My America Tour -6

Telugu Original : Avula Gopala Krishna Murty (AGK)

English Translation: Komala Venigalla


I set foot on American soil on 15th August and left it on 14th October. Exactly two months time I traveled for 10 thousand miles in New York, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, California, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee states.

          I don`t claim that I had seen more  or less.  I observed the American way of life on priority basis. I visited many places and cities, organizations and saw various  scenes some of which pained me and others made me gain rich experience and information.

          I did not go there either as  an American tourist  or as a representative of some organization. I went  there having been invited by American government. I went as an individual representing my own ideas. They made all arrangements for me to visit places, meet people and going to different organizations. If I could not go to  many places it was  fault of my decision not theirs`. If I could give them my travel  programme to go to all 50 states they would have made suitable arrangements. They would not have minded if I  had spent a few hours in the capital of each state and spent all my time in flights  seeing nothing . But I decided against such a whirlwind tour.

          The moment I landed in New York a representative of the State department recognized me and got cleared me from immigration process and put me on the flight to Washington DC.  Another representative received me at the airport and put me in Windsor Park Hotel in Washington..

          I spent 12 days in Washington.Paul D. Smith, Louis Gratia were in charge of my travel. Smith took me to National Press club , invited me as a member there, gave a dinner in my honor. He personally found out from me what I wanted  to see there though they had received  that information from Madras earlier.

          The next day we went to the house of George Washington  and saw Mount Vernon. No other person has as many statues and memorials as Washington and Columbus. At Lincoln`s statue I was overwhelmed with emotions.  It is a very big statue which reminded me of the past history of America. One can feel Lincoln`s greatness by looking at his statue. The Washington memorial and National parliament building-Capital are in the same line. There is a prohibition in Washington that no other building should be higher that Capitol. Broad roads and trees on either side looked peaceful being one of the beautiful cities in America. A french  architect planned the city in the shape of half moon keeping the Capitol in the center.

          I attended the Congress and listened to discussions in the house of representatives and Senate .  They don`t have restriction of quorum. In the Senate when  one member was speaking the President  was listening and later other members joined slowly.No other Senators were present then.

          On 20th August  1963  I was present at President Kennedy`s press conference. I sat  in the front row , two yards distance from President Kennedy. The only non white in that line. He looked very active with very expressive eyes and fair complexion .  He made a speech saying that  ` It is not our aim to allow a special quota to the Blacks. We aim at the unity of the Whites and the Blacks`.Can either our president or prime minister say that?  Next day I had discussions with higher officials  of the state department. One of them who toured Andhra asked me about some people and noted  their names. When the discussion was about the relationship  between Nehru and Communism, I remarked that Nehru was more a communist than the world knew about him. The statement sparked the discussion  to take a serious turn. I could convince them and later discussion included many other topics.

          I had discussions with important members of both the Republican and Democratic parties in their national offices. They told me many things and  taught me many things .I told them  about partyless democracy, humanist movement, sarvodaya and so many other aspects. I gathered their opinions too.

          I had been to their Supreme court, met the staff and had discussions regarding the court fee, pauper applications and so many other important  matters. The court building built in Roosevelt`s time  exuded peacefulness.

          The next memorable of my experiences was the procession of Blacks on 28th August.  The Blacks form  more than half the population of Washington. That day the Blacks gathered at the feet of the  Lincoln Statue coming from all corners of the country. They placed their  Rights petition at the feet  and cried saying aloud that `you announced our freedom from  slavery in 1863 but still we are not free`.  Then they took their petition to the White house  and submitted it to Kennedy. It was a very touching scene one could  never forget. That was the day one lakh Whites and one lakh Blacks came together as Americans promising to fight for minorities. That day the whole America turned tearful.

          Then I left for New York where I saw the buildings touching the sky, playing with clouds.It is considered a small building  if it is less than  25 stories.

          New York is the city of cities with more than 90 lakh population (1963).  Four Islands -Manhattan, Brooklyn, Long Island, Queens and Bronx together formed New  York. There are huge bridges connecting  all places. Their transport system  is wonderful. The Hudson river and the Atlantic  ocean gave its geographical shape  to New York.

          We went to Hyde park which is 10 miles away. That was president Roosevelt`s home. As we were taking a tour we can hear a broad cast rendered by Eleanor Roosevelt in her mild tone- she talked very impressively about her house and her husband.  It is the place for innumerable memorials.  We felt as though we met Eleanor Roosevelt personally. We saw their garden and their burial places.

          I met many friends, visited  prominent churches, courts, Newspaper offices, Rockfeller center, the office of the International farmers organization and Humanist organizations.

