Uncle Sam… And I

Friday, December 24, 2010…

Is it Friday… Or is it Saturday?

Never Mind… it’s Fursat– finally in my dear Uncle’s land…

Visiting Uncle Sam always brings back evidence after excruciating evidence of how things are so disparately different in our world. I mean, the different parts that Uncle and I inhabit. The cows or the cars, the smoldering sun or the shiver in the snow, the packed balconies or the picket fences, the chaotic organisation or the organised chaos – Uncle’s home always seems to give me a contra-distinct yet a cold welcome!

Well – weather will ever continue to haunt most that live in the west of the world – as it right now does! Whether those that that are out there in the cold comfort of Christmas and seek alms that would make it warm for them, or those in the Gucci’s and the Armani’s in the countless TV and radio studios in America that continuously dole the dope out for you by the hour on how the clouds have moved or the vapour has condensed in the skies above the scrapers – weather finds itself in the centre of discussions around here.

They are freezing down there in Florida – they say! Well that’s news for sure!

And they ask me – how is weather back home. I wonder which part of my home. Like everything else, my home is so diverse. My parents in Delhi are freezing – partly because they are old now. Down south the Deccan plateau, my country cousins are dressed up – in loin cloth (read lungi) and the fairer sex (well – fair, as much as the Dravidian descent allows) in Kanjeevaram, Bhimavaram, Dharmavaram, Nungambakkam, Meenambakkam pattu (silk) sarees welcome Christmas in abject humidity and humility.

As for my folk from Mumbai where I live now, the weather is quite diverse through the year anyway. It is hot and humid some months, it is hotter and more humid at other times of the year.

But coming back to the US of A always rekindles the comparators in the mind. Of course, we are so different. And I thought this time, I would love to closely experience the Top 5 and try make some meaningful sense of this diversity.


While US Starship Enterprise had pronounced it as the final frontier years ago, you would love to believe everybody here in the US would want to clamour for it. However, you look around. Everybody always seems to be so relaxed. There is so much of it that Space seems to be a non-issue. And for once, it seems you are amongst untouchables – there is always so much of a spatial distance between you and the guy in the front, that you dare imagining what Gandhi would have done to abolish this concept of untouchability in Uncle Sam’s land.

And look at us Hindustani bhaai log! There is never enough of an expression of love and humanity as long as we do not step over each other, shove the person in the front with all parts of our anatomy, feel and grope her, stomp her out of her wits, smell the sweat and Shakira (that will be Shakira’s new range of perfumes soon – if not already), grab every inch of space and anything else that is within reach and announce the finality of our arrival in life. Final frontier – hah – no doubt. What would we do if it was any less exciting?


Since there is space, there is chronology. I will serve you, Mr. Customer, when I am done with this one that I am serving. You may wait. It may take me a minute. Or it may take me ten. I will not leave this customer till the time this transaction is over. I will spend a half hour with you when it is your turn. But you will have to wait! Till your turn!

Ah ah – so many customers? I can serve them all at one go. I am the Goddess Durga in her mortal avatar on earth. I have many limbs and simultaneous minds that work. And yes – I will attend to that irritating phone while I am serving Customers. Well – my boy friend is calling. And my mother. And her neighbour. How exciting!


You step out in the US and everything seems to be so spic and span – well almost always. All around you, you see a place for everything and everything in its place. You touch something and you fear you might leave an imprint that the FBI might come seeking you for an inglorious crime that you committed of disturbing the peace in the glossy neighbourhood. How cold, impersonal and intimidating

Back home, you treat the entire world as your home! Sunny Paaji, extending his already ugly balcony into an uglier one, has to dump his concrete excreta in front of your home, your neighbour’s home, or anywhere else – as long as his real estate looks glitzy. In shops, we have to touch everything – we love the personal touch. Our roads are our homes too. We use them to throw everything – make the clutter look great – glitterally! How endearing!


I respect you. Not because I fear the law, or you would sue me – and yes you may – some sucker of a lawyer has to make money. My self-respect and esteem may go take a walk – if you are a walker on the street, I respect you. I am in a car, there are other cars and come to think of it, there are only cars on the road. As the lowest in the hierarchy of road users – between cars and walkers, I allow you the right of being first.

Back home, if I allowed you the space, I have to allow the space to everyone who keeps crossing the road after you, before you, along with you, on top of you, below you, on the left of you and on the right too. And to the cows and dogs that also want to cross the road. Or simply that want to squat on the road and exert their rightfulness of the place they were born. The cyclist and the bullock cart too. And then the auto rickshaws. Ah – the bus driver – who belongs to a mafia of bus driver unions. And the trucker – his truck is already battered and he would not mind battering my car if I did not respect him. How do I figure out the hierarchy? Forget it – I am first! Respect yourself. And the world will respect you!


Hey I want to shop in peace. I want to eat in peace. I want to do my own thing. Leave me alone. But no – you would not. You would pop up from somewhere – and ask me that stupid question – Can I be of help, Sir? Do I look so dumb like one of those IT nerds in your fatherland, who does not anything but binary. I know more than 0’s and 1’s man. Hey, if I need help, I will ask you. Just because you get paid to serve your customers in the store and you believe that to be your personal ethic, DND – Do Not Disturb me! Period.

Customers? Who are Customers? Why are they here? Isn’t it my siesta time? Why are they disturbing me? And why do I have to serve them? What do I get paid to do it anyway? Peanuts? These buggers do not even know what peanuts are. They would have never had them. They come in glossy cars and glitzy outfits. I live in slums and I have to serve them. Where’s justice? And equality? This is not America!!!

The last one week has been a revisit to some of these disparities the way we are wired in different worlds. And many more.

While I spend a cold Christmas here at Manhattan…

Merry Christmas…

Ravi Kodukula

One thought on “Uncle Sam… And I

  1. You left out a few ..
    We and our obsession about culture..we have to force our food, dance, music loud or not and traditions on anyone and everyone all in the name culture..just awesome..
    Our right to merry making … second to none..our paji and his insatiable sound of dholaks and bhangra ..it can blow your eardrums away..so what..it can go on through the whole night..so what..if you are irked..You don’t know how to enjoy


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