Not in Kashmir alone…
Very often on India roads tourist and foreigners complain of cheating by cab drivers. Cheating foreigners is part of world tourism scenario and cheating by cabbies is a routine the world over. United States of America is part of contemporary world order and its people and system are no different from other human beings living on planet earth. So, cheats of all shape and character are in US as well. The level and extent of cheating in US is considered comparatively less mean. But as far my experience goes, cheats in America proved to be unkind.
Just one day after landing in US I planned to visit the nearest shopping mall to equip myself against inclement weather, particularly that of snowstorm alerts. As my GPS (Global Positioning System) on my I-pad was yet to start and my cell phone was not working I had no option but to rely upon the local information as is the usual with every visitor. I simply asked a cab driver on road about the nearest shopping mall and my requirements. I requested him to guide me. Interestingly the cabby was a Moroccan and a Muslim by name (I don’t know what his faith was as I did not ask this direct question from him). The Moroccan cabby by the name ‘saad’ was a young man in his early thirties driving a powerful four-wheel drive taxi. Instead of showing me direction to the nearest mall that was just a hundred meters away from my hotel he offered me a lift to the mall (Hampshire Mall) at a concessional rate of ten dollars. In desperation I considered the ten dollar a better bargain. However, while locating my destination I made two basic blunders (not faults). Firstly I accepted a taxi ride from an in-authenticated taxi driver, secondly instead of getting information from the hotel reception I tried to find my way of my own. This foolish act of mine landed me into the lap of unscrupulous elements as a sitting duck. The hawkish Moroccan gauged my desperation well and so I was made to pay ten dollars for a drive of not more than one hundred meters. When I came down from the taxi ‘Saad’ shamelessly handed his visiting card to me with a request that I should call him whenever I need. I got dumbfound with this brazen cheating by him and could not utter a word, leave alone to protest.
This was cheating in US, Moroccan way. But America has more to offer beyond this world over phenomenon of cheating and unkindness. Interestingly, when my plane was about to land at my final destination after more than twenty six hours of air travel with a layover time of about eight hours in-between, we had to land on a snow covered runway in the middle of night. Such experience was new for me. When we landed twenty odd most sophisticated snow-clearing machines were on job in freezing temperature and snow storm. At the time of our landing the machines gave way to our plane and the minute our plane came to the halt the machines again went back on their job like most disciplined solders in an extended line under huge flood lights. The moment we approached the airport it reminded me of Srinagar airport, and for another few minutes till the plane touched the runway I was lost in the wilderness our own airport is in. A couple of snow clearance machines even during day time is what we have in the name of snow clearing on runways. Landing at Hartford airport was much smoother beyond my imagination. Under such circumstances at Srinagar airport I would prefer jumping out of the plane rather than landing on an ill-equipped runway. But here it was man and machine’s most dedicated ‘Khaal’. That is what America and its audacious status is all about. And last but not the least I did not find even a single stray dog in America; only pets allover.