THE LARGE FORMAT
As soon as I landed in America, as obvious, I started looking around and I saw large format of almost every thing. Huge buildings, higher than the monuments, Broader than broad roads, huge trucks with huge tyres and huge or you can say well built people. I was told that the people here are very much obese as they grow up eating a lot of cheese and colas. Companies in their vested interests offer almost free cokes and burgers to children and then they become addicted. Obesity has become a type of epidemic here.
As I explored more there were huge stores and I came to know almost all of them were chain stores. Let us talk of the Home Depot. It is a chain store present all over America in almost all cities. Starting from timber to paint to upholstery to furnitures to plumbing materials to screws to electricals to flooring to plants to garden accessories, you name it and it is there. That too in different varieties and all possible sizes. You want to complete your house – enter The Home Depot and come out with every thing which may be required for it. Every thing is DIY (Do it yourself). You may also buy all types of instruments required for fitting. Some big instruments and machines which you may not want to buy are also available on rent. In IKEA or The Home Depot or all other stores where furnitures are sold they are packed in one box so that one can carry it in car. Table, chair or even bed is packed in one box with all the necessary screws, bolts and nuts and neccesary instructions.There are huge huge stores with different sections for different wares. The best part is you may return the item if you do not like it even if it is opened and they refund without asking any question. If you plan to see all of it, one day may not be sufficient for one store.
Similarly there is The Office Depot where all the requirements of office are available under one roof. Then there are Trader Joe’s, Safeway, Costco, Wallgreen Pharmacy, Walmart, Ikea (stores) where all the daily needs are available under single roof. But then be prepared for huge packets, you may not require the whole of the packet but then small packets are not available.
People are dedicated to the work they are doing. Almost all stores big or small open by 6.00 a.m. and remain open till 9.00 p.m . At about 6.30 when I was going for a walk I was surprised to see several men and women decently dressed, coffee glasses in hands rushing towards their work places. They maintain punctuality and reach office in time and also leave in time to spend time with family. But then during office hours they do not indulge in personal calls. There is no particular age of retirement, one is free to work as long as he feels physically and mentally fit.
People here are very much health conscious. People of all ages are seen all around walking, jogging or running. There are Gyms which are open 24 hours. These gyms again are having a chain, if you are a member you may enjoy the facilities in any town of US.
We travelled miles and miles, about 300 miles from Alameda to Santa Barbara and Los Angles, another about 300 miles from LA to Vegas and 600 miles in a day from Las Vegas to Alameda back to our place. The cars run and run and run on highways (here they call it freeways). They are literally freeways, as you never have to slow down or stop. The speed in general is 60 to 70 miles per hour. Hordes of cars, say a batch of hundreds of cars moving in the same direction and in same speed for miles and miles. Not a single hump or bump, not a single crossing, not a single person coming in your way, not a single dog or cow or sheep or goat visible or blocking your speed. There is no chance of any vendor coming to your car to sell sundry items. If you are tired of driving there are rest areas for which you have to exit from the freeways and merge again after you are ready to move on. All over the freeways there are McDowell’s, Starbucks, Jack in a Box and the likes where you may have your snacks and coffee.
California in general is green but as we moved towards Las Vegas which is situated in Nevada we saw beautiful mountain area and then American Desert. When one travels for such a long terrain he can see a variety of flora and fauna. So many different types of trees and birds we saw during this drive. Some of the beautiful species we saw were region speciifc.
ST EARNS WHARF, SANTA BARBARA
We also explored the downtown, lined up with shops showcasing variety of items to attract the tourists. We found Himalayan Kitchen, a restaurant serving vegetarian dishes. The owner was from Nepal and took good care while serving us paneer masala and stuffed naan.
