I packed my bags, with minimum expectations and a pathological dislike, to the land of opportunity and innovation. Our itinerary was short and it turned out to be sweet.
We landed at the San Francisco airport and headed straight to Berkley. The large roads, the unending streams of car, the multi layer bridges and the road discipline were awesome. California is the most populated state in the US and is the hub of the IT revolution. Silicon Valley incubates entrepreneurs and attracts the best of brains from across the world to set up companies here.
California has a unique geography. With cold mountains in the north, hot desert at the south, fertile farmlands in the center it spots a variety of vegetation. In India agriculture is in a state of despair with fragmented lands, near zero technology and poor marketing of produce. In contrast, in the US, it was striking to see large tracts of agriculture land with minimal human intervention. Each farmer has a shop set up near his farm to collect and sell his produce farm fresh, and many retail giants have a strong market linkage to sell the produce.
The half dome
Our tour began with a trip to the Yosemite National Park. Granite Mountains, spread over 3108 square km, is replete with waterfalls, valleys and rivers. The main attraction is the half dome. Shaped like a dolphin nose, the granite mountain rises to 1444 meters from the valley floor. The half dome is a steep ascent and is opened to public for hiking. Huge rope ladders are thrown from the top of the mount and it is a mind-body challenge that motivates one to conquer the summit. The place is well marked with directions. Hiking and trekking trails are defined. One can wander in wilderness but still feel safe in this nature’s paradise.
The inescapable rock
A serene ferry on the pacific, takes one to the Alcatraz, ‘the rock. Once a prison for notorious thugs, the place had limited connectivity to the mainland and was considered an inescapable fortress. Apart from the high security, the freezing pacific waters made escape a nightmare. Yet there were 14 escape attempts made by 36 criminals. After 29 years of operation, the prison was closed in 1963 as it became expensive to operate. Today at the Alcatraz an audio tour recalls the history of the rock and one can go freely around the most dreaded place.
Things to learn from US
All public places and transportation in the US are disabled-friendly. There is a great level of civic sense. Americans do not expect law enforcers to force them to do their duty. I was always frustrated with people returning from America and boasting about the place. But this travel changed my perceptions. You get a sense of ownership and every individual is treated with respect and dignity. The passion with which the garbage collector does his job would be same as the passion Steve Jobs had, when he invented the iPhone.
As I ended my trip and landed midnight at the Chennai airport, a grumpy officer looked blank when I wished him good day and the nauseating urine smell right after immigration welcomed me into the city.
May be if the Indians who have enjoyed the American luxury and standard of living return to India and demand the same levels of comfort, a change can come for the good.