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!

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My rockstar forever – MJ

I caught the news flash just seconds before my visa interview. I was next in line, waiting for one of the counters to clear and the authorities to beckon me to their window. “Micheal Jackson is dead.” I gulped. I was genuinely shocked. I don’t know why his death saddened me so much. Briefly putting it out of my head till my interview got over, I kept mulling over him for the whole day yesterday, the news channels giving enough flashbacks to make anyone nostalgic.

Someone correctly pointed out that Micheal Jackson was all pop music was in India a few years ago.His songs were the first English numbers more than half of India heard. He was the face of English music which grew very popular in the country, given that the followers of ABBA, Beatles, Elvis Presley, Boney M were not so many. I remember myself when my sister brought home the entire collection of MJ recorded in 5 cassettes (yes, those were the cassette days) from college more than a decade ago. Thriller, Beat it, Bad and ghost were the first songs I heard. The first four English songs of my life. I was hooked. They were brilliant. I used to stare transfixed at the tv whenever his videos were aired. His cassettes were forever in the car stereo. I was a true blue Micheal Jackson fan. I still love his music. I did the same stuff every kid dreamt of, dancing like MJ and moonwalking like him. He will always be my true rockstar (though he is a pop icon), much before Metallica, Iron Maiden and the others took over.

Later into college, blessed with an enormous music collection on the LAN, I was hooked to Jackson 5. I had caught a few numbers ages ago and had been wanting to listen to them ever since. I was delighted. MJ did stand out even then being one of the youngest. His ballads were soulful and a real treat to listen to. He was a pop-legend in the making even then. And you just had to listen to him sing once to determine that.

Of course, his life has been more controversial than an average pop star’s life. What amazed me more is him grafting his skin (which now people say was a disease that caused him to turn white – I doubt that) and his continuous tinkering of all his body parts. People called him mad, imbalanced and crazy. But honestly, most of these superstars are. After all if every move of your life is a headline and is tracked by a hundred photographers, it is difficult to stay normal. These people should be loved and admired for their skills, their art, their music and MJ was the master of his game. One of the true iconic entertainers of his time.

Ending this sombre post on a hilarious note, the funny joker rightly said “So Michael’s career did end with an arrest after all”.

May his soul rest in peace. His music will be played and will continue to enthrall the world for a long, long time to come.

Amen.

Tan Recovery

My weekend trek gave me an amazing tan. I began asking for tan-recovery methods and found quite a few of them. I’ve listed them out. They might be pretty useful for people who return from summer adventures.

1. Rub tomatoes on the tanned skin.

2. Use rose water regularly.

3. Malai with Turmeric will work wonders.

4. Curd and honey go a long way in bleaching the skin.

5. Apply malai on the tanned skin and then use atta (wheat flour) and rub over those parts.

6.(This’ll work for girls): Best time to get your arms and legs waxed. 😀

These are the exclusive tan recovery techniques. If anyone has more, do tell me. 😀

The other side of the coin – or is it ?

This is a pretty controverisal take on Jerffrey Archer by Shobha De. I dont know if it is true or not, but I think it should be also read by everyone. Not being judgemental here, just the information provider. ( I thank Sonali and Arushi for giving me this).

Excerpt from her blog:

Jeffrey Archer is a real character. I’d been invited to an intimate dinner the last time he was in Mumbai to promote his books. I found him racist, impatient, arrogant and conceited. All he did was complain. About Mumbai’s traffic, Mumbai’s readers, Mumbai’s everything! Just before we exited India Jones, someone at the table asked him if he had read or heard of any Indian authors. He dismissed that question instantly…. but swiftly thought better of it, perhaps anticipating more such questions from the desi press. He turned to me and asked who my favourite Indian writers were and I mentioned R.K. Narayan and Vikram Seth. The canny Archer looked totally blank, but being a smart cookie, asked for some paper, pulled out a pen and requested me to jot down their names and the titles of their books. He also asked about the contents of Narayan’s novels. Perhaps he did take the trouble to pick up the books at the airport and has indeed read them before whizzing into Mumbai again. He has been dropping both names at every press conference.I didn’t want to meet him one more time and skipped all the functions – alas, I’d seen through the guy. He has obviously sensed numbers in the India market and is determined to create a record here. Fair enough. Which author doesn’t want to sell in great numbers?? But in every interview, I notice with glee, he trots out the names of Seth and Narayan like he has been following their work for decades. Intellectual dishonesty? Or just good salesmanship and P.R.?? You decide…

– Check out more of this on http://shobhaade.blogspot.com/

Charcoal, Pencils and a new header

I had been toying with the idea of a personalized header for a long time now. Given the fact that I had all the time in the world, I decided to use it well, a little more constructively than usual. Now, I had long removed Adobe Photoshop from my computer, to accomodate the COMSOL Multiphysics in the final semester. Without DC ( yes, that is a major handicap), setup was impossible to obtain. I asked Amrit for alternatives and he suggested GIMP. It was an open source software with all the features of Photoshop. So I immediately installed and set out to work.

