Posted by: gdevi | May 22, 2015

Princeton -Day 1

I drove my daughter and her friend to Princeton, New Jersey for their memorial day club soccer tournament. Since it is the memorial day weekend, I dreaded the traffic on the Penna Turnpike, but it was okay, compared to how it usually is. The Turnpike has been “under construction” since 2005; it still is. I saw the turnpike construction when we moved from Texas to Pennsylvania in 2005. The Penna Turnpike is still under construction. It is amazing; these are the pockets of America that remind me of India. Something like a turnpike can be “under construction” for ten years; sounds very un-American. (Digression: in 1994 my friend Judy from UND came with me to my house in India for my brother’s wedding. When my parents visited me in Grand Forks, Jude invited them to stay with her and they became good friends. So my parents invited Jude for Appu’s wedding. So Jude stayed with us for about a couple of weeks and then traveled to see more of India and Nepal. Anyway, it is not uncommon to see lorries in Trivandrum dump huge mountains of gravel and sand by the side of the roads. There was a fairly tall pile of gravel and sand on the street across from our house. Jude asked me one day what that was for and I told her that that was for road construction and that that was the property of the government. So understandably Jude was terribly shocked because everyday she saw people come from here and there with all kinds of containers and take the gravel and the sand!! She came to me in great consternation and said, Gayatri, do you know that there are people stealing the gravel and sand that belong to the government? I said, of course. They are not the only ones stealing, Jude, I explained. It starts at the top, with several ministers, their contractors, their suppliers–it is a very effective system of stealing. Everybody is stealing from the government, starting with the government, metonymically speaking. These poor people that you see are the lowest on the totem pole of stealing. When this stack of gravel and sand vanish, a new truckload will come from somewhere. Some contractor and some minister who protects him high up in the government profit from all the sand and the gravel business. So what happens to the roads, Jude asked. Well, that is a good question, I said.)  Dayani and Callan wanted the obligatory stop at the King of Prussia mall just outside of Philly. Since they are old enough now to be responsible to go into stores by themselves–I think of pedophiles everywhere; I am the perpetually paranoid parent–i let them shop by themselves while I followed them at a distance. Shopping fatigues me. I saw a Clarks shoe store and since Clarks are my favorite shoes–so comfortable–I got a pair of sandals for myself. Then I tried to read a bit of Kenzaburo Oe’s novel A Personal Matter. My friend John’s mother Agnes wanted me to have John’s Japanese literature books. I got a lot of John’s books, and Agnes gave me two beautiful framed prints of Japan that John had in his living room. I think I will hang the big one of the pavilion in the kitchen. Thank you, John, and thank you, Agnes. After the girls finished their shopping–they were very responsible–we ate at the food court. The girls had burgers, and I had some felafel, couscous, and a piece of baklava. Food court food is not bad. We got to Princeton around 7 in the evening. All the Central Mountain girls are here with their parents–right now they are finishing their English homework together in the lobby and then going swimming in the hotel pool. Of course. We are staying at this Westin in a place called Forrestal Village. This is the blocked hotel for the tournament.  Forrestal Village appears to be a very expensive area of Princeton, and meant for the wives and kids of very wealthy men. This self-contained community has several businesses, all very very expensive; realtors, advanced reproductive medicine and fertility clinics, urology practices, plastic surgery for botox, hair restoration, liposuction, facial rejuvenation, laser hair removal (for summer! only $99!!!), breast augmentation, cellulite reduction and chemical peels, and several learning centers, restaurants, edible arrangements where you get baked goods that look like flower arrangements, and huge well-lit parking lots. They also had a flower shop with a kind of kitschy ad with that bearded guy from Dos Equis beer that you used to see on television–maybe he still is on–I stopped watching television in 2000 something–you know the guy–sort of elderly with a beard and he looks like he just got off a yacht.  Actually be could be selling the yacht or a Rolex watch or Cartier sunglasses. Or beer. Well, at this flower store, this guy tells you to order flowers from them because that is where he gets his flowers from.  I tell you, this place is a semiotician’s Christmas gift! When the girls were in the lobby working on their English homework, I took a walk to stretch my legs. That is when I saw all of the above and more. It is a beautiful summer evening, not too hot, not too cold–just a light cardigan, a cotton dress and sandals are all you need. The girls play their first game at 8 am tomorrow, and their second game late in the afternoon; a very busy day.

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