Sunday, 16 March 2014

My visit to America - I Santhakumar


 I Santhakumar
America had become one of my dream lands even during my boyhood. A lot of stories were heard through my school mates whose relatives were in America. Adventpuram near my native place had the credit of having sent a lot of people to America through Seventh Day Adventist Mission. But in later periods due to active involvement in politics, I had some sort of hesitation for the imperialist attitudes. The war in Vietnam enticed me to have an inimical attitude towards them. But a lot of other things such as the philanthropic attitudes, disciplined life, cleanliness, civic mentality, credibility and cosmopolitan outlook of the people in general fascinated me much. The immigration policy of America is also a welcoming one as it is without considering the caste and creed of the people. A lot of poor people could go there which in turn had a tremendous development of their families in Kerala.

My interest on America has widened when one of my very close friends Vijay Kumar Moses had gone there, which made me to have a clear picture about America. He took much interest to take me to America in 1980 when the immigration policy was liberal. But I didn't like to leave India. Late Julious was another friend, giving full details about America. His death was really a loss to me.

I never even dreamt to visit America in my life. But my beloved daughter Akhila's marriage with Bobby paved the way to visit the country. I am indebted to my loving son-in-law Bobby for arranging everything to get Visa in connection with Akhila's delivery. Thanks to Rejath, my cute grandson whose birth necessitated me and Jaya over there. It was a unique experience right from my journey from Trivandrum to Mumbai, to Paris, to Cincinnati and to Raleigh in North Carolina.

The interview in the Council at Chennai was also a new experience. They actually wanted to know whether we would be returning after our visit. I showed my identity card issued by Govt. for the post of MD and said that I am having two unmarried daughters here in Kerala for that I have to return after my visit. The lady interviewed us, asked us to remit the fee in the next counter. Thus we got visa for ten years. Jaya and I started our journey at 3pm on 6th September 2005. T.P.Chellappan, Rtd.MD father of Bobby along with my brother-in-laws, and my close friends has come to the Airport to bid us bonvoyage. We reached Raleigh Airport at 5.20 pm on 7th.

I was very closely watching each and every thing throughout my travel with comparison to our country. A lot of things are to be absorbed to our country. I wonder why our leaders could not try to implement at least some of them in our country .I recollect the old saying that India is rich but the people are poor. Thus my first stay in a foreign country began. I continued my regular morning walk in the nearby trail made by a tobacco company. The starting point was just behind the house where certain directions are given to the walkers. It is mandatory that whenever they come across with others, one should say Hi, good morning, good evening etc. They can also inform the difficulties if any they come across. The walk through the trail felt like walking in the jungle, which is very common in America. They are very committed in keeping environmental balances. Where ever I went I could see the picture of deer on the road side to take care of while driving. I also read that every year nearly 15000 deer are dying in road accident .I got two Black friends by name Solomon from Erithria, migrated to USA and James, Rtd.Air Force. One day some other friends asked me when I introduced that I am from India that in India cook's son will become cooks only. This is the impression of foreigners based on the Chathurvarnia ie the caste system. They also reminded me, when I told them that the Blacks are safe in America, that what all the things seen outwardly are not the real things and there are a lot of hidden things also. I got their mail id so as to get more about it. I sent many mails but no reply received from them. Bobby and Akhila took us to many places in NC.I used to get news paper in the morning from the nearby shop. It is a bundle of papers which carry full of advertisements. What made me wonder is that even the small coins are in use there. In right top of the paper named 'the Herald sun' there was a table showing the air quality and air pollution in Durham city. The quality of air was 41.It reads 0-50 good,51-100 moderate,101-150 un healthy for sensitive person,151-200 un healthy,201-300 very un healthy,301 and above hazardous. I was thinking, what a hazardous place where I live, because the quality and pollution of air is in thousands.

Akhila was admitted in the hospital for delivery. The room was just like an operation theater. The very curious thing is that husbands should be in the room and render all assistance for normal delivery. Thus my first grandson Kannan was born on 26th September 2005 at 9.30 pm.

When he was only four days old I took him in my hands with an inherent familial affection. It was incredible that he began to produce sounds as if talking with me. I am extremely happy that I am having a grandson to grow up in a richest country in the world enjoying all modern facilities for developing his faculties. My aspirations and assumptions have now been gradually come true when I hear Akhila and Kannan about his interests. Now Kannan is above six year’s old, he shows deep interests in celestial bodies and the space which I also had. I remember my father who instilled such subjects even in my childhood. The rockets sent to space, Laika-the dog, gone to space, and the first man went to space- Yurigagarin etc. are in my memory as an indelible imprint. Such news appeared in news paper would be cut and pasted in a book; this would be watched by my father. We had to depend only on news paper as there were no other means such as radio, television and phone etc. Two days back when Kannan talked with me, very enthusiastically describing his visit to Planatorium. A boy who shows eager in having seen the Black hole in the planatorium, is definitely having deep incites .I am sure, he will be a scientist.

