She felt darkness surround her. The pain pushed at her head, her neck, her chest. Sleep was a thing of the past. Anxiety was her new friend. Damn her photographic memory for remembering every little detail of death. As she tossed and turned in the messed up bed, she asked out loud: Why do I care so much? The answer came loud and firm from her soul. She’d rather hurt than be a cold stone.
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Reuse Reduce Recycle. Every American grows up with this slogan. Starting from pre-schoolers to senior citizens, everybody tries to do their bit for the planet. Even though it has been years since I’ve come to live in India, I cannot accept the wastage that I see around me. Soda bottles, soda cans, and paper are thrown into the garbage heap every day. Not only are we contributing to global warming, but we’re not teaching children how to protect their environment. Call me a preacher if you may, but I don’t think it’s all that difficult to start recycling programs in the country.
Every school that I’ve been to in the United States has three kinds of bins in their classrooms or in the hallways. One for paper, one for plastic bottles and soda cans, and the other for actual trash. This ‘training’ from childhood makes sure that the children grow up into adults who put the right things into the right bin. Even in college, we had this set of bins. There were the blue, green and black bins with symbols of what should be thrown into each one. I spent my first few months in India looking for the recycle bins and just received blank stares and sometimes even a laugh.
As pre-schoolers and kindergarteners, we reduced and reused by making various things in craft class. Sometimes we made pencil stands out of milk cartons. Other times we made stuffed puppets out of old socks.
Even the grocery stores in America promote recycling. I remember my trips to the store with my parents. The first stop was the Indian spices aisle. The last stop was the recycling terminal where a friendly lady would take our big bags full of bottles and cans and paper and give us five cents for each item.
Here in Kolkata, I see people around me throwing everything into the garbage bin but there are some small ways that some people try to reuse, reduce and recycle. Every Friday, a man comes to my neighbourhood to collect our accumulated bottles and newspapers. He sells these newspapers to vendors who use them to make paper bags. For example, the bags used by the muri wala. The bottles too are usually recycled–both glass and plastic.
In America, we neighbourhood kids got together and went to every house in the area to collect their bottles and cans. Then we took these to the recycling centre nearby. Things like this should happen in India too. We have to take care of our environment and its health. So let’s do something before it’s too late.
It was impossible to know who really cared. Most of the new ones thought that a selfie with her would launch their social careers. Even the blood relatives made her uneasy. “It’s like everybody wants a piece of me now,” she thought. Life was good again when she stopped trying to figure them out and learned to smile at them all. But life was best when she came home and found herself sharing her bed with the furry ones.
You often hear people describing somebody’s accent as “American”. Truth is, there isn’t a single American accent. There are regional accents that vary as you go across the United States.
The most distinctive ones are probably the New England and Southern accents. The New England dialect includes dropped Rs and extra Rs at the end of words that end with vowels. The “A” is pronounced as ah. The result being “Pahk the cah in Hahvuhd Yahd” (Park the car in Harvard Yard). Southerners, on the other hand, tend to speak slower, and thus create the famous southern drawl. They pronounce “I” as ahand “OO” as yoo. The result being, “Ah’m dyoo home at fahv o’clock.” (I’m due home at five o’ clock).
The funny thing with American accents is that everybody wants one. Think of all the Indians who go there to study or work. They come back on visits with gifts and an entirely new way of speaking. The accent takes time to reach perfection, but almost every Indian in America makes sure that they have one. ABCDs are born with one, courtesy of being born on the US soil, but Indians from India need to work hard. I know of a South Indian graduate student who worked so hard that he lost his natural rolling Rs.
Then there are the people working at Indian call centres. Most of them have to go through an intensive process called accent training so that they can get that American accent. This training has become necessary with American customers complaints about desi diction. Sometimes, they just don’t understand the call centre executive. Other times, the accent just seems plain funny to them and they would rather be speaking to a person who talks like them.
I’ve noticed that my Chinese friends in America (the Chinese from China) don’t work too hard on their accents. I can’t blame them. Chinese languages are so different from English, that switching over to an American accent can be a daunting task. Then I look at the Indian community there, and everybody, including people old enough to be my grandparents, has that American twang!
But honestly, is the most sought after accent really necessary for survival? Probably not. Intelligent Americans can understand you as long as you speak clearly and with proper diction. There is also a minority group of Indians who do not try to change their accent. Most of them survive just fine. There is no need to struggle for this. Just remind yourself, Penelope Cruz never lost her Hispanic accent, but the Americans love her!
“Are you ready to go?” The mother asked the question without expecting a reply. She obviously wasn’t ready and probably never would be. It was unfair to think that she would be reasonable at her age. “Come on. We need to leave now,” the exhausted woman urged. She dreaded the job of putting away four bags of groceries alone. Her hand tugged at hers violently. They hadn’t even cried. She wasn’t surprised to feel the tears when the little one said, “But we always had lots of chocolate cake when dad was alive.”
It had been years. A part of her heart stood untouched. She’d known heartbreak. Each time they came close to her, she found herself comparing them to him. Just when she had written off romance forever, the perfect guy showed up. He even shared her love for cheesecake.