Any tourist visiting Los Angeles will definitely like to get photographed with the HOLLYWOOD sign on the mountains and for that Griffith Observatory is the best place. As the name suggests it is an observatory having world famous Samuel Oschin Planetarium and museum around it. Admission to the observatory is free but planetarium programmes are not. It is situated on a hillock giving advantage of viewing the whole of LA from one place. We had a plan to stay around one hour at the place as we were to reach Vegas in time driving around 300 miles but due to the serenity of the place we spent 3 hours there and clicked around 100 pictures, some with the HOLLYWOOD insignia behind and some with the Planetarium dome behind us. The observatory is surrounded by Griffith Garden which in itself is a photographer’s paradise.
|HOLLYWOOD Insignia on the hills|
|Los Angeles from Griffith Observatory|
The city famous world over for its casinos. It is said that one can satiate all his wishes and vices here. On Las Vegas boulevard “The strip” is famous for big big hotels. Every hotel has its own theme of decorations to attract tourists. Large halls are lined up with numerous gambling machines. Smaller machines for individual players are lined up in hundreds with different games, lights flashing all around. There are games for high stakes where group of people play. Casino attendants, male or female, keep the show running. Any amount for shopping or gambling is small here. For your entertainment waitresses move around to take your booze orders.
Then there are night clubs, cabaret shows, strip shows, fashion shows and what not. For children there are circus shows, magic shows, the wizarding world of Harry Potter, forbidden journey in 3D and mini Disney Land. One can also see miniature pyramid, Sphinx, Eiffel tower, Statue of Liberty and other wonders of the world.
All over Vegas there are numerous restaurants serving food for tourists from across the world. We were looking for Indian food and found a restaurant named Tamba (earlier it was known as tabla. The lunch was sumptuous offering South Indian and North Indian dishes of variety along with fruits and kheer in the buffet spread. One can be satisfied only if he gets food to his liking and this was great food for us in America. In the evening we tried Thai food at Kamal, a small restaurant but served very nice Thai vegetarian delicacies. By and large all over we got vegetarian food to our liking.
We were not interested in gambling and went on exploring one hotel after another. Each one had a different inviting decor. Big size lobbies, large chandeliers and decorations as if each hotel is a museum in itself. Though we reached in the evening and it was dark we visited Cesar’s Palace hotel and to our surprise in the inner hall it was day light in the sky with clouds moving. After a while we understood that this was decoration only giving the illusion. Similarly next day when we were visiting Hotel Venetian in day it appeared to be night sky in its hall.
There is no admission fee for these hotels and casinos. In fact one can spend weeks without paying any fees, viewing these spectacular hotels which are pieces of art in it selves. There are numerous free shows in LA for attracting tourists.
It is celebrated all over America and European countries to remember the deceased family members and to ward off the evil. It is celebrated on 31st October every year. I had heard about it and luckily got chance to see celebration this year when I am here. People especially children dress in scary attire and visit house to house. They ask “trick or treat”, in response the house owner offers chocolate or candies. If no treat is given it is believed that they may play some tricks or perform some scary act.
Houses are decorated with carved pumpkins, ghosts and other scary caricatures. Pumpkin cakes, puddings, ice creams and different types of pies are available at eating houses. People also organise Halloween parties, enjoy Halloween costumes, play scary games, read scary stories and special pumpkin food is served.
FAMILY AWAY FROM FAMILY
One or the other students’ parents keep on visiting US and this is a time of celebration. Friends are invited when parents are there. Traditional food is prepared and the bonding is all the more faster on these occasions. The tradition of touching the feets and getting blessings of parents reminds on India again and again.
Then there are house warming parties, birthdays, baby showers and like. The gender of the child in womb is declared in advance, it is not against the law here.
One may wonder what am I doing here in America for this long period of two and a half months, “sitting idle without any occupation”. But for me and Sapna this is long time awaited break. We are enjoying the golden period of life with Piyush, Priyam, Akhilesh and Gunja as if clearing backlog of last ten years. All of us were longing for it. My advise to all is to take a long break, spend quality time with your family, you never know when you will get this type of chance again. These memories will keep you refreshed for times to come and will give you energy after you join your daily routine again.