United States in 22 days

Day 1: We were waiting in the queue that stretched like a mini great wall of china, leading to the immigration counter at Newark airport.

My hubbie was literally jumping up and down like a jack out of box, while I was yawning miserably. The jet lag had already started to fill in me.  I threw a friendly smile at the lady who was assisting the queue, but she scowled at me in return. I looked around. After making sure that the insult was quite a  private affair, I walked off smiling towards the counter. Finally our turn came, and the Indian looking officer in the counter asked us for the purpose of visit. “Wedding.”We said.

“What? You have come all the way from India to attend a wedding?” he asked.

“Yep..that’s us” I answered without much enthusiasm. He drilled us with his eyes and few questions and at last chuckled at us saying, ”Lucky relatives”

I simply smiled at him (I learn from my experiences you see) and we walked off towards the path leading to a new world, a country. A country so passionately thought about as a dreamland by many souls (including my husband). My travel reasons are always to learn new stuff, have a peek into a new culture their history and wonder at the natural splendor in that place. But from day one, the United States had me in a negative aura.

US invited us with its warm right hand and threw away the eatables we brought from India with its left hand (Oh! who cares, my man here was longing to spend all 22 days with burgers and hot dogs. you just dream!). 

I expected a nice cold breeze to welcome us, but was slapped hard by the hot palm of the scorching sun which was like telling me “It is mid July you idiot. What do you expect?” We spent the rest of the day in my relative’s place (the bride groom’s house) in New jersey who was kind enough to arrange all the necessities on our trip. 

Day 2: Our uncle, who was our host took us (Myself, hubbie, my sister, her husband, their daughter) to the hometown of Thomas .A.Edison. 

We went to his huge laboratory and then to his house. So much to learn about that man.  I was literally gawking at his two storey (mezzanine) library. Good God!He had alcoves made of bookshelves inside which he even had a cozy bed to recline on now and then. What a life?! I sighed. All through this tour my BIL kept teasing me saying  ”See how much these people had accomplished. What were Indians doing this time?” for which I spat back something like

”Yeah! they were dying ignorantly in hunger and slavery brought by the British colonial rule, while here the country had already got its independence by then.”

He just smiled and said “just lame and stupid excuses”. I know he was just teasing me but I was fuming. I hate talks against India. My mood was off and I was lingering in some low clouds.

America..Who cares what it did? I want to get back to India(so soon???)

New York Broadway Street

That evening we took a bus to New York. Though I was skeptical and was in ‘what this place could provide me better than India’ mood, I must say that I was taken aback by the breathtaking line up of the skyscrapers and the dingy mustered up old streets lined up in perfect harmony.(Oh I have seen them repeatedly in all Indian movies. But seeing in person is quite different. I saw the difference just then)

It was a weekend and the Broad Way Street was thriving. A tourist guide pulled us aside. He tried to speak something in a quaky accent of Tamil (God save the language!) saying that he knew Rajini kanth personally(these guys are the same everywhere haan?). With smiles on and myself on a lighter mood,  we boarded the open top bus and watched a splendid view of New York evening open up before our eyes.

 We were clever enough  not to get down from the bus in the middle of the ride, for many people stood stranded with the tickets in hands and without seats in the sightseeing buses.

We then climbed up the Rockefeller building for the night view of NY. I couldn;t do must justice in this photograph. It was just awesome.

A night view from Rockefeller Building
Eyes almost blinded by the variety of colorful neon signs and huge lcd screens displaying this and that in Time square, a close up view of a bride from her lo….ng limousine, a smoking piece of pizza in hand, a photo near the NYPD rookie car and hearts filled with so much of emotions we boarded the bus back to New Jersey.

I was still thinking. It is beautiful, so what??

Day 3: Early in the morning of a rainy day, Me and my Hubbie with backpacks packed boarded a bus for a three day trip(really good and affordable). Our first stop was Philadelphia, Pennsylvania where we stopped to look at the famous 'Liberty Bell'.

I controlled my urge to climb up the terrace like, Nicolas cage did in the movie - National treasure. We walked into the hall where the bell of Pennsylvania which I so fondly called ‘Ottai bell’ (cracked bell) was kept. I read the history of the bell and slapped myself hard for calling it like that, for it was a true symbol of freedom. 
With heavy hearts eased down by the beautiful looking streets of Pennsylvania on the way, we sped off.

