*$s

If the title didn’t intrigue you enough, it just means Starbucks. This post is to supposed to be a memoir of my first *$s experience. I’m taking the pain to write about it and so, it must be a memorable one. πŸ™‚

The scene: Sunday Evening. Term Paper presentation due the next day. Bored as hell reading through IEEE papers in the library. Kinda irritated by two guys whispering to each other in (probably) Persian. I go out for a walk into the cold November evening in Tucson.
What happens in this setting? The micro shivers running through the body feel great, but I can’t enjoy them long enough. There is a *$s just outside the library.
I’d never been to a *$s before as I am not a guy for coffee. But the micro shivers demanded something hot and not-sweet. So, I decide to bless *$s with some good business.
I stand in line for ~5min, all the while going through the menu. I decide upon a latte, and then on Chai latte and finally on Gingerbread latte. It was my turn before I could let my mind drift again.
Everything goes well. Finding hot (undergrad) chicks is a welcome change to my saturated brain. I almost despised *$s for such a “fast” service when my name was called out. It had to end so fast. Anyway, I had to return to work on my presentation.
Couple of steps into the library, someone is calling out my name in a strange accent and I turn around to find the person who served me coffee. It seems that he accidentally made me the wrong coffee. Ignorant me would never have known, as you know, it was my first time at *$s.
So, he offers to re-make my coffee and takes my cup from me, ushers me into the barista again, treating me to a fresh dose of goodness of pretty (undergrad) chicks.
Couple minutes pass and he returns with the coffee that I actually ordered, apologizing again for the goof-up and gave me a card to enjoy a beverage next time, but on the house. Free Coffee. Yay! πŸ˜›

Cold November evening. Hot chicks and great coffee. Good enough first time experience.

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. πŸ˜‰
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: β€œlove Don’t live here anymore…” – Β© 2009 Robb North – made available under Attribution 2.0 Generic

Stuck between past and future

TL;DR: I’m headed to the US for higher education and this is a story/rant/khichdi of emotions and some light headedness of flight.
I’m at the Bangalore airport waiting to board my flight to London, and then to Chicago, and then to my home for the next two years, Tucson, Arizona, US. Reminiscing the past sitting in this waiting area has brought mixed emotions to me now, just after seeing off my family members. It is hard to feel elated for securing an admission into university of Arizona as well as morose for leaving behind my whole world, both at the same time.
I will remember this moment for a long time, when I am stuck in a limbo, caught between dreams that await to be realized and the pillars on which I dreamt of them. Parents, brother, friends, relatives, cousins, life, love, work, school, college and many other chunks of memories are melting me and flowing through my mind, forming tiny streams of emotion held together by my forced, stupid will to not appear too emotional.
That being the wet and teary side of my sorry, it seems like I’m also stuck in a muddy part, between a mediocre wannabe genius past self, and an opportunity to learn from my mistakes and construct my future self. Thanks to my spectacular memory, I’m yet to figure out why I feel about my last, the way I expressed in the last sentence. So, not forgetting what happened is good place to start my reconstruction.
Talking to friends, reading stories, watching movies about it and imagining as much as I could has not prepared me enough for the plunge that I’m taking now. Nonetheless, this is a new leg of my journey, just into my 26th year of existence. (Wow!! The number makes me feel old.) That seems a lot of time, but now, 4hrs into this flight to London is seeming like forever, despite 6+ hours that I’ve to spend in this flight alone. I am not able to think anymore about the contents that I could possibly fill this post with. I’m hoping that my homesickness won’t persist longer than its duty demands to remind me of it.

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. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜‰