First Long drive on American Highways
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
First Long drive on American Highways
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Two days in America
It is over 48 hrs since I set foot in this continent sized country which comprises of 52 states and is 5 times the size of India. I am truly amazed by the sheer size of everything in this country. Everything is big here except perhaps the population (about 301 million). Big roads have big cars, buses, trucks and bikes travelling at high speeds on them. For example one can buy small, regular or big coffee and a small coffee is about 250 ml. I wonder what a big coffee will be like. It is sheer indulence and consumerism that drives USA. When the whole world is reeling under oil shortage and oil price increases, Americans drive around in big cars and super big SUVs. It is amazing how the economy is managed.
Super markets and their parking lots are bigger than airports in India and everything is maintained clean. Though for the nit-picking one can find traces of dirt, litter on the lawns and sidewalks. Though enormous amounts of trash... both bio-degradable and non-biodegradable is generated in this country (perhaps 10 time the volume that is generated in India) the waste management is impeccable and we don't get to see trash on the road. If this management were to be introduced India, our country would be cleaner than US but are we interested? we are not, we Indians seem to have an ideological objection about keeping our country clean.
Anyway, I have gone around Pasadena city and yesterday we drove to El Monte, a predominantly Hispanic and South-East Asian population dominated neighbourhood full of used car markets and not-so-prosperous blocks. As I walked in and looked around at couple of used car markets, the sales men there thought I was a Mexican and addressed me in Spanish. One of the sales guys was so aggressive, he said 'No license, no social seurity number, Buy the car I will give it to you' it was difficult to extricate myself from there anyway finally I thanked him for showing me the cars and walked out.
As we drove towards El Monte we passed a procession of vintage cars, these Fords, Morris, and other brands were lovingly maintained and restored, seemed as if they were rolling out of the showroom. Their gleaming bodies and strange but beautiful shapes was a treat to the eye. I have seen vintage car rallies in Bangalore, India. But the cars are not as well restored and maintained as the ones I saw yesterday. These are just like showroom cars. But the cars in rallies in India are just not that well maintained. Everything these people do has a distinct quality conciousness around it, a quest for perfection, a striving to achieving excellence, which is one thing I think most Indians lack. We have this "Chalta Hai" attitude which is good in some ways but bad in most others.
One thing that strikes me here is the absence of traffic cops in any of the traffic intersections/ lights but I am yet to see someone break the rule, jump the signal or commit any violation. As I waited in the car in one of the red lights I remembered my motorcycle tour of South Asia earlier this year when in Lucknow (UP) we had stopped at a redlight and people behind us were honking badly asking us to go. When we pointed out that there was a red light they just abused us and overtook us and went off jumping the signal while the cops beside the road looked on disinterested and unconcerned. This is the difference between the attitudes of the two populations. Another thing in the past two days I have heard only one or two people honking otherwise, drivers here just drive on without a squeak.
I wonder when we will become law abiding and make things easy for ourselves.