Day 3: Honeymoon period

Hello again.

This is not going to be that much awaited long elaborate blog post with pictures and videos either. This may be just long and elaborate, but that depends entirely on how fast I write and how soon I begin feeling sleepy. It’s already 11:09pm. When I was in AIESEC , which is a student organisation that among other things sends young people on internships in other countries, we would tell those about to go on an internship all about cultural sensitivity and the culture shock they are about to face. The first few weeks on going to a new place was called the ‘Honeymoon period’, for obvious reasons. It’s after this honeymoon period that the nostalgia and culture shock begins to get to you. Now you know what the title means.

The first thing I thought as I approached the gates of the Newark Airport was, “Man, those cars are moving fast.” And if you’re coming from a place like India, you will probably think the same thing too. Because these roads are wide and organised and porthole-free and cars here can go that fast. It seems a little unreal at first, as if you’re walking into a movie or something. And not only are these cars fast, these cars are BIG. They don’t need to be small because they don’t need to fit into small parking spaces and they don’t need to maneuver skilfully between traffic and well, they’re cheap. Everybody here speaks English. This may seem trivial to you, but I can actually communicate with people here with a little more ease than people in India. Not people in Bombay of course, because I’ve lived there for too damn long and I have too many cultural similarities with everyone there. Even the watchmen and the rikshaw drivers. But take my office for example; I can talk to people here far more easily than I could with people in Thane. Mostly because the Thane people have Hindi as their first language. I can make conversations here with people more easily. There’s nobody here who’s close to my age but oh, well. Just today I had a conversation about why people here are filing for bankruptcy and why they’re doing it and what kind of people are doing it. I don’t plan to tell you about this but if you’re really curious you should google it. It was on the news today so I’m guessing it won’t be hard to find.

Next, I’m going to give you a tip for if you ever come to the US. Don’t convert dollars to rupees. Yes, it seems very simple and I never thought I would do it when everyone told me so. But honestly, you can’t help it. You want to know if you’re paying too much or too little, if you’re saving enough, if you have enough money to make it through the month and rupees are the only currency you understand. You will do this for a couple of days at the least, but you need to stop doing it before you can start enjoying this place. Just as I got to the airport, I paid $5 for a trolley at the airport and $48 for a 15 minute cab ride and $2 as a tip to the cab driver who didn’t even try to offer me my change. Did you convert that? An average meal here costs $8. A chocolate bar costs 75 cents. Again, do not convert this into rupees.

New York, is a beautiful city. Now Bombay, don’t take offense to this. We all know that beautiful is something you’re not. Let me begin with the roads. They have sidewalks that are wide enough for 6 people to walk side by side comfortably on both sides of the road. Some of the main Avenues have special lanes for cyclists. There are short steel railing bits every now and then for people to lock their bicycles on to. Traffic is organised. Only people in the right lane make right turns, and people in the right lane make only right turns. People cross only at intersections and (mostly) only when the signals tell them to cross. Now this may not sound all that good, but it’s the only way to manage so many people in a city so big. I think I’ve heard 3 car horns per day on an average since I’ve been here. There are signs on some streets that say “No Horn Honking. $350 Fine.” Convert that. Every car waiting for a signal makes it through when the light goes green as far as I’ve seen. The roads are clean, the roads are spotless. There are garbage bins every 20 feet. The roads are straight ! This, again, may not seem like much. But now imagine, in a city where buildings are a few hundred times as tall as you to be able to look in a direction and be able to see as far as light can carry. Though the buildings here are much taller, this city is nowhere as claustrophobic as you Bombay. The buildings here, are wonderful, they’re creative, they’re unique. And of course, some of them are ugly, but some of them are brilliant. Some of them look as if the architect was out his mind when he decided to make a building so thin and tall. The air here is clean. And I mean it’s not dusty. No dust. You could spend all day outside and not be covered in a layer of grime, even if it’s a hot day. People here seem to smell of sweat more though. Why, I haven’t been able to figure out.

I’m going to sleep now, but I will complete this post tomorrow. I still have a lot to talk about. Goodnight love.

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