The Journey of an immigrant- Part II

The Saudi feeling is starting to sink in; well you can never really get that feeling in you entirely. True to belief it felt like I had been sentenced to a one year rigorous imprisonment in a minimum security prison. The camp was a compound by the Red Sea, a set of box modular structures and I could imagine this to be another Gulag with less security. Have you ever been kicked in the mouth by a rampant horse?

The inner conditions do not get too better as days transition into weeks and weeks transition into months. I could never really come to grips with that life especially in those surroundings. I would actually thrive in these conditions decades later but in 1995 I left myself for dead. A few thing to write about would be the weekend trips to the port city of Jeddah which was trying its best to look like fast food America and the air conditioned malls I had not been in before. Jeddah is also the home to the infamous “Chop Chop Square” where convicted rapists and petty criminals have their heads or hands cut off.

Mecca the holy city for Moslems was not too far from the camp I was in, where the signs to the checkpost proclaiming “For Moslems Only” still stirs an ominous feeling inside me. The tranquility in midst of this temptest was the lucid turquoise waters of the Red Sea and I was even blessed to catch a few views of Flying Fish, which I had only seen in one of my favorite TinTin publication, “The Red Sea Sharks”. After all these years when I stop long enough to delve on my Saudi experience I am convinced it wasn’t Saudi, it was me that kicked myself into this baleful whirlpool of darkness.

And just as I reckoned, it was rock bottom and the only way after this episode was to lift myself and at least see the azure skies of hope.

Alexandria

My journey took me next on a teaser trip to which eventually was going to become my home eventually but that cold dark January evening when I landed at Dulles, Washington DC I wasn’t so sure. Just as I had experienced dealing with cabbies back home, I was sure the guy would cheat my precious $75 out of me.So of course as the taxi starts, the guy in all likelihood is attempting to be friendly and asked me if this was my first trip to the US. And me, in all my devious bent, say “Oh yeah, I have been here several times, in fact I love the east coast and of the west coast cities, Chicago is my favorite city.” Deathly silence and that was the last exchange we had for the rest of the journey. The names he may have called me under his breath, I don’t think I would have been able to repeat. However, being in the promised land sent a shiver of optimism through my veins. It was going to last, I hoped as I-495 beltway outside the taxi looked like a parade of pearls and rubies.

—To be continued…

Washington DC- An immigrant’s Diary-Part I

The Journey of an immigrant- 

I was not born in this county, I was not born in the State, I wasn’t even born in this country. Its been close to 17 years for me in this country. An immigrant with aspirations, dreams and looking to touch and feel that I had only seen through postcards, movies and commercial clips and Time magazine. A few decades back I would have made my way on a steamer across the Atlantic, processed at Ellis Island and made my way into the Big Apple.

The sheer romance of this journey, the awe inspiring narratives were what my dreams started to be spun around. It took a British writer,  Jeffrey Archer to vividly describe the success of an immigrant from small town Poland. “Kane and Abel” that is the book. The graphic and vivid portrayal of Abel Rosnowski and his rags to riches story was the recipe for several of the west bound aspirants. And as time rolled by, the dream seemed to get far and further away with each passing year.

And then you start to wonder- Opportunities do not come around if risks are not taken. Life definitely gives you lemons, but being served lemonade is completely unheard of. If the New York bound ship is not docked for you at the harbor, then you start to look at options. You could still set out west but you may have to have a few pit stops. Now that is something that clicked inside me. I am thinking, even the Arabian peninsula is west of where I grew up.

The journey begins- Jeddah, Saudi Arabia

It was an extremely sunny cloudless day in Oct 1995 (I later realized 364 of the 365 days are extremely sunny and cloudless) and I landed with a deep sense of foreboding, not sure what to expect but somehow fairly certain that I was a second class citizen. This is not fiction and the way the immigration officer waves me through I started to resent my own self, my seemingly impulsive decision to even set foot in the peninsula. And then the journey to a remote camp, 150 miles into the desert hugging the Red Sea was me slumped in the backseat, still unable to fathom the deep change that was happening right in front of me. Miles and miles of dunes, herds of camels, some of them on the back of Toyota pick ups and the relentless sun refusing to hide. Now I am starting to hallucinate- I am going to be asked to join a plethora of workers, whipped across my bare back and pull the huge pieces of rocks to create a pyramid like structure. Not entirely delirious but the projection of fears emanating into something evil.

