San Francisco was the first place in the US that I visited about 15 years ago. I was impressed by its grandeur, clean air, beautiful views and enjoyed walking everywhere in the city. But this time when I landed, the airport looked so run down (especially after the upgrades that happened to all the major airports in India in the last few years), there was so much trash on the streets, and I was in fear of getting mugged on the streets of downtown SFO and it got worse when we were warned not to leave any bags in the car in the nights even in the Suburbs.
Fear was the last thing on my mind during my time in the US about a decade ago. However, there are many aspects that I miss about living in the US - cleaner air, outlets(the discounts are to kill for!), Ramen, Boba Tea, access to mountains and all my close friends from university.
I had a fun time traveling to the US and here are some random insights from my trip:
When it comes to the scale at which things happen in the US, everything can be big – really big. Be it portion sizes of food in restaurants, or the discounted outlet stores or even the number of cars on the road! Did you know the US has more cars than the number of people who are 18 and over😮? (I had to look that up after the hours I spent in traffic in this visit.)
If building solutions for public transport was as much fun as building driverless tech, the engineers in the valley would have done that. But na-ah, I saw more driverless cars being tested than I saw ground work for public transport. I wonder what damage the scale of driverless tech will do to the traffic. Could the US do both driverless tech and public transport- with the resources it has, I think absolutely yes. But it probably doesn’t have enough visionaries with a longer term vision. Did you know that in the 1960s, the automobile lobbyists shutdown public transport lines in LA? 😲
Anyway, I have always had huge expectations from the US and its people - growing up, it seemed like a fairyland with limitless possibilities, full of innovation. But this trip made me realize that the country could do with a little bit more purpose to build more prosperity.
Progress = Purpose + Innovation
The innovation in farming communities in the US has been made possible by the scale of their operations. The average landholding size is 400 acres (in India, its under 2 acres)! Large parcels of connected farmland have facilitated the adoption of mechanization and now automation.
Yes, its the same scale of operations that serves a meal of 1000 calories when you step out to eat. The same scale that provides an additional 20% off in a store where everything is already marked at 70% off!
This was the most fun part of my entire trip - a hike with my girlfriends. There is something magical about spending time with friends from college. If my life could improve in one way right now, it would be by being closer to my girlfriends. In just five minutes, we can go from discussing global issues to career growth, to annoying neighbors, and entitled Indian mothers, especially those with only male children. It's intellectual, silly, funny, and gossipy all at once.
"Don't be a salt shaker, be a pepper shaker" was one of the silly phrases that evolved during our hangout, but it can pass off as good life advice. Take a moment to think about whether you are a salt shaker or a pepper shaker. I know that I have always been a salt shaker, sprinkling my energy (i.e., salt) on every project and every person I came across. I need to be more like a pepper shaker and use my energy sparingly.
<aside> ✈️ Flying without a child on my lap after 3.5 years, I finally got to enjoy a movie with a glass of wine in hand. And boy, did I pick a good one! 'Shoemaker of the Dreams' gave me a glimpse into the life of Salvatore Ferragamo, the mastermind behind the upscale luxury fashion label. Not only did I enjoy watching something in one go, I also loved reflecting after. Here are some snippets of my thoughts after the movie:
In my community, there is a common misconception that children who struggle with or are uninterested in math and science should pursue careers in the arts or fashion. However, this assumption is incorrect. A comprehensive understanding of math and science is imperative for excellence in any field, including the arts and fashion. In fact, science and math are the building blocks of everything.
(By the way, if your children are not interested in science and math, it is possible that they have not been exposed to them in a way that stimulates their curiosity.)
Lets talk about, Salvatore Ferragamo, the creator of the upscale luxury fashion label.