Bloomington Diary – Part 7 – Homeless… is there a Utopia?

Both my husband & me belongs to different schools of thoughts & they say opposites always attracts so we are still together after donkeys’ years of marriage!! When I say something he always wants proof… just like the modern day youth…

Couple of years ago when we were in Boston for the first time, we saw a homeless man. It was the first summer weekend & practically the whole city was out either picnicking or just walking around or just doing something. When I asked my daughter why everyone is out she simply said its sunny & bright!! So even the homeless were out in the park-bench enjoying the sunshine! When I told my husband, his first question was, “how do you know?”… Well, I said, you should watch the movies or TV shows, then it’s easy to identify. He went to my daughter to confirm what I said was correct!!

Then I explained to him there is no such thing as Utopia in this Universe & no country is sans poverty (zero percentage) no matter what ever one says. I also added perhaps in yonder, somewhere in the distant past…. couple of centuries ago or more, before the Mughals, Portuguese, French, Britisher, etc., etc., came, India was almost close to Utopia… so good were some rulers starting from Sri Rama!! If only the correct history of India is in order…. not mixed-up-history we could learn so much….

So when I saw the first homeless in Bloomington & mentioned it to him, he agreed with me for a change. But the good thing was the next day morning we found her push cart lying empty around 350 meters from where we saw her the previous day. I said that’s a good thing & my daughter who was with us at that time said did you know that if this kind of cart is returned to the store by a homeless person, they pay money to them!! I don’t know who that they are?

It was on 15th when we were going out in the morning I saw a young woman standing opposite side pavement of Funeral Chapel with a placard that said, ‘help needed; family in trouble’. She was standing with all the humility which was soul touching. Perhaps it was the first time she was standing & I was wondering who could help her standing so far away. On 16th again I saw her still standing there in the evening. Then I said poor thing she is still standing there.

On 17th evening I saw a slim young man & another lady standing almost at the same spot holding a placard seeking help. Incidentally on the same day morning my husband read out to me in Indiana Daily student newspaper that Indiana closed the books on fiscal year 2014 on June 30, ending the year with a $106-million surplus & more than $2 billion in reserve. I said the economy must be still recouping even though some states have surplus. That’s why even with surplus there are homeless… For some obvious reason my husband got angry with me & said that does not mean the percentage of poor people is still much lower than India.

My argument was that I did not compare people & I never said that America is poor… I am just telling no country is sans poor or with families below poverty level. India has one too many mouths to feed & our politicians are greedy & selfish, we don’t teach the general public about family planning, etc., etc. This went on till both of us got tired of the subject.

On the 20th of July we went to Chicago to spend two & a half days there. A lovely city in summer & then I started counting the homeless… on the Lake Michigan banks, in the garden, on the footpath, in the park, I totally counted 16 of them. Some sitting on the bench asking extra change (disposable), some that can’t work for health reasons, some with messages on placards, some simply sitting without expecting anything from anyone & some sleeping. After the 10th my husband started showing them to me… either he had become an expert in identifying them… or he was simply teasing me, I have no idea.

I said listen my dear husband, I am not condemning or comparing anyone with anyone but many a times people try to say or project Indians as poor or snake charmers or beggars. When the Superpower could not control the homeless & jobless & poverty, how could India which has one billion plus population eliminate these problems? We still manage to educate our children as best as we can & best of all, we still have something left after so many countries tried to loot us to the core.

24th July the day before we left Bloomy we saw yet another man with pony tail standing opposite to the funeral chapel with a placard. I have no idea why everyone chose that particular place. And we saw a cart of a homeless person abandoned on the road opposite to Indiana Physicians Center. The first one which I had seen still lay close to where it was abandoned, slowly moving towards the Marsh!! For some reason both of us were not interested on discussing that matter!! Later I saw two young men with a trolley bag searching in different dustbins around the complex block. I have no idea what they were searching for. It reminded me of the scene opposite to our apartment in Kuwait where sometimes I see people searching & collecting the fruits & vegetable discarded by the nearby shop. So no county is a Utopia & free from some kind of poverty – poor or homeless!!