I arrive at the camp and instead of running across the Bedoins or even hearing the Arabic dialect, I almost get run over by group of loudly chattering Filipinos. Then some Sri Lankans, some Indians then I spy some gringos. This was going to be my microcosm, a camp by the Red sea, by no means a resort but certainly not made up of stuff I had earlier imagined. Reality sinks in and the jet lag hits me. I am off to lala land.

To be continued……

 

1933 vs 2016

U.S.A-

I bet most of you have seen and read enough these past few months the charades , the drama, the squabbles of the GOP Presidential campaign.

Like the debates aren’t enough, we have these Trump’s rallies to deal with. I swear I kid you not, having been an avid follower of World War-II and rise of Fascism, I cannot help but draw several parallels between the movie clips from the 1930’s. When President Hindenberg was overrun was Adolf’s Brown shirts and how rallies turned into machinery of mass propaganda. So what’s different. Well the clips from the 1930’s were in black and white and now I get to see everything in some HD colors.

The venom spewing out of Trump’s mouth catering to millions of Americans that are most likely ill informed and generating mass hysteria is surely no different on how Hitler prayed into the minds of Germans still reeling from the aftermath of defeatism. Under the guise of first amendment and freely abetting “protestors taken out” may resonate well with angry masses but leaders , statesmen on an international stage. This is a scary scenario!

Can he now after the Chicago fiasco attempt to take the high road and goad his supporters to stay put and not get taken in by the protests and resort to punching people in the face. Instead taking the high road would probably be the best response and not continue the unabashed provocative rhetoric that has symbolized his campaign so much.

And then he has the gall to speak of unifying the U.S.A.Its Saturday morning and I can hear Trump addressing his followers at this rally in Vandalia, Ohio. Not much has changed and his tirade continues and now I am more than sure that this will not lead us to unification. In fact I fear a severe Whites v/s the rest. Schism along race and religion is what this could very well lead to.

Having said all that, protestors could very well should not have taken to getting into fisticuffs and creating this mass chaos. For all you know, sensing the Trump support’s moods, this may turn right against them and help him win Ohio this Super Tuesday comprehensively. I am not a political animal but when I see people being led by incendiary rhetoric, I get upset I get angry and not to mention what it does to this country’s status and dignity in the international community.

And Mr Trump- Please stop the name calling. They are your compadres and they mean well too if you do.

Bottomline, let us enjoy this democracy lets be all able to express freely without fear. While we can all have differing views on policies; climate change, guns, Obamacare, abortion, lets be human , lets be Americans. God bless America.

Sights,Biking, Foods- Washington DC

DC denizens-

Its March, time for  march madness in some ways but its for me the hump month. A hump from the white side to the green side.And for me there’s not a better place for spring to arrive and so much so that the Cherry Blossom is getting here ahead of its schedule. The arrival of the Cherry Blossoms brings renewed kind of enthusiasm and while I am not complaining about the DC winter, just feeling the optimism in the air that accompanies the Cherry Blossom is something known only to those that live here and those who love DC.

Spring cleaning is not even a chore, there is something about it that makes you tick, get prepared for the azure skies, the perfect sunshine ahead. Get out there and do what feels right in this crisp spring time and carry this on through the summer. What do I want to do?

DC marinaMt Vernon

The Dawn-

I love to get myself out there and do my walk and jog trails. Rock creek park, Mount Vernon, C & O Canal, here I come!

