USA

This post was supposed to come out long back. Anyway, better late than never.

It has been 4 weeks ~4 months since I’ve come here, to Tucson, Arizona. This place is was astonishingly hot! Landing in the peak of Fall, I should probably not be expecting this place to be like Bangalore, least of all, when I knew this was a valley city, surrounded by hills and having very low humidity. Lot of people have said that this is the worst part of the year and it gets surprisingly pleasant in a month or so. I sure am looking forward to it. [It did become pleasant. I’m loving the weather now]

First week of Grad school has passed smoothly. There was hardly anything to make it a bumpy ride. Barely into the first week, we were looking at a long weekend, thanks to Labor Day. It gets warmed up pretty quickly after this, they say. Well, it better get warmed up. That’s the whole point of coming here in the first place! [It did warm up, revved up my brain more than it was used in a long time, and thankfully so!]

Experiencing this (higher) education system firsthand has really been a new awakening. It is amazing how the “one-size-fits-all” system of education is desisted here. Each student has the choice of learning what he wants as per what his long-term goals are. If there are no goals, they say that going by the tried and tested path laid out by a few seniors is a safe one to follow. After all, who cares what kinda job one lands into as long as it keeps you contented and pays you well. [Well, being in an education system that decides what is good for you didn’t do any good to my decision-making abilities. I’m still confused about my career plan, even though if not as worse as earlier in life]

Things that are both good, and bad, at the same time happen a lot. Almost immediately after we land here, we fall into the habit of being judgmental about many things here. Specifically, the people. We brand them as Chinese are like this, Mexicans are like this, Indians are like this and so on. It really spoils the mood of being in an International setting, where we have the chances of our lives to find things about the big wide world firsthand. [This mindset is slowly receding.]

We become stereotypical and ask for directions. Right from streets, to food joints, to courses, to professors, to research activities, to job referrals etc. I hope that everyone realize that one size doesn’t fit all and the future is not far off when we come out of the needy shells and get ready to embrace things at their face value. I am happy that a few of my colleagues here are embracing that attitude already.

One of the best things that has happened after being here is an initiative called International Friends. American families in Tucson have come forward with this initiative to get to know students of different countries, thereby hoping to know more about how cultures are. I had been invited to a dinner like that and had a good time talking to my hosts.

[Added on the day of posting from here on.]

As it has been quite a while since the first draft of this post went into a slumber, I am delighted to update a few things here.

I got a research position in the university and I’m happy being an “employee” as well as a student at the same time. I’m not missing my days at Samsung/KPIT anymore. Feels awesome to experience and share it.
I had a wonderful Halloween and a tummy-licious Thanksgiving, thanks to my International Friends hosts Louise and Pam.
My cooking skills have improved. Oh damn, that would be an understatement!! I cook great enough to keep my easily bored taste buds on their nerves. 😉
Semester is getting to an end and it is unbelievable that time flies so fast. Lots of activities lined up for the last few weeks, right from term papers, lab assignments, home works, projects and final exams. The ride is about to get adventurous!

Wish me Luck.

Empty Vessels are filled with Ghosts

Italo Calvino said: The more enlightened our houses are, the more their walls ooze ghosts.

There are ghosts all around. One ghost which frequents me is the one that says, “What will people think of you?” as in, “Hey, you are going to eat with your hands?? Oh, the typical Indian that you are! What will people think of you? They will be grossed out and think that you lack the basic table manners!” Yeah, right! Talk of table manners when you are dining in India among a group of 200 people.

Oh, there are other ghosts too. Like this one, which appears every once in a while and says, “Do you really wanna do that now?” as in, “Oh, your boss has asked you to fill out a report about this year’s metrics on procrastination index of employees? Do you really wanna do that now? Come on, it is midday, you just had lunch and it is a perrrfect time for a siesta!” How can ever deny that!

There is another one. It is the law of induction ghost. “If p(x) is true for all x that you have see so far, then p(you) is true too!” This one is inherited from the typical Indian in me. “Oh, Mr. Sharma’s son studied in College ABC and he got placed in company XYZ!! What a lucky man! Son settled and all! Now, my Son will also study in College ABC. He is also a bright student. He’ll also crack it into companies like XYZ, without. any. problem!!”

Mr. Italo Calvino could not have been truer about the line that he said above. The more of the world we see, the more stereotypical we are becoming, and that breeds a lot of ghosts.

Image credit: “love Don’t live here anymore…” – © 2009 Robb North – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

Dosa Breakfast

I am a sucker for Dosas. Especially, Masala Dosa. My mouth yearns for the feel of the crispy chunks of it, smeared with some spicy red chutney. I prepare it well enough to satiate my cravings too. 🙂

So, after a good session of self-made Dosas for breakfast yesterday, I found myself at a restaurant this morning. It is a restaurant that I’d rather go for dinner, than for breakfast. Nonetheless, I was there, and had to order something. The waiter approaches, and without a second thought I say “Ondu vada sambar, ondu masala dose, ondu tea.” Now, given the variety of foods that Indians consider for breakfast, I can never back out from a Dosa. Since I had not been to this place for breakfast before, it was a very good reason to try my beloved Dosa. Thats one of my ways of building a bond with a restaurant or an eatery.

Bangalore has lots of places which offer awesome to awesomest Dosas. Besides, there are huge varieties in Dosa. I’ve tried them at quite a few places and have appreciated them with much more yearning when the plate’s empty. That’s the kinda sucker I am. Among the hordes of places that I’ve tried it, I loved it the most in CTR, Malleswaram, “99 varieties of Dosas” in Koramangala, a couple of Adigas fast foods and ala Quick Gun Murugan, “Maa ka Dosa”, the bestest of’em all.

