Archive for the ‘America! America!!’ category

How Black Is Black?

January 20, 2009

What I like about Barack Obama is his ability to capture people’s hearts and minds just by talking. The cool headed dude from Chicago certainly has an amazing capacity to reach out and reach out far. Guess what? My mother called me all the way from India today morning, right after Obama’s speech, to tell me how thrilled she was to listen to him. She is completely convinced that the World is going to be a much better place, now that he has taken the reins of the most powerful nation on Earth.

It makes you think, doesn’t it? My mother, sitting in the other part of the World was inspired and thrilled by Obama’s call. Can you imagine the state of affairs here in the United States? Is it the charisma? Is it the energy? or is it just the simplicity? What he has successfully done is to transform the region and the World with the lights of hope. And, that ain’t no easy job.

I am convinced he will be a terrific President. He has the brains and the will to change the country and the World. He has the right people around him. And, last but not the least, he is a very shrewed politician. Did you guys notice how he mentioned about his ‘father’ twice during the inaugural speech? I do not recall any mention of his mother. Just so that we are all on the same ground, he was brought up by his mother’s side of the family and had hardly any contact with his father. Now, that’s what I mean by a shrewed politician. Go figure!

There is still one thing which I fail to understand. Obama grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia, in a white family. And somehow he is treated as an ‘African-American’ because of one magical sperm? I am sorry, but his childhood was not in Bronx or Mississippi. To be fair, he is more white than black.

So, really, how black is black?

Castro Street Fair

October 8, 2007

Kids: Don’t even dare to read any further. You see, this post describes an ‘adult’ event and you guys should be at least 18 to read this. Go back to Dora or Barney. 

Eight of us – three married guys and wives, one married guy whose wife is in India and an unmarried guy – decided to drive to Castro Street in San Francisco to see what’s the big deal about Castro Street Fair. We drove in three cars. The traffic was horrible, to say the least. I cannot recall traffic being this bad, in and around San Francisco. So, as you can imagine, we spent hours on the road.

When we reached Castro Street, there was a bigger problem. There was hardly any parking available. Cars were parked in all the roads around Castro. After driving around for several minutes, we saw two guys walking towards a car. They looked like they were headed back home. So, I stopped my car and asked them if they were going to take their car out. They were very nice and asked me to follow them to the next street. And finally I managed to get a spot. There were three other girls who came by and pulled out an SUV which was parked right behind my car. One of the girls wore a mini skirt and almost nothing on top. Well, there were two star shaped shining papers stuck on the tips of her, you know what. So, as I said, it was ‘almost’ nothing. At that instant, we knew what we were getting into.

All the food stalls were right at the beginning. I was so happy that once we pass those stalls, the odor would be all gone. I always like to see food stalls clubbed together in any fair. Right after the food stalls, there was this big stage where a guy was giving a speech and hundreds others were listening. Within two minutes I realized that the speech was all about equal opportunity and gay marriages. OK, by this time you should have realized that when I use the word ‘gay’ in this post, it doesn’t mean happy. If you didn’t realize that, go back to Dora and Barney. And if you didn’t know, Castro Street is the gay Mecca (to be politically correct, I should say gay headquarters) of San Francisco.

The speaker was loud and emotional. He was surprised, amazed and aghast that government was interfering in the personal lives. He quite didn’t understand why government poked it’s nose in the issues of same sex marriages. As for the hundreds, who were listening to his speech, most of them already knew what he was talking about, or didn’t find his speech all that interesting (I am sure it was nowhere close to “I have a dream” speech).

I looked around and there was this guy standing next to me who had no shirt on, and had forcibly tried and pulled down his pants as much as he could. The way he talked to other guys around him made it quite obvious that he was trying very hard. I thought it was quite hilarious.

We were walking down the street and came across a jewellery store. My wife was instantly attracted to that store. She went in and tried all the antique rings they had. She liked several of them, but the ones she liked did not fit her right. So, she decided not to buy any, even though I was hoping she would buy a few. I thought some of them really looked good on her. But, I didn’t want to force her since they weren’t of the right size.

