staten Island we have been to all of these. At about 10.30 AM or so, we detrained at West Farm Square to walk up the Zoo, 2 minutes away. Apart from seeing some rare wild life we had a nice picnic with our packed lunch in a joyous green environment. Saarikaa, very conscientiously follows Buddhism and found time to give me a crahed discourse over a glass of Budweiser. “NAM MYOHO RENGE KYO” is the mantra that they chant to get wisdom and thus an ability to speak right words at right time, meet right people at right time and be at the right place at the right time. This would allow the chanters of the mantra to get rid of (–)ve karmas of money, health and relationships. The young lady spoke with an honest conviction in her eyes. I got quite impressed. She is a Business Analyst in Morgan & Stanley in Jersey City. Saturday was well spent.
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American News just does not talk of India. In fact, generally of no other country except where US Forces are deployed. I do not think a common citizen here is keen to know of world affairs. The issues discussed are more socio-economic than political. Neither, the ruling Govt is made to look like a nincompoop nor there is stream of sensational stories, scams and scandals. The news channels that way are quite drab and I prefer surfing net for e-papers. What I like about TV here are lot of Golf lessons and free movies on demand. I saw some old hits, John Wayne, Rock Hudson, Clint Eastwood, Richard Burton, and Gregory Pack starrers. 
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Common  Americans are quite food-centric,  it seems. They eat and eat.  The abundance and varieties of foods and drinks in market is mind blowing and so are the eating joints. Obviously, obesity comes as no surprise. The blacks and Mexicans, in particular are obese to an alarming and obnoxious level and even scary. Yet, they are not shy of glutting steaks and guzzling Coke. In fact, even the pets have such variety of food that I feel sad for children in Somalia, Sudan and some other African countries, fighting starvation and malnutrition.       

Monday, June 20, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 10 US Open 2011


3.45 AM, the snooze went off...….I was wide awake, a little before that. A very long day lay ahead of us but the excitement of US Open final round was overbearing. Our journey envisaged multiple modes of transportation, one linked to the other like a chain. We required clockwork precision to execute it back to back. I am glad we did it to the perfection and at 1.15 PM, as planned we got into the Congressional Country Club, Bethseda, Md. Believe me; the aura was tremendous and breath-taking. “It looks like some big festival here!” Sunita exclaimed. She was so very right. The golfing fraternity had overwhelmed the grounds. Tiger or no Tiger, I am sure there could not have been a larger gallery. Men, women and children of all ages were sporting best of their bohemian gears…straw-hats; sun shades, Oakleys, full and half cargos, bright Ts and ladies were in some of the best summer casuals.  The beer was over flowing and fine catering laid out best of out-door cuisine on their Bill-of-Fare. An occasional whiff in the air would fill your nostrils with aroma of fine tobacco coming from an old fashioned, smoking cigars. I love both, the odour and the style. The Trophy Halls were set up for the guests to collect some very creatively designed stylish souvenirs of the Open. I bought few but not as many as I would have liked to. The dollar equation is very harsh.
 McIlroy was to Tee off at 3.20 PM and we knew he would be practicing at this hour. So, we straight went for the practice range where he and Yang were honing their Drivers. He looked like a school boy practicing as his father and the coach stood by him. Chinky got fascinated by the club cover, a soft toy, he had. The weather had suddenly warmed up and beer with its froth and chill looked very tempting. Yuvraj joined the queue to fetch some and I continued watching “The Man” and his power full swing observing the extended follow-through and copy book finish. Yang, on the other hand looked like a more seasoned pro with an improvised swing. We moved to Tee No 1 and saw Jacobson and Gariggus, Westwood and Day, Garcia and Kuchhar , McIlroy and Yang teeing off. It was not possible to be everywhere on the course and neither my health permitted me to run around. Luckily, American Express, one of the sponsors, had given us radio ear plugs free of cost which broadcasted the running commentary. That kept us well informed all along. Sunita and I settled down for the grand stand overlooking Hole No 15, while young Vidushi and Yuvraj went about chasing players.
The Open was being played on the Blue course, and the club has another one, called Gold. The terrain is hilly and engulfs natural water bodies strategically incorporated in to the course. Almost a century old, towering and magnificent Club House on a hillock, overlooks 10th and 18th Greens separated by a water line. The picturesque course is a Golf-dream for anyone; its membership is for almost 100 thousand dollars and waiting period is 8-9 years. The course is in its best shape and Greens are wearing Annual Bluegrass (Poa annua). At 4 mm cut they are lightning fast.
Watching any sport on TV is very edifying but unless there in the middle, you miss out totally the real touch and feel of the milieu. Your own arcs of sights are your own and not of the camera men. You see what you want to see and not what they show you. Also, you lend up seeing what you actually never wanted to see. We could hear more and see less of the prize distribution and closing ceremony. McIlroy won at 16 under par with 8 stroke lead.
The very long day ended at 4.00AM in the morning when we reached home dead tired and hit the bed straight. Mr Dhameja came to look me up in the morning and said “for you it looks like a pilgrimage.” I think that sums up.
( PS: no cameras/mobiles were permitted on the course so could not click any.)
  

