Rain rain, go away

After 5 months of gray skies apart from the 10 minutes of sunlight in January, I am jaded by rains. Sometimes, I find myself oblivious to it, with me not noticing the rain drops, the soggy jacket or the puddles on the street anymore. My last three winters have been textbook cases of the phrase – “Too much of anything is a disaster”. Also, “Be careful what you wish for”.

My latest stint in the Pacific northwest has been full of new and delightful geographical experiences. Watching a snow-clad mountain from my office desk took a good 6 months to become routine and the beauty of gigantic fir and spruce trees in my backyard lasted a whole year before it became mundane. The cascade mountains, that flank the city, were an unknown mountain range to me (blame it on the geography textbooks that stopped with the Sierra Nevadas -technically, they are an extension, but the climates and greenery surrounding them are so distinct!) Surrounded by such natural beauty and the untouched Pacific coastline, it was a joy to live and explore the region all summer, spring and fall.

Then came the winter.

Now, with a stint in Buffalo, NY that automatically elevates your tolerance to colder-than-Mars temperatures and gigantic piles of dirty snow, the winter here is extremely mild. I didn’t even take out my actual winter jackets. However, it does rain. A lot.

Rains are romanticized to death in Indian literature, movies, books and I had an extreme love for it too. Watching dark, cloudy skies after relentless sunny summer days and oven-like temperatures elevated my mood and made me so happy. But having 5 months of it, almost without a break, shows you how so much rain can actually bore you too. I was told when I moved here that I will dislike rains once I live here. I couldn’t believe them. I don’t hate it, but sure, my fandom has sure decreased a few notches. For one, you can’t wear nice shoes. Dogs are wet all the time leading to non-stop colds, coughs and hours of blowdrying and toweling. No outdoor sports, no biking, no casual strolls without umbrellas or rain-gear. Skies remain gray and cloudy, albeit warm and mild. Plants don’t do too well either, my herbs died because I delayed transferring the pots indoors and the dryer runs on overtime every week. Mud rooms are muddy and soggy and heavy vacuuming is essential to maintain general hygiene. A rainy weather routine is fun if the rain lasts for a week, or two. But once the season extends to a couple of months, you long for the sunshine already.

I stopped checking the local weather. How different is it going to be afterall? Only a 85% chance of rain, down from 100%? Oh well, guess what, it is raining. For the next 3 weeks.

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My (worthless) two cents

11/9 was momentous in many ways. It was momentous to me as an Indian, that finally a big step was taken to do away with corruption. Corruption has seeped through the Indian way of life so deeply that it is rusting and corroding morals, principals and ideas. The step taken is inconvenient in the extreme short term, but, it will finally do away or bring to light the corrupt folks and their “black” money. But I am not here to talk about that as much as about the elections held in the country I’ve been living in for the last 7.5 years.

Yes, it was devastating. I have never been so personally invested or interested in election outcomes and as I sat agape staring at the numbers before me, I could not understand. I went through all the stages of grief -anger, denial, sadness and so on. I couldn’t even muster myself to sleep. I was devastated that a woman had failed to break the glass ceiling. But I was more upset that the opponent was who he is. Over the last six months or so, the Republican candidate was called thoroughly incompetent and other nasty adjectives. His debate performances just made interesting television and drew laughter from the educated,literate crowd. I never in my wildest dreams expected him to win. It would be closely contested I thought, but winning, not a chance.

Now that slowly everyone is accepting the reality of what has happened and articles upon articles emerge trying to assuage the public and heal their wounds, it has brought out the hordes of trump supporters in all their glory and they deserve to be heard. I have had the opportunity to travel and work in the “rust-belt” that seems so different from the world that my family, friends, co-workers and I inhabit and I think I deserve to describe the little I saw.

The whole area seems to be stuck in time, a once-glorious past, full of dilapidated buildings, rusting plumbing, potholed roads, faded neon signs and old-dented scratched cars. You felt you went back in time to an America that hasn’t caught up with its coastal developed belts. The houses look shabby and run-down save for some posh neighborhoods and bars are always full, even at noon on a workday. Chimneys poke through the skyline, all in different stages of ruin, full of graffiti, no longer functional. There are hundreds of restaurants that don’t understand the concept of vegetarianism. I have seen Walmarts with no vegetable or produce sections.This exists, today, in parallel to the swanky neighborhoods of the silicon valley and the skylines of Manhattan. People have old-fashioned ideas of the roles of man and woman, do not believe in travelling far and wide and college education seems a rarity. I have interacted with these folks who disregard the ideas or even the presence of a woman in their midst, because she is a woman. Call them misogynist if you will, but in reality, they have much bigger problems to deal with. Can you imagine the quality of education they receive? What is their stimulus to change? I can see in my mind’s eye, how his campaign would have appealed to them. Clinton was realistic in not promising all the lost jobs or reversing globalization. He wasn’t but his message was simpler, more directed to this demographic and it paid off. They live in a world where unemployment and worry about having enough to feed their family and pay off their mortgage lies foremost on their mind. Misogyny, racism comes afterward.On my coast-to-coast road trip, this was more than evident. The inner-cities have indeed fallen behind. Globalization might have brought in more material goods and made movement of items easier, but their life has seen a downfall and it is easy to see their contempt and anger against the system. They look for anyone, just anyone who might fight for their cause, his personal digressions and character flaws mean nothing to those who struggle to earn, live and eat everyday. This America is not very visible to the rest of the world, but it exists. It shocked me the first time I visited too. I realized the slim bubbles or fragile walls that separate my world from theirs. It felt like a different place. It is.

My anger is directed towards the newspapers and media outlets. It is normal for media houses to take sides but just showing one side of the coin is akin to brainwash. An avid consumer of everything printed – from the New York Times, The New Yorker, Washington Post and other publications who are described as liberals, I feel cheated. It is alright to publish opinions and ideas of left-liberals and denigrate a republican candidate who shows no regard for public decency or political correctness, but the other side should also be shown. Name-calling, adjective writing is one thing, but media outlets have a responsibility to present the reality to society and not just print what like-minded individuals want to read or see. It is uncomfortable for sure, but it gives the right picture. If I believed everything I had read, I would have assumed there was absolutely no one who was on Trump’s side and that such a vile, idiotic,corrupt individual should not even be allowed to venture close to policy-making, let alone represent a major political party. Had I not been to the inner cities myself, I would have never had that iota of suspicion that he does have takers and his words are finding support in some parts of this country.

I think it is time to move past this and move forward. It would be interesting to see what powers a President can yield and the system of checks and balances that exist in this country that would prevent any disastrous outcomes.  This election has brought to light the stark differences in mindset, economy and ideals that exist in this country. It is time to accept , bring to light and work on the gigantic flaws of racism, poverty, misogyny hiding in plain sight in this global powerhouse.