By this time, we were used to seeing several shirtless men, some really buff and fit and several others overweight with a big gut. My wife suddenly nudged me to look up. In the third floor balcony near by, we saw a few young guys talking and laughing and checking out the crowd below. They reminded me of lifeguards in charge of a swimming pool.

The guys on top were essentially watching something happening, a few feet from where we were standing, and were commenting on that. We walked down a few feet to see what the fuss was. There were two in-shape guys standing there, wearing nothing but really tight briefs with the word ‘COLT’ written all over it. And, there was a line of girls waiting to be photographed with them (Surprise, I didn’t see any boy waiting to take his picture with them!). A little search on internet tells you that ‘COLT’ is a company which makes adult movies. Ahhha, so I guess the two guys must be adult movie stars. I teased my wife to see if she wanted a picture as well. She vehemently said ‘No’.  I think the long queue put her off (If you have read my posts enough, you know that I tease my wife way too much and she has been a good sport always. It makes me like her more 🙂 ).

Walking further down, we came across a store which was selling men’s silk boxerbriefs. And the funny thing is that the guy who was selling them was wearing nothing but a silk boxerbrief. Some marketing strategy, huh? Anyway, since I don’t wear boxerbriefs and I don’t wear silk, we moved on (OK, too much information!).

Remember, Castro is not all gay, it’s lesbian too. We saw girls kissing each other, passionately, I might add. You don’t get to watch that everyday, do you? Even though the girl-kissing-girl was not as common as guy-kissing-guy, they were certainly easy to spot.

By this time, we had covered more than half the distance. We were suddenly in the middle of a huge crowd and everyone was staring at the third floor balcony of another apartment. There were a few well built guys standing there (shirtless, needless to say). Something must have happened just then, one of the guys was pulling his shorts back up his white briefs. He was laughing, so was the crowd. I was still trying to figure out what had happened. There was another guy on the balcony who was wearing nothing but a yellow brief, and he seemed to be engaged in some kind of a ‘conversation’ with the crowd below. All the guys in the balcony had several strings of beads (reminds you of Mardi Gras, huh?). And then I heard a few guys around me saying stuff like “That guy really wants to show”, “He is a playboy”, “I think he is going to do it now”.

And lo, within a second, the guy had pulled his underwear down and showing his ‘stuff”. And my wife is like “Oh my God, this country is very liberal”. We walked away laughing. At that time we started to spot a few different planes in the sky. There was an air show going on in San Francisco.

I did not feel uneasy, but it was certainly different, not something you see in all the fairs. Like any other fair, it was crowded and noisy and full of life. It was so much more colorful and very very different. And for people like us, it showed that the World is so vast and it has so many shades. There are several people who have very less inhibitions and are extremely liberal. Most of us can never be that free, but I am sure we are all educated and understanding enough to appreciate it.

Our gang then decided to drive upto Golden Gate Bridge. It was yet another traffic nightmare. Finally we managed to reach the parking lot in one piece. It was a perfect day, absolutely no clouds. We took a walk on the bridge. San Francisco looked beautiful, and it occurred to me again that this city is perhaps the most beautiful city in the country.

We had dinner at an Italian restaurant, and drove back home to be on time to watch the latest episode of ‘Desperate Housewives’. It was a beautiful Sunday.

cArAyaNa (or cARbhArata, if you prefer)

September 12, 2007

Trust me, I don’t make up these stories. It is amusing that so many bloggable stories happen in my life. Yesterday, I realized why getting a Volkswagen serviced is so much easier than getting a Honda serviced. Read on.

Getting a VW serviced:

  • Call the stealership and make an appointment.

  • Go to the stealership on assigned date and time to drop off the car.

  • Drink coffee and eat cookies while the service manager inspects your car.

  • Confirm your cell phone number.

