On our last day in New York, the rain gods decide to pander to our Mumbai monsoon madness by bringing on the rain. Seriously, this is rain?, we remark while hailing a taxi to the airport. This anodyne, slightly irritating trickle that barely grazes the skin and yet requires you to carry an umbrella and wear appropriate footwear… you call this rain? Sir, where we come from, rain or to call it by its more respectful nomenclature ‘The Monsoon’ is a very weighty matter.
It is what debilitates your soul, creates havoc in your city, makes you yearn for Rabindra Sangeet and Pablo Neruda couplets and call in sick to work. The monsoons when they come, inspire you to write poetry, send for onion bhajias and consume copious amounts of masala tea while lying in bed. These days the monsoon is what inspires hundreds of social networkers to whip out their smart phones and capture its awe-inspiring moods for Instagram posts.
So ensconced in our taxi feeling slightly superior to all the New Yorkers scurrying outside our window we wing it to San Francisco. Land of sunshine and Silicon Valley and gentle New Age seekers and whole food nuts and laid-back sophistication. Question: What makes us so sure that Gandhi, the father of the nation, was a really a Californian? Answer: He was thin, tanned, dressed in white linen and ate nuts!
We used to believe that we are our biology. But now we know, we are our weather. On the flight to sunny SFO we are surrounded by its denizens: middle–aged, well-heeled men wearing earrings and sandals, androgynous women in jeans and flip-flops, an airhostess who looks like an out of work actress, the cabin crew chilled out, relaxed and cheerful. On the five-hour flight everyone has their noses in their Kindles or on their iPad screens watching movies or gaming.
Only one disturbing vignette: The grizzly Caucasian gent in the seat ahead of us is accompanied by a seven-year-old girl of Asian descent. That he is solicitous about her is obvious from the word go, but as the hours pass his concern borders on the obsessive. And when he enters the restroom with her our antennae is up. We glance around to see if anyone else is concerned, or has noticed that something may be amiss, but no, in classic first world etiquette everyone exists in their own self contained bubble.
Perhaps, we are carrying our third world cynicism too far? We will ourselves to relax and read the latest Jhumpa Lahiri short story in the New Yorker at hand. Full of dark clouds and gathering storms the story of two Kolkata brothers takes us back to another monsoon in another city so many miles and moons away. The suspicious gent with the little girl is not our concern. We are in the land of the good and gentle after all.
Going with the flow
We are living with dear friends in Mountain View about 45 minutes away from ‘Frisco, in a delightful town in the heart of Silicon Valley, a stone’s throw away from Google’s headquarters. On our first evening out, we dine on Castro Street with what appears to be the universe of I-T aristocracy, all dressed down in bermudas and sandals. What strikes us is the disproportionate amount of Indians we see. Indian techie giants schlepping around in shorts on Saturday night with their families!
These are the men (and a few women) we read about who are changing the world one gigabyte at a time. The town with its manicured gardens, its story book cottages and perfectly laid out and maintained roads has an unreal quality about it. Given to measuring our lives against each new place we travel to, we ask ourselves the inevitable question: could we live here? But it’s too early to say. There’s a full five days to answer that question. Until then we will as they say in these parts go with the flow!