My stay in India a.k.a the bay area

I am back! After a humungous hiatus. Predominantly because so many things happened in the last few months that I was so exhausted to even type..especially after coding for some 10 hours straight everyday. I am in California for the last couple of months and intend to stay here a little while longer. I had the fortune of experiencing work-life for a little while with the reassurance that I’d get back to my good ol’ grad school routine. Though I must add, this has been a great experience too!
For the first time ever, I experienced how much joy great room-mates can be. Really. After having been through the most nightmarish experiences anyone could possibly face, one must applaud the bravery associated with the decision to live with multiple people again. I must tell you, it was totally worth the one-last-time try. Also, real-estate prices and the fact that a million dollars buy you only a few hundred square feet of living space here, play a vital role in deciding on the room-mate agreement. I got lucky. But again, I atleast got the chance to live this way. The second biggest factor was that I met the college junta. Thanks to being such a compact campus, I knew folks in every department and the skewed engineering college sex ratio ensured everyone had heard of me. Multiple meetups, fun trips, birthday parties and dinners followed. Such bliss. I was transported back to Goa multiple times and many times mistook the restaurant tables for that cement bench outside Nescafe.
Now, let me me tell you why I felt I live in India. Because it is India. There must be a million Indian restaurants catering to every possible variation and combination of Indian food that can ever exist; because every mile has atleast 3-4 Indian grocery shops where you get podis, masalas and mixes which you don’t in India; because every second person is Indian; because you can enter a restaurant and understand every conversation; because Indian is not foreign here; because the most popular restaurant is Madras Cafe; because every house down the road from my apartment is owned by an Indian; because you see salwar kameez and saris on the road; because you can go to Komala Vilas for breakfast, Saravana Bhavan for lunch and snack at Aachi Appakadai; because you can pick what you want to eat and go to that specific restaurant rather than do it the other way around;because you can listen to hindi and tamil radio in your car; because this is India. Really. It is not my first visit to this area. But the one 6 years ago was my first trip abroad and I was too busy gawking at the clean roads and organized traffic and vast spaces and jumbo sized everything to pay attention to these aspects of life here. I must say it is falsely comforting.
I say falsely because in my mind this kind/routine of life is only in India and that is associated with the comforts of home, parents, whisky, my room and everything else back home. To speak in hindi everyday, meet almost only Indians everyday, buy packets of moru-molaga from Indian store or bargain for vegetables hits a very deep comfort spot and it is disconcerting to replicate that life elsewhere. I find it strange that I live like at home so far away from home. I still cannot wrap my head around that. Home was home, life at work or grad-school was vastly different and that was the entire excitement of going back home. I don’t know if I love it or not, if I’d actually like to replicate my lifestyle, but my disposition being so temporary, I’m soaking in everything right now.
This place is truly the tech-hub of the world.I have not seen such a gathering of tech enthusiasts from all over the world. (That is for political correctedness, it is mainly from south-Asia). It is amusing to see an apple ring-tone go off and the entire elevator pull out their iphones to check. This is the place where dress-code is absent, coming to work at noon is totally acceptable and white earbuds handing from your neck is a part of daily attire. Oh yea and wi-fi or internet connection comes before water in the list of amenities. This is the land where travelling 10 miles on a highway can take upto an hour and the folks who carpool consider themselves as superior beings from the hundreds of folks stuck in mile-long traffic lines.
That said, the californian weather is fantabulous. Did I mention I am totally bowled over by SF? That will be another post in itself, but the city is enchanting. I love big cities. Suburbia is nice and clean and very posh at times, but the absence of the holloi polloi of the city makes even 10pm seem like 3am. It is not a valid complaint I know since everything is better in the suburbs but there is something intangible that is amiss.
It was a great experience overall and the best part is, it is still not over. The hype about this place is plausible, because every paati back home is as familiar with names like Sunnyvale or San Jose as Adayar and Mylapore. I must say that my vocabulary has become almost binary with all that coding and logic writing everyday. I am trying to resurrect it and the next post hopefully, will be much better.

