Tuesday, December 21, 2004

நான் இயற்கையின் வசம்.

தமிழ் - For a change.

Enjoying the breeze on the shores of Gandhi beach, I wrote this:

வானத்தின் வண்ணத்தை தன் உடையாய்ச் சூடி,
பிராணத்தின் வாயுவைத் தன் பாதியாய்க் கொண்ட,
பூமியின் முக்காலில் என் காலை நனைத்தேன்.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Those little moments

Standing at the Paoli train station near Philadelphia waiting to pick my friend traveling from DC, I saw a new maroon Mercedes SLK convertible gently making a turn into the station. The covered car parked right next to our car. Soon the boot opened inwards and the hard top humbly folded inside.

In it I saw a middle aged couple, trying to get to terms with the car’s overwhelming controls. There were two cute black dogs in the back seat, sitting with discipline although un-tied.
Whilst I was ardently drooling at the car, the man from it walked towards me and started “Hi, how r you doin”, before I could react, he continued, “We would be doing something silly now, we planned surprise our daughter who’s comin’ in this train with this brand new Mercedes Convertible”, I replied “Wow! sounds great, all the best”.
He quickly went back to the car, and covered his, his wife’s and one dog’s face with paper bags.

Shortly the train arrived, and as the girl came out to the parking lot, she felt something inane looking at two human heads covered with bags, but the lone dog without a face-cover caught her eyes. And there she stood FLABBERGASTED, at the car. She took a couple of minutes to assimilate that it was all true, it was her parents and that ‘mean machine’ is all hers. They rushed to hug each other tight. The girl was jumping in ecstasy as she went around sharing her joy with everyone around.

After the euphoria diluted, the man came to me, and said, “This is why I work so hard, FOR THESE LITTLE MOMENTS”.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Niagara, not the fall but raise of water.

Saturday 7 am, Sep 11th 2004, the third anniversary of the 9/11 incident here in US, we packed our bags, maps, directions and started our 400+ miles journey to Niagara falls, one of nature’s unparallel creation. Our car, a Mitsubishi Galant was quite spacious for 5 of us. Clocking an average of 75 mph and with a couple of stops for gas, breakfast and lunch, we reached Niagara Falls' city around 2 pm. Niagara city (or whatever its called), is a tiny city that boasts of having an International Airport is separated from Hamilton, Canada only by the falls. We had already booked our accommodation in Rodeway inn, one of the economical hotels in that area. Rodeway is run by a Gujarati family. We checked in, freshened up and off we went to the falls.

Niagara has two falls, the American falls that’s on the US side and the Horse shoe falls that separates US from Canada. I must say, it is really magnificent. The sight of water descending exuberantly from a great height with that extreme velocity resulting in tall fumes that instantly turn to vapors was spectacular. On a normal day the falls gives away 675,000 gallons of water every second. Enough to quench the thirst of whole of Chennai. We went on the "Maid of the Mist", a ferry that cruised past the American falls, to the Horse shoe falls and back. We were all given complimentary dark blue raincoats to avoid getting wet and from a far sight, the cruise boat with people in the coats looked like a basket of blue berries. First we went past the American falls; it was a dramatic view of the water dashing down and two clear and close rainbows that were ornamenting the falls. This was a starter, and now comes the main course, with water pouring at full 275 degree angle, the falls gets its name because of its shape of a typical horse shoe. Well, pouring is an understatement, it was a battle for supremacy between every molecule of water in which some succeed and jingle with the breeze as vapors, while others follow the monotonous path to the destiny. It is surprising to know that this relentless flow and the zeal is only for another month, soon there will be no battle, no pandemonium, and everything will be stilled by the unbiased yet ruthless winter. After admiring the beauty of the huge waves, tall fumes and vapor clouds, we walked up the hill to get closer to the falls.
Soon, we walked to the other side of the American falls, into the great island, near the caves. That place gave us an opportunity to get up close and personal with the flowing waters of the American falls, but somehow not feeling like getting wet, we decided to stay on top, enjoy the beauty, take pictures and sight birds ;). I had a wonderful close ups with a Russian made binocular that my dad gifted me.

There is nothing better than feeling like home. And Niagara was the best. I haven't seen these many Indian families anywhere else. There were all kinds of mamas and maamis, mostly babysitting. Listen them talk was really simply recreating.

After some hot cappuccino and French fries, it was time for the light show. The view is best from the Canadian side, and it wasn’t a big deal from this end. I didn't enjoy it that much.

Once we were done, we had dinner in an expensive yet not worthy restaurant and drove back to the hotel. Not before getting lost a couple of times before we figured out our location.

I got to talk to Ashok, one of my very good friends from school who stays 20 miles from there, in State Univ of NewYork, Buffalo. But it was sad we cud'nt meet as I didn't have an IDP and he didn't have a car that day.

The next day, it was again a reverse of y'day’s route. We reached the hotel at 3:00 pm and I discovered I had a lot of laundry to do.. I was tired and had no interest to go to work the next day. But I don't have options :( .

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Marketing Multifold!

Selling one piece of scrap is more challenging that exporting huge chunks of quality product. We do marketing in India, but I was taken aback by the way the Americans do it. Every one in this country is born MBA graduates and all of them are authors of the book “To blow out of proportion”.

Last week I was in Washington DC, walking the cross sections of a city full of museums and monuments. Places including Jefferson Monument, Lincoln Monument, and War Memorial were in my Itinerary. But the hard fact was that these places have nothing great to offer. Lincoln is perceived as one of the greatest president of US of A, probably he deserved a monument, but there was a selling point, his monument (just a statue in marble that’s left dirty) is in straight line with the Washington Monument, and the Capital Building. Jefferson got Virginia from colonial rule into Independent USA; he now gets his own monument with 30 feet tall statue, gardens, lakes what not. Lal Bhahadur Shastri united entire India, I wonder if he has anything close! These places are now places of tourist attraction and millions of visitors make it a point to visit them adding revenue.

Their strategy is not limited to monuments; we were on my way back from Buffalo, NY to Malvern, PA when we crossed a tiny county, so famous that I can hardly recollect its name ;). On the interstate while crossing that county there were huge banners everywhere reading “Visit Ruby Falls”, “Ruby falls this, Ruby falls that”, just curious to know what was so exciting, we made a point to visit it. It was a tiny falls falling from 3 feet high into a long stream of water and “PLING” it’s the sound of getting a 1000 Watts bulb.

Its like saying:
A research team of two proceeded towards the apex of a natural geologic protuberance, the purpose of their expedition being the procurement of a sample of fluid hydride of oxygen in a large vessel, the exact size of which was unspecified. One member of the team precipitously descended, sustaining severe damage to the upper cranial portion of his anatomical structure; subsequently the second member of the team performed a self rotational translation oriented in the same direction taken by the first team member.

Instead of:
Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water, Jack fell down and broke his crown and Jill came tumbling after.

Monday, September 27, 2004

I was Airborne...

Saturday 21st August 2004,
6:55 PM.

I was in the Chennai Domestic Airport, through-checking in my luggage at the Jet Airways counter to Philadelphia. I took the boarding pass confirming the only available window seat for me, despite it being the last one and