Archive for October, 2005

Yet another great day…

October 31, 2005

Can’t post photos…don’t know how, and didn’t take any…but this morning, drove back from Chennai to Blr on the really excellent (except for patches) National Highway 7, which, though not as scenic as the old Madras Road, still got us from point to point in under 6 hours. The Honda CR-V, for all that I detest the idea of using a SUV for the 2 of us, is a dream to drive, and I, who never drive by the speedometer but by the road conditions, found myself pushing 120 kmph on amazingly long stretches. The only danger on this road is that, for various reasons including the road being under construction, traffic often appears on the wrong side of the road, and one always has to be careful.

Getting the brass lamps, kolam, and eats ready for the Deepavali festival tomorrow. Feel so incredibly lucky and privileged to have everything that I could possibly want.

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Mehendi as a calendar

October 29, 2005

I am sure no one has thought of this….I first realized it when I had mehendi the day before the engagement of a friend’s daughter. I didn’t intend it to,but it got on my nails. I rather liked the effect, and then I applied mehendi again just before I left for the US. Each date is thus marked on my growing nails, and the mark before the engagement was clipped off….just before I applied the mehendi for the same young woman’s marriage! So the passage of time is there to see on my fingernails….

Toilet Culture

October 25, 2005

I recently received pictures of a new public toilet abroad, the walls of which are totally transparent from inside (for the user) but which looks as if it has mirror walls from the outside. The thought-provoking question was, “Would you use it?” My American architect friend responded, “I would hate to use it at night when it would have to be lighted up.” This had not occurred to me…but what I noticed in the picture was a drinking fountain set just above the toilet bowl…and that got me thinking about cultural differences. In the East, we always associate toilet with uncleanliness, and we would never dream of drinking out of a water fountain set above a water closet. When our toilets are usually dirty, and indeed, are often open fields, the association with lack of cleanliness and hygiene is too deeply ingrained. Even my own friends, who know rationally that the same water comes out of the taps in their kitchen as well as their bathroom, would hesitate to drink the water in the latter location.

Water v. paper is another major cultural difference between the East and West. “How on earth can anyone clean themselves with these pieces of paper?” yelled a relative who went to live with her daughter in Toronto. I personally cannot do without water,either…I usually make do with one of the plastic yogurt tubs! Wet wipes seem to be a compromise that may still leave many unsatisfied (and perhaps unwiped!)

One habit which I would like my compatriots to learn from the West is the practice of washing hands after using the toilet…I am sure there will be much less disease if this were adopted. But this, alas, also requires a lot of water, which we have very little of…I dream of the day when my country will have clean public toilets…. and when we will stop having open toilets on trains, too….!

But as long as I live, I am destined never to get used to ONLY toilet paper, and will always be…”Little Lota”!

Differences…

October 25, 2005

Halloween is approaching in the US….though I think that,mostly, people are the same everywhere, differences in customs do interest me. Here, the dust everywhere ensures that all too often, we have actual “websites” hanging greyly from various corners in our houses, and it is a chore to clean the cobwebs off…and in the US, in banks and offices and I don’t know how many homes, it is such an unknown entity that they actually use artificial webspray to create cobwebs to set the scene for Halloween decorations!

In the same way, when my daughter invited someone home for dinner, she came wearing a brooch in the shape and form of a lizard. To us, this is a sometimes-tolerated (it eats cockroaches) and sometimes-hated, but very common, domestic creature…we would not dream of wearing jewellery in its shape. Though one of the most popular of the very beautiful mud-sculptures in West Bengal when I grew up was an intensely realistic one of a lizard eating up a cockroach, I would never have actually bought one of those, either!

Makes me think, though…why would the shape of a cobra be so commonly used in jewellery when that, too, was quite common some decades ago? The ways of human beings are unendingly interesting!

Admission rates….

October 13, 2005

We went to the Wild Animal Park, a relatively new enterprise of the San Diego Zoo. We want to also not miss the world-famous San Diego Zoo, and plan to visit tomorrow.

Admission for single entry for adults: $28. Multiply that by 4 for 2 adult tickets for today and tomorrow, and it works out to $112. So we bought the yearly couple membership, which entitles the couple to 4 free guest passes sometime through the next year.Cost …$86.

I am all admiration with a ticketing strategy that makes EIGHTY SIX DOLLARS appear attractive to someone earning in Indian rupees (in our case, we have many relatives to whom we can pass on both the membership card and the guest tickets.) I can just imagine the Mysore Zoo charging around Rs.4000/- for a year’s couple pass!! HAHAHA!!

