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Travelathon 1980: Part II
Travel to Chicago and Other US Cities
|by K. Gajendra Singh|
Continued from Previous Page
On the return drive through the city, Sharad explained where what action had taken place and the notorious sectors of the city. Of course, I had to see the highest building in the world, which is not the Empire State Building as many would still believe, but the Sears Towers, rising up to 443.2 mts. Having done the journey umpteen times, Sharad refused to come up, so I went up with his kids: It took us around 63 seconds flat to reach the top. For those who like to collect gold medals, here are the details: It is a 110 storey structure encased in steel, glass, aluminum and concrete, providing 4.5 million square feet of space. Sixteen hundred people worked on it for 4 years, using 76,000 tons of steel, giving the building a total weight of nearly 222,500 tons (how accurate the computers have become).
We went around the floor with sky lobbies (so actually) we did not really go to the top of the tallest building) enjoyed the view, which has nothing but lights spread down all around it! (The view from skyscrapers midway is quite different and in New York at mid-day you get the curious feeling of looking at shining and shimmering stalagmites). Well, it is quite something to have a clear and looking-down view; it gives you a feeling of superiority, by having the highest, the largest or the longest or the biggest something. I bought a few curios for Tinoo and others and came down recording for posterity my achievement of having scaled the highest building, if not the Mount Everest.
We had barely time to shave and shower, after which we went for dinner at Mr. Vaghela's residence. He himself was away, but his wife from Dulha House (of Jaipur) is a sister-in-law of my elder mustached brother, now teaching in Udaipur. (In one single generation, we seem to have jumped up from the Kshatriya caste to that of Brahmins - profession-wise at least). Mr. Vaghela works in the tourism industry (paying for the sins of his ancestors, by waiting on and entertaining commoners). The house cooked food and some brought from the Mughlai Restaurant was delicious, fattening and cholesterol producing. Nevertheless, we all enjoyed it. There was a big gathering of Indians, including Mr. Vaghela's boss, one Mr. Patel. (Patels/Potels on the West coast mostly own hotels and motels, and ii you address an Indian there as Mr. Singh or Mr. Patel, most of the time you would be right). Mr. Patel and a few others regaled us with some film songs. I was not feeling inspired a la Mehdi Hassan. The party, I was told, was a little subdued because of the intimidating presence of the Consul General and his guest. We came back home 'fed up' (food wise, having eaten 'shamelessly') and tired.
Chicago is a beautiful and charming city, stretching more than 45 KM and dotted with beaches and parks. The airport handles 50 million passengers per year and has a takeoff/touch down every 45 seconds. It is the second largest city and ranks first in the US in steel production, commercial printing, furniture marketing, radio and TV manufacturing, mail order business, industrial machine manufacturing, candy making, musical instruments, etc.
A typical Chicagoan is a child, or a grandchild of immigrants, or an immigrant himself. Chicago i5 said to be the largest Polish city in the world after Warsaw, third largest Greek city and fourth largest Croatian Metropolis. You have East Europeans, West Europeans and South Europeans and now the real Indians. In USA itself, waves after waves of immigrants have come; while earlier immigrants have moved up in the hierarchy trying to stabilize it, it is churned up by motivated and dynamic new-comers trying to find a place in the sun, or to 'earn the first million dollars'.
Breaking old taboos and building new traditions and norms has not been easy. Sincemid-l9th century, the American puritanical values have been defended by vengeful and evangelical men like Anthony Comstocks, when writings of Ovid, Chaucer and Fielding were defined as sexually obscene and banned. Comstock finally persuaded the US Congress in 1873 to pass a Federal Bill and carrying literally a gun, he ran amuck, terrorizing publishers, arresting citizens, making woman accused of immorality commit suicide. Bennet, a fighter for freedom of expression, compared Comstocks to inquisitive Generals of the l5thcentury Spain and countered that there was much obscenity in Bible, including the tale of Abraham and his concubine, the rape of Tamar, the adultery of Absalom and the lustful exploits of Solomon. Comstocks' death in 1915 did not diminish the fervor which was taken up by many other individuals and societies.
Nevertheless, the freedom seekers continued with their hit-and-miss methods. One of the major fighters was Samuel Roth, a Jew who published 'Ulysses' 'Lady Chatterley's Lover', Kama sutra', Frank Harris's 'My Life and Loves'. Even Erskine Caldwell's 'God's Little Acre and William Faulkner's 'Sanctuary' were then banned. Another crusader was publisher Girodias of the Olympia Press, who published Vladimir Nabokov, Lawrence Durrel and James Joyce.
But the most courageous one was Austrian psychiatrist, Wilhelm Reich, who bounded from country to country and ultimately died in a US prison in 1957. He described average woman's early social conditioning as 'sex-negating' or at best 'sex-tolerating'. He believed that the religious tradition had its origin in the somatic condition of its celibate leaders and early Christian martyrs. Such belief developed the concept of "perfection" and “purity" of the soul. In his medical practice, Reich used therapy to penetrate this frigid armor and to convert "the energy that nourished neurotic numbness and destruction into channels of love and tenderness, thus encouraging a capacity 'to surrender to the flow of energy in the orgasm without any inhibition - free of anxiety and un-pleasure and unaccompanied by fantasies". Although he died unsung, his books 'The Mass 1'sychology of Fascism', 'Character Analysis', 'The Sexual Revolution' were re-issued inmid-1960s and had profound impact on college students and activists. We might also mention Herbert Marcuse.
