August 8, 2013
It has been about 2 weeks since I arrived back in the United States, due to the tremendous support of Dr. Vivek Wadhwa, after spending nearly 3 years in India. When I lived in the U.S. earlier for about 8 years, I had gotten used to life in this country and largely ignored, like most Americans do, the innumerable amazing things that this country provides. Now, I am experiencing a much greater sense of appreciation for the joys of life in the United States of America, which I'd like to share with you.
Most Americans don't wake up in the morning every day and think "We're so blessed -- we have the DMV!" They should, actually. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in this country, does a phenomenal job. I don't think most people here understand and appreciate how the DMV has kept the roads of the U.S. safe for people to drive and walk on. You can cross the road here without fear of dying. We must thank the kind folks working at the Department of Motor Vehicles for this joy which improves the quality of life of everyone here. The case in India is very different. Most big roads there are very risky to cross because motorists do not give priority to pedestrians like they do in the U.S. In 2010, I saved my wife's life by pulling her out from the path of a speeding truck that was constantly honking but not ready to stop while she was crossing the road. Also, in the U.S., drivers are taught to give way to ambulances, fire brigades and other emergency vehicles. In India, this is not the case and some people die in ambulances while on their way to the hospital because even ambulances get stuck in traffic there.
The sidewalks in the United States are among the best in the world. I don't think the people who live here appreciate enough the workers who make their sidewalks. The sidewalks, at least in California, are wide, evenly flat, of equal height, well-lit for the most part, accessible and clean. This makes a big difference in being able to do every day tasks easily. In India, most roads do not yet have proper sidewalks. The sidewalks that exist are typically uneven, and sometimes, too dirty to walk on. In 2012, my mother had actually tripped on an uneven unlit sidewalk at night and hurt her face badly, so I know the value of safe sidewalks in the U.S. and am thankful to every worker involved in keeping America's sidewalks so safe and well-maintained.
The roads in the U.S. enable business between regions far and wide. In the San Francisco Bay Area, I am able to easily drive 33 miles from San Francisco to Palo Alto for a meeting and get there in 30-40 minutes. To go 33 miles in India, for a meeting from, say, Bangalore Airport to Electronics City in Bangalore, takes about 1 hour 45 minutes. As a result, most people don't even bother setting up meetings with people who are more than 8 or 9 miles away. It really limits employment, investments and commerce, in general. I'm not sure if Americans realize that the highway network provided to them on a platter is extremely valuable and even the richest people in India cannot buy a road-network like this, so even they are stuck with inadequate roads. There's a couple of nuances about the way the roads are made in the U.S. which makes driving much safer and more pleasurable here. First, you never have to worry about sudden potholes, ditches or speed-bumps on the roads. Second, the lines separating the lanes have reflectors on them so they can easily be seen at night. As a result, almost everyone here drives their vehicles with a low-beam light. In India, there's very few streets with lights and you might encounter hazards like potholes, ditches, speed-bumps, or cows and goats crossing the roads, so people there have to drive on high-beam at night. For untrained eyes, it is painful to drive at night in India because of all the high beam headlights from every passing vehicle shining directly in your eye.
Another amazing thing about the United States is drinkable tap-water that is available 24 hours a day. In India, most tap water is not always safe enough to drink. Also, in major cities, the water supply is limited to a few hours every day, so people have to store their water in tanks for their daily use. In the high end part of Bangalore where I lived the last 3 years, the building used to buy tanks of drinking water which had to go through layers of filtration through a sophisticated reverse osmosis filtering machine before we could use it for cooking and drinking. Again, the reverse osmosis machine would not work when there was no power during a power failure, which would happen about 3-4 times a day in Whitefield, Bangalore. I think most Americans just assume that clean water supply and electricity are supposed to always be available non-stop 24x7x365. They do not realize that this is not the case for a majority of the world's population. You should really thank your local water and electric supply staff for doing a wonderful job and doing their work with so much reliability that you never have to worry about power failures or about filtering and storing drinking water.
In the U.S., when compared to India, there is hardly any dust and things remain cleaner for much longer. While researching the reason for this, I found out that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has strict laws that minimize dust in the air. I'm not sure that most American citizens appreciate the work that the EPA has done to keep them healthy and boost the productivity of the entire country because people don't have to worry much about air-borne diseases and have to spend so much less time cleaning dust off of their homes, offices and cars. In India, my employees used to get sick at least once a month due to either contaminated water or air. I know from first hand experience living in the U.S. before that people just don't get sick as often over here. Part of the reason might be the cold weather, but the cleanliness of America's cities definitely helps people here lead more healthy and productive lives.
America also benefits tremendously from the variety of foods brought to their shores from all around the world by immigrants from almost every country. It is nearly impossible to get such a wide variety of foods in most other countries outside the U.S. Only those who have traveled a lot will be able to appreciate this about the U.S. We must be thankful to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the people in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who do a phenomenal job keeping the country safe while enabling cross border commerce and trade and also enabling legal immigration, which enriches the lives of both people living in the U.S. and those that emigrate to this land.
There are several other little things about this country that make living and working here an absolute joy. The taxes I pay to the U.S. government provide a better quality of life for me and my family, and better opportunities for my business. If you'd like to follow our experience as my wife and I build our next company WeStillDate.com (sign-up now if you're married or in a long-term relationship), please connect with me further on twitter @anandsays.
Copyright 1999-2013, Anand Chhatpar