  • Walk up to the nearby ‘Hertz’ rental and pick up the rental car.

  • Drive off to work.

  • Drive back in the evening, drop off the rental car, pick up your VW, go home a happy man.

Getting a Honda serviced:

  •  Call the stealership and make an appointment.

  •  Go to the stealership on assigned date and time to drop off the car.

  •  Wait in the car for 15 minutes for a service manager to come by.

  •  Stare at the service manager while he finishes the paper work.

  •  Wait in the lobby for the guys from ‘Enterprise Rent-A-Car’ to pick you up.

  •  Waiting and bored, go to the restroom.

  •  Come back and wait more.

  •  Thank God that you were smart to bring you laptop. Connect to the net.

  •  Open Yahoo Messenger and chat with your wife.

  •  Stare at all the people in the lobby.

  •  Walk around in the lobby.

  •  Go to the restroom again.

  •  Come back and connect to internet again.

  •  Walk around the service desk.

  •  Stare at your service manager while he calls ‘Enterprise’ again.

  •  After a wait of an hour and a half, board the ‘Enterprise’ car.

  •  Get down at ‘Enterprise’ office.

  •  Frown at the clerk when he says that you have to wait for another hour and a half to get a car.

  •  Call your service manager at the Honda stealership and scream at him.

  •  Wait for him to come and pick you up from the rental car office and drop you home.

  •  Have lunch, wonder what your office looks like.

  •  Call up the Honda service manager to see if he arranged for a different rental car.

  •  Make faces when he gives useless reasons.

  •  Wait for his phone call.

  •  Act surprised when he says that an ‘Enterprise’ closer to your home will give a call in 5 minutes.

  •  Wait for 2 full hours to make sure 5 minutes has passed.

  •  Call up the ‘Enterprise’ near your home to see why they haven’t called.

  •  Act shocked when they tell you that they have no idea what you are talking about.

  •  Call up your Honda service manager again and leave a long and lazy message on his cell phone.

  •  Act happy when the ‘Enterprise’ guys finally call you.

  •  Wait for ‘Enterprise’ car to come and pick you up.

  •  Wait in the rental car office for over an hour. By this time you have realized that this is your fate.

  •  Pick up a brand new Honda (ouch!) and drive home.

  •  Just when you get the rental car, you get a call from your Honda service manager saying your car is ready.

  •  Tell him you will pick it up the next day.

  •  Look at the watch. It says 4:45 PM. You decide it’s too late to go to office.

  •  Remember that VW was your choice and Honda was your wife’s choice. You are convinced yet again that you make the right choices. Now, you relax!!!

On Top Of The World

September 10, 2007

The first time I was on top of the World Trade Center was in March 1998. My mother was giving concerts in east coast and I had joined her for a few days. We went around Washington, New York and Philadelphia. There was a tourist guide inside the elevator when we were going up. According to him, New York was the most romantic city in the World. That made me smile. He also had an excellent knowledge of several different World languages and spoke to us in many different languages. That made me smile broader. We got out of the elevator and we were literally on top of the world. It was a pleasant spring with a light breeze. There were at least hundred people looking down at Manhattan. And, there was this young pair sitting on a long stone, right in the center. They didn’t mind or care that there were so many people around them. The two of them were so busy kissing and hugging each other, occasionally staring at the blue sky.

The next time I went to the World Trade Center was in September 2001. A week before September 11th. My friends R, S, S’ wife A and I drove all the way from Boston and spent a couple of days in New York. We bought tickets at the ticket kiosk at the ground level and headed towards the line for the elevators. Almost near the elevator, there was this annoying “photo spot”, which is there at almost all the tourist attractions in America. There was this guy, who was my age, standing with a camera and a tripod. There was this big picture of World Trade Center, leaning on the wall and people would stand in front of it and give their biggest smiles. The guy would click his camera and a girl standing next to him would give some kind of a token with a number, so that people can go to the top of the World Trade Center and collect the photograph, for a ridiculous price. The whole photograph was so artificial. When our turn came, I politely declined to be photographed since none of us were interested in it anyway. The cameraman gave us a shy smile and told us that he gets some commission for just taking photographs, irrespective of whether anyone buys them or not. He had a heavy eastern European accent. Well, none of us saw any harm in helping someone. So, we decided to take two pictures – R and I posed for one, and S and A posed for the second. Not to mention, we gave our biggest smiles as well. The cameraman and the girl next to him were extremely happy with us.

