Sunday, March 12, 2017

Mad town

Last night I dreamed about being in Madison. Not sure why, just like that, out of the blue. Its been ten years since I set sight on the only American town my heart will ever belong to! The scenario was that I was just driving past my old homes and eventually going along E Washington headed towards I-90 (the Mad-Chicago drive).

Why, no idea. But I did end up waking up nostalgic. I have a love-hate relationship with that time of my life but make no mistake, I LOVE Madison. It was the place where I first flew free, tested my wings, found strength in tough times, battled gloom, faced a lot of hardship, financial, mental, you name it, but also found a lot of things that I hold dear to this day. (Did I mention Babcock ice creams, my favourite anti-depressants? :D)

Often I have wished I had more money at that time. If I was not worrying about how to manage the groceries next month or that tuition next sem, then I would have enjoyed the bliss that the town offered way more! It was a proper university town blessed with oodles of nature (of course when the sun shone) and even winter did not seem very depressing most times, thanks to the college crowd, football cheer, Halloween rackets, Christmas parades, and what not.

I did learn a lot - lived with total strangers for the first time. Experiencing how living with room-mates, all sizes and flavours of them, would be, gaining new friendships. I learned how to swim, play racquetball, went gymming for the first time ever in life, ran regularly at the student facilities (SERF, NAT, Shell) depending on where I was living at the moment and how my schedule looked like that sem. Check-out how cool SERF is - it had a heated indoor Olympic pool and also a full fledged indoor running track on one of the levels! Running and gymming is something I started way back then and have still not given up on now as a habit!

In all probability, the one and only truly foreign culture/living experience for me, will ever be in Madison. (Only saying that since I am unlikely to go anywhere in the future which will be so "white" :) ) We had an American undergrad and another gay room-mate for a sem. It was a total eye-opener. The gay roomie had to be the sweetest. Hands down. I attended an Easter service with my office mate and co-TA one year. Complete with an egg treasure hunt. She also took me to a couple of other proper mid-west type community events. The discussions and the flavour at the events were very typically mid-west. Then there was also the ECE330 class I used to TA. I learned how to say "x over y" rather than x by y" the very hard way since my students would just not get it otherwise. I learned "zee" and unlearned "zed". Several such things. If, on the contrary, I had always been in California, then I am sure I would have never been exposed to any of this great stuff!

There is so much in the print about increasing racism in the US. When I went to Europe for my first break after landing in the US in December 2001/Jan 2002, I was only too glad to come back to the US. Although nothing untoward had happened in Europe, the US somehow felt more "welcoming". More rustic, more down-to-earth. I cannot say the same for the US I left behind in 2008. The increase in racism, or the you-are-outsiders type of treatment was very palpable even in a place like Sunnyvale. I was glad in some ways to be coming back at that time. I am not sure how Madison is faring right now. From the time I landed in 2001 to when I left in 2004, it went from one Indian store to five and several Indian restaurants. Whenever something like that happens, the "natives" do tend to start resisting.

But I am hoping that if I go back some day, I would find it still the same innocent college town which welcomed everyone with open arms!


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