In a land far far away

Most people I introduce my birthplace to pass it off as Jaipur, the more famous city that sounds like it but is nowhere near, aesthetically, geographically or culturally. I was born in Jabalpur, a nondescript little town in Madhya Pradesh located almost perfectly in the center of our country and on the tropic of cancer. I’m always proud of that, having a geographic talisman, that represents nothing but the one place where the sun is overhead on the 21st of June. There, I gave a little old-fashioned geographic gyaan. It is a little place swamped with government factories, army cantonments and its ticket to fame is the famous waterfall dhuandhaar or the marble rocks where Narmada gushes over pristine white marble . But dont panic!This post is not written on behalf of M.P tourism (which has a kickass jingle of its own anyway).
I was born in a little village just outside Jabalpur called Madan Mahal. Actually it is one stop prior to Jabalpur station if you go by train. Apparently the best hospital then was in that place far away from where our house was. Of course, today neither the hospital nor the doctor exists. (The doctor had some licensing issues and her degree was revoked! God! I hate to imagine if she was a quack!). So that tragedy apart, we lived in Khamaria, a small village on the outskirts of the little town. Our estate was luxurious, huge villas constructed by the British complete with elaborate portico’s, long driveways big garages and outhouses,red-tile roofs and giant corridors with wooden floors and fireplaces, enormous gardens, parks and tons of trees. It was a cosmopolitan closed little society, where everyone knew everyone else, where one could ride bikes without the fear of any traffic, where huge empty spaces with little grass were in abundance for kite-flying and little shepherds with their flock of sheep used to invade the estates during the hot summer afternoons. Tales of panthers and cheetahs spotted near tiny little creeks just outside the estate used to prevent us from venturing towards the factory which was mostly in a jungle. We had a little triangular park with lush grass and rabbits and deer and even a toy-train, a musical fountain and a dinosaur with glowing eyes. The little Westland bazaar used to come alive every tuesday and I used to accompany my mom and our domestic help as they filled their bags with fresh organic vegetables and fruits. Something that we pay insane amounts for here. Beautiful gulmohar and eucalyptus trees lined the roads which turned flaming orange in the fall. It was a beautiful place to grow up in then and it was my home.
My mornings were all about going to Moni dairy and picking the cow I wanted milked and getting free ice-cream samples of the newest flavors ;bathing in cold water in summers and scooting off to school on Vishuprasad’s bike and watching the buffaloes wallow in the mud as his cycle rolled down the steep hill into Chandan colony and to my school St.Gabriels. My afternoons were playing hopscotch with my baby-sitter and eating her delicious daal-chawal or waking up Blackie from his afternoon siesta. There were no 1000 channels or flat-screen tv’s. I dont even remember paying any attention to the television unless it was Sunday morning 10 am when we watched Ramayan or Sri Krishna in rapt attention. My idea of fun was running around the garden, sitting on guava trees or mango trees and avoiding the monkeys. I used to accompany my dad to Digambar stores, a tiny little grocery shop and then watching in awe as the mithaiwala in sonali sweets made samosas by the dozen in an instant. Eating hot jalebis and cutlets, reading all signboards in shudh Hindi. I knew not a word in tamil. Club dinners and diwali melas where I used to eat Chhole Bhature and ride on giant wheels and hang out with my sister’s friends. Teej season was one of hearty shrikhand-puris and sooji halwas in every aunty’s house. I used to pluck fresh vegetables from mom’s vegetable patch or play with newborn chicks and goats. Wild hibiscus and genda(marigold) lined our gardens. Spent days watch the langurs take over entire gardens and destroy them and named two-red faced ones Morgan and Torgan. Evenings were for pittu or just some crazy bike-riding. Not Diablo 3’s or Wii’s. The trip to the one bookshop in Sadar Bazaar was filled with extreme delight and hour-long rickshaw rides to chungi or the rickety tempos that took you to “the city” were highly anticipated. It was so magical and innocent. It was not a city, there were no supermarkets, no cell phones, no computers, just us in a small little town with so many friends. Summer vacations to Madras were like going to another country in a train that took 42 hours. Still, nothing felt like going home to Jabalpur.
I realize how different my life is today. Of course, you need to keep up with the times and move with the flow of technology. Everything there has changed as well ( as I realized much to my chagrin in 2005). But my memories remain fresh and clear, almost like a fairy-tale.Except that it was real and in a land far-far away.

