Sometimes we forget to count our blessings. Bedabrata has his folks in the USA and like the thousands of Indians in USA, they keep asking him over. He does mind the long flight from India to USA and complains at times. But this time he feels lucky. His relatives are in Cupertino, Silicon Valley, California in the West Coast and he recently travelled from Delhi to USA to spend Christmas and New Year 2021 with them. Flights during corona are a matter of concern. But life must go on..so he took the plunge..or a flight in this case from New Delhi to San Francisco, the nearest airport to Cupertino, his home in USA.
Cupertino, Silicon Valley – home away from home
San Francisco, California is perhaps the most popular city in West Coast America.
Silicon Valley lies south of San Francisco, more into the Bay Area. As we know, Silicon Valley is not a geographical area, but a term in popular usage while referring to the technology hub of USA.
45 minutes from San Francisco is the City of Cupertino which is part of the Silicon Valley. Bedabrata’s folks live here, just beside the headquarters of the tech- giant Apple Inc. Situated in the backdrop of Santa Cruz Mountains Cupertino is mostly green and has fruit farms, orchards and wineries.
Bedabrata’s folks chose Cupertino because it has a sparse population compared to other Silicon Valley cities. Plus it is the best school-zone in this region. In fact, the reputed Stanford University is in the vicinity. Moreover, unlike most other cities in USA, Cupertino does not have a proper downtown so they face lighter traffic. Cupertino has very little public transport and people drive, use bicycles and hike a lot.
The relaxed vibe, fresh mountain air, serenity and, last but not least, great food – easy to see why Bedabrata is a frequent visitor.
Interesting trivia, Indian handicrafts are very popular in USA and we have already explored that during our previous trips.
Weather in California Bay Area
It is hard to believe that California in America does not celebrate a white Christmas. Bay Area, being a coastline, experiences a moderate climate.
Winters are cool here, but it does not snow. Therefore, it is a great time to be outdoors. Cupertino has many forest and mountain hikes and winter days are a great time to engage in such outdoor activities. However, nights are cold and people prefer indoor activities then.
Fall colours in California
Like the post autumn fall season in most parts of America, trees in California too started turning red by October. The bright red leaves make it seem as if the trees are ablaze. The dried red leaves then start falling weaving a red carpet around the tree. There is a big tree in front of Bedabrata’s home that is now a beautiful shade of combined red, orange, rust and gold. It has already started shedding the leaves and in some days, it will become all empty with just bare branches, only to be covered by new leaves in spring. Such is the miracle of life!
Vande Bharat flights from India to USA
Are flights operating between US and India? The answer is – Yes! While regular flights are still in suspension, for travellers stranded in India and others with urgency, special flights under Vande Bharat Mission are operating between various airports of India and the United States. The fares for these flights are somewhat higher than regular flights. Regular international flights from India are suspended till 31st December 2020 whereafter the Government of India will issue fresh notification on this matter.
Flight experience during COVID
Bedabrata took the Air India flight from Delhi to San Francisco. His flight took off at 4 a.m. but he had reached sufficiently early, before 1 a.m. at Terminal 3, Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi. He was regretting reaching so much before time but given the chaos at the airport, in hindsight, it was a wise decision. It seems that airlines were running with lower staff. Thus formalities were taking much longer. Passengers were asked to check-in over the internet before coming to the airport and a mandatory health declaration form had to be filled in and submitted at the check-in counter.
Before boarding the aeroplane, all passengers were being given sachets of sanitizers, face masks and visages or face shields. Everyone was expected to wear the mask and the visage.
Additionally, if you are on a middle seat, you would be given a PPE suit that you have to wear throughout the flight duration. This was an additional safety measure for the passenger in the middle seat as well as his co-passengers on both sides. Passengers were being requested to keep wearing their face masks and to avoid walking about in the aisles of the plane. Given that the Delhi – San Francisco flight was full and the duration was non-stop 15 hours, one could not ignore any protective step for not falling sick.
2 meals were served on the flight. The first was an assortment of packaged food such as muffin, sandwich, peanuts and juice. The second meal was fresh and comprised biryani, dal, paratha, bread-roll, butter, a sweet and a bottle of water. Soft drinks and beer were being offered as beverages but Bedabrata missed tea or coffee. Meals were the only times Bedabrata removed his mask. He wore his mask for almost a continuous period of 20 hours or so. But that was a little price to pay for his health or the health of his family he was going to join. Hence, he and most passengers did not mind. However, some passengers were removing their masks frequently. They needed a little reminder from co-passengers or the cabin crew. After all travel during corona times called for some responsibility.
Home quarantine rules in California, USA
As per the rules in the state of California, an international visitor is expected to isolate himself at home or an institution for 14 days. To avoid exposure, Bedabrata argued with his family members and stopped them from coming to the airport. He took an UBER home and isolated himself from the family for the quarantine period. For additional measure, he undertook a drive through COVID 19 RTPCR test in California. Fortunately, his report was clear and he joined his folks. The pet, a Goldendoodle dog named Brady, was the happiest. Given that Bedabrata’s quarantine zone was earmarked with a temporary fence, Brady thought he was the new family dog.
Lockdown in California
Given the number of rising COVID 19 patients in the holiday season, this part of California has declared a three weeks lockdown till early January 2021. But lockdown in the US is different from lockdown in India. People are not allowed to meet anyone beyond family, visit each other’s homes or party. However, they can go out for shopping and physical exercise. Dine-in is not allowed but restaurants are open for take-aways.
Christmas in USA, 2020
Christmas is the largest festival in this part of the world. Most of the stores are on sales and people are busy buying Christmas decorations and gifts for their families, friends and colleagues. They decorate their houses with fairy lights and Christmas ornaments like effigies of Santa Claus, his reindeers, snowmen, elves and so on.
Christmas 2020 is different. Given the corona situation and the resultant lockdown, people are not allowed to visit each other or have Christmas parties. Most of the shopping has also moved online, so stores are relatively empty. When one drives around, one does get to see decorated patios and front lawns with an illuminated Christmas tree peaking from the window. Albeit it is going to be a subdued festival this year..like a subdued Durga Puja or Diwali 2020 we celebrated in India.
Also read: Durga Puja in Kolkata during COVID
Christmas for Indians in USA
It is heartening to see that Christmas in USA is a religion-neutral festival. Non-Christian Indians here also celebrate Christmas, maybe leaving out the attending church services. They decorate their homes with Christmas trees and leave presents below. They also buy presents for others. The front lawns and porches are decorated with lights – like Diwali. The story of Santa Claus excites all children and they are on their best behaviour especially in December. Like gifts are common, so are Christmas and New Year parties. Bedabrata carried some gifts for his niece, nephew and other family members. Sundeep also passed on some presents for them including a soft toy for Brady.
Net-net, Bedabrata is mostly chilling at home with his family in Cupertino till his mother pushes him out for exercise. He intends to write some more about his USA trip during COVID 19. After all, Cupertino is the perfect destination for offbeat slow travel and so suits, euphemistically put, laidback lads like him.