It has been suggested that the major cause of sexual liberation was the Second World War when the American G.I.s went all over the world to defend freedom, leaving behind girl-friends who worked away from home and parental control. As part of patriotic duty, they continued to write love-letters to the front creating illusions of fidelity, but made love to those they did not even love. It was this freedom, this wide experience and experimentation which developed tolerance and understanding in the parents for the next generation of ‘permissive society' on the campus and elsewhere in sixties. It was, therefore, fitting that the youngest American President was part of the mainstream representing the sixties. Being close to Cardinals, he was unaffected by the joyless philosophy which stifled the lives of the poor parish regulars.
New York: 26th October 1980
I left Chicago this morning and had to almost wake up Sharad who has been working in office and keeping up with my hectic schedule. As decided earlier, I traveled by bus to Detroit. It was driven by a young and very attractive black girl. Although I have been driven (crazy) by attractive ladies before in motorcars, but in a bus this was the first time and I remained uneasy throughout.
In Detroit I was met by Joan (black American), dear Barnabas's (just posted to Dakar) former wife with her two beautiful and intelligent daughters (Bulbul and Tinoo's friends from Ankara days). In three hours stay in Detroit she took me to her house for a wash, to Barnabas's parent's house, who were delighted to see the friend of their kid (6 1/2.feet tall solid 44 year old fellow), Renaissance Centre, which encompasses a 70-floor Hotel Plaza (but, of course, it is the highest hotel complex in the world) from where across river Detroit you can gaze at Canada. We also jogged through the renowned Ford Motor Car Museum. What a collection! A child's or a car fanatic's dream come true! I said goodbye to Joan, forgetting my camera (only) in her car. What a different woman Joan has become after her divorce. Healthy, assured and dynamic. I remain most impressed, even though she refused to flirt.
I arrive at Purush's flat late. He has gone for bridge. I can join, but I don’t; I have to pack. My mind is full of sights and ideas. What have I seen; very little. What have I read, perhaps a little. The ideas on freedom, equal rights for all, rights of black minorities, women's rights and feminists come to my mind. The effect of pills and discovery of orgasm and its demand as a right and man’s threatened position. The unrelenting call for competition, individualism carried to the extreme, war against all and pursuit of happiness to a dead end, the totally narcissistic preoccupation with the self. Despite so-called ‘emancipation', the new narcissist replaces guilt by anxiety, trying to find a meaning in life but doubting even the reality of one's own existence.
Freedom from ancient taboos brings no sexual peace. At the same- time, investment in personal relationship has increased, because free from the bondage of procreation, family ties, there is a growing determination to live for the moment. The so-called 'open marriage' and 'creative divorce' and attempts to do away with notions of sexual possessiveness, jealousy and to promote 'deeper understanding' and 'commitment', in order to start an alternate life styles, might have broken up puritan inhibitions, but such attempts seem to bring ultimately more anguish, heart breaks and emotional ruins and insecurity to children. One might see them as attempts by strong-willed individuals to revive the customs and prerogatives of tribal chiefs in a modern setting.
The demystification of womanhood goes hand in hand with the de-sublimation of sexuality. With greater importance to sexual performance in the battle between the sexes, whereas the un-liberated woman, when she fell in love longed to let herself go, the pseudo-liberated one while having few reservations, exploits calculatingly by successively avoiding emotional entanglements. "Women with narcissist personality may appear quite hysterical on the surface, with their extreme coquettishness and exhibition but the cold, shrewdly calculating quality of their seductiveness is in marked contrast to the much warmer emotionally-involved quality of hysterical pseudo-hyper-sexuality”. Determined to manipulate emotions of the others while protecting themselves against emotional injury, the new generation cultivates an attractive shallowness, a cynical detachment which soon becomes habitual and embitters personal relations, because at the same time they demand from personal relations the richness and intensity of a religious experience.
Thus, we have the concept of love as 'a cure of loneliness' and 'of two solitudes reaching out to greet each other' and 'relating' to each other as we might relate a story. Relationships have to be meaningful as if it was business or a bargain. A lover has also been defined as someone to be totally honest with. Why not the priest! The shrink or the cat or dog. It is so easy to be seduced by this thinking and culture, more so by those living at the fringe of traditional conservative societies into believing "that free sexuality is anyone’s for the asking, that one can throw over ones moral rearing without emotional consequences.
The decision on how to live one's life continues to be a dilemma for the people who have a conflict between p resent desire or imagination and earlier moral training". Such confusion lead to taking relationships us successive battles and forging ahead after adding one more scalp and sometimes a destructive and inverted brinkmanship between two master scalpers. One looks around with awe and wonder and in humility, and hopefully for grace, listens to those who ecstatically talk of fulfillment, rapture and bliss. What does one do? One rolls on, mostly alone.
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