We moved forward and were very close to the elevator. There was a Sikh gentleman standing right next to the elevator door. His job was to greet people and send them into the elevator. Right next to him was an African American lady, who was probably in charge of the security. Both of them must have been in their early 40’s. The Sikh gentleman was openly flirting with her and she thoroughly enjoyed it. After a few minutes he kept on saying “ILU ILU” to her. She didn’t know what it meant. She saw us Indians standing in the line. She came near me and asked me what “ILU ILU” meant. Sure, ‘Saudagar’ was a big hit. But, until then I hadn’t realized that Subhash Ghai’s patented “ILU ILU” would touch Americans’ hearts as well. I smiled at the African American lady and told her that it meant “I Love You”. You could see the sparkle in her eyes. She gave the sweetest of her smiles to the Sikh gentleman. It was our turn to board the elevator and we walked in.

We spent quite some time on top of the world. While coming down, we passed through the photo shop which had our artificial picture. People paid a vulgar amount to buy those pictures. Even though we had no intention of buying the photograph, we were curious to see how big our smiles were. We stared at the photo for quite some time and decided that it was our best smiles. So, both R and I ended up paying the hefty amount for the artificial picture.

Barely a week after I was on top of the world, a rude phone call woke me up at around 6:15 in the morning. It was S from Boston, asking me to switch on the television. He also mentioned that a plane hit the World Trade Center. The rest, as they say, is history.

I occasionally stare at my “artificial” World Trade Center photograph. I wonder whatever happened to that eastern European cameraman. And the girl who was giving tokens, was she his sister? girlfriend? wife? or not related at all ? Did the Sikh gentleman propose to the African American lady? Did they get married? Are they all alive? I still wonder. I will never find out their stories. Now, whenever I go to any tourist spot in America, I always make it a point to give my biggest smile to the “artificial” photograph. I try to convince myself that the eastern European cameraman is still alive. He probably has a different job, that’s all!!!

Cut And Paste

September 4, 2007

Today was quite ‘different’. I found out that there are a lot of ways that you can treat an injury. I have listed two different options here. You can easily figure out what I went through today.

Option # 1:

  • You get hit by something and you have a cut.
  • Wash the wound with a lot of water.
  • Wash it with an antiseptic and clean the wound.
  • Put a bandage.
  • Move on with life.

Option # 2:

