Oh America

“A lot of people don’t know the culture shock of how you can be in a rich area and then be in poverty. People do not know how different it is over there.”
Oh America

World is a 'mosaic' of different cultures, unique andcolorful. Earlier each culture was radically set apart from another, having itsown meaning and logic for every concept and action it carried. Culturalglobalization has produced a world- mind, leveling acute identity issues, forcingpeople worldwide to change and develop a bicultural existence that combinestheir basic identity with the fiber of global culture.

 Books, newspapers,and radio were the main sources of information that kept us linked to the restof the world. In an attempt to know the world, vigorous mental work was notneeded in forming cognitive pictures of countries, especially the one that webelieved as a dream destination discovered by Christopher Columbus. Growing upwith images about that country, a fantasy was further carved by reading a shortstory titled, Ah! America. The story was written by WajidaTabassum?  Or was it by Ismat Chugtai? Sometimes thememory engrams mingle together strongly as to create confusion that seemsdifficult to clarify. Ismat, the grand doyenne of Urdu fiction and Wajida asher fellow writer; bold and ruthless in their distinct style of pun and sarcasmdared to talk on topics that were considered unacceptable stuff to read andindulge. They represented acute feminist views with remarkable insights deepinto the male and female psyche with reference to their psychosocialrepercussions.

The story carried traumatic culture shock that one is facedwith while visiting Western countries the first time, the distressingcross-culture shocks were felt by me in the same manner when I landed at theJFK Airport in New York. Half-naked culture looked awful. At that point intime, Indian woman was holding an image of a simple, naïve soul who could neverdiscuss issues that involved images and meanings beyond her levels of modesty.Draped in saris, decorated with nose rings, wooden and ivory bangles, feet andpalms adorned red; women would sheepishly walk a step behind their elders. Withtime Indian woman has gone through a tremendous change in attire and behavior;making the degrees of difference with a strange culture less conspicuous.

The facility to visit America was provided by ATNT, thecompany my husband worked for in Riyadh. It was altogether a differentexperience; long journey hours, passing across multiple time zones, making meairsick and putting my inbuilt personal clock on a defunct mode. There weremany issues involved during that first visit, food being the main. Many yearsback Halal brand was not as common as now in America. Count me a conservativeand blame it on my extra religious conditioning, I had packed a suitcase oftinned food and I proudly declare having opened tins of wazwan in HotelSheraton in L.A. Those days, one could not think of Mouvel Brand of wazwan; thefood chain that provides mouthwatering Kashmiri cosine to every corner you wishin the US.  The beauty of ethnicversatility has made America highly tasteful with Afghan, Chinese, Thai,Italian, Indian and Pakistani food- fusion completely; overpowering Americanbland taste.

Americans live in peace with a sense of responsibility andaccountability towards the state and self. It is a peaceful country thatcreates havoc and horror of war around the world but manages peace at home. Godis happy with America for their system of impressive living as for as honestyis concerned; in social order; in preserving nature; in charity and inproviding its citizens unmatched sense of security around the world, unlike thepeople of third world countries that fail to provide safety to their citizenseven in their own homes. With a flawless freedom of expression nobody in USgets life imprisonment for criticizing the establishment or people concerned.They are nature- loving; have made best of artificial lakes and waterways outof wastewater; no garbage, filth, and polythene are dumped into rivers andlakes. Preserved in its original form nature thrives in America. While visitingBeverley Hills in Hollywood, one indulges in deja vu, seeing some similaritieswith Zabarwan Hills, with of course, the difference in preservation anddevastation. You see the best of Tulip trees, dense forest patches in themiddle of the residential bungalows of Hollywood celebrities. It is an unusualcountry, a weird one too where respects and recognition to the notable artistsand celebrities is given by walking on their star-studded names on the Wall ofFame.

But America is not all that …that glitters gold. Its economytumbles quickly due to the out of control mortgage market. Almost half ofAmerica lives on a borrowed life. They take personal loans to buy houses,luxury cars; loans on medical emergencies, on vacation debt, wedding debt,tuition debt, house renovation debt and the list goes on. Their huge salariesshrink in gathering and paying back the loans and mortgage except for thoseChinese who are as moneyed as Nick Young in Crazy Rich Asians; they come withloads of money, make down- payments and buy properties in the most expensiveschool areas. Chinese grow in America like a crop after rain, in Berkeley, inStanford, in Harvard, Ohio and all over the United States.

Seeing homeless and destitute on the fashionable streets ofSan Francisco breaks an Indian heart. It is pathetic to feel the trauma,miseries, and brokenness of unlucky people who have lost everything and areisolated by society and dropped alone on the footpaths to die. Drug addiction,poor physical health, domestic violence, and the psychological suffering seemat their worst, with no roof on their head even sleeping on streets they needto pay for a ticket.

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