Around one kilometer from where I live there is a large garden called Rumaithya garden. One middle aged gentleman (I was told he is a local) used to live in the park for more than a year. It was the way in which he lived was the interesting factor. He used to have crates of mineral water, juice, fan (I don’t know how he got the electricity supply or perhaps battery operated), mattress, blanket, etc. He used to lean on the pillow & sit (typical divaniya style), at times he had visitors too. Sometimes he used to leave his domain, & sit on the bench & pass weird comments to passing women in particular. I don’t know how he managed his food. I made futile attempt to take his picture from far & half succeeded. Someone told me he has own house nearby… but why he was staying there God only knows!! One fine day he was forcibly evicted from there it seems…

Wonder if the CEO taxi driver I had met in Chicago could have some answer to my doubt.

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Bloomington Diary – Part 6 – Goodbye Bloomy

It’s almost time for me to leave Bloomy. A small little place I have come to love in a unique way. Everything about it is so different & everyone I met had been so pleasant to me (us both), I feel good about staying here jobless for 21 days so I could explore the place.  And I wonder if I have seen more flora & fauna of the place than the locals itself.

I never in my wildest dreams thought I would have such an enriching experience in a small university town of USA in such a small number of days. No wonder civilization starts & dwells healthily in villages. Bloomington is a “Melting pot of Humanity” where the people are so humane & polite. I thank all the wonderful people I met from bus drivers to cabbies to sales women at the mall to people at the mall to people at the winery to ……the list goes on! God bless the people of Bloomington. Not just the locals even the other nationalities including Indian students I met were just great, as if the good vibe from the land just rubs off on any one that steps in. No wonder it is called Blooming – ton means flowering in loads…. positive vibes are like flowers maybe I should add an “s” with the “ing”.

Sometimes I used people around me as my study subject for humanity… in a curious way without meaning any harm to anyone. The little sweet Punjabi housemate of my daughter from Delhi was a sweetheart & I spent some time in a day just pulling her leg. The young Sindhi who was born in Pakistan & came to India as a teenager was so sweet & made me realize how her Pakistani childhood made her such a fine human being. She made the best alu parata I ever eaten & was so generous in giving the food to everyone… The tall young Gujju friend reminded me of my son who almost made me feel like twisting his ears…and it was so much fun to watch his face & action change when I told him artificial vanilla is a byproduct of petroleum…

End of it all I have hopes that there is still scope for humanity. Someone asked if I want to live in Bloomington for good… I said I have my own reasons for not living anywhere other than in India that too in Karnataka. But definitely it would be my second… And also I don’t think I would be able to with stand the winter but I definitely would want to see a white Christmas in Bloomington or perhaps in Big apple or in Vancouver whichever is possible!!

Even though I could click endless number of pictures against my husband’s tension of getting arrested I could never get a decent picture of the squirrels, rabbits, deer & otters (guess it were the otters I seem so often in the little pond on the North Pete Ellis Drive every day). May be they want me to come back & learn more about the humanness of the people of Bloomington. I am really glad that I made the trip & stayed in beautiful Bloomington & my husband was there every step of the way not only to care & protect me but also to keep me entertained with his constant fear & never ending tensions.

I still have to go to Post Office which is practically next door & am yet to meet the Sheriff (of course a friendly visit); I am reserving it for my next trip. Whenever my husband scared me of getting arrested for trespassing, which I think was exaggerated, I would fool him by saying if that happens or before that happens I will meet the Sherriff & see if he is my age & single, &  I would ask him out to dinner…

Thank you for reading. Until my next visit a great time for all my readers & like my husband would say a big God bless.

I feel my life has come a full circle & I have seen it all that one has to see in life both good & bad & I have no fear of death. It gives me the freedom to write what comes to my mind. I am sorry if I have offended any one in any way with my writing. I am different in many ways even though I would say there is enough room for expansion in my brain. I write what come to my mind when I start writing… there is no preplan or prerequisite to my writing.

