Sunday, January 21, 2018

thirty seven banana peels #35: Pardes

Love it, hate it, or lovehate it, you can't ignore the USA.

For a 21 year old guy visiting the place for the first time, it made quite an impact. The preceding 21 years had molded me in a particular way so the US never left any deep changes within me. Read the end to understand what I mean.

Two very particular things I enjoyed in the US:

One was the wide open spaces and sprawling roads. The long road trips I was able to make hiring a spanking new car or SUV in a moment's notice will remain etched in my experience. There is simply no comparison! Indian roads are now gearing up, but it is still not easy to make a long road trip unless you own a car.

I particularly remember one road trip I made deciding to drive 850 miles solo on a whim. This was from Dallas to Louisville. There were a couple of conference calls I had to participant and I did them while driving. There was another we made from Dallas to Garavan Gardens, Arkansas. [We as in three of us, but I did all the driving]. There was another we made from Los Angeles to SFO (via coastal road 1) just to dine in HSB. Driving is a joy in the US especially coming from India.

The other thing was the purchasing power. This was a mind warp even growing up in a not-very-unaccustomed-to-lifestyle in India. I got spoiled a bit in this aspect being there. I remember making some unwise [wisdom of retrospect] purchase decisions totaling up to thousands of dollars. Later in my corporate life, I probably could have afforded this lifestyle in India as well, but they "felt" in-affordable. Economists could probably come up with a tongue twister to explain this. In layman terms, I could buy a used car with a month's salary there. But it takes six-seven months salary to do the same here. Even if you can, it feels unwise here comparing. This blowing off dollars on what seemed like a luxury there is one of the things I regret. If I wish to look at the silver lining, I never incurred any debt.

Guilty confession - actually I don't feel all that guilty really: I visited a strip club to see b**bs live. There - been there, done that - checked off. In truth, it didn't at all feel different to watching them on pixels.

What I am proud of: Remained a teetotaler, non-smoker, vegetarian there. Went out of my way to ensure I did not acquire an accent.

My overall verdict and advise: If you have the chance, you absolutely must visit the country (or a similar one) once. Don't imbibe the hedonist culture. But soak in the scenery, organization, discipline, customer service, governmental efficiency, shopping, glitz and glamor. Leave all them back when you come to India. You'll appreciate India's cultural chaos more once you return.

Except for the driving aspect, I don't really miss the US much. Especially with Trump, I am appreciating the distance aspect better. But there is one aspect I am profoundly grateful to the US for. It helped me retire at 33.

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