Saturday, September 12, 2009

30000 Feet above the U.S. of A!!

On a recent flight, I was pondering over a friend's question.  It led me to delve deep and discover anew and hence this article!!

I have always loved heights - and I am never happier than when I am in a plane accelerating for take off. I guess it is to do with being able to see more of the world; a bigger picture. The higher the altitude, the better the picture. It is a time to let go of petty thoughts and elevate yourself. It is a place where it's quiet, where you can seek harmony and where you can be alone. Back home in India, I had a favorite spot on the top of my building where I would retreat to, to think, to dream and to soar above reality. Often times I would get there in the evening and then lie on my back, until all sky was changed and amidst its changing colors I'd get to befriend the stars, once again.  And as the eager wind played with my hair, I would just sit back and listen to the city, the myriad of sounds and little specks of light in the distance - windows to the life beyond.

Often times tired of fighting the school, parents and everything in between, it was the one place where I was truly at peace.  In retrospect, at the time, it was only the roof top and a teacher that saved me from total ruin. As the city grew quieter in the growing night, I knew I had to go home soon and my thoughts would return to the life at hand. Almost always dejected, I would find inspiration by reminding myself of my mentor's words - "Go to America - Don't stay here. You are meant to go abroad!!" And like the sugar sleep of a cold morning, the rooftop would make me stay five more minutes and beckon me to imagine of possibilities yet to come.

Prophetically enough, it was in the zeniths above North America that I found the azure of my life. What began as a fascination for the west, swelled to a powerful ambition and saw me fly out of my nest, over vast seas and onto foreign shores.  Over the years, the U.S. guarded my individuality and revitalized every creative instinct I carried. What began as a temporary abode for my graduate studies grew to be a new home for me.

Deriding my promiscuity and labeling me as a 'Non Returning Indian', an old friend asked me 'What is it about America that anyone going there  does not wish to return?' It was a banal question, one that is asked many times,  but coming from a close friend, it made me think ... "How could I best explain my affection for America?" And I realized, that often times the true reason why U.S. is so loved is rarely within guess of outsiders.

[ Image used under public license - ]

The appeal of America does not lie in any one aspect of its nature, it is the whole experience and what it implies that makes the U.S. hard to leave. It isn't about it's copious wealth, or the carefree attitude towards sex. Neither is it about convenient infrastructure nor about the standard of living it offers. What people truly treasure about America is different for every person and is hardly ever encapsulated in one characteristic.

As for me, The United States has come to represent the only place on earth where you can be genuinely free and accomplish anything you want solely upon your merit. It has come to represent what a fully vibrant democracy looks like. The true allure of America lies in its core ideas. The belief that every citizen is equal and that every person has a birth right to pursue his/her happiness. It is freedom in the real sense of the term. Freedom to choose ones profession, to choose ones religion, freedom to wear what you want, to speak what you want, to love whom you want and to be yourself in every breath of your life. It lies in the honesty and fairness innate to almost every American. The real allure lies in the desire to be good, to be virtuous and to be rewarded for it. It lies in the certainty that your individual freedom is guarded at all costs and in the relish that your life is preciously valued.

It is a great country, it is a beautiful country. Even from a height of 30000 feet, it betrays a linearity of thought that is hard to miss.  It is blessed with a remarkable landscape. Sweeping fields of green and gold that caress the sunshine touching them. Breathtaking mountains and dazzling valleys revealing chaotic fractals of nature's geometry. Vast cities neatly laid out and complex man-made structures complimenting the landscape. Awe-inspiring networks of highways like ever flowing streams of human traffic evincing the nation's foresight. It is a land tended to with love and diligently nursed by its people, people who know they will be loved back. It is a house made into a home.

Day in and day out, it is this endearing warmth that thaws even the most frigid cynicism and makes you hope.  Its immigrant origins make it welcome and embrace you. Its patchwork culture gives it a unique sense of humor and makes you smile. Its belief in itself gives you confidence and becomes your strength. And  sure enough, like a flawed human being, it can sometimes be imperfect, but its heart is in the right place. It is people as people should be, mankind the way it ought to be. It is the one place its founders sought, the one place aspirations still seek. It makes you shun the unneeded and choose only the best to keep. It is an idea. It is a dream.

You can not understand why people love the U.S. if you are blinded by prejudice. Its an answer not to be sought on the floor with your nose to the ground, its an answer to be found in the transcending heights above.  

It is what I'd tell my friend, what I would tell my teacher, if only!!

- Sanket


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