I have seen a better bird show at the Jurong Bird Park. The 3 D ride was very so-so after we saw such rides in Disneyland many years ago. But the train ride around was great!It was an hour-long ride around Asia and Africa, mostly.

Let’s see how my impressions of San Diego Zoo are…

Wonderful to see my dearest varshax as a bonus! I do hope I can get one more opportunity this evening….some work has come up and we have not yet been able to meet up.

Letter to TSA

October 11, 2005

Hi,

I am an international passenger, who has travelled on Delta Airlines both to come to your country, and on domestic flights to many states. This is probably my 8th visit to your country, and I have visited since 9/11, too.

On the first few flights on this visit, I was selected for screening. I thought this was a random process but I was not happy that it was on each and every flight. Then a TSA official explained to me that when my boarding pass had four “S”s on it, I would always be selected for more intense screening.

While I do understand the safety concerns that lie behind this kind of screening, and certainly would not mind occasionally going through it, I am unable to understand why I should be selected for this on each and every flight that I have boarded till date ( about 12 flights so far.) My husband, who travels with me and whose ticket was booked at the same time, is sometimes selected and sometimes not.

I cannot help feeling, as a genuine passenger, that all the time spent on going through my luggage would be better utilized. I would at least like to know what the criteria are that make me get selected for this type of screening. I am now budgeting 20 minutes extra on every flight for this and you can imagine, for example, when I traveled from Florida to JFK to LA on the same day, it can get extremely tiring in terms of extra time and the feeling of being delayed while other passengers go through. I do realize that I am a stranger in the country and can understand OCCASIONAL screening; I would like to understand why it has to be on EVERY flight that I take.

For a genuine passenger, the feeling of distaste and discomfort at being searched never really goes away; I have not gotten used to it at all. I thought I would email you and get some information about this….

I do look forward to hearing from you.

With regards,

Letter to TSA

October 11, 2005

Hi,

I am an international passenger, who has travelled on Delta Airlines both to come to your country, and on domestic flights to many states. This is probably my 8th visit to your country, and I have visited since 9/11, too.

On the first few flights on this visit, I was selected for screening. I thought this was a random process but I was not happy that it was on each and every flight. Then a TSA official explained to me that when my boarding pass had four “S”s on it, I would always be selected for more intense screening.

While I do understand the safety concerns that lie behind this kind of screening, and certainly would not mind occasionally going through it, I am unable to understand why I should be selected for this on each and every flight that I have boarded till date ( about 12 flights so far.) My husband, who travels with me and whose ticket was booked at the same time, is sometimes selected and sometimes not.

I cannot help feeling, as a genuine passenger, that all the time spent on going through my luggage would be better utilized. I would at least like to know what the criteria are that make me get selected for this type of screening. I am now budgeting 20 minutes extra on every flight for this and you can imagine, for example, when I traveled from Florida to JFK to LA on the same day, it can get extremely tiring in terms of extra time and the feeling of being delayed while other passengers go through. I do realize that I am a stranger in the country and can understand OCCASIONAL screening; I would like to understand why it has to be on EVERY flight that I take.

For a genuine passenger, the feeling of distaste and discomfort at being searched never really goes away; I have not gotten used to it at all. I thought I would email you and get some information about this….

I do look forward to hearing from you.

With regards,

Saraswati Puja…and thoughts about freedom

October 11, 2005

Far away from home…though the US is a place I am used to, and I feel comfortable with the system here, I still miss being back home on a festival day.

Home is so difficult to define…for me, it is the place where one has the staunch kind of friends who have seen you through difficult times, and with whom you want to be on a long-term basis. It is a place where I can have my own interests and activities, which include a lot of being outdoors, as far as I am concerned. Next to my own home, I have felt most at home in my child’s new home.

I think one should not travel around more than a month at a time. Staying with one person for a long time as family is probably OK but one gets tired of moving from place to place. I am looking forward to going back home, though the trip has been exceptionally good.

Yosemite Park…amazing place and the sunset on the peaks was indescribable. But there is also the sense that in America, everything is regulated just a bit too much…But, on the other hand, I wish we could learn some of their traffic discipline (New York and St Louis drivers would be amazed at this statement) and some of their general sense of cleanliness, especially in small-town America.

What I like very much about America AND India is that they are truly democracies…people are free to be good human beings or loonies or terrorists…that is truly a great thing. A large, unweildy population with that kind of freedom is a miracle.