I will surely have to visit Indiana again after all it seems to call all Indians… India – ana (ana means come in Hindi)

Bloomington Diary – Part 5 – Funeral Chapel

The very first day I started walking I saw the pretty Funeral Chapel. I don’t really remember seeing one in any of the places I visited in North America. It’s a charming little chapel with plenty of deep yellow Lilium flowers, sitting right at the T-junction of 3rd Street & South Pete Ellis Drive, facing MacDonald & KFC. Besides the two restaurants there are many other eateries. I have no idea if the restaurants came first or the chapel first… just kidding.

It stood there as if to remind the general public to drive carefully & eat wisely. I was thinking it’s a cute little place to say final good bye if the soul is still hovering around. However I never saw any vehicle there or in their parking lot. So either it’s not functional or the death rate less because of the signal the chapel sends to general public. We both ourselves walked 8 to 10 kilometers daily in some way or the other. Perhaps God almighty gave them long life because of the lower crime rate… I remembered the sunglasses on the grass in the parking lot as well as the mobile kept leaning the tree.

It was very different from the one I saw at Indianapolis which was next to a cemetery & seemed never ending. I have no idea if the cemetery is really big or I imagined it. My husband was busy concentrating on my daughter’s driving, somewhat like back seat driving & my daughter was nervous between GPS direction & father’s watchful eye & me in my own world!!

I have seen funeral chapels in movies & TV shows & someone had posted a video showcasing some kind of figures appearing in the chapel as if they have come to watch the mass. People sometimes create either a scary or nice thing attached to death or ghost. It’s a different thing to understand. I remembered my childhood where we used to roam around the grave yard collecting some berries or fruits but in the night would refuse to sleep near the window or go to bathroom with our escort. Strangely in young mind always the night is attached to ghost. Now I have grown out of the fear after realizing birth & death are the two faces of the same coin & we have to die if we like it or not & that it’s all predestined.

Life is simple for us to understand & it’s unfolding right in front of our eyes. We die thousands of times in our lifetimes!! Wondering what I am talking about? Every day when are asleep we are as good as dead, although we are still breathing & have utility repair work going on. We are alive but not aware of what is happening around us. The sense shops are closed for the day with the shutter down. That’s what the scriptures say: When you sleep you go to your seat of origin, from where you come from- the God almighty. That’s why the sleep always refreshes you & energies you & no matter what, no one wants to be deprived of sleep. Likewise death is just change of garb from one worn-out body to another. Yet everyone is afraid of death & if only we had control over death… LoL. Someone had sent me this interesting forward:

 

One day Yama Raja (Lord of death in Hinduism) came to a man & said: Hey today is your last day!

Man: But I am not ready & so many things are pending, no way I could go with you.

Yama Raja said: Well today your name is the first on my list…

Man: Okay, then why don’t you take a seat & we will take a COFFEE before we go?

Yama Raja said: Alright your last wish I can’t say no & also coffee.. the aroma is tantalizing…

Man gave Yama Raja COFFEE with sleeping pill in it.

Yama Raja finished COFFEE & fell into a deep sleeeeep/slumber

Happily Man….. took the list & removed his name from top of the list & put at the bottom of the list.

 

When Yama Raja woke up he said to the Man: Because you have been so nice to me, now I will start my job from the BOTTOM of the list… did I bring a smile to your lips?

 

Practically every other day we walked past the chapel & I was curious to go inside but I was not sure if I could go inside just like that out of curiosity & also some time there a is belief that one will be jinxed if they are thinking of such places..

Every time my husband dragged me… let us see some other time but that some other time never came… “You always make trouble for me… someone is definitely going to send you to Sherif’s office!!”

Bloomington diary – Part 1 – Small town blues

Firstly, sorry for the long delays since my last few posts, been travelling all over in the last month or so, including a long eventful drive cross country through America. This next set of posts has been a long time coming, and is a summary of collections and stories from my previous trip to the USA in 2014. Hope you enjoy!

When I landed in Bloomington, Indiana on 4th of July, I was wondering what I was going to do for 3 weeks & planned to make walking & losing weight as my number one priority…

Bloomington is a small Midwestern University town & it’s practically empty during the summer months of June to August when most students will either be away on internships or on holidays. That is almost 65% percent of the population.