Thursday, June 16, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 9




It is a very common sight in Jersy City, to see middle aged Indian parents, like us, doing groceries in the market places or taking walks in the evening along the Hudson River water front. They are here to see their prosperous children and feel great moments of satisfaction, gratification, pride and joy. Apart from being academically bright, these children are modern day Shravan Kumars. They understand the toilsome role played by their middle class parents in shaping up their future and wish to repay now. But, the American children are not so lucky. They neither have such devoted parents nor their Govt, like Indian, subsidise 
the Higher Education. That would explain why Indian and Chinese are wresting most of the jobs here.
 The American families are not as sacrosanct as Indian and people here are fiercely independent and private. Old people tend to live their last days on social-securities and reverse mortgages, regardless of their off springs. The complexities of family-inheritance impel charity to various organisations, rather passage to progeny. Young men and women opt for petty jobs to live an un-meddled life rather pursue higher education on loan and build a career.  President, Barak H Obama is right when he warns his country children to study. The complacency amongst the next generation of any affluent society or family is very natural and America is experiencing the same. Yet, construing the decline of American hegemony would be more than wrong. The myriads of strengths this nation has built over centuries will remain insurmountable and can easily afford few indolent generations to come.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 8



(Lalli & Raju are sons and Nisha & Shweta are daughters-in-law of Mausi ji)   
                                      
When the fire alarm went off there was little anxiety but no              
panic. Though, Lalli had covered its sensor with a plastic carry bag, the smoke from Havan was enough to let it go. Thank God Fire Brigade did not get activated. We were at Sunita’s Mausi ji’s house in NYC, uptown for a weekend, and going through a pooja. As Estate Manager of   a Shopping Mall in Jaipur, I found shop keepers doing the same with dhoop & aggarbatti. Apart from the false alarm it would pollute the HVAC system as well. We should be sensible not to do these smoky affairs in an air conditioned enclosed spaces. But faith and logic do not go together.
Thereafter, it was feast of Poori, Chhole, Halwa, and Choorma for lunch. For a moment we thought that we are back in India. Mausi ji was very excited to have us over and didn’t want to stop feeding us. I over ate that afternoon.  Nisha and Lalli took us out for sightseeing in the evening and on Sunday afternoon to Jones Beach on Long Island. They were such a great company. Shweta insisted so much that we had to extend our stay by another day and enjoy her hospitality.
 Much against our comfort, we were loaded with the gifts and on Monday morning, Raju drove us back right up to our apartment. I am thankful to him for saving us from the precarious train journey. we will foster this new found relationship and cherish every moment of i.We visited the Rehabilitation Centre where Sunita’s Mausa ji is battling with life for the last 12 years. He suffered a brain stroke which cruelly left him neuroleptic. It was heartening to see the way American society 
looks after their old. We need to learn a lot from them. In fact the respect for human life that they have is laudable. On roads the motor cars wait for the walkers to cross, traffic comes to halt when a School Bus is collecting or disbursing children and juniors will offer seats to elders & ladies in the trains. The children and pets are protected by the law against all kind of violence, including punitive parents.
I, for the first time experienced the drive-in bank with Raju on our way back to Jersy City. You could do all your banking while sitting in the car with an amazing efficiency and speed. I observed that in USA it is the convenience of people which is paramount and the attitude of the providers is positive. They focus on “why Not?” rather “Why?” in India.That is what possibly, makes this country so strong and powerful.  