Ore Chennai Louus Pa!

No, its not an impending India trip that has stirred this homeland-Chennai-loouws this time. In fact it is the result of months of exposure to Chennai bhasha – Chennai tamil, their slangs, culture and habits that has brought out these emotions in me. I realize, I do not qualify to be called a Chennai-iite. I lived in the district of Chennai but cocooned in a suburban (bordering on rural) estate that was a mini-township in itself. I did roam the city like crazy – all the bookstores, eateries ( HSB, for those who don’t already know – Hotel Saravana Bhavan), frequented all the malls, studied in an extremely cosmopolitan school located in one of the modern localities, attended a gazillion weddings that took me in and around the city, played on the beaches and learnt Tamil. But I have come to realize that these were things that any outsider would do too. At home, we are typically not really south Indians – eating rotis and rajma-chawal, speaking in a mixture of Hindi-English, not sporting bindis or following extremely orthodox traditions or pujas. Most of our friends were also not from Chennai or south India. My parents though hardly aware of most of these customs ( they never lived in Chennai all their life until 5 years back) strived to give us a good heady mix of north and south Indian stuff. We are what you call – hybrid. This realization dawned upon me only when I came to the US (surprise surprise!) and when I met the folks who roamed the streets of Royapettah ,Gopalapuram, Mylapore and T-Nagar, played cricket (or was it Gaadji (batting)) in corporation grounds, terraces and beaches, ate at Bhagya’s or gorged on Aatu-kaal paaya at Ponnusamy’s, or stopped to have tea and biscuits after a game of cricket in a Nair kadai. I dont know this chennai but I am loving everything I am learning about it.
Add to it, the addictive following of some fantastic blogs by regular bloggers – I realized I had to move beyond my college folks who have synced their frequency of new posts with the occurence of solar eclipses, resulted this new found love and respect for chennai. It is indeed a city that is like no other. From Krish Ashok to the eloquent Maami and Tamizh Penn, they reflect this new modern era that youngsters in Chennai are ushering. Not afraid to flaunt traditions or mock fun at some of our oddities, they bring pride into traditions and culture. Not to mention – Tambrahm rage, the comic strip creating waves all over, pokes fun at extreme irritation caused by brahmin traditions on children. I particularly enjoy all of this because though my parents did not strictly enforce all of that at home, (they do enforce some) it still resonates with my daily life to a great extent. It is fun to read about how all grownups cringe when their mom calls curd rice “Thacchi mumum” in front of friends (happened to me a gazillion times) or the scorn of the maamis in Kapaleeshwar temple when they find me not sporting the pottu. It brings a warm gooey feeling inside to connect with your culture and poke fun at it, being proud at the same time. It is a feeling I cannot describe.
Why am I forgetting cricket? There is something unique about the love for the game Chennai-iites have. We are the city that gave Wasim Akram and his team a standing ovation after losing a match instead of flinging things at the players. We are ardent fans of the team as is and not of any one player. Take CSK or Team India. Never do we support a member from any one team, it is always the entire team and the sport we love. I don’t know if I have seen such widespread support for the entire team anywhere else. Now thanks to all the World Cup celebration and the whistle-podu videos (did you know it has been converted to Six-podu this year?) I cannot wait for CSK to win the IPL again this year. The tunes are so catchy, not to mention the dance moves. How can you resist from joining in?
And finally, my joy of discovering madras bhashai. Though known mostly for being rude, crude and incoherent with pure tamil, this is something Tamil purists (esp. those from deep south like Madurai) cringe or even chide. But I love it. I love it for the sole reason that it sounds like a lot of fun. To me, it sports a very cool and carefree attitude. I am still learning since I don’t understand many of the terms but I love saying the words and the phrases. My tamil movie knowledge, close to 0 (no wait, it was 0) is slowly inching up. I enjoy Senthil, Goundamani and Vadivelu and their crass comedy which despite its low standards, can bring a chuckle to your face. Seriously, apart from lines in Sholay and Andaz Apna Apna – why dont I remember anything funny from Hindi movies? Did I just forget our Thalai, the greatest ever? My apologies.
I wouldnt express the same kind of love for all the people there though, thanks to some very unpleasant experiences.But I have met a few good ones and I am eagerly looking forward to finding those makkal, who would make my day whenever I meet them. It is sad that some sorry-ass chennai hater had to write the lonely planet guide brief for this fabulous city. ( I did not know this until I read it myself in some of the blogs I mentioned. I wholeheartedly support the writers in showing complete hatred and bewilderment to whatever has been written). Ask any person who doesn’t like a particular place/dish/person to write something about it/him/her, I doubt it will be the true picture.
I know many people try so hard to shrug off this tamil culture when they leave India and sport fake accents and try and follow American customs. They feel embarassed to admit liking movies starring Dhanush or supress liking some of the unique traditions we have. I really feel sorry for such people for trying so hard to leave something so precious. Anyhow, having vented out my feelings, I can now get back to that term paper due tomorrow.
In any case – “Chennai ku oru periya Whistle podu!!!” ( A big round of applause for Chennai – decently put).
PS: I am excited about the Royal wedding. To all those folks to sport the “I-dont-give-a-shit-who-is-William-and-I-dont-care-if-he-married-a-guy” attitude, I dont care. It is not everyday a commoner (okay she is super rich and hot) becomes a princess.

