Mikhail Gorbachev and his wife, Raisa, were going over their morning newspapers in their Kremlin Apartments.
“My God”, said Gorbachev, referring to the millions who were fleeing their countries in Eastern Europe for greener pastures across the iron curtain. "If we were to open our borders, no one will remain here except for two of us,” said Gorbachev.
“You and who?” asked Raisa.
This is a joke, of course, and it is true also of India. “Go home, Yankee,” shout the Indians, including of course, the Leftists, “and take us with you”.
Indians don't have a love-hate relationship with America, as they have with many other countries, including, of course, the UK. There have a love-love relationship with the US. There is hardly a middle-class family in India that doesn't have a member - a son, a daughter, sometimes the whole family - in the US. It is as if the US has now become a second home for some Indian families.
I am not too enamored of America, may be because I am too old to be enamored of anything, and get bored easily. I begin to get homesick after a few days and get tired of the slick modernity of the west as against our reigning chaos.
What attracts Indians to America, apart from easy money, is that everyday life is so hassle-free over there. Americans are by and large a friendly and helpful lot on personal basis and will go out of their way to help you. This is exactly the opposite of how we Indians are treated by or treat others in our own country. I was living in a town called Evanston near Chicago in the 1990s and, on a whim, entered the public library with its imposing Roman colonnade.
I wanted to borrow a few books but had no pass. So I took the books - five of them - to the librarian and asked her if I could borrow them.
“Certainly”, she said, and took out the cards from the books to me, though she didn't know my name nor my address. Then she gave me a big bag to put them in, all within a few minutes of my request. A friend, who was visiting his son in Palo Alto, in the heart of the Silicon Valley, was out on his morning walk when, also on a whim, he decided to open a bank account in a local bank.
He entered the bank and asked to see the manager. The girl in the manager's office gave him a small form to fill in -the kind we use for railway reservations in India - and asked for his address, which he didn't know, and his telephone number which he didn't remember. He pointed to a building across the road and said he lived there. She didn't ask whether he was a visitor or a citizen or carried a green card. She also didn't ask for his passport.
Within a few minutes, she pressed a few keys on the computer and gave him a brand new account statement showing 310 dollars to his credit. But I put in only 300 dollars, said my friend. “Ten dollars is the bonus for opening the account with us,” said the girl.
My friend went home and told his wife that he had made 10 dollars during his morning walk. Did you rob the bank, asked the wife. You can say that, said my friend. My friend was tempted to stay back. Who wouldn't? In how many countries could you open a bank account in your jogging clothes and without a single piece of paper on you?
I wonder what Prakash Karat would have done!