Vijayakumar Moses invited us to visit them at Maryland. As I was very much interested to see the rural places I planned to have train journey. Tickets booked from Durham to Washington. The places to be passed are, Durham, Raleigh, Wilson NC, Rechy mount, Petersburgh, Richmond, Alexandria, Washington DC (Union station).It took eight hours to reach. The vast rural areas, farm lands etc. could be seen. Agricultural laborers were also seen harvesting in the paddy fields wearing full shirts. The platforms of railway stations were spotless clean, the compartments were also very clean, and we felt as if sitting in a plane. At about five in the evening we reached Washington. V Moses was waiting for us and he took us to his home. He showed us a hostel exclusively for Black students near Capitol building just like our Cosmopolitan hostel in Trivandrum. Blacks after occupying the rooms would let out to others on rent to get money, very often. He is of the opinion that Blacks are very often found lazy, but there are so many millionaires and outstanding personalities belonging to them. It is generally found that where ever Black dominance are there, the presence of Whites are less and vice-versa. I heard one discussion on issues facing African Americans in C-Span channel where in it was said that 20% of the prisoners in Federal Prisons were Blacks, out of 11% of the population and 42 % of the crimes were committed by Blacks. Bruce Gordon the President of NAACP founded by Martin Luther King Junior, in a TV speech said he had painful experiences being a Black and there were many instances in which the color discriminations still exist. One of my friends James told not to believe the media. There is one Black TV which can be relied upon. But being an Indian I afraid whether I am competent to comment on it, where human being are denied even the freedom of cattle. However I felt no discrimination being an Indian Black, but where I born the same stigma pervade. Years back Dr.Ambedkar had the same feeling. I joined the NAACP through net and sent comments. One thing is very clear that the Blacks are in far higher positions there. One question is required to be answered, what would be the condition of the Blacks, had they not been ferried to America years back? What is going on there in Africa is horrible now. The time lines of African American History quotes some signs and evidences of Black renaissance, Books by black writers are on the best seller lists and working their way into the literary cannons. Black music has become American music and is fast becoming music of the world. Black style, dress, and speech more and more define international popular culture. The black heritage with its African roots is a badge of pride and an incentive to action. The lost, strayed, or stolen history of people of color in this country is becoming part of the school curriculum at all levels. The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. has now come true that an Afro American became the President of America.

The feelings of supremacy being world power are very vivid in the attitudes of America. In a discussion in TV about the nuclear bomb and its protection, where one Indian Scientist named Arunachalam was also present, it was asked why the third world countries are making bombs spending huge amounts while they could not give drinking water to the people and they don't have the money to keep the bombs safely. Why don’t they stop producing Plutonium and Thorium? India claimed that it is used as fuel. The video clippings were also shown regarding the sale of nuclear weapons by Russian soldiers due to poverty. It is also said that extremism is developed due to this. In another clipping the relief operation of earth quake in Pakistan was shown in which a lady commentator said, thousands of people were stranded inside the concrete slabs. The problem was that they did not have lifting machines. The TV commentator replied, yes they do have nuclear bombs. In a discussion with an American lady, I said the zero was first discovered in India. She immediately corrected me that it was discovered in Brazil. When I enquired in detail I found that she is correct.

In Washington we visited a Botonical garden,Smithsonian museum,NASA,Greenbelt MD,Baltimore etc. In front of the museum I saw a lady distributing pamplets against the dictatorship in China.I also saw a vedeo clipping that shows that  the origin of Chickengunea was from China.It showed the spread of putrit chicken wastes on the streets making atmospheric pollution. It alleged that the virus germinated out of this,had caused the killer desease through out the world.But it is also a fact that Chinese goods are having very good market there.

I visited the school of Mrs. Moses, Brothers of Moses, Ravikumar, Suresh, John were all there to receive us. Mrs. Suresh, Mrs. Ravikumar and all their children were help full. John was the chief cook of a vegetarian hotel. Suresh was running a Bakery. Prasanth son of Suresh an intelligent boy studying Criminology also engaged in Police force had given me full sketch of American life. He told me that his intention was to become a Police Officer. He also said that all the facilities right from bottom to top are made available to all irrespective of any caste creed or color. After three days stay, we returned to Durham by car driven by Ravikumar. It was another pleasant trip through road.