Before you start thinking that the piece of art above is my handiwork, let me clarify. It is made by none other than Amrit himself. I did start off my ambitious project, mission header with an aim to make it like it has come out now, but turns out it was rather complicated for a first-timer like me. Various garbled versions emerged and three mishaps later I SOS’ed him to design one for me. He did a fab job, Thank you very much again.

I took out my drawing paper and charcoals after eons today. Not knowing what to gift my sister on her b’day, I decided a hand-drawn sketch would be so much more precious than anything I pick up from a shop. I always prefer handmade gifts. They somehow are so real and the effort that goes into making it is a perfect representation of the love you have. This was only my second hand made gift in recent times. The first was a scrap book I made for bloke. Now, this. I used to gift hand-made cards to mom and dad, but that was when I was younger, was regular at painting and had all the materials. So today, it was an awakening of sorts.

More than how it looks, I feel ecstatic about the fact that my oldest hobby has resurfaced. I felt the familiar thrill when my pencils drew long black strokes, the charcoals beautifully left a trail of blacks and greys and the picture finally came alive. Hmmm…its a sort of high I am on now. It feels great.

My precious solitude

I go for a 3-4km walk/ jog every morning. It is not something I am forced to do and I can easily afford the luxury of sleeping till a comfortable 8 am. But I do it because I love it.  Even back on campus, it was easily the best time I had. The quiet roads, the breezy mornings, the teachers with their dogs on morning walks…hmmm…it still brings a smile to my face.

I continue that habit in Pune. Though summer is easily my most hated season of the year (monsoon is the absolute favourite), there is something about a summer morning that you never enjoy in any other season. The cool air of the night before, the flurry of early morning activity,the bright sunlight at 6:30 am, the slow heat rays beginning to burn/tan your skin, the people scurrying to catch local trains, and the empty roads only to become unrecognizable a few hours later. I enjoy the walks with my ipod diligently playing my favourite collection of songs. Those few precious minutes (just more than an hour) give me the strength to face the day somehow. It erases the memory of the unpleasantness of the evenings before, the bitterness of words, the tensions, the deadlines. It somehow literally gives me a fresh start. It makes me revive my inner self and voice which gets drowned in the cacophony of the world everyday.

I am a nature lover. Big one at that. I enjoy walking around trees, looking at the various animals still surviving our brutalities on their habitats. The occasional chirping of birds, the bark of a stray dog, the cackle of hens, the roosters, the playful puppies in the gutter, the bird’s nest high up on the tree. I wonder how strong and resilient those creatures must be to survive in the concrete jungle, still keeping the traces of nature alive in our brick-and-mortar world. It has been my deepest wish to do something for these dogs and cats and all animals since I was a very young child. Brought up in lush-green garden filled homes and spaces, I cannot imagine my life without animals and trees and shudder to think of a future without them.

I stood silently watching a litter of puppies play with an empty tetra-pack of milk in the drain, smiling ever so slightly. I will do something for them,whatever little I can right now, but something  definitely substantial in the future.

I have decided.

Yes, I will.

Technological Dependence

I came to realize this fact just a few days ago when my cell phone switched off due to low battery charge. Now, I was left here without any phone or contact numbers in my head with no one I could possibly call from any public phone. I was thankfully aware of my home number and my dad’s cell number, but it got me thinking that today we seldom try and remember any phone numbers at all. We instantly unlock our phones, type out the digits as the other person is saying, give missed call to store our number and save it with a name. Another entry in the phone book, another number saved. But nothing in our head.

 I remember the times we had a race to memorize the number the fastest, to store as many numbers as we can and use s simple address book only for those contacts few and far in between. Unlike today, where everything is stored externally, there was a time when calculations were done in our head, numbers stored there and an effort to remember facts and figures actually made. After extensive use of calculators (thankfully, I wasn’t a part of this, but then it did cost me dearly in subjects like Numerical Analysis), people use them to add 16 and 12, divide 12 by 4. I do agree that their use is mandatory especially in engineering calculations but not over dependence.

 No, I am not being Mulayam- Singh- like asking people to forego the comforts that technology has so graciously given us. We must use them efficiently and economically, not allowing our brains to rot in the process.

 I memorized a few phone numbers again. It felt good, really.