  • A particular door in your office doesn’t like you. So, it decides to automatically start closing right when you are near the door. The door hits you hard on the forehead.
  • There is a lady right behind you who is worried. She asks you if you are alright. You act all brave and tell her that you are perfectly fine and walk away.
  • Within 3 seconds you realize that you are bleeding terribly.
  • You go to the bathroom and put a lot of water on the wound.
  • You put a band aid and drive home.
  • You have lunch and then take off the band aid since it is still bleeding a lot.
  • You ask your wife to put a new bandage. But she suggests that you go to the nurse’s station in the office since it is bleeding too much. A nurse can put a better bandage than a wife.
  • You walk into the nurse’s station and the old nurse is all shocked to see such a big cut and wound.
  • You explain the whole story.
  • Nurse starts wondering whether a steri strip is enough or if stitches are required.
  • Nurse is shocked that you could actually go home, have lunch and come back, with such a big injury on the forehead. You decide to boast and narrate the ‘almost death’ experience in an accident the previous year.
  • The nurse is now totally convinced that you are He-Man. She goes on to explain the cuts which her son had on his face several years ago.
  • Since it is a work related injury, she goes on to explain the workers compensation benefits.
  • She asks you to fill out a form with your personal information and also expects you to describe the whole incident in detail.
  • She asks you to fill out another form with all your personal information again.
  • She then decides to direct you to a physician since she cannot make up her mind if the injury needs stitches or not.
  • She will assure you that the company will take care of all the expenses.
  • She then puts a band aid similar to what you had already put earlier. She doesn’t want to do anything more since she doesn’t want to tamper with the tissues too much.
  • She gives you a cold pack to rub on the wound so that it doesn’t swell too much.
  • Two of her favorite doctors are too busy. So, she decides to send you to the Emergency Room at the local hospital.
  • You vehemently oppose going to ER because you know you will have to wait at least 3 hours for some doctor to take a look at you in an ER.
  • Then the nurse decides to call the ER to see how busy they are. She is surprised that you were so right, ER is extremely busy!!!
  • You are made to sit in the nurse’s station for several minutes because the nurse cannot find a doctor who is free.
  • You are bored and you call your wife on your cell phone for a while.
  • The nurse is successful in finding a clinic which does not have too many patients at that time.
  • She brings the map, gives directions and asks you to go there in 10 minutes.
  • You go to this new clinic.
  • The receptionist there gives you a few forms to fill up.
  • They require too much information. You fill in the two forms and return.
  • The receptionist looks at the file and tells you that you have filled out only two of the seven forms.
  • You start filling in all the details. You read through all the diseases they have listed and decide you shouldn’t check any of those since you don’t have any of those.
  • Finally, you are called in. You realize that the receptionist is also the nurse. You wonder if she is a nurse who is a make shift receptionist or if she is a receptionist who is a make shift nurse. You think too much, too many unwanted things.
  • She asks you to stand on the weighing machine. You have magically added up 12 pounds in one week. You don’t know which weighing machine to trust. Both are analog and both are same brand.
  • She takes your temperature.
  • She measures your blood pressure.
  • Then the dude walks in and looks at the wound.
  • You instantly think that he is lousy to be a doctor.
  • He decides that the stitch neither needs steri strips nor stitches. He recommends glue similar to Elmer’s super glue.
  • The nurse/receptionist cleans the wound with sterile water.
  • They wait for several minutes. You almost go to deep sleep.
  • The dude comes back to put glue.
  • You address the dude as “Doctor” and he corrects you and tells you that he is not a doctor. He is a physician’s assistant. Now, you are happy that your instincts were right.
  • That guy explains how you need to keep the wound clean for the next several days and asks you not to use adhesive bandages.
  • He explains all symptoms of concern and asks you to go to an ER if you see/feel any of them.
  • The nurse then comes in to put in a bandage. She decides to use an adhesive bandage.
  • You ask her not to use an adhesive bandage since the dude asked you not to.
  • She goes out to confirm what you said was correct.
  • She comes back in and decides to put a big bandage on your forehead. She is not keen on cutting the bandage into half to fit the wound. She decides that it is more fun if people think that you have a really big wound.
  • You get out of the clinic and go back to office.
  • You receive an email from the nurse at work with several different documents explaining your ‘benefits’, ‘rights’ and ‘legal issues’.
  • She also asks you to call her back as soon as you see the email.
  • You call her and explain the treatment at the clinic.
  • You walk to the nurse’s station again to pick up new bandages.
  • The nurse tells you that you have to go and meet a physician soon to make sure that the wound ‘was’ taken care of correctly.
  • You frown, she smiles.
  • You walk back hoping that the doctor wouldn’t recommend a surgery!!!
  • On the way back to your office, you meet several friends. You narrate the whole story to each and everyone of them. You are bored, they are excited.
  • You get back to your cube, you blog. 

Deathly Hollows

August 31, 2007

Mr. G died two days back. I didn’t get good sleep that night. It was too soon. Even he had kidney problems. He was in an unconscious state for several months. He had recently opened his eyes, but did not respond to any commands. He was there. He was just there. It was way too similar.

I went to the mortuary yesterday, for the first time in America, and second time in my life. We were asked to assemble at around 2:15PM and the viewing was supposed to be between 2:30PM and 3:00PM. I entered the mortuary well before 2:15. It looked like an upscale corporate office or a bank. The employees were all in black suits. We were told that the room in which the body is kept is too small and thus only ten people at a time would be allowed to view the body.

Mrs. L and the two kids walked in at around 2:20. She was crying. Though much younger, she reminded me of my mother. Maybe her white cotton saree. Around 50 people had gathered.

The employees at the mortuary suddenly started playing a different tune. They said that since the family did not want the body embalmed, they cannot allow anyone other than immediate family members to see the body. Apparently it is against the United States law. The elders and the leaders in the group started talking to the employees. But, they were not ready to relent.

At 2:30, Mrs.L, her kids, brother-in-law and a priest were allowed to go inside to see the body. 50-odd people were getting restless, even though we were all in the air-conditioned room. Obvious questions erupted. If it was really against the law not to allow people to see the body which was not embalmed, then why did they tell us that they would allow groups of 10 people at a time, to begin with? Something was not right, but nobody wanted to start an argument at that time. But, several people went and requested the authorities to be allowed to see the body. Finally, it was announced that there was a major miscommunication between the employees and the few people who had arranged the viewing. We were told that there is a big difference between Hindu and Christian customs and that is the root of the miscommunication.

Me thinks otherwise, since I know that the people who arranged the whole thing have horrible communication skills, to say the least. The differences between Hindu and Christian faiths have nothing to do with this.

After much persuasion, the employees at the mortuary agreed to take as around the building to the place where the body would be actually cremated. We would all get a glimpse of it before they press the electric switch. So, all of us walked out and stood in the hot sun for several minutes. I have to say that it was one of the worst summer days and most of us were hot by instant headache.

Finally, the body was brought into a small room in front of us. An instant queue was formed to view the body. The first three guys went in and saw the face. I was the fourth one in the line. By the time I could go in, the employees at the mortuary closed the casket and pushed the body into the electric machine. Mrs.L’s son was asked to press the button.

Essentially, most people did not get to see the body. We were told that once a human being dies, the body becomes state property. I am really not sure how true that is. I haven’t bothered to research that.

What amazed me was the total lack of human element. Maybe it is the cultural thing. The whole procedure was like a bank transaction. The fake smiles and the wrinkle free dresses were nauseating. It was pure business, just like any other.

Kannada Sahitya Sammelana at Chicago

May 21, 2007

The two day conference in Auroa, near Chicago, on May 19th and 20th 2007, was a well organized and well attended event. This is the third such conference in America, under the banner of Kannada Sahitya Ranga.

It always amazes me to see so much talent here. There are such wonderful Kannada writers in the US of A. The main aim of such conferences is to promote Kannada writing and writers in America.

Infact, there was an event where five books, written by five different writers residing in America were introduced and discussed in detail. Get this, these writers live in Missouri, DC area, Florida, California and Minnesota. All over the map, huh?

There was another event where 13 different writers from all over Karnataka presented their prose and poetry. This was very well conducted and most of the presentations were humorous, since the main theme of this conference was “Humor in Kannada literature”.

The guests of honor were Prof A.R.Mithra and Prof. H.S.Raghavendra Rao. Their speeches were educating, encouraging and presented excellent insights and ideas.

The conference also had music and drama by the local artistes. There was also a book exhibition where a lot of American writers sold their books.

I will try and write more about the event at leisure, if I get some time. Don’t count on it though :). This post is just an overview of the event.

Oh, and I have to admit that the Balaji temple in Aurora, Illinois is awesome, inside and out. Very well maintained and an excellent place for worship and community events. It is certainly one of the best temples I have seen in America.