          We went to Buffalo to see Niagara.  I saw Niagara in the evening. We stayed at Red coach Inn. Met friends and enjoyed dinners. In the night we had been to Canada to see Niagara Falls from that side. We took a tour of 25 miles. Niagara is a rich area with fruit gardens, where peaches, apples, grapes are grown abundantly.

          From Buffalo we went to Eaton. Then I went to Mr Kauffman`s house in Campbell town where I spent 3 days. I had gathered more information about their agriculture and  municipal administration.

          We  traveled from Eaton to Dayton and then to Chicago. It is a big city with 70 lakhs population ( 1963).  It has connections to us since the days of Vivekananda. There are backward areas, a very good art gallery and a national museum.  It is a city of lakes. Though they are called lakes, they look like seas with high waves,and ships passing. There is  a big fish industry. It is a funny city. You see sudden  climatic changes -The sun giving away to rain in no time. Before you know you are caught in the cold blasts, whirlwinds.

          Bahai religion is founded there . We see it in Delhi and other places. I went to the office of the Chicago daily , the news paper of the Blacks. The editor seriously participated in  Loshart revolution . I also talked with him and other Black leaders about their problems. They took me to their homes and treated as though as though I was one among them. I had been to Waukegan where they make 90 kinds of solutions, 30 kinds of capsules, plastic containers, needles and many othr such supplies.  There are  250 Ph.d`s , 4000 employees, 1500 in research field, 1500 are working in the production side. They arrive there in 3500 cars and 600 kinds of medicines they make there. They get extra help to buy clothes, shoes, medicines and other things.

          If any worker is found out of sorts or unwell the co workers find out his problem and the company pays for his treatment as well. This kind of help is found in many companies.

          I visited UNO office and Humanist  organizations.

          Chicago University  is very prominent. There are Telugu books, news papers and magazines . I found Tamil, Urdu and Hindi books.  They are teaching Urdu, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu was included  their program.

          In the library I picked up Andhra Patrika of 7th June. I showed them my picture printed with news of my America tour. They were happy to see it saying that I was already there in their library. I too joined their laughter saying  ` you come to know of it because I showed it to you`.

          There is an interstate organization in Chicago. It studies the various laws passed by the states and prepare the reports .They work for the unity of laws among the states.

          There is an Attorney-generals` organization of various states. I had gone through their reports and has discussions with them. I could gather lots of information through these discussions.

          From Chicago I went to Milwaukee by train. That was my first and last train journey which was comfortable. I visited Wisconsin university and met many professors there. There were  3600 students there.

          I participated in discussions regarding education, decentralization, administration, youth problems,agriculture, news papers.  I met the editors of Milwaukee journal, Milwauke Sentinal and gave a speech in their press club. That was the club where the great personalities like Theodore Roosevelt, President Wilson and Robert Ingersoll were speakers. There they get the signatures of the speakers and preserve them on a framed black board. My signature   too is found on it.

          I was invited for dinner by a Punjabi and a Keralite who married American. They were leading a happy married life. They are respected by other people. The usual discussions followed after dinner.

          I went to Madison by Bus. Met many Telugu families there. Telugu has been taught to the interested students. The children there are able to learn reasonable Telugu in 11 weeks. They have a library with Telugu books. I presented Bhagavadgita by Kaviraju (Tripuraneni Ramaswamy) to that library.

          I had discussion  with Peace Corps founders , attended youth meetings. It was  the day of school reopening day and welcoming the new students. I delivered speeches in the university and returned to Milwaukee.Those days greatly helped me to understand the American way of life.

          Then I visited Minneapolice-the capital of Minnesota State. It is the center for industries and agriculture.

          I met the people in the state Democratic party office , met the state Attorney. The discussions I had with the New York Attorney General. I  compared with my discussions with others. Though there were differences in ideas, major issues  are the same. That very evening I attended a meeting with Indian students. In my meeting with the Vic-chancellor of the universities many interesting issues came up. I met some Telugu families, saw the library there and gave a radio talk.

          I visited their milk production centers and agricultural units. I had discussions with George Peterson and news staff at the offices of Minneapolis Star and Minneapolis Tribune. They sought more information from me about  India, five year plans, Nehru, China war and many other aspects. George Peterso while appreciating the meeting with me wrote  to me:

`Dear Mr Murthy`.,

Thank you for your card from San Francisco . I want you to know how much I enjoyed your visit. I learnt more from you about the Indian political situation than I have from any other person , be he from India or not. I hope when you get back this way again you will stop in for another visit.`

          His letter is the indication of the depth of our discussions for three hours.

