Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

Well, time for a little blog resuscitation, methinks. Not because of the overwhelming demand (two at last count) from readers, but given the fact that I am now in the “land of the free and the home of the brave,” I felt I could utilize my freedom of expression as guaranteed by this nation’s constitution. Here I am, sitting in Florida, enjoying the gorgeous weather, glorious sunshine, wide roads, wider cars, even some wider people, humongous stores filled with extra-large products, all measured using a different system – Fahrenheit, pounds, ounces, feet, miles.

It suddenly dawned on me that the age-old philosophical question of “How many kilometres from Washington DC to Miami beach?” doesn’t make sense at all. “Dhavan-saare, athu kilometre alla, mile aanu, mile!” And Jagathy could have said, “In the house of my wife and daughter, mai#u ennokke vrithikedu parayunno, stupid.
Though I’m in Florida, I’m nowhere near Miami. I am some 250 miles northwest on the western coast of the peninsula, in Bradenton. The warm weather is a welcome break, considering that till a few days ago I was in snowy, north-eastern Hokkaido which was having an extended winter, as temperatures barely went above 5 degrees, i.e. as in degrees Celsius. America has always evoked mixed feelings in me. It is a beautiful country; at least all the places I have been so far in my visits over the past 16 years. People are mostly polite, whether at stores, while driving or walking, wishing you, thanking you, complimenting you, etc. Of course, there are exceptions too.
Still, I feel there is an underlying tension somewhere. It could be the gun violence stories that you hear which makes you feel impotent. What would you do if some guy pulls a gun? An advice I got before coming down to Sarasota was to stay to the west of Tamiami Trail and I would be OK. Yesterday, I went to the east of Tamiami Trail to a mall (quite deserted, but nothing scary as such) and came back in one piece. Yesterday, there was a shooting incident in a mall in nearby Tampa, and you wonder. Today we walked around a bit in the nice neighbourhood we are staying for the week, and it was as easy as walking from Vanchiyoor to Jannal Ashoothri in Trivandrum. Perhaps it is all in the mind. You have heard people telling that you could get killed if you take the wrong turn and end up at some crazy place here, and coming from Japan (and even India) where such things don’t happen, makes you a bit nervous, especially since you’re not familiar with the territory.
Today, we also went to Siesta Key beach, supposedly voted the No.1 beach in the US, and it was quite impressive too. The sheer expanse of pure white sand (made up of quartz from the Appalachians, as per the signboard on the beach) was a sight to behold, and the shallow water meant the kids could be left alone without much worries.
In another two weeks, I’ll be back in GOC, the real land of the free, where people are free to poop and throw garbage anywhere they please, and the real home of the brave, where even a mundane act such as crossing the road is an act of bravery.
And, hopefully, I would have recovered some of the mojo to keep this blog alive.