Saturday, September 24, 2005

American Pie: Slice 2- Sunny Side up!

Don't quiz me on the science of this, I am still unable to do the Farenheit-Centigrade conversion, but it was incredibly hot when we landed in Dulles International Airport, Washington DC.
After a rather "easy" exit, I roll my strolley up to the car park, where a US State department person was waiting to take us to the hotel. I have my leather jacket hanging stylishly on my left arm, I am waiting to sweep it over my shoulder and slide my arms into it, but it seemed like Washington DC was saying to me "PFFFTT"- sticking her tongue out at me.
It could have been Chennai. It was very hot, very sunny and very humid. And I could just sigh. I then quietly rolled up my jacket and stowed it away from sight, and it has since stayed there! Sigh! So much for being in America during Fall, nearly Fall.
And as we got to explore the city, I couldn't help noticing how like Chennai DC could be: It sure had monuments for as many dead people as we have, and maybe even more! They package them well, better than us though and take great pride in them! I did like Lincoln Memorial though, the frontage of which is a pool, the one that Tom Hanks crosses in Forrest Gump when he meets his girlfriend after the war.
You can even stroll through the Pentagon, with a smart well-dressed military guy walking you around and experience the anticlimax of seeing the 'ordinariness' of its corridors. Ordinary as in common, everyday, usual, regular - people lounging on park benches eating and drinking, relaxing, smoking, even singing! There are parts of the Pentagon that live up to its expectation, sombre, cold, where the only sounds come from the knocking of military boots on polished, sanitised flooring.
The advantage in Washington though is that everything comes free, which I'm told, is not the case in the rest of the United States. Especially, the Smithsonian Museums- the key of them being the Air and Space Museum, holocaust museum, Museum of the American Indian and the one on natural history. Remember it will take a whole load of time, you need a good camera and a pair of sturdy legs that come in walk-friendly footwear! So you can walk the mile, under a bright sun, sucking on a huge pop-stick!
Could I do this in Chennai? Hmmm... I wonder!
If you factor in the fact that I'm hard pressed to find good vegetarian real meals at reasonable prices, the final analysis is that I'm still searching for "America" and what makes it so special to loads of people!
But that is just because I have not been to New York yet!


Wednesday, September 21, 2005

American Pie: Slice 1- Getting there

PIC: First impression, Washington DC.
I know it is a bad way to begin this, but internet is not the cheapest thing in the United States of America. Over the course of time, I will find many other things not so well with the "world superpower" or its inhabitants and many things that are appreciable, but let's take that as they come...

Land beneath the clouds
After over nine and a half hours in a very cramped economy section of the Lufthansa plane from Chennai to Frankfurt, I could have jumped for joy as the pilot said we were going to be landing in Frankfurt. WEll, i would have, if I could have... Stiff as I was, that action of joy would have to be postponed.
Soft, fluffy clouds covered the entire city and its famous, humungous airport, making you want to drop gently down and lay your head on them. Which would, of course, be a very silly idea if you are on a plane several thousands of feet above them. But the landing was one of the smoothest I've ever seen and the Germans as functional a race as I've ever seen. I mean functional as in efficient, brisk, even brusque, perfunctory smiles, measured words.
And there, I had my first taste of airport security: that meant taking off my shoes, belts etc and coming out of a line to be scanned specially! :) Mind you, I dint even get none of theat in America, but I could have been lucky. Plain lucky.

The phenomenon of the visiting Indian Parent
I need to put a chapter on this and maybe I will, when I have more time and don't have to pay for the internet.
Anyone travelling from India towards the WEst is going to encounter a special group of people, burgeoning in numbers, travelling along with them, speaking different languages, visiting sons, daughters, neices and newphews in America and England. I say this, because you cannot miss them, on flights, in airports... elderly gentlemen travelling with ladies, apparently their wives, wrapped up against the anticipated, but non-existent cold of late summer, crowding around in clusters, finding support in each other, proudly discussing their children''sachievements. "My daughter topped at IIT and now she is a topper at MIT." "My son has a car and lives in a house facing the Hudson." or simply like the Reddy's who sat next to me, " All my children are in the US, Lousiana, New York, Delaware..." Some of them like Mrs. Reddy are such intrepid travellors, that they will guide you from terminal to imposing terminal in Frankfurt airport and through the procedures with elan, it amuses you, after you've stopped being amazed.
Which is why it is so important for me to chronicle the peregrinations of the Indian Visiting Parent.
But that is all for the moment and next time, it will be Sunny Side UP!


Friday, September 02, 2005

The Q is not dead

This is neither a mirage nor am I imagining it.
It is true that Chennai, my beloved city, is finally losing it. Completely.
The essense of Chennai, its arteries and veins are clogging up fast, aneurysms swelling round every bend, the valves dysfunctional, the pulse racing, pressure building up uncontrollably to alarming levels.
If you have'nt figured it yet, this is an elegy to my city's once quiet, sedate, pleasant city roads, a haven for motorists. Today, wherever you are, except in the sanctuaries of (some parts of) Besant Nagar, it's as far away from heaven as possible. Waiting behind queues of cars, small trucks and mini-vans all spewing smoke with varying particulate levels cannot be so elevating after all. A lot of cities already are neck deep in traffic and have various symptoms already, I complain when I'm in Bangalore, Delhi or Mumbai. But it never hurts so bad as it does when it happens at home.
Only Minnal makes negotiating the roads mildy tolerable and yet, not so tolerable. Tch.