Lemme list my favorites before closing off.
Masala dosa, butter roast, paper roast, onion uthappam, cheese corn roll dosa, pesarattu, aDa dosa, rava dosa and lastly, a tailor made favorite, extra spicy roasted cheese masala dosa.

Oh man, the cravings. They’re here again. 😉

Pause, Rewind, Slow-Mo, Play!

Wednesday evening, battling a mid-week sickness, I was in a delusional state that it was a Friday. Every time it dawned upon me that it wasn’t a Friday, I had to make the painstaking journey back to reality. I was riding back home on my beloved cruise bike. Perfect conditions for a nice ride on a cool Bangalore evening. Traffic was thinning on the Outer Ring Road and I felt my bike surge ahead of most vehicles with ease. Speeding in the nimble nineties, taking for granted the smooth and all-familiar ORR, I was in for a surprise, a nasty one at that. In a flash, I saw a pot hole, had no means to avoid it, stood upon the foot pegs, let my bike run into it, and after what seemed like a punch in the face, recovered some how without any loss of balance and continued.

Pause, Rewind, Slow-Mo, Play!

So, I was on the Outer Ring Road, riding my bike, when one Tata Sumo moving ahead of me swerved left around something. I thought I saw a pot hole. What I also saw in my rear-view mirror, was a lorry on a roll, speeding with the same fervor as mine. So, the possibility of braking was ruled-out. I braced up for the situation, positioning myself into a least damageable posture, braking enough to reduce my speed and still keep myself from reaching the lorry’s wheels, and finally, as if taking a plunge in a pool, entered the pot hole, the impact strained my neck, my bike gave a shudder, I came out of it, retained my balance and had to move on as if nothing happened.

Pause, Rewind, Slow-Mo, Play!

Lorry, Sumo, pothole, everything was happening in a rush. In less than a second, I saw it, tried to avoid it, tried to minimize the impact, tried to avoid going under the lorry’s wheels, went into the pot hole, came out and cruised along. But, a few nasty effects revealed themselves later. looked like, my front wheel had the maximum impact. The rim became askew, a few spokes were bent, the drum got cracked, the fork got compressed by nearly 4 inches, the left side seal of the fork ruptured, some of the fork oil spilled over, the fork got bent too, handle alignment went haywire, the rear wheel was bent and my bike was not the same.

It was incapacitated. Its torture could be felt. Its wails could be heard. It was limping in the front and crying like it had never cried before. But it somehow retained its resilience, and did its duty to bring me home. It knew that its master would never inflict such torment on to it deliberately, that its wounds would make cuts in his heart (and of course, burn a hole in his pocket). And I, the loving master that I am, wiped off those remnants of anguish from it.

If only I had the chance to kick someone in the balls and land a second kick again right there, it’d be to the fellow who was responsible for making an unsuspecting pot hole on a beautifully laid, signal-free road such as the Outer Ring Road.

Inglorious Bastards!

It was a nice weekend. I was waking up to the slowly creeping cold and retreating into the warm comfort of my blanket. I could hear my dad discussing the morning news with my mom and brother. Something sensational seemed to have happened. I could grasp the patience in my dad’s explanation and the fiery excitement in my mom’s exclamation. This combination was intriguing enough to wake me up fully from my slumber and entice me to partake in this pep talk.

What was the news? Its the latest in the series of never ending money laundering scams that have been plaguing the Indians. Accompanied by my imagination of countless middle class households despising the scamsters and secretly hoping to make at least a fraction of the ‘mis’ fortune within their lifetime; also realizing that they’ve been lame ducks, hating the Reddy brothers for their audacity to pull off such a huge con. The epic bastards!

Scams apart, I feel we’ve become a playground full of ready targets for a bunch of sadists. Apparently, it is very easy for a lunatic asshole to plant a bomb and hold the country for a ransom. If we are not sure when calamity could strike, we really cannot do much but be at nature’s mercy. If we are not sure when an atrocity strikes, what can we do? We just see it with widened eyes, gasp in horror, partly relieved that we weren’t there. As an icing to this bloody cake, we decorate the post mortem of such attacks with phoney phrases like the spirit of Mumbai and the resilience of people. Bringing the bastards to the gallows is considered inhuman. Instead, we gift them a fair trial as a mark of hospitality and let them go scot free at the cost of lost lives and broken families.

I fail to gather words to express the calamuitous frustration that has built up in me. What should I bear? A few lakh crores of money going into the pockets of looters disguised as politicians and bureaucrats? Be a silent spectator to ruthless massacre thrown at our faces every now and then? Ever increasing prices of petrol cascading into an avalanche rise in the cost of all other commodities? Traveling through pathetic roads amid choking traffic on a rainy evening wondering if I’ll be sane enough by the time it is over? Being a middle class indian, most important matter to me is to be peaceful with what I’ve. Is it possible?

Figure this. An auto rickshaw driver had the nerve to look me in the eye and ask for 300 bucks for a ride that would normally cost me 100. So is he in line to compete with Mr. Burglar Reddy, albeit on a smaller and unnoticeable scale? I just couldn’t resist my anger this time and he got what he deserved. One insult per 100 bucks he demanded. The local bastard!

If all this is on a domestic level, its impossible NOT to wonder and doubt, what would be the maximum extent to which India can grow as a country in the international scale. One visit to any country with able people will undermine the confidence that we too can be a developed nation someday, despite possessing able minds comparable to those in any part of the world. We’re a population whose magnitude neither reflects the aptitude we need to achieve, nor the attitude we need to possess. The altitude we should scale is STILL a farcry to fathom!

How can we hope to achieve something that we want when it is not easy to just do what we should, with these hurdles hurled at us everyday?