August 24, 2006

At Crossroads

Although the cars normally cruise at speeds of 60 miles/hr [thats 100 km/hr] on the freeways, the traffic on the city roads is very much controlled. 'Polite' is the governing word to describe the attitude of people behind the wheels.I have not heard a single car honking in my week here. Nor do the bicycles have bells.If everyone follows the rules to the T, then there is no need of horns.

There are separate signals for pedestrians everywhere and the everyone follows them. Even the cars :). Walking on the road is gauche. And crossing the road at will as in India is a strict no-no.It falls under jay walking and carries a fine of 100$. Whew! Also, at zebra crossings and at corners without signals, the right of way is with the pedestrians. That was such a jaw-dropping idea to us Indians that our mind simply refused to accept that a car cruising at 80 kph will screech to a halt even if you are just waiting on the footpath at a zebra crossing and wait patiently till you amble across. It makes us blush ! Now, I have an inkling of how intimidated these guys must feel by Indian driving. Cows goofing on the road, dogs running across, people honking and changing lanes indiscriminately. That is a war zone!

August 23, 2006

Walking and Cycling

A whole week has gone by. I am well on my way to adjusting to the lifestyle here. Minneapolis is a great city. A big town with a laid back feel, it comes as a refreshing change to somebody like myself who has just arrived from India. At first, the total lack of hustle-bustle on the streets was disconcerting. Take a walk in the campus or the main road, and the chances are that you will be the only person visible.Everyone prefers the car. It is an extension assemblage of the American's body.

But at the same time, Minneapolis is known as the Biker's paradise. In areas neare the 'U' [local slang for University of Minnesota], all roads have separate tracks designated for bikers. The University store offers helmets and other apparel at deep discounts, and bikes themselves are available staring from 10$ for a basic model to 50$ for a multi-geared one. Seeing so many Americans racing around on their cycles came as a plesant surprise. I have to get one asap!

August 22, 2006

The Americas Ahoy!

An hour after India entered her sixtieth year, I boarded Alitalia Flight 771 to Milan. It was thirty hours later that I emerged out of many concourses, lounges, entry and exit hatches, baggage checks, X ray checks and congested aisles to breath in the sweet damp air of Minneapolis, the capital of the state of Minnesota.The journey was beautiful but will be consigned to another post. I was to spend my next four years here, in the Land of Plenitude. A different culture, different mindsets, different paradigms, different cuisines.It is going to be a rollicking four years. Accompany me on this journey as I admire the virtues of this New World , lambast its silly foibles and poke fun at their queer ideas of Pax Americana. And also experience the trials and tribulations of this poor PhD candidate in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota.