Narrative

Kashmiri scholar’s US diary: ‘We need to imbibe American habits’

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Kansas State University in Manhattan, America. [Photo: www.k-state.edu]

Living and working in America truly helped me understand how big Americans think and act, what makes their economy great and what their habits are that we need to imbibe.

It was a midnight, when I entered in the largest airplanes I’ve ever boarded in my entire life. As a matter of fact, the very first international flight to USA on virtue of a programme that purports the capacity building of the students and shape their career in the long run by exposing them to the best universities in the world.

I, along with 11 more students from my university, was set to visit Kansas State University, in USA. My seat was next to an American passenger. I had to sit next to him for as long as 15 hours, in those dark silenced chambers of the plane. I was scared to sit there on account of rule of stereotypes developed in the households of every brown family.

I juggled with so many things such as what if I fell asleep and gradually my neck will find rest on his shoulder, what will happen next!

I searched for the nearest seats so that I can interchange with any of the other passenger and sit between the womenfolk. But ‘fortunately’, I couldn’t find one and I had to sit there anyhow.

My nearly infinite insignificant “what ifs” and stereotypes mixed together gave a flavor of anxiety to my potentially safe flight.

My co-passenger was gentle and venerating. When we reached New York, he offered me his phone so that I could notify my family about my destination. This journey taught me that Americans are not usually thought to be a submissive people, but of course they are, out of benignity.

Living and working in America truly helped me understand how big Americans think and act, what makes their economy great and what their habits are that we need to imbibe.

In the U.S., you acquire tremendous self-confidence evolving from the visible examples of system efficacy. Back home, my mother never taught me to cross a road alone and now she was disquieted to send me to a country which is so embellished with technology.

Every person owns a car, let alone every household. She knew I lacked confidence to stand and act alone. This uncomplicated task of crossing a road brought forth authority in me, since every one follows the rules here.

Drivers respect the pedestrian like they are the king or they don’t care who’s the king. The absence of nerve-wracking horning, even when the traffic is stopped for red signal nearly at every signal located a kilometer away only, adds to the bliss of driving.

Our coordinator, who studied in US, but grew up in India, while driving us to commencement ceremony in the university, stopped at a junction even though the signal was green. She explained that the traffic on the other side of the road had come to a standstill and she would be stranded in the middle, causing a traffic jam, if she tried to cross the junction. This contemplation has come from the social responsibility one feels in such an environment where everyone appraises his/her responsibility.

Talking of social responsibility, I came across an incident when I was walking around the campus reminding me of my Kashmir for its lush-green serenity. I saw a young trendy girl walking along with her dog on a sidewalk of the road. As they were walking, the dog pooped all the way. Astoundingly, the girl stopped on noticing, went back to the place where poop remained and collected it with bare hands, placed it in the nearby dustbins. In all probability, in our part of the world, the entire stadium is shut off to make sure a bureaucrat takes his dog on walk and leaves every debris at the clemency of sweepers.

The character of that country is great owing to the attributes such as Independence and self-reliance. One day, when I was going for a lab work for the straight fourth day, I was standing in the elevator to go down to the ground floor, with an old lady in her late 70s holding a cart that carried all the cleaning elements such as vacuum cleaner, mop, disinfectants etc.

At first, I thought she’s grandmother of any of the residents in the hostel, but she went down and started to clean the floor enthusiastically, such that she resurrected my energy for the whole day. Most of us abhor staying in the U.S. since we depend on others to do our own chores.

There’s importance given to customer service in all facets of life. A note of thanks and appreciation is shibboleth of everyone here, for the opportunity to be of service or even if you stop to make a way for them. High school sportsmen work out every day to receive a scholarship to pay for their tuition fees. College students go to lectures, work part-time and do internships all at once.

There’s no rule of attendance in any of the workplaces or classes. People work really hard and spend entire weekends for fun to revive the zest for the rest of the week. I don’t think we can ever imagine such humility and professional ethics in our homeland.

We visited a student union for Identity cards. A photo was clicked, passports were verified and card was issued at the same place, without hustle and bustle. I was left comparing this with my experience, back home, trying to get the form filled, signed, attested, submitting the fees, seeking different other unwanted information and then issuing the cards after an ample amount of time.

Sequestration, collection and disposal of garbage are so systematic that the entire process goes on like clockwork with every one doing his/her bit. Implementation of rules is alleviated by apt infrastructure.

So, during this one month stay in America, I imbibed dozens of lessons, all in all there’re no shortcuts, there’re no hacks. There’s just hard work and life experience and two different kinds of omelets, neither one of which is better than the other, just as long as they’re cooked healthier not tastier.

Author is Visiting Scholar at Kansas State University in Manhattan, America.

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