Last time I visited Philadelphia was 17 years ago.
Amongst discovering bagels with Philadelphia cream cheese, Subway sandwiches, Yoga that trip; I noticed a lot of morning joggers, walkers and office goers who would smile at my dad and me. They would ask us how we were doing and walk, jog, run away before we could respond.
I found it weird.I would generally shy away. Every other ‘American’ approaching me was like another ‘hullo’ attack to my amused self.
My father would generally wave back. A very extrovert gesture for a very introvert man. That would totally amuse me, more so when he would go on to explain that these strange strangers mean no harm.Instead they are nice to visitors. They were only greeting the tourists.
It is part of American custom I had come to believe. I came to enjoy the American friendliness, accepting nature and love for tourists.
Over years I have come to hear a lot of anti-American-hullo-culture. It has been called put on, forced, superficial, irritating and needless.
May be, it was all that.
17 years later I have walked the same Delaware river sidewalk for the last 3 weeks.Approximately at the same time that I have done in the past with my dad. The walkers, joggers and office goers are still there.But there are no friendly hullos. There are no smiles.
Makes me wonder if this is the price we pay for war, terrorism, recession, ethnic cleansing, hatred and fear. A lot has happened in the last 17 years. I am trying to understand.
Have we made it impossible for us to trust the next human. Is it now impossible to be tolerant of another faith? Can we no longer accept another colour?
I am forced to wonder.