Like all the university towns of North America, it’s a peaceful wooded town & the forest beside the state highway reminds me of a drive on Coorg roads. The air is fresh, water is clean & people are friendly. Like every nation in the world where people closer to nature are friendlier than the city dwellers, bloomy goes one step extra- at least compared to Providence, RI.

People passing by, even though very few at this time of the year, always have a smile or a wish or at least a nod, irrespective of the colour & creed. Even the youngsters walking the dog also were in the same league. People drive with caution & in an intersection where there is no signal always the one who comes even if a fraction of a second earlier gets the preference. And here the pedestrian rules the road & everyone waits religiously.

Whole surrounding is extremely clean, & the lawn everywhere well-manicured. The birds singing early in the morning with various sounds surprise you as if you are in a rainforest. Plenty of hares running around showing off their white spot on the butts!! Occasionally you can spot the grazing deer while driving around in the evenings.

Surprising there aren’t many gardens around but many wild flowers peep here & there, popping their head out on the grass. Unfortunately, I could not get a single picture of the wild flowers beside the forest as stopping anywhere even for a short time is prohibited & Uncle Sam could pop up anytime from anywhere it seems.

Many a times I see the Asian cousins of various plants with little variation in colour or texture or flowers or the leaves. For example I met the cousins of the orange trumpet, ekka flower, & strangely a wild edible mushroom (umbrella mushroom) which of course my husband would not even let me pick. There was also a mushroom similar to the tree-mushroom but on the ground- later I realized that perhaps it is because they use wood-shaves in the garden & the mushroom must have evolved!! That’s reminded me that in spite of everything, there are lot of things common at least in the nature and over which man does not really have control. No visa or green card or residence is required!!

The remaining summer students at the bus stop reminds you of the era which you are in as everyone sports a mobile phones and are unaware of the world around them. As usual either talking or texting in their own shortcut words, murdering the English language itself! The words they use sound like they are writing some Vedic mool-mantra or something… At times I wonder if the future generation will even know how to write by hand or calculate using their brain. It’s every inventors dream to create a future robot with emotions & motion like humans. But I think it’s going to be the other way around & we are going create children, rather future generations, who are like robots… The bus stops stands beside a beautiful pond with a weeping willow tree. I don’t think most of the students are even aware there is a pond behind them…ha ha ha!

While walking in the morning we came across the rushing fire brigade & everyone promptly made way for them. The siren could be heard from far & even before the fire engine had hit the signal, other drivers had already made way. Then in a while the police car followed & then the medical vehicle. Everyone knew exactly where they are supposed to go unlike the usual scene I witness where the fire brigade goes round & round, perhaps because it’s a small town & later after walking a kilometer plus we saw the medical vehicle going back. No wonder fireman & fire chief are well respected in the community.

Even though you can get stuff in plastic bags in the super market (Marsh – the only one nearest at 1 km away) & in pharmacies, etc., you don’t find any plastic bags lying everywhere. It was odd one day, when we found a bag lying on the pathway between the meadows near the apartment. My daughter wanted to pick it up & carry home to put in the dustbin as for about quarter kilometer there was no dustbin. But I would not let her do that because I was afraid that something must have been inside as a normal Bloomington citizen would not do that. Next day it was still there on the grass & flowers of the meadow, carried by wind.  At the end of the day it was cleared by the young man who was mowing the lawn. So in 25 days, that was the only time I saw plastic lying around. Even the two young men running though the garbage bin just got in, collected what they want, & left without messing up outside.

The main post office is very close, practically across the place I stay but quarter kilometer away still functions in full swing; mostly I see the elderly people working. May be I should take a chance & go & meet or talk to someone there.

On 16th July while walking home in the morning, around 10 am, we saw a mobile kept under the tree. Perhaps someone must have found it & kept it there in case the owner comes looking for it.  We were wondering if we should pick it & give it somewhere, a lost & found place perhaps, but we were afraid to touch it.  Then I thought of the news I watched a while ago on the theft of mobile phones in New York city last year (about a million!) & the high light was on a girl who lost her life. She was shot by two men in a car who stole her iphone when she was talking to her mother telling she is on her way home, while get into her car.

Another time early morning we saw a pair of sunglasses kept neatly on the grass besides a parking lot. Someone must have found it and kept there.