I usually do not write consecutive posts on same/similar topics but making an exception this time owing to popular demand. Ever since I moved to अमरीका के संयुक्त राज्य (USA for the uninitiated) from Mumbai two months back, I have been bugged with queries on the lines of “America me aisa kya hai jo India me nahi?”. So here we go- some interesting (and not-so-interesting) observations about life in USA viz-a-viz life in India-
Cleanliness and Discipline – Tonnes of paper (and Gbs of webspace) has been wasted on this topic so I will not add much to the clutter, but add just a few pennies- what struck me (and fellow Desis) the most immediately on landing on American soil was the difference in level of cleanliness all around- till date we have not been able to figure out after all where does all the dirt, dust and assorted pollutants go in this country? It's so clean that I don't feel the need to take a bath for days together! (Oops! I revealed a closely-guarded secret!)
Discipline (especially on the roads) is another aspect that is hard to digest for us Desi people. After all, while in India, when was the last time (or maybe the only time) you actually searched around for a Zebra Crossing to cross a two-lane street? Here, pedestrians crossing the road is considered an event bigger than The Big Bang and the moment you step onto a road, all cars will stop for the VIP (i.e. you) to cross! Similarly, if you are driving on a multi-lane road, at a red signal, you will find 25 cars halting one behind the other in one lane even when the adjacent lane is completely empty! Compare this with the scene in India where on a two lane road, we have a left lane and a right lane interspersed with a scooter lane, rickshaw lane and occasionally a cow/bullock cart lane! So much is the obsession with discipline that all the footpaths are color-coded with different colors representing different rules on stopping/parking- this is something I realised only when I gave my Driving License Test- I always used to think the colors are purely for decorative purpose!
Manners and Dressing – We were told umpteen times during the various Pre-departure orientations that Americans are very friendly people and this seems true, atleast in the first month of arrival- random people will greet/smile at you on the streets and everyone, including the Bus Driver says “Hi” and “Thank You” to boarding / disembarking passengers. Imagine the driver and conductor of BEST's 84 Ltd doing that in morning peak hours! Another interesting point worth mentioning here is that while we think that Americans are very formal and cleanliness-freaks, the fact is that will sit down virtually anywhere – on the pavement, in the aisle in the bus, in the corridors...and you thought this happened only on our railway stations in India!
When it comes to American dressing, I am sure the fashion-conscious (Indian) girls would have a lot to crib about – wearing non color-coordinated, un-ironed, mis-fitting (too large or too small) clothes is the trend here! Another area that is a potential research topic (provided VT gives us funding for it) is trying to figure out the genetic mutation that makes the American girls feel cold only in upper half of the body- after all what explains wearing full-sleeved tshirts an jackets teamed with mini-skirts?
The Crowd – I do not know if this is a pan-USA phenomenon or limited to the College Town of Blacksburg, but I have found the crowd (read: students) to be very courteous and friendly। Everyone will hold the door open for you, make liberal use of “Hi”, “Sorry” and “Thank You” and most of them (especially the undergrad girls) will smile back if you just look at them! A related point worth noting here- a lot of Spanish/Latin American girls on campus look very similar to Indian girls and I have found out that the only way to clear out the confusion is to just look at her and smile- if she smiles back, she is Spanish/Latin American; if she gives a grumpy “Who are you?” look, she is Indian for sure.
The Bollywood Connection - Even before you finish saying "Indian movie...", every single soul here will jump back with "Yeah! I have seen Slumdog Millionaire!". Tell them that is NOT an Indian movie, and then the real fun begins. So we have all possible samples from Li Hu, the Chinese PhD student who entertained us with an (awful) rendition of "Tum Paas Aaye" from Mohabbatein to Matt, my Black Manager at Food Court who raves about seeing Dhoom to the Nepali co-worker who, of all the movies, decides to give me a detailed appreciation of TIRANGA ("Nana Patekar. Solid!"). Three cheers to Bollywood- Taking India to the World!
I guess I will stop here before the “moral police” comes with a danda, branding me “Anti-Indian”!
१०० में से ८० बेईमान,
फिर भी मेरा भारत महान!