And my bike is obviously not going to ride itself. Every trail in the area has its charm. For biking aficionados, a start with the fresh paved trails would set them up well for the rest of the season. Some of my tips-

1- Mount Vernon Trail- 36 mile, all paved, pretty and scenic but you could always start off at 10, may be 20 miles.Park at the Theodore Roosevelt Island. The other good part is just 8 miles from the island on the trail,you get into Alexandria, charming Alexandria. Just stop here and smell the roses, the cooking smells as you ride through town, the citizens moving at leisurely paces in no hurry whatsoever. Its an experience.

2- Rock Creek Park- You may want to until early summer to do this. An experience through the lush greens of the Beach Road, by the DC Zoo,Rock Creek park and then depending on how far you want to do, you could bike all the way to Georgetown while catching sights and sounds of the Tidal basin and all those fantastic monuments. Park at the beginning of Beach Road on the MD side.

3- Georgetown- After parking at the island, enter DC from the Georgetown side over the key bridge and get down to the river. You could go either side. Makes up for refreshing ride. The other good part about this trail is you get to go through the heart of Georgetown on M St. Smell of fresh brewing coffee, the cup cakery, the little quaint stores, the small eateries, I cannot see a better place to spend your Saturday morning.

The Dusk-

Not that winter ever stopped me, but the spring gives me even more. Any cuisine, any place, and if the temperature stays like its been past few days around 75, I would absolutely prefer being out where I can get some spectacular views of DC across the river. A few locations for sure are worth the drive, but Alexandria, M St/Wisconsin Ave are just some that come to mind. And then of course getting right onto Dupont circle and its like being in a candy store of foods.

The writing is on the wall- Make the best of it and for sure when DC gives you lemons, squeeze every drop of it!

 

Women-Where art thou?

DEDICATED TO ALL THE FANTASTIC WOMEN I KNOW

Why do a special day for women? Aren’t they the partners, ideal foils to man?  Surely we do not perceive them as a different species; rather aren’t they the better half of mankind’s creation ? I sincerely hope this is not seen as a day to celebrate a milestone we haven’t jointly achieved but more of a recognition to those who continue striving towards a goal, that speaks of justice and total equality.

I somehow seem to have an issue with designating a special day for a group that in several ways have shown themselves more adept in several things than men. As I’d stated earlier, I do not consider lifting a 300 lb kettlebell as masculinity, so flaunting the so hyped macho-ism is what I consider as nothing more than sexist. To borrow a cliché, women have certainly come a long way since the feminist bra-burning rabble rousing. While that may have helped the cause, the state of womenkind in some medieval cultures continues basically unaltered. Womenfolk in the industrialized nations have evolved since the 50’s and where it was considered fairly regular to see them as “kitchen-keepers” its the third world and third world where issues arise.

Having lived in several parts of the world, it was a disheartening sight to view the wide chasm between the sexes. Even the so-called “forward”, progressive regions see them as nothing more than glamor dolls, sex objects and mothers. Now moving to the other end of Asia, where birth of girls is still seen as a curse in many cultures, it is evident we have not moved forward too much. And then to pile on other social issues, female infanticide, human trafficking in form of child prostitution and for that I can absolutely accept no excuses. It is vile, it is inhumane and needs to be stopped. As simple as that. Stopped.

If designating a day as Women’s day will actually help get us closer to eradicating these, so be it. But shouldn’t we be working towards resolving these issues everyday. Pray tell, what did we end up achieving on the 8th of March? Throw me a crumb and I’d be glad to substantiate.

The ugly war of words in the current GOP presidential primaries is yet another prime case of how women can be treated with disdain and be called names by people who look to get the popular votes. There can be no justification for this churlish behavior.

Through this piece and through efforts of many of my co-workers and friends, who I know agree with the concept of “Action trumps lip-service” , I would hope by the time we are at 08-Mar 2017, an objective statement of declaration can be made on strides taken to rid the world of generation old issues. May be at that time, we can actually celebrate achieving a milestone, not just treat it as a day to share futile greetings.

If you are a women and if you are reading this, I would love to hear about your perceptions.

Another heart rending piece from CNN- http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/04/world/sex-trafficking-horror-hope/index.html. DO WHAT YOU CAN TO STOP THIS!!!