Thursday, June 9, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 7


The summers have set in and Americans are out with their grills, tents, yachts and bikes. Children are up with their Tree Houses, hammocks, basket balls, base balls. The back yards are alive on weekends with barbeques, music, games, pets and portable water pools. I was part of this fun and frolic in back yards of Deepa jiji’s house in Aurora. In suburbs people have distinct style of living and these localities are designed keeping same in mind.
I observe with an astute interest that, practically there are no boundary walls around the houses in USA. It fascinates me a lot. Reasons apart, in India we could have provided free houses to so many poor people instead of making these walls. Come and think of it, these walls are really a colossal waste besides, that they keep people divided. Since, time immemorial a stigma has also been attached to these dividing walls in our society. And it is rightly so, I feel. Yet we need them to our own peril.
The absence of such walls gives a very delightful feeling about any township or residential locality here because of the openness it unfastens. It allows larger and unhindered back yards where one lawn can sprawls to the other, children can play around unabated, the pets can run and hop uninterrupted and neighbours may move across conveniently. The front lawns extend up to the road and houses look very approachable and open. The mail boxes stand smiling with their flaps up. All these synergise the environment to get friendly and cordial.
On the contrary in India first we raise 6’ of boundary walls, then fix broken glass bottles on the rim so that no one can even dream of trespassing. The richer you are, higher is the boundary wall and it gets to next level as security wall. The main gate is quite deterrence. It adds to claustrophobia if it is totally blind in consonance to the walls. The cluttering by these walls can certainly be avoided, if we are little civic in our culture.
I would be na├»ve to imagine such a concept being tried in India but the fact remains that it is because of silly, stupid and scrupulous reasons that we remain at such a loss. We, much to the contrary of a good society, unabashedly prove an old saying true i.e. “good neighbours will have good fence.”


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 6


Mr & Mrs Dhameja from Mumbai, like us, are also here to visit their son. We met in the gym and got friends. Yesterday, over a cup of tea in their apartment, we exchanged notes; especially on keeping one entertained. I showed Mr Dhameja how to use Youtube on his new I Pad and listen to his favourite old hindi film songs. We will also be taking them around local places so that they get acquainted. Not bad, after 55 days in USA we start guiding people.
         Actually, now the aura and awe of USA has slowly subsided. To be honest, this country was never strange to me. Books, Movies, Internet and geography taught by Mr MS Rautela in school had virtually created a picture which was quite akin to the real. Yet, in the beginning I was not so very comfortable here because of a thought that Indians are not welcomed here constantly pricked my esteem. This idea is not baseless and cannot be brushed aside so easily; but I needed different approach to deal with it. Yuvraj and Vidushi set this right for me. The younger lot seems to be quite forthright on this issue and give a damn. They argue “we are here legally and pay for everything as much as any American. We are here because they are not as good as we are. We are part of Free Economy and whose major promoter has been USA only.” I tend to agree with them and trying to realign my thoughts.
These 55 days have been quite eventful. We have been going out to a vinery, beaches, river sides, shopping malls, eating joints, visit some distant relatives around NY, Golfing and loafing around in the down town. Our visit to Alba vineyard nestled in beautiful Finesville village about 20 miles from here was a life time experience. We tasted 8 types of some fabulous wines and I am carrying one for Jaipur as a souvenir.
It is not a complaint but an itch. I have not been able to play as much golf as I would like to. Except for a round in Paramus and a range practice in Chelsea Piers, there has been no golf. Reasons are two. One, golf is damn expensive here and two, the courses are not easily accessible. I really miss golf and golfing buddies back home in Jaipur. Courtesy Face Book I keep in touch with them for amusement sake. I was earlier looking forward to watch US Open at Congressional Country Club, Bethesda, Maryland, near Washington DC, but not now. Tiger Woods has pulled out of the tournament and it is a show without a hero. I wish we had not bought the tickets. Vidushi claims she wants to learn golf but bismillah kab hoga khuda jane. Golf has not been the best out here.


