A Kashmiri’s American experience is interesting…
This is almost fourth week now that I am in US pursuing an academic course as exchange visitor scholar at UMASS (University of Massachusetts). In spite of my tight schedule of learning, interaction and rigorous knowledge evaluation tests I spare some time to appraise myself with the political mindset and social structure of American society. Interaction with common people and some learned Americans lead me to the conclusion that majority of Americans are either ignorant or least bothered about the political happenings in the rest of the world. I could find that a common Kashmiri on the streets of Sopore or Shopian in his own way is well versed with the international political happenings and developments than a learned American. Incidentally my assessment get substantiated by the comments of a well known Palestinian born journalist, political analyst and commentator Rula Jebreal on political satirist Bill Maher’s American television evening talk show ‘Real Time with Bill Maher’ on 21 January. While making a point about role of America and its people in Syrian conflict she said “The people of this country (Americans) are less informed about the happenings around the world than the people in the rest of the world”.
Interestingly, while introducing myself to anyone here in US I would intentionally mention about the state of Jammu and Kashmir or more precisely about Kashmir. But to my surprise, most of the people expressed their ignorance about Kashmir. They don’t know in which geographical region Kashmir is located; what is the climate of this place; leave alone the turmoil in Kashmir and sufferings of people of Kashmir? On the first day of our course—the orientation day whole ‘New England’ area under which the state of Massachusetts falls had a heavy snowfall. While interacting with the foreign students the program director asked me to meet her after the session. In her office she offered me a fleeced jacket, gloves and some other winter gear on the assumption that I being a fellow from the much hotter plains of India. I thanked her and politely made her understand about the climatic zone I belong to, and my preparedness for the most severe winters. Imagine, this is level of ignorance about Kashmir and its geographic, climatic and political state of affairs in US!
Hopefully, I may find some Kashmir knowing Americans when I visit New York at the end of my course. Yes, the Kashmiri Diaspora in US as in most of the other cases keeps track of Kashmir but they are also incapable of making their point within the American society. Except the lot, who apparently make much noise about Kashmir in the corridors of American opinion makers just to gulp down the dollars collected in the name of Kashmir and Kashmiris.
Shifting my ongoing American experience from ignorance, politics and exploitation to moral values and ethics an eye-opening experience impressed me a lot about work culture in America. In US Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a United States federal holiday is observed on the third Monday of January each year and this year it was on 21st of January. To cover the assignment on schedule University authorities arranged special lectures and other course related activities for us on this day and almost every concerned faculty member was present except the supporting staff. Carrying teaching material and aids of his own is a routine for every teacher in much superior and advance education system in US. However at the end of the sitting cleaning (rather sweeping) the lecture room of trash and other material for the next session in the absence of housekeeping staff by one of the senior most faculty members, that too in our presence humbled me to the extent that I offered her my help. To my more impressing surprise she refused the same, but in a much polite way.