          Next I visited San Francisco, the queen of the American cities.Among big cities I liked Washington, and San Francisco  and Milwaukee , Fresno and Little Rock among small cities.  Just as New York is prominent in the east just so is San Francisco in the west. They call it great west city. San Francisco is the gateway to the Asians to come to America. For Europeans New York is the gate way.

          Those two cities are most powerful cities in the eastern and western parts of America.

          It is the city of ups and downs. You travel on the roads, as high as our palm tress, suddenly descending down to roads as low as valleys.The forming of the United nations organization took shape here in the civic center. Peace negotiations with Japan materialized here in 1951. Five days before the announcement of declaration of American Independence reverend Francisco inaugurated a church building here. Its roof is covered with tiles similar to ones we use in India. Those tiles might have been imported  either from Italy or India. Rome had been built on seven hills like our Tirupati temple. San Francisco  is built on  32 hills, we find 910 feet high monuments here.

          The first ship  said to have   reached this part in 1775.  San Francisco  is famous for its Golden gate bridge, Japan  tea garden Mure redwood. The city is surrounded by water on three sides- a very hot place.

          There are many Secularists and Humanists here. They have their own news papers and publications. I met Mary Morean , Loid Morean,  and Bernard  Rocca, the secularist. It was a pleasant experience to talk to them. From there I went to Fresno, in California state. The state is the major food providing center  to America. Fresno being the central place is the major food growing place with 213 varities of food crops grown. Per head income is not less than 20,000 rupees.  Fifty seven nationals live there. One in seven is a foreigner . One can imagine what a mixture the life is in Fresno.

          It is the major agricultural center. I attended the press conference and gave a radio talk. I addressed a public gathering and delivered a speech in the University there. The series of questions they put showed their interest.

          The punjabi friend who had been living there for 40 years hosted me a dinner. I attended  lawyers` dinner and tea parties hosted by artists. Fresno is a beautiful small city.

          From there my next stop was at Los Angeles. It is a strange city. America is known for  its very busy life style, Los Angeles is the busiest.

          Hollywood is here near Disney land. It has the smell of Japan as well as China, a big city with its dirty localities. Los Angeles Times is their largest prominent news paper. It has many strange features. I had very fruitful discussions with the members of the Education board there.

          I spent a day with municipal administrators learning their system.

          I had dinner with the family of Irving Stone – the famous novelist. It was 109 degree hot day. Hence we all spent a lot of time in their swimming pool. It was such a pleasant time for me . Watching city from their home itself  was a thrilling experience. Stone is a pleasantly romantic person.

          A lawyer`s family invited me for dinner. the couple, their two sons and a daughter-in law are lawyers. After dinner discussion was a memorable event. They told me many things and extracted a lot of information from me  through their intelligent questions.

          We had been to Hollywood, watched film shootings. I gave a radio talk on –

M.N.ROY -RADICAL HUMANISM`.   they wrote to me the following letter-

`Dear Mr Murthy, We are pleased to inform you that KPFA will present  ` The Radical Humanism of M N .Roy` on Friday, December 6. 1963 at 1 pm. The program is a recording of your talk with John Ohlinger.

          Thank you for the opportunity to present this programme to our audience. KPFA  is heard throughout most of Northern California. If there are any groups or individuals whom you would like us to notify, please let us know. `

          Such is their good will and appreciation.

          It took a day for me visiting Disney Land. University campus is great.

          Then we had been to Phoenix in Arizona state. From there we went to Flagstaff, took a bus to see Grand canyon. After that we came back to Flagstaff and from there I flew to Phoenix in the night. That was my second flight in the night in America, first being from New York to Washington. This is the place of Red Indians- the Aboriginals. They are called Red Indians- sharing the name with India, because of the mistaken identity of Columbus.

          Who are these Indians? America in reality is their country. But now they are insignificant. In 1492 when Columbus found America it was ruled by them. It was their land.

          Now they are 4 lakh population. 60 lakh acres of land is in their hands. They dont have any part in the country`s government. The oldest  among them  do not come anywhere near  the modern life. They like to stay back in their old style. But their younger generation is getting  amalgamated with Americans by learning English and dressing like Americans. It looks as though the Red Indian tribe is going to be a part of history soon. We can see the plastic Red Indians in Disney land it is difficult to find them in person there.Their style of dressing shows that they are closer to our aboriginals.- our Koya and hill tribes wear horns as part of their dressing. So do the Red Indians.