Another 55 days more to go. We do not know what is in store for us. No planning at all. But it adds to the thrill. We will watch as they unfold……

Friday, June 3, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 5


Meeting old NDA friends will remain very special part of my visit to USA. I doubt, Pt Jawahar Lal Nehru and Lord Mountbatten, the founders of this great institution ever visualised the intensity of camaraderie that was to germinate amongst its cadets in years to follow. After tens of years we meet as if the clock has not clicked. I was lucky to meet PP, Dhindsa, Brig BK Jain,  RK Gupta, Shokin, Pritam Sirur, Kishan Sirohi in this foreign land. On one of those weekends in last month, we drove down to visit Washington DC.  PP lives there in suburbs; Burke, Virginia. He organised a dinner for us and called others to make it an unforgettable reunion of ex NDAs. Despite, Mrs PP working that day and next early morning they were to drive to visit their children who are studying at VCU at Richmond, he laid out best of scotch and sumptuous dinner. While sipping our drinks we caught up on the lost years. PP and I were together in War College at Mhow in 1995 and had not met since then. Dhindsa narrated his journey from Indian Navy to “7 ELEVEN” chain of stores that he runs on franchise now. PP is placed at a senior level in the same organisation. It was pleasure meeting Brig BK Jain and his wife who is from Jaipur (my home town). He is a war veteran from elite 9 PARA (SF) and lost his leg during “Operation Pavan” as part of IPKF in Sri Lanka. Presently, he is posted as Defence Attache to USA and doing great. He was also an attraction with Yuvraj and Vidushi during those small talks in the beautiful backyard of PP’s house. It was so nice and gratifying evening that would remain with me for ever.
 (Post Script: We got so damn’ talking old NDA stuff that slipped up on taking photo graphs….never to be excused but I still say “sorry”) 




   Shokin Chauhan was on official visit to Bahamas and he could manage to fly down to New York. RK Gupta picked him up from JFK and braught straight to my place. We had cold beer and lunch with Brownstone Diners here in Jersy City. We were updated by Shokin and RK Gupta narrated his immigration story with a tragic death of his brother who was to anchor his initial stay here. NDA guys sail through fighting and he did so.
 And now, Neeraj Tandon is insisting for quite some time that I must visit Canada where he lives. I need Visa for the same. We decided to meet halfway at Niagara Falls. That is how NDA course mates 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My USA visit. ......continued leg 4



We are aboard Jetblue flight 910 from O’Hare to JFK and carrying along with us some very fond memories of our Chicago trip. I thought of writing my blog as everything is so fresh in my mind:

It was great knowing Navneet ji and rediscovering Deepa jiji during our stay with them at Chicago. They make much contended and a happy couple matured over vagaries of time like an old wine. To be honest, I was little hesitant in coming down because I had never met Navneet ji earlier and did not know much about him. It was sheer love and affection shown by Deepa jiji that eased all my inhibitions and we flew down from New York to join them for couple of days. She drove about 50 miles at late hours (11.00 PM) to pick us up from the 
airport. It spoke so much about her.


Our visit slowly unfolded like a dream vacation. It was spread over with casinos, best of scotch whiskies, barbeques and multi-cuisine food, music, shopping and sightseeing down town. We would sit in the lush green backyard enjoying the weather, sipping Glenlevit or Glenkinchie on the rocks, catching up on all those lost years and revisiting past to relive some happier and some difficult moments, sharing experiences of life and in between I will have a smoke, much to the distaste of Deepa jiji. We would talk about Bhown House, our ancestral haveli in Jaipur where hoards of children use to gather during summer vacations. The mouth-watering aroma of barbeque grilled by Navneet ji would fill the air and Ienya, the cute pet of family would hop around with music tied in her feet. After, dinner we chewed delicious Paan and Navneet ji played those soul ruffling old melodies of bygone era on his synthesiser and we were tapping and humming along. Mornings would see Navneet ji in kitchen making those crisp Dosas, omelettes and Deepa jiji making some yummy lemon and curd rice with sambhar and vada, and veg sandwiches. In the afternoons we would go to Casino or shopping. We also had a round of downtown and saw the beautiful Michigan Lake and its beaches. We enjoyed shish kababs and rice at Rishabh’s apartment in the downtown.


Deepa jiji and Navneet ji, both got very elderly and pampered us with so many gifts that we were declared over weight at the airline baggage counter. They are proud parents of two most eligible sons who are naturally so very handsome and adorable. The elder one, Nitin is orthodontist and practices in Dallas and the younger one, Rishab is a Director in Illinois University. They make a well knit family which has taken up all the modernity of USA but retained our Indian values.

I am running out of words and space to describe the hospitality, generosity, love and affection that Navneet ji and his family accorded us. We are indebted to them for ever.