From there we drove off to Washington DC. I was truly amazed at the city and how meticulously it was planned. (Not bad..hmm) I was amazed to see that most of the buildings were built in perfect harmony to others.

Washington Monument - Washington DC
My hubbie and Jessie Owens - This is my favorite snap, just look behind them to know why.
My negative attitude slipped a bit here and I was enjoying myself in the Mdm.Tussaud’s museum and in the Air and Space museum.  We met my friend (who I meet after years)near Lincoln memorial. I was so happy to see her that my heart was leaping out. With unspoken words lingering in the depth of our hearts we clutched hands and sat silently in the car. She and her husband took us to P.S.Chang’s and we had a hearty dinner. We were then dropped off at our hotel.

Day 4: We left for the Niagara Falls. 

I was telling my husband '
"I hope they will allow us to bathe in the falls".He gave me a cold stare.
Because here in India, how so ever small the falls is, we have the freedom to bathe (even take an oil massage, have a shower and throw away the shampoo covers to float in the stream).I just shrugged at him and said that it was just a metaphor.

While waiting to look at one of the seven natural wonders in earth, I was trying to keep this negative attitude out of my way.
                                                 Do I need to say anything here?

Just a look at the beautiful and majestic water falls made me speechless. Attitude! My foot. We are nothing but a meaningless speck in front of such a beauty. We took the 'Maid of the Mist' boat ride.

When the boat entered the whiteness of wild showers, I shivered and then seriously wondered.
Would it be this white and pure in heaven?
Will it be this wonderfully chilling?
Will it stroke u with its fine needles of hands easing out all your pains in the heart?
Will it be this beautiful and breath taking ? 
Will it have this same music, the music initiated by the gushing water mixed with the music of silence?  

I enjoyed the day in total bliss and yes, I looked like a saint. 

Day 5: We spent the day in Thousand islands, an archipelagoof islands with Canada and US borders. In fact here is where you can see the world's smallest bridge brodering two nations. US and Canada.
This was made into a luxurious spot for the rich and the famous (like Kennedy family) who each owned an island there. There were almost thousand small islands, most of which stood with huge mansions and palaces dating back to some hundred years. It was for the thousand rich families.

 What all people do in the name of luxury? I thought. Negative attitude, back in full form. We Reached home safely that night.

Day 6: As per my request we made a trip to New York, had a quite sandwich lunch in the park opposite to the National History museum. We then had absolute fun there in the museum.

Day 7:  Wedding next day.
It was a fantastic event arranged by our hosts in a temple. The bride was a Bengali and so it was a visual and cultural treat for us, southies. We had fun interacting with the other Indians- friends and relatives who looked really thrilled to talk to us.They were very sweet to us and thanks to them and our host we felt really at home.

Day 8: Reception:
We were provided with a beautiful room with the Manhattan skyline view in The Hyatt hotel, New York (bless the hosts) where the Reception was arranged.  The wedding was one thing; the reception was entirely another thing. It was rocking with live DJ and all. The whole concept was fun. We were all given preset seats where each table was waited by a butler.

A cute American girl dressed in Indian style for the Reception
The center of the stage was set for the newlywed who were ushered in with such splendor and glamor. The bride looked ‘wow..’Then their parents came in. 

They all had to make toasts. I loved the bride groom’s sister’s toast. She was too casual and honest about it.

Then it was dance time. Do I have to tell you more???
Manhattan view from the hotel
Day 9: A trip to the Liberty statue. 

The long wait in the queue under the merciless sun was made worth by a drizzling rainy view of the Lady liberty. We had a lazy day roaming about and my spirits lifted when I had to run along the road in rain and I get clicked one of my favorite pictures of sky with me in it.

Lady liberty ready to take a Rain Shower
Day 10: Rest.

Day 11: We reached Las Vegas. We left the airport to the Venetian hotel in a limousine.(oh my god..I am in a limousine…yipee)
 My hubbie and my BIL was jumping in joy, for they were going to a destination which is stamped as heaven itself in every man’s heart. True to word it was heaven.

