Friday, October 21, 2011

Travels in foreign lands-XXVIII (Last visit to America-II)

My next trip was to Washington, the US capital. Mushtaq dropped me at the residence of Mumtaz who lived in a suburb of the US capital. He had a small two room ground floor flat. At that time he was studying for his masters in law in George Washington, University. One of his neighbours was a taxi driver from the Pakistan Administered Kashmir. He would leave in the morning and ply his taxi in Washington during the day. In order to enable me to undertake sight seeing of some important places in the capital, he offered to drop me in the morning. In evening, I would go to George Washington University and return with Mumtaz by train or bus. Most important tourist spots of Washington are its Museums. I started my sight seeing trip from the Air and Space Museum.
It is a huge complex and probably the largest Museum? Complete aeroplanes are parked inside it. Space shuttle, the Star wars items, and many other interesting things. One needs at least a week to see the Museum. I spent two full days there. An interesting facility in the Museum is a tape-recorder which one can hire. As one goes to any exhibit, the tape recorder gives one the detailed background through earphones provided with it. There is no need for a guide. One can undertake the entire tour on ones own! There are also some shows inside the Museum. It has a number of eating places. One thing which I failed to understand was the physique of the people visiting the Museum. Almost all the kids and women I saw there were obese. Fat kids accompanying fat women! Most carried huge plastic bags full of potato chips or wafers and giant size paper containers of coke fitted with straws! They were continuously eating potato wafers and drinking coke. Generally dressed in t-shirts and shorts.
The Museum I saw after Air and Space Museum was the Natural History Museum. This too is a huge complex. This Museum is quite educative and elaborate. One cannot see it in one go. The other interesting Museum I saw was the Science Museum. As I had limited time and wanted to see many things, I had to restrict my visits to a very quick and fast tour. After the Museums, I went to see the US Congress House. There is a conducted tour but there is always a very long queue to get entry. Next was the US Supreme Court. I was very keen to see the stone carvings which depicted the Prophet (PBUH). There had been lot of hue and cry on this physical depiction of Prophet (PBUH). I also visited the Washington Monument. I used to pass by White House every day on way to George Washington University. However, I did not take a conducted tour inside White house.
There were two other places which I visited. The first was the John Hopkins Institute of International Studies. I was keen to know about any studies being conducted on Kashmir. At the reception I mentioned about my interest in studies related to Kashmir. The receptionist directed me to the South Asia Department on the fourth floor. I went to the South Asia Department and asked a lady there about Kashmir studies, she smiled and advised me to go the third floor and ask the Department of Central Asian Studies about Kashmir. I was surprised to know that the Americans had included Kashmir in the Central Asian Studies Department! The head of the department was Mr. Brezenski, the former national security advisor. His secretary told me that he was out of station. However, she confirmed that they were undertaking some studies on Kashmir through Carnegie Endowment. It was interesting to know that the Americans had already decided the final disposition of Kashmir as a part of Central Asia!
The second establishment which I went to see was the Library of Congress. It is supposed to be the largest library in the world. Being a foreigner, I would need to go through a long procedure to become a member so as to be able to borrow books and take these home. However, it was easy to become a member of the reading room where I could study all books and references within the library premises. Becoming a member of the reading room was very simple. There was a room with a dozen computers. One had to sit on a computer and fill a form and obtain a serial number. After doing this one had to approach a man sitting at the end of the room with a camera on a stand. He asked me to sit on a stool near the wall and took my picture. He showed me the picture on a monitor and asked if it was alright. As soon as I said it is ok, he pressed a button and a plastic card like a credit card with my photo came out of the machine. He told me that the card was valid for two years and could also be used as an ID card in USA. I visited the reading room a number of times and studied a number of books and references on Kashmir. The library has a documentation centre where one can order photo-copies of books and references against payment.
My next engagement in Washington was to visit the State Department. My friend Richard Livingston who had been the US Consul General in New Delhi had invited me for lunch. He had become one of the directors there on his return. Getting in was easy. They accepted my Library of Congress ID card but had to call Richard to the reception to take me along. Richard introduced me to the members of the South Asia Department and we had lunch in the canteen. The lunch which involved self-service, was quite good. During lunch while sitting at a table, I watched the CNN News which was being shown on a large TV screen. It was the international news. I immediately noticed that this news was different from that which was available on local CNN channel. The Americans were very clever! They were keeping their own people ignorant of everything happening around the globe!
Back home I asked Mumtaz about this and also regarding the fact that most of the Americans I had seen were obese. I was curious to know how these obese people were ruling the world. He took me next day to his university and we had a meal in the canteen. I saw the smartest and well dressed boys and girls, mostly people in their twenties going round. He told me these were the people who were ruling USA as well as the world! The rulers of the country lived in these universities with their think tanks and so on.
(To be concluded)

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