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"India Shinning"? Not for this expatriate.
I enjoyed your April cover story ("The Golden Years: A look at retirement options for Indian Americans"). I was even more amused to read the article about the broken toilet seat written by Joel Wallock who had visited Bangalore recently. My experience was somewhat similar.
I'm a first generation NRI who came to America in 1965. Last year I went to India for the first time in 25 years to explore the possibility of retiring in Ahmedabad, my hometown. I was not only disappointed but also disgusted. I saw dogs and cows roaming around everywhere. When I was growing up, these animals were only within the city limits; now they're everywhere. You cannot walk on the streets without stepping on animal dung. The sidewalks are so filthy and dusty that I needed to wash my shoes twice a day.
Two main roads (Relief Road and Richie Road), which I had walked on several times until 1965, looked so narrow because of congestion. The sidewalks on these roads are occupied by street vendors, making walking difficult. They even closed Richie Road for public vehicles. Law Garden used to be pride of the city many years ago; now you can hardly walk freely inside the park because of the crowds who go there not to stroll but to eat bhel-puri and pani-puri, which they buy from the vendors.
A little roll of toilet paper costs Rs.45 and lasts no more than a day or two. The pollution was so bad that my allergies flared up and I couldn't find a box of tissues for my runny nose. Not only the food, but the water is terrible too. Even the bottled water that sells for Rs.12 each tastes bitter. Soap will not create lather on your body when you take a shower, because the water is so hard. My body turned darker because of the water. The food upset my stomach and I lost 10 pounds during my 2-month stay.
India may have made progress in IT and many Indian companies in Hyderabad, Delhi and Bangalore may be busy in back office business, but I had a hard time finding people with the latest computers. Most of them are still using Pentium III computers.
There are high-rise buildings everywhere but the lifts (elevators) hardly work. The construction is of poor quality. Every day the electricity goes out because of heavy loads.
When I traveled by trains I was in AC compartments. But do you know that they won't turn on the AC while the train is standing at the station? Buses are as bad as trains. A 50-mile drive on the bus takes 3 hours. People drive on the wrong side of the road and the driver needs to brake every few minutes because of animals wandering on the road. There are still no public restrooms on the highways and highway signs are hard to read.
One has to pay Rs.4000 or more per night to stay in a decent hotel. Every hotel is called a 4-star hotel even if it is rundown and has dripping faucets, dim lights and roaches crawling around. I couldn't wait to get out of India. I could have left sooner if the airline did not charge $200 for changing my return flight. It will take me more than 25 years to go back.
��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Montgomery, AL
More Indian American Hospital Volunteers Needed
In response to your April cover story ("The Golden Years"), I'd like to submit that I'm 73 years old and a retired aerospace engineer. I was born in Calcutta and consider myself an Indian since my great grandmother was an Assamese lady. I've been an American citizen for almost 40 years. When I retired 13 years ago I began to volunteer in the Wellstar Marietta hospital for one day a week. I work in the Cardiac Care Unit and Support Services and it has been a pleasure to serve people in need. Unfortunately there aren't many Indo-American retiree volunteers in the hospital. I'm sure the hospital would welcome them. However, on a positive note, there are many young Indo-American medical students who volunteer for college credits. They do an exceptional job.������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������
Rudolph V. Bainbridge
For happiness look inside
Although I'm an American, I (and many other Americans) thoroughly agree with your April column ("The Pursuit of Happiness," topic of column, Confessions of a Grown-up ABCD) that the lifestyle of many people in America is too rushed, too stressed, too full to enjoy properly. Personal stress can result in family stress (arguments, alienation, divorce) and stress on the children (emotional stress, behavior problems, acts of violence and crime). Often the cause of all this is people being too materialistic and too focused on success at the expense of family love.
The South Asian community in America has the possibility of living the best of both worlds. Two of your most cherished values (closeness of extended family, spirituality), are values that, believe it or not, are also old-fashioned, traditional American values. They are also values that the modern thinking American knows to be fundamentally important. Some Americans have embraced ISKCON, for example, and other spiritual leaders and groups, and many, many more have read Deepak Chopra and practiced yoga and meditation.
When I read your article, I worried about the tone of it. While you seemed to see all this, you seemed also to be sinking in the mire, accepting the lifestyle of striving for success at the expense of realizing the love for your family.
I felt like being a ‘Dear Abby' and warning you to just jettison destructive thoughts: Substitute the "daily grind," "competing," and "enjoying the fruit of your parents' labor" with knowing your purpose, following your passions, enjoying work both inside and outside the home. All around the world people shop for groceries: don't complain, enjoy. Yes, there are robberies here, but there are pickpockets and corrupt people elsewhere, too; put it in perspective and retain your individual power. When you find yourself "rushing around with your stroller and diaper bag," stop and look: there must also be a baby there, so do everything with the love that you want to show and teach.
We live in an imperfect world, so we cannot expect to be "completely satisfied with our life decisions" or with anything else, but we can certainly expect a reasonable amount of peace in our lives.
Of course, this takes an effort towards constant awareness and an attitude of valuing (respecting, loving) others at least as well as, if we can't manage as much as, ourselves. Few people find this easy, but a conscious decision and effort to maintain awareness and good attitude helps. South Asians, ABCDs, even Americans, we have the tools; let's try.
��������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� Atlanta, Ga.
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