Sunday, August 18, 2013

Blitz-burgh, Thoughts and Basecamp

So, this is my first time here in the States and the following are my quick observations about the city, its people and the whats in store ahead. Business school seems like its going to get tough. Our Dean said that once classes start we'll be at least one month behind after wading through the first week. Urgh, I'm not sure I'd like that feeling.

Anyway, here I am happily typing away, waiting for (read terrified of) the high tide.

1. Shut up and Run: 

Running, if not a neurotic overuse of thyroid glands, is very much an anytime obsession here. I mean, you could wake in the middle of the night, say 2AM, or jump right out of a meeting at 12 Noon on a business day to spot people quietly running on the road like burning calories on the running track is their full time job description. Talk about a one-track mind. Not that tracking them is any of my business, but I just like to keep my eyes open to contrast.

2. Chees-y and Loving it:

By Indian standards, I am a cheese lover. I like cheese on my bread, I enjoy pizza with a cheese base and toppings, and I like cheese tomato sabzi. But W.O.A.H, I learnt the real meaning of a cheese sandwich when I saw a few broccoli, lettuce, and two pieces of tomato gasping for air like inexperienced swimmers in a sea of cheese. Not just one type of cheese, mind you, but 15 thick layers of 3 different mozzarella, pepperjack and parmesan. Cheese is no joke here, they like their food cheesy and they like to see it dripping.

I think Indians easily spend about 3 times the amount of time as compared to Americans on contemplating, preparing, eating and digesting their food.

Though I'm really not sure which approach works out better, maybe something on the middle path?

3. Self-Service or No-Service: 

Though my parents don't really (thankfully) support the servants-culture, I come from a land where there are always other people to do your work. It could be any work - from washing your dishes, to preparing your food, to parking your car to getting a photocopy, you can always pay someone peanuts and get it done with. Though there is nothing wrong with the concept per se, (it gives someone poor a livelihood, after all), I think that psychologically it instills a sense of superiority in the payer, which over time matures into the illusion of power. 

But service is so expensive here, that one would rather move their own muscles.
And although I've been running around looking for instructions on how-to-do stuff that comes almost intuitively to the natives ("just put in your username and password to get the print-out, duh"), I like that.

I guess that this do-it-yourself culture helps to develop a sense of appreciation for every job (any job) and a mutual respect for everyone irrespective of who they are or what they do. So the 'janta-hai-mera-baap-kaun-hai' attitude does not surface, no-one is a king by birth. They've got to work their way up. 

As a corollary, people do not pollute the streets or spit on the footpath or throw trash on the road, simply because they have picked up their own garbage at home and know what happens if they litter.

No, this does not mean that US is bias free: I have seen impolite people, rude by-passers (interestingly enough, it was right when I entered the airport), the polluted Michigan lake (my first two days in the States), cigarette butts in no-smoking zones, thick black smoking vehicles polluting the whole world with them and more. It simply means that the incidence of such incidents is less, and more specifically, this is not the norm.

4. A picture is worth a thousand words: 

I found this house number very close to the street on which I live, and just had to take a picture. Americans really have their own sense of humor.

House Number 5218.5

5. Miles to go before I sleep

Everyone here has work to do. An errand to run, a task to complete, a scheduled run (!) perhaps, and food is the least of everyone's priorities. They'd rather just "grab a sandwich" or "pick up a (cheesy) pizza" and be done with it. Ah, they need to visit my laid back city in India.

The famous slant structure at CMU cuts right through the sky

So here I am in the middle of Tepper Basecamp - this is an orientation of sorts, which has preliminary maths classes, an introduction to the various MBA specializations, internship talk, resume reviews and the forbidden N-word*. Spirits are quite high in our batch (both literally and figuratively) and we all are practically at somebody's place or at Walnut Street or in the middle of the road, every other evening, chatting each other up. The batch is quite diverse and there is loads to talk about. Very soon Basecamp will be over, though and scaling Mount Tepper in harsh Pittsburgh winter will begin, hmm.

*In case you haven't guessed it yet, it's also the subject of my next post, so please wait up :)


  1. Nice to hear the perspective on the 'born with power' syndrome in India. Living in developed nations lends quite a foresight upon where we heading with our own nation. Food description is amazing. :P

    1. Thanks Angad, yes that's true. As much as I like India, I cannot help but criticize our system of power in a silver spoon that comes tumbling down generations. The whole thought process goes awry because of it.

      Thank you so much, glad you like it :)

  2. America doesn't understand food. Glad you are selling in well!

  3. America doesn't understand food. Glad you are selling in well!

    1. Geee, thanks Karun! :D

      Yeah, just the initial few days here, so everything is new. But its going to get tougher, sigh.

  4. Nice one Amita!!!

    Good observation and even better description... Would love to see more of your articles... We should meet and build our very own bloggers club! :-)

    I enjoyed reading this one... Looking forward to the next...

    1. Thank you Ritwik! Any comments, thoughts, criticism is welcome :)

      Oh, totally, I look forward to the club! :D

  5. Amita, now I understand why you hardly talk. Why talk when you write so well. Nice thoughts and a very beautiful coherent presentation. Good work...

    1. Haha, thanks so much Vishy! :)
      It's funny because my friends in India certainly do NOT think that I speak less. They'd like me to shut-up every once in a while.

    2. Amits hope you would soon give us the opportunity to do the same too..


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