I visited Libraries and Bookstalls in search of new books. In book stalls we can take any book read it and return. I purchased several books on slavery and history. The very important book was the slave narratives by Oluodh Equiano. He was the first slave who wrote autobiography immediately after slavery was abolished. The slaves in America were touchable and they were living together. They also had education. That is why they could start writing when liberated. The book is a collection of four autobiographies which is very rare. Book on Rosa Parks-mother of civil rights was worth reading. Thanks to my son-in- law, Bobby who is also a lover of books

The American natural beauty reaches its pinnacle during November when the trees getting new colors. The leaves would be in assorted colors which is fantastic scenery throughout the country. I had a chance to attend the Deepavali programmes conducted by Indians. There was a mammoth crowd with musical concerts, dance etc. It was a lesson for me as to how a programme was arranged systematically keeping the surroundings clean and tidy. Cleaners with equipments were roaming in search of dirt and trash. Food was arranged separately. Temporary toilets were also there. I found in several places the words Rest room, instead of toilets. Even the words itself have a clean image. They are determined and committed to keep America clean. It is inborn in every citizen. Their civic mentality is laudable.

The North Carolina 2005 Indian Heritage Month Celebration held at Raleigh was a new experience. As an Indian one may think that it is a celebration of Indians. But it is the celebration of the Red Indians ie. the ab origins of America or the Native Americans. It is a misnomer of Columbus believing he had reached East India. We call the native Indians as Scheduled Tribes. There are four million Native Americans and they are having reserved areas as permanent tribal home land. Altogether 314 reservations located in 48 States. But 60% of them live away from reservations in urban and rural areas. It was a very colorful function. They are in fantastic red color. I also took part in their programmes. It is estimated that they migrated to North America between 40000-15000BC.Their culture and traditions are preserved. The exhibition of their art, architecture, herbal medicines and skills were arranged. I collected booklets and others from them.

There are incidences of poverty in some areas. In Kentekky out of 10, 4 are in poverty. Some Blacks are residing in cars for want of houses. Some Whites are also in poor condition. But one thing is sure that the poverty in India and America are thoroughly different.

The Thanks Giving day in the last week of November is a retrospect through sweet memories to the Native Americans. When the Europeans reached there in 17th century, they were the protectors. During the festival all Americans cook the same foods which were given to them when their ancestors reached there. In America four days consecutive leave comes only in thanks giving day ie. from Thursday to Sunday. During the festival there were medical advices for reducing weight, through TV, because half of the Americans are overweight. There is no such flow of liquor as we have here. The legal age to purchase any alcoholic beverage in NC is 21.37 million people were on roads and 22 million were in the air during thanks giving day. One can just imagine, how enormously they celebrate their bounden duty to offer thanks to the Native Americans.              

The relief operation made during Katrina was commendable. The exact time of Katrina was announced in advance and mandatory evacuation was ordered. Miles long queues of cars were seen 28 lacks of people were evacuated. There was live telecast on the day smashing see water on coast of Texas and breaking levees. Live telecast from Cuba was also there. Cubans are not afraid of. They were cycling in the midst of cyclone. When the evacuees returned there were piles of reapers and wooden bars being the remaining of their houses. There was a lot of allegation about the discriminatory approaches towards the blacks in relief operation as in the case of Dalits in Tamilnadu while Tsunami.

I think of the holidays we enjoy in Kerala. Out of 365 days in a year, 84 days are declared holidays except the days in which hartal, local festivals in temples and such other unexpected riots and strikes. This is the reason why our development is still on the run way only. Though they are God fearing people they are not mad after religion as in the case of Indians. They give first preference to patriotism. They are also law abiding. There are regular shows in channels for counseling to families in which even the spontaneous fights of husbands and wives are shown. Results of DNA test and lie detector are openly declared and the serious issues solved. I felt that they live peacefully without making any harm to the nature. No smoke could be seen from the cars though it is lavishly used. During travel, we saw small placards on the lawns aside the roads, ''Elect Brown'' etc. I was told, it was the electioneering process of the local bodies. No holiday for casting votes as it is their duty. No hue and cry also. As a Keralite it was really a wonder. We cannot even imagine such an election.

There are a lot of things left unnarrated because the space here is insufficient. So I conclude. 30th Nov 2005, thus became the last day of our stay in America, because we were compelled to return due to a proposal alliance for Nikhila, though our period of stay was up to March 2006. That was a rainy day, we reached Raleigh AirPort with Bobby, Akhila and little Kannan. They left us and we remained in the Air Port till 5pm. A small plane took us to New York at 6.30 Pm. It was a glittering scene to look downwards .Next was a continuous journey ie. NewYork to Paris 5839 km, 7hrs. journey, Paris to Mumbai-7000km, 8hrs. journey and Mumbai to Trivandrum. We reached Trivandrum at 1pm on 1st December 2005. It was an eventful journey and a wonderful stay, reverberating me with glorious memories of a richest country in the world.

Thanks to Bobby Mohan Chellappan, Akhila, Rajet and Rohit. This write up is dedicated to Rajet(Kannan).