Vacation

Vacation is
…getting first off a plane only to get lost in the luggage concourses, followed by a relieving hug from G-Joo at 1 am!
…cuddling up and sleeping next to mom after 3 whole months.
…giving sis a bear hug after half a year.
…introducing yourself first time to your 2 month nephew and being called a-gooo. 😀
…playing with all his toys and rattles.
…watching the Manhattan skyline from the bed.
…looking at the Statue of Liberty, Staten Island bridge and Hudson from the living room window.
…eating steaming hot idlis and mum-made coconut chutney for breakfast.
…driving in a BMW to the biggest mall and entering every shop possible.
…trying out shoes at Nine West.
…getting locked out of a GAP trial room in the store.
…digging a Mama Sbarro’s pizza and planning the next store to attack.
…not being able to decide between a Donatella or a DKNY jacket for half an hour.
…tasting divinity with Dule De Leche from Haagen Dazs.
…hunting for swimwear in Macy’s and buying something totally unplanned for.
…getting irritated with the full-of-attitude AT&T store people.
… introducing G-joo to twitter \m/
…enjoying the morning breeze on a walk with mom.
…giving nephew first ride on shoulders and making him sleep.
…eating homemade godlike pulao and beans sabji followed by Ben&Jerry’s Imagine Whirled Peace. (yummm)
…finishing the shopping list with visit to the all-familiar Target.
…eating california burgers with coriander chutney and sauce.
…more ice cream.
…showing mom around facebook and all my friends.
…hot mom made dosa with garlic powder from Grand Sweets.
…debating which phone to buy for ages and finally deciding on the iphone.
…thinking of a twitter nick for sister.
…watch nephew sleep and smile in his sleep.
Ladies and gentlemen,now that’s what I call a PERFECT VACATION!
😀
{Thank God for the awesome break, Im all set to hit my books again! \m/ }

A fresh start

I write this post sitting in a godlike library on an amazing Mac monitor. I am now in Atlanta and also an official student and legal working girl in the USA. I finished 4 hour long paperwork today, completing a mindnumbing 15 forms with so many other formalities and finally I can take a deep breath and say, Whew! Now it can all be normal.
I came here on the 6th august 2009. Stepped into this country for the first time as a non-tourist. Everything wasn’t such a cultural shock to me since all my gaping and awing was already over. It felt good to be independent, to unlock the doors to your apartment, to be able to shop for your gorceries ( all of them rice, daal, masalas, oil, milk etc etc) and set up a working house from scratch. This included huge shopping trips to Wal Mart, Targets, Publix and other places to get the place up and running. Seniors were the life-savers giving us free food, accomodation and even rides to the nearby stores. My apartment is one among 9 others. Everyone there is Indian. All of them. Taking an average of 6 per house, there must be close to 50-55 Indians living there. It didnt feel like US even for a bit. Indian faces all around, hindi,gujrati, marathi in the air and smells of masalas and tadkas from every kitchen. Tumlin is one hell of a little India.
The place is fantastic. The department is every bit that I dreamt of. Glass foyers, sparkling floors, comfy sofas, just like the lobby of a 7-star hotel. The entire campus is fantastic and it lives upto its reputation of being in the top 5 engineering schools in the US. Only thing, it was very HOT and that automatically meant people were clothes-less here. I never saw anyone (boys or girls) wear anything below the knees. It was very hot and the UV is supposedly strong here so lot of sunscreens adorn the racks of every store. You have maps and trolleys to get around and a hundred odd places to eat around here. The cuisine is global with tacos,burgers, nachos, salad bars, pizzas available all over. The students are mostly Indian or chinese ( as expected) and everyone right now is really friendly helping around with stuff.
Thats about the description. I will upload pics once I get my own connection (hopefully tomorrow). I got to go back and scourge something for dinner from my stock of sabji and daal. Its been a busy week with orientation sessions and registrations and paperwork sessions.
PS:The swimming pool was the one used for Olympics in 1996. Man, I can’t wait to jump into it right now!