But I couldn’t help notice that the temperature reminded me of its exact opposite – the Hell. Three days of absolute fun was what we had. Casinos.. casinos and casinos and walks.. walks and walks to all the places. 
Glamor and Glitters of Las Vegas

Vegas was fun except that I had left a gift I had purchased for our friend in the hotel itself and I had sprained my foot . So bad.

Day 14: 

We left from Vegas to Atlanta. We stayed there in our relative’s house. He took us on a private boat trip the same day. His friend was living in a house overlooking a lake and so had a private boat deck and a boat(of course).The boat trip during a sunset, complete with cold coke and hot samosas was just exotic. 

When we were in the middle of the lake, the serenity and the beauty of the evening sky kept me in a tight hold.I was very happy .

                                                                  The sunset in the lake
Day 15: Our uncle took (drove) us all the way to Orlando where we stayed in an apartment and visited Disneyworld. My negative attitude had depleted to almost 60% by now. I had turned into a kid myself and was having a fantastic time. We left Orlando, I on a bit sad mood since I couldn’t meet my Spanish friend Danielle though we made extensive plans about it.

Day 18: My husband and myself left Atlanta to Minneapolis, where we were to meet up with my husband’s bestest(could we just coin that word?) friend. The climate was good here.

Day 19: Drive to South Dakota.

This is where I loved the trip most. 

From the very beginning I had been given the perfect welcome from all my hosts who went out of their way to make us home, but still this day long trip into the laps of nature, the silence spreading fields and the sky whispering lullabies, this was nothing less than magical. 

A total 360 degree view of unmatchable sky and the clean meadows unfolding themselves into the oblivion, just took my breath away. And it was about to rain, so the sky was showing an emotional turbulence not less than a face of woman who is in a tiff with her lover.

Best friends forever- en route South Dakota , a 360 degree clear view
The climate was cool and it was already getting dark. We drove straight from the hotel towards Mt. Rushmore.

On the way we couldn’t help ourselves stop at the magnetic place called cosmos where we couldn’t stand straight. They demonstrated some really cool things, which happen there due to the change in the magnetic field of that place. It was quite a fun actually. Then we drove off to Mt.Rushmore.

Mt. Rushmore at Sunset
I sat there watching the huge faces carved on the mountains. I sat there listening to the patriotic speech given on the dais with a equally strong visual aid and at the end I sat there with tears in my eyes when they called for all those who work in military, Navy and the such. I sat there silently when all those people clapped their hands vigorously for their fighters who walked to the stage accepting the standing ovation from the loving public. I looked up again. How much should they love these men to do such a marvelous thing on these cold mountains?(whatever may be the ulterior motive, I couldn’t see anything but proud and joy in the faces near me)and How fitting it is to applaud the men in uniform at this place?

I walked out with a heavy heart.

The next day we lightened up the mood by visiting the bad lands(it is good actually). So much fun we had there, that we totally slept off the rest of the ride back to Minneapolis (poor friend who drove all the way again)

Day 22:
I was sitting in the same Newark airport waiting for our departure. My husband came near and asked “You happy now? We are going back to India.”

I smiled. I am happy because I am going back to India.Yes. But Am I happy because I was leaving America? Not really..

The purpose of this trip is officially to attend the wedding and unofficially to make a trip around the US. But I had a secret agenda. I wanted to prove to myself that I wouldn't want to come to US again. It was going to be hell to be there in a lonely country which is certainly not a tourist's country. The picketing rules (after 9/11) are a nuisance as equal to the empty roads with no one to ask directions for.America, a place for the rich and boastful. A place for wealth and luxury and not for freedom , culture and homey comfort. I had all the wrong reasons summed up before me, by me.And I wanted to prove that to myself.

But I was proved wrong.

Through out the journey I was reminded how mixed the culture was and How delightful the people were . I was shown their love for nature, love for art, love for comfort and luxury, love for living the life to the fullest, and the love for their country. That..the final thing was what touched me most. 

A small girl in pink ponytails clapping away her hands for the patriotic heroes of her country in Mt. Rushmore, that changed my attitude and I smiled.

I smiled at the fading point of liberty statue whose tip twinkled in the bright sun, as our plane made a turn towards India.

I will miss you America..


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