Friday, 4 January 2013

What makes the big difference..

San Francisco, Thursday, January 3, 2013 :

" Hey how are you doing ? "  I was surprised  ( at least for the first time) with that greetings from a tall hefty fair American, who boarded with me in Dallas bound flight at the Heathrow  Airport, London.  Not knowing how to react, I smiled and mumbled something incoherent.  I was annoyed with myself, for my improper reaction, and learned my lesson, quickly.  Now in last one month's time whether in a mall or at a hotel or anywhere for that matter, n- number of times this  manner of greetings are shared and I am enjoying it. It may not mean anything but I liked this American way of breaking the  barrier  and opening the conversation between people.  In Europe or in Far East, I had not noticed such warmth in interacting with the people.

 In India, we seldom (rather, we Don't) smile at a unknown person, on face to face contact.  In fact, our young girls are taught not give smile to a unknown person. Here in US, things are totally different. Young girls giving pleasant smile to you is a common situation. (No need to draw any conclusions !)  Frankly, I felt very charmed and enthused to interact. 
While in India, I remember, it so happened once, that, one person gave a pleasant smile which probably meant, he knew me. All the while, I kept on wondering who that person could be, and never returned the smile. As if, smiling in reciprocation would have belittled my status or would have cost me something.  Now with the American way,  my   mistake looks more glaring. I have decided to amend myself.

The huge network of Inter States, Fly overs, exits,  and other roads,  is mind boggling. The existence of proper road signs ensures that you reach your destination all by yourself (of course, GPS is a big boon ).  I was highly impressed by the sense of  road discipline.  In the last week I traveled  1,564 miles  in 5 days.  San Francisco  (SFO) to Los Angeles (LA), then to Las Vegas and back  SFO via LA.  This distance, in Indian perspective, is simply too much.  From LA to Las Vegas on I-15, there was huge traffic jam. However, there was no hassle or honking or tensions.  All drivers were cool and observed to traffic regulations meticulously. At signals, the cars would be two feet inside the white line.  We in India, are not used to this discipline.  All the vehicles on road were in good condition. Not single vehicle is found parked on the highways (highways are called Inter States, here).
Good habits are inculcated from very young age.   When we sit in the Car young Sameer will remind his grandma to fasten her seat belts ! So, good habits are inculcated from  the childhood. Children can't occupy front seat, near driver.  Separate seats for younger ones are there behind driver seat. In fact, when a child is born in a  hospital no discharge is given to the baby and his mother unless a child seat is fitted in their  Car ! Both parents are adequately trained to take care of the newly born child.

In India we suffer from toll menace.  It's not only about the money that we end up in paying, but the inconvenience in toll collection after every kilometer of a road.  Few years back, I remember, I had paid Rs.800 as toll while traveling from Mumbai to Ahmednagar.  The time wasted and heart burns due to barging vehicles, are other bye products.     Here, in contrast, technology is nicely used to avoid queues at toll stations.  Frequent users use toll tag on the car. Even if, your car moves speedily, the elctronic eye 'reads' the tag and debits your account, in no time.  Even if, you are not frequent user, when you car passes the toll station, your account is automatically debited.
All trucks were in  very good shape and well illuminated.  In  India,  in contrast, not a single truck is having tail lights, leave aside illumination ! Well, the usual one liners, like 'Horn OK Please',  Dekho magar pyarse', 'Buri nazarwale tera mooh kala', etc.  on Indian trucks which entertains Indian drivers,  are missing here !  Driving is pleasure here and you don't feel tired after covering long distances, due to fact that, infrastructure is good,   rules are strictly followed,  vehicles are technologically advanced.

Use of credit card even for small trasanctions (like parking charges).  The usage of credit/ debit cards
not only make things convenient, but it brings in total transparency. No cheating,  no bribery, in other words, fair deal.

School Buses are given a preferential treatment here. When a School bus stops for picking up or for dropping a Child, the traffic completely stops.  The driver will make sure that child is properly dropped and picked up by somebody (i.e.parent) and then bus will leave.  It is an offense to overtake a school bus.   I happened to go a couple of times to pick up nephew from his school. The picture I saw was completely different from what we expect in Indian schools. The children coming from class rooms would stand in a line painted on the pavement. One by one, the child will go and join his parents car. One parent (must be desi) who was about five cars behind, tried to gesticulate his ward to come fast, was warned by his child to wait till his turn comes ! The Principal, a young lady was personally  ensuring that each student is properly picked up.

During lunch time, students are taught to put the left outs in the garbage. Even younger ones in play schools are taught to keep their time. For example, the food will be served only during designated time.  The child may miss the food, if he is not in time at table for food.  To Indian (emotional) hearts this may look very stone hearted attitude; however, in long run, the importance of doing right things at right time, will never be learnt, without this firm attitude.

This small incident, of the etiquette taught to younger ones in school is a big eye opener for all of us.  Sara, (age : 3 years) my niece's daughter saw me wearing a woolen cap to protect head and ears from cold,  very spontaneously said : " Aajoba you are looking very cute in that Cap " !
We rarely compliment,  and take the things for granted.  That comment from Sara  made  a big  difference !