Friday, July 31, 2009

So differently same.....

There are covered wagons, and covered wagons.

Some, pulled by wild horses, carrying entire families across the Sierra Nevadas , brought entire generations into the warm folds of the sunny state of California. Some to prospect for gold, some to see a new sunrise in their lives.

Some wagons, of course, are also made of tough metal, substitute horse power for horses, and basically fly across oceans, taking off from far away lands. Bringing folks to the cooler climes of California. There is gold of a different type, with Intel Inside and Silicon valley outside. And those that have come till now, continue to see new sunrises in their lives.

Three generations ago, my great grandfather travelled from our native village in the Konkan region on India's west coast, to seek a new life in Mumbai. Leaving behind some, taking some, as he travelled, sometimes on foot, sometimes by boat, and most of the times by bullock cart , to get to Mumbai, clutching a single piece of old luggage, and a clutch of some basic rural food, packed by worried folks. The folks , earlier settled in Mumbai, helped him through the hard times, and a new branch of the family came into being.

Migration continues today, and our State Transport buses, always referred to as the ST buses , are now the preferred medium. Bus stations, always studded with waiting people, people rushing towards buses, passing in luggage through windows to folks already inside, an empty enquiry counter, and old lady tightly wrapping her saree end around her face, clutching her little cloth bag, as she herds the grand kids into the seat along side her, the man of the house, stepping out to buy some cucumbers for the kids , a special treat ; several sinewy types, half up on the ladder leading o the luggage rack on top, making light of all kinds of complicated stuff being loaded up, and someone running in last minute to board a bus with a flapping entrance door as the driver honks to indicate a departure.....

Nothing has changed. Just the vehicle. Mumbai's airport is chock a block with Indians flying the Pacific route; students, some flying for the first time , some who have never known any other mode of transport, newly married types, some folks flying in to be there for the birth of their first grandchild, grandparents flying in , suitably wrapped against the cold. The anticipation, the anxiety, the sense of going to a new place, the adventure , is the same. The crush inside the plane, calling out to children given seats , strangely far way from their parents, , small babies cribbing in protest against the chaos, and changing cabin pressure. Bemused folks from other lands, join in taking their places , accepting the change they see, and get back to whatever they were doing.

Transit points and procedures dot along the way, and on arrival, the same crowd. Its once again awash in the diaspora; all emerging , some wide eyed, some smug, and some just plain tired with a long 22 hour journey , stepping forward into the future, yet backward by half a day in real time.

On a short visit from India, I am here to attend a family event. A few days later I accompany my brother to a local electronics store where he needs to pick up something he has ordered. There are many young folks, the IT generation, browsing through things, some buying, some with stars in their eyes, but most of whom I would have normally seen , say at a similar place in Mumbai.

There is a very nice gentleman , silver haired , with a twinkle in his eyes, handling the queries and showing you stuff. Something is not the color that is ordered. He says to check in a day, and they will have it.

We nod and smile. He says a few words in Marathi (my mother tongue), and my brother replies. he smiles. I read the name on his badge. I smile. I could be in Mumbai.

And then we walk out of the entrance. After showing the receipt to another gentleman , who checks, smiles, and wishes us . I seek out the name on his badge. He is from points south of Mumbai. (we folks have this amazing ability to guess and ascertain this)

I have come full circle. The globalization is complete.


  1. On a trip to the Kanha Wildlife Sanctuary years ago we slowed down to pass a caravan of bullock carts that stretched back by a long way until the view glazed over. Hundreds of them.

    They appeared to be a gypsy communty though I cannot be sure, migrating some place.

    The children were laughing away while bouncing on the possessions piled in the bullock carts. Some of whom were covered.

  2. Ah ! But 'we' are everywhere ! And a part of my family hat lives in Sa Fransisco are far more 'Indian' i the obserance of festivals & rituals than us.

    Leading me to believe that we ideed have full circle !!

    And yes, Mumbai is everywhere.

    And just a couple of weeks back we hosted someone from Australia. And moving about through Hiranandani and buying few things...she said, 'but i can buy everything that i get in Adelaide' ! And i guess she was saying something similar !


    Have a wonderful time over thre !

  3. "There is gold of a different type, with Intel Inside and Silicon valley outside" -- I liked this quote. :-)

    And you know i am always surrounded by indians everywhere here, my friends circle, my colleagues, all are indians, but still when some indian sales person in target or walmart looks at you and smiles there is different feeling your get, a feeling of recognition, a feeling of acknowledgment that we belong to the same cultural background a different one from the one dominant here.

  4. Wagon, train, supersonic jet...transit is a state of being in the modern age. As Jhumpa Lahiri quoted in her book, "seeds always flourish better in UNACCUSTOMED EARTH'". Migration challenges our resourcefulness and adaptability.

    I hope you will have a lovely time and enjoy your visit.

  5. and generally the ones living abroad are more attuned to festivals, traditions and more close knit as one community.

    enjoy your stay :)

  6. I hope you have a wonderful time in the U. S, and that you are treated as warmly as you treat us in your blog. (And not just by transplants from Mumbai.)

  7. Interesting to see this through your eyes..

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  9. Lovely Post! Airports and stations make me introspective. Yes at times we travel far and yet don't leave home.

  10. Suranga,
    I see why I love your blog.You have a human touch to everything you write. I could almost visualize your great grandpa travelling to Mumbai from Konkan. It must have been an adventure of sorts for him. Well and wide eyed parents visiting the US of A for the first time it could have been me 5 years back. I am an ardent follower of yours only thing I haven't listed myself in the group. Will do so soon. Very well written.

  11. Have a pleasant stay.Will wait for your American experience.

  12. Vinita Thank you

    Anil P What a perceptive comment . I guess the state of mind of the immigrant is inversely proportional to the fastness of it all... and may those children you saw remain always happy as they were on the road....

    Kavi Thank you. I am just back from buying some Mehndi cones from the corner store... unbelievable na ?....:-))

    Enchanted :-))) Intel inside, Silicon Valley outside, and there is gold, in between in the hearts too....

    Sucharita Thanks so much for the wishes. And this earth is slowly becoming a "custom" earth....

    Suma, Darlene, Lou, Moni , Chrysalis Thank you all so much for your wishes.

    HHG Thank you for the nice comments. And its so amazing, but despite countries and customs become different, one notices that people really are the same the world over, in the way they worry about family, celebrate, enjoy, etc. And I find so many similarities across generations sometimes...

  13. It is funny isnt it. The more we travel the smaller the world seems. And its nice to feel a little at home when we are in strange places. Mumbai goes everywhere with you regardless of where you are in the world I am sure. My neighbour comes from Mumbai. You would feel at home here. Glad to see you back safely too - there is nowhere like home really.