          In 1540  Spanish people  met the Red Indians in New Mexico. They were  amazed at the weaving of their cotton clothes. they were believed to be expert weavers of cloth even by 700 AD/ They surpassed our Indian Art in weaving. The historical researchers  came to that conclusion. Their weaving art is called `NAVAHO`.. Hopi Indians are a different race among them who weaved baskets of various sizes, made earthen pots and painted them in unsurpassed designs. That was their historical past.

          Social researchers found out that  Anasaji tribe excelled in basket weaving by 500 A.D. It was their cottage industry. By 700 A D  they took to agriculture. They are also called PIMA Indians. Pripago is another tribe among Red Indians.

          In their art their feelings and emotions were  expressed.

          We come to know that they were experts in archery, sword fight, wrestling and hop jumping. 1500 years back   their culture was prominent and very ancient too. There is not much research done to know about the evolution of their language.

          I was not able to meet them and talk to them. Americans are considering them  as a race going to be extinct  soon. Their population swing  gives that impression. No centralized information about them is available there. Their story is going to be history. It can remain a dream story.

          From Phoenix we went to Dallas in Texas state.   This state is famous for food grains, sheep, goats and cows. It is one of the support states to America. It was here Kennedy  was assassinated.  From Dallas I went to Little Rock in Arkansas State. This is the center where they fought for Black students in 1957. When I was there  there were demonstrations in the next state Alabama. I went to Little Rock to observe what those disturbances can teach us to face minority disturbances in our country.

          Once upon a time they fought here too racial wars but now they are leading a steady peaceful life  unprovoked by the next door racial disturbances.

          I liked the way of Little Rock people . We can learn a lot from them. We harassed and even killed some muslims having come to know that in east Pakistan , Hindus  were treated badly. We did not even verify the truth about the Hindus there. the stories of Little Rock can teach us many lessons.

          In Little Rock I had observed their municipal administration and their efficient agriculture system. I heard about their racial pride in the past and could see how united they are at present. I saw Astrostrat play of M.R.A.  The audience consisted of two thirds Blacks and rest Whites. They watched the play in all their simplicity and feeling of unity. During intermission they had lively discussion.

          Little Rock had fully understood the problems faced by the Blacks. I saw their social welfare activities. I was really amazed to know how  Americans take care of many matters without looking at the government for help.

          I had been to the university there.  I met many people and the Black activists. I saw even the cattle market there apart from visiting several places.

          From there itself I sent an article to Gopichand Memorial souvenir. I stayed at hotel San Peck which was once the stronghold  of racial superiority and pride. But not even a trace of that I could feel here.People are the same but their thinking changed for better. Their views helped them to work for peace among the people.

          From Little Rock we went to Nashville. We could see the greatness of Tennessee river which has its origin  in Minnisota state . We came there to go to Tennessee valley authority.( T.V.A) to be appraised of their agricultural developments.

          In India we fight over river waters. We give political color to technology. So we went there to look at  the problems regarding river waters with scientific bent of mind and research oriented method. We travelled a long distance , saw many dams. We could grasp the greatness of  Roosevelt and how America was reconstructed after 1933.  We saw their projects which turned the mountain areas into beautiful gardens.

          That was the last lap of my journey. Came back to Washington and stayed in Windsor Park Hotel. We went to Indian Embassy. It looked very inactive as though nothing happens.  There met Telugu friends, had dinners with them.My summing up meeting took place with the State department officials. They were not antagonistic to me, as before. They accepted me having seen the strength of my arguments.

          I went to United States Information Bureau and gave a brief report of  my travel experiences.

          I hosted a dinner to Paul Smith and  Gratia who planned and  carried my travel arrangements. George Dimitraff gave me a dinner.

          Having summed up my work in Washington I returned to New York. I met Rooth Sigman, went to dinners at Church centers  and witnessed church services.

          I spoke in a Humanist meeting. Met R.G. Ingersoll`s grand daughter. Even his family is following the great humanist`s ideas.   The International Farmer`s organization hosted me a dinner and Boucher   told me many things about East Europe.

          I met Ellen Roy`s elder brother Robert Gostalk  in the hotel and discussed many things. Remembering  Ellen`s murder both of us shed tears like close family members.

          I met some prominent people at the Ethical Union, exchanged ideas. They asked me to write articles.

          At all the places I visited I was welcomed heartily, treated cordially and honored respectfully. I left all those people behind taking 707 Jet flight from New York to England on 14th October. I carried with me the memories of their hospitality, their appreciation  of exchanging our thoughts and ideas, of letting them to know about India.

          Whom do I thank and how do I thank for my wonderful American tour and the rich experience it provided me with!


(to be continued…)

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