The goodbye

This is the post anticipated by many. But its contents are not the same as a vote of thanks speech for my country. It is a bittersweet picture of the truth. (Truth is always bittersweet, aint it?)
Firstly, I am very happy to leave this place. Personally, the only thing I will miss having around is my doggie (no surprise to anyone there). He was always with me, still is as I type this post (he is busily licking my feet only to put his head gently on them and sleep in a while). I will miss everything about him and everything I’ve done to take care this past month. Feeding, walking, running, bathing, playing and everything from splashing water on him from the swimming pool or watch him converse with donkeys..everything will be in my head for a long long time. What hurts is his innocent wait at the door hoping I’d turn up any moment or the hunt around the house still expecting me to be hiding under the bed. What pricks is that he doesn’t know. Wish I could explain it to him. Family is infact closer, dad and mom will be missed but technology esp VOIP, gtalk video chat and cell phones have ensured no place is too far.
Coming to friends, I really havent met anyone in person for sometime now. The only people I’ve spoken/ met outside the internet are Amrit,Dyno,rdx,Vinay,Nisha, Giz and Soxy. Everyone split up after third year and has gotten adjusted to their new lives. Everyone else is on either facebook or gtalk. It’ll hardly make a difference as to where I am geographically. My blogs will continue so will my updates on all these networks. So its no use saying “I’ll miss my friends” and all that tosh. To hell with all the sentiments then since I’ll be more in sync with the nocturnal junta of our college. Though sometimes I miss being geographically closer to these people I mentioned before. Friendships can sometimes cut across the virtual barriers.
India…well right now I am happy to be leaving it. Lets see if the missing-my-homeland sentiments hit me in sometime.( I seriously doubt that anyway). It is a fresh start, a chance to correct my mistakes (in matters of losing my heart to very wrong people)and begin all over again. I am all revved up and refreshed after a very enjoyable vacation. All the miseries of PS and heartbreaks forgotten.
So long everyone. Keep reading my blog. The next post’ll be from Atlanta.
ADIOS!

Chennai – Perfect amalgamation of the past and present

I found this on Google reader shared by my friend and I must admit, it is one of the BEST chennai articles so far and it mirrors my sentiments so aptly!

What can I tell you about my beloved Chennai? People from other metros will argue that Chennai has little to recommend it. They complain about the heat and the orthodoxy. They complain about the nightlife or lack thereof. They complain about wily, rude autorickshaw drivers who fleece unsuspecting tourists. Yes, I know.
Generation Y: Chennai’s women no longer wear Tamil culture on their sleeves. Laxman / Mint
But what can I tell you in defence? Abnormal as it seems, I am happiest in Chennai. This irrational love that most of us have for one place has mostly to do with childhood. I know several people—my husband included—who have no ties to any one city, having grown up in several. My friend, Arun, for instance, who now lives in Berlin, can objectively take Indian cities apart, sifting them into pros and cons that say everything but mean nothing. Mumbai for enterprise, Delhi for power, Kolkata for Bongs who aspire only to get to Kolkata, Bangalore for the weather and entrepreneurship and Chennai for its culture. All true, but it does little to capture the essence of this coastal city that welcomed St Thomas and does the jalsa (illicit gratification, for example, liquor) and jilpa (gratuitous holding forth on topics that one knows nothing about), as blogger Krish Ashok says.
Chennai is waking up at 4am to have lunch at 7. It is going to tiny Murphy Electronics in Adyar and having the proprietor dig out from the dark recesses every gadget and gizmo that you never thought to have. It is drinking “Kumbakonam degree coffee” at, well, Kumbakonam Degree Coffee in Anna Nagar. It is eating chop suey and hakka noodles at Waldorf with the IIT guy you have a crush on. It is watching grizzled old men cover themselves in monkey caps when the temperature drops from unbelievable to bearable. It is watching pretty maidens with turmeric yellow faces and dripping wet hair walk to the temples in the month that is called Margazhi in Tamil. It is describing yourself as a “thayir saadam” (curd rice) or a “Mylapore girl” and knowing instantly what it means; about every nuance of that person. It is knowing that music connoisseurs go to Mylapore Fine Arts or the Triplicane Academy during the December season, while the people who want to see and be seen go to the Music Academy.
Also Read Shoba’s previous Lounge columns
Chennai is Grand Sweets, Ambika Appalam and Saravana Bhavan. It is the pleasure of speaking in Tamil using a shorthand that only other Chennai-ites will understand and relish: swear words such as savu cracki, or the disdainful “veetila sollittu vandirukaya?”, which is what an auto driver will yell when you cut him off, causing him to nearly bang into you. Your fault, lady. Have you told people at home (that you are going to die)? That’s what it means but like most translations, this does little to capture the pithy essence of that insult.
Change comes slowly to Chennai. Go there today, and you will still see the vendors on the beach selling “thenga, manga, pattani, sundal” or coconut, mango, and a variety of fried lentils. Couples still sit in the moonlight at Elliot’s Beach, looking around furtively for known faces. Mamis (matrons) still duck into Nalli’s or G.R. Thanga Maligai (GRT) for silk saris and gold, respectively, and haggle hard for the “compliment” or a Rs5 purse that is given free after they spend a few lakhs. The free purse seems to give them more pleasure than their purchases. Chennai is going to Pondy Bazaar and finding everything except your mother and father. It is parties where people still quote the “Manjal Araithayaa” speech from the Tamil movie Veera Pandiya Katta Bhomman after sufficient quantities of liquor have been quaffed. It is eating spongy idlis at Murugan Idli Shop and wondering if ordering every type of dosa on the menu is gluttony or good taste. It is the scent of jasmine at sunset.
Chennai is steeped in Tamil culture. “No ifs, ands and buts about it”, as a Madrasi would say, and no, please don’t use that word to describe anyone south of the Vindhyas. M.S. Subbulakshmi epitomized what, for many women, is Tamil culture. She was deferential to her husband who managed all her affairs; almost childlike in her simplicity; had regular oil baths and then scented her hair with sambrani (a type of incense for sweet-smelling hair); circled the tulsi plant for the well-being of her family; and inspired thoughts of the divine.
Today’s Chennai is edgier, sexier, grittier. Radio announcers (many of them female) regale listeners with a snappy Tamil that is equal parts slang and slander. Girls in Chennai no longer wear salwar kameez like I used to. They ride motorbikes in tight jeans and halter tops. Few oil their hair but many still wear the bindi. They prefer lattes to filter coffee and pizzas to pongal. And you know what? That’s fine. Because Chennai hasn’t lost its essence. The same babe who speaks in Tanglish (Tamil-English) will go home and address her grandmother as “Paati”. The same boy who sports spiky hair and sunglasses will submit to a Ganga Snanam with loads of hot sesame oil come Deepavali day.
Chennai—my Chennai, the city that I love—still exists. You just need to know where to find it. Come with me. I’ll show you.

When in Chennai, Shoba Narayan dines at Karpagambal Mess in Mylapore and Beyond Indus at the Taj Mount Road. Write to her at thegoodlife@livemint.com

India and the Indian Railway

I believe that the best and quickest way to have a tour of India is to travel in the long-distance trains. I enjoy train travel more than any other mode of travel. Plane rides are comfortable and rather convenient but the shock of the quick travel sometimes gets to you. Like two hours back, you were sleeping in your mom’s lap and BAM! you are sleeping on your cold bed in the hostel room. Trains have an aura around them. The constant chug-chug sound, the cacophony of the bearers walking up and down the aisle, plus the opportunity to glimpse the astounding diversity of our country make the journey all the more pleasant. Never mind the dirt or the lack of opportunities to bathe. It is indeed India at its quickest and best.
A long train journey across the length or width of India gives the best chance to savour food from all parts of the country. The most authentic cuisine of the particular place is served at the railway station. I remember being ever so hungry on the trains almost eating everything that that particular station had to offer as its specialty. The idlis down south, the piping hot biryanis of Andhra with the Gongura chutneys, the Missal-pav and Vada-Pav of Maharashtra, the Bhakri of Madhya Pradesh, the aloo chats, chikkis, doodh pedha, everything you can get to have in its authentic style in just one train journey! Coming to the locales, its like a mini-sightseeing trip. More than the destination, it is the journey that is worth enjoying. You can watch the landscape melt into different forms, from the dense jungles, arid plateaus to the hills, cities and towns. Who can forget the numerous rivers cris-crossing our country. It was always fun to watch the river from the train. People drop coins hoping for good-luck, you can watch the dry river beds, the water meandering through the plains and the tiny boats hoping for a good catch of the day. It is like a movie playing before your eyes.
You meet different people, get to watch them closely traveling with them in such close quarters for such long periods of time, strike conversations, get lucky in love sometimes, enjoy the journey playing board games and cards, chat and gossip and read books uninterrupted. Every platform goes into a frenzy the train stops and it is fun to watch the intense activity suddenly erupt in the otherwise calm station. People filling water bottles, coolies trying to get clients, people hunting for change, hawkers selling all kinds of things, relatives and friends welcoming each other or saying good-byes, grandparents welcoming grandkids for their summer holidays, all of this makes every journey memorable.
Of course, there are certain aspects not that welcoming. The dirty toilets, the unreserved people straying into reserved coaches and occupying floor space, the thefts, the robberies are some of the many things that Indian railways should not be proud of.
I know many will wonder why the sudden post on railways. As I was reading the paper that Mamta Banerjee will mostly be the Railway Minister, my thoughts went to railways and the changes in the pre and post Lalu days. The days when tea was still sold in cups and not Kulhads, the days when railways were not so prompt or clean,when 24 hour delays were commonplace, when accidents hit an all-time high to the recent pasts when railways are once again back in form, maintaining even better time than even the Airlines sometimes, posting huge gains, improving service and speed and becoming the delight they truly once were.
Railways are like a throbbing lifeline of our country. One of the most coveted ministries and the largest government agency, the numbers they transport, employ, earn, serve are simply mind boggling. The number of trains operating, the reservation system are all technological marvels. Sadly, we never seem to look at it in awe. All we mostly do is crib about the cleanliness, the food, the heat or compare it with others like the Euro-rail and boast about the things being better there.
Overall, nothing can beat Indian Railways.
All the best Mamta Banerjee, you have a lot to live upto.

Goan Escapade Part -2

I spent the first day back meeting everyone. Friends I had not met over last semester, other juniors who made my life in the last semester in campus worth living, ate in the familiar Insti-cafeteria only to be greeted by those working there with warm smiles. Teachers who otherwise were never-communicative or considered very strict came up and spoke to me. I never realized that these people whom I never interacted with on a regular basis would notice that I wasn’t on campus anymore! It was a surprise! It was a different feeling to go back to my department and meet the teachers who helped me in my long struggle to get an admit. They were full of suggestions about what I should do in the future, what line of study I might take up and even offered me teaching positions back in campus after completing higher studies! Delightful indeed!

I had this huge stash of treats to give, a lot of things to tell everyone and also personally listen to everyone’s PS adventures. Everyone seemed a little different, slightly grown up having got a taste of things to come. Gamers had stopped gaming, people were studying with zeal and few others who were stuck to their books for the last three years were happily loafing around. My batchmates were almost fully jobless and we chatted up no-end. The DC was as resourceful as ever and my downloads went on non-stop.
But things were not the same as before.
It was weird not seeing the familiar faces peeping out of the rooms anymore. A lot of people, the majority infact were unknown and this felt a little odd. It felt like the campus is indeed throwing us out of its system and though the college times were great fun, time has come to move to the next journey of our lives. There was this undercurrent of sadness interspersed with the bouts of delight at the thought of starting afresh in a new country, new place and with new people.

The evening was spent in my favourite beach, Bogmalo. Though it might not have the sparkling white sands of Palolim or the exciting features of Calangute or Anjuna, there is something about this beach which draws me to it everytime. Maybe it is the beautiful rocks in the sea, or the yummy cheese-omlettes at John’s Seagull or the quiet crowd of this beach. But it definitely is my favourite. It is not too crowded, not too empty. Just perfect. I ate my cheese-omlette delightfully savoring every bite. Blissful.

I spent the next two days meeting up more of my friends, teachers and doing things I wanted to for the last time in campus. I met those I had spoken only on DC for two years now and had never gotten the chance to meet them in person.

I left the campus with a bag of mixed feelings. I had met everyone for the one last time before everyone sets off in different directions and was raring to go and face what lay ahead of me. It felt good to be back but it also felt good to leave. I can’t wait now for what lies ahead of me.
It recharged me completely. Adios BITS-Pilani,Goa Campus.

I’ll see you sometime again.

Life @ Pune!

Its been a long time since I wrote a post and that is because life has undergone a sea change. Complete makeover. Something unfathomable in a span of 30 days. From another ordinary engineering student on the brink of graduation and saturation of campus life, I was thrown into the real world.. complete with the job aspect, independent flat-like accommodation and completely new set of people. ( Even the people interning with me here are those I’ve never spoken to in the last three and a half years of my life there!)

Let me start with Pune. Yes, I did get an overview when I came here last November. But now, its more intense. I am living in one of the richest suburbs of Asia, ( the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corp. was the wealthiest in Asia before the recession…I dont know its standing now), amid huge industries whose products one seldom sees in commercial markets. Sandvik Asia, Alfa Laval, Atlas Copco, Premier (Ah! Remember the Fiat car anyone?), Thermax,Force , Greaves Cotton etc have set up shop here. The Mumbai-Pune road is bursting with heavy traffic and the road crossing requires a jog to make it in one red light. It is dusty, upcoming and lined with office buses. Sadly, our company does not ferry us anymore from place of living till office. It is a different lifestyle here among the common middle class people, working in these huge industries and contributing to the economy in their own little way. A sudden shift from the huge crowd of students in late-teens, sleeping the whole day, bunking classes, hogging in canteens and dressing in typical college fashion. Everyone is well-dressed, talking work, working briskly and the most surprising of all looking at their watches ever so often to make sure they are on time!(I am sure college-goers have done it too but only in the most boring lectures).

Work is fine, professional and thankfully my project invovles me directly implementing what I have learnt as a Chemical Engineer. For many, their projects have taken them to different domains of engineering or marketing, giving us an experience of a lifetime! Lunch-breaks are timed and slowly we are also making our way back to our desks on time. Entry-exits are also according to office timings. Evenings are spent in transit back home which involves long walks and then dinner and sleep. There is no time for anything at all! Eyes begin to shut at 10:30 pm sharp ( a time they used to open back in college) and we are wide awake by 7 am all set for the next day! Weeks have flown…three already here and I seriously wonder if life goes on so fast!

Pune is a great city. Osho Ashram and the area surrounding it is my absolute favourite! Lush green and clean, pollution free, you hardly remember you live in Pune. Fergusson College road, ShivajiNagar, J.M Road (Junglee Maharaj Road..thats coz of a temple there) are nice to walk around…F.C being my absolute favorite for weekend shopping . Books, accesories, flip-flops, bags are found in plenty! ( Great place for bargains and colour coordinating your outfits!)

Well that about describes my life here. Good food, new girls (with interesting stories to tell!), nice place (albeit a little dusty so I am soon joining the Pune bandwagon of wearing huge scarves and looking taliban-ish to protect myself from being caked in dust!), good malls and a very huge population of youngsters. Language not a problem…everyone understands hindi perfectly well and the weather is good now since its not summer yet.

The freedom and independence feels so good…apart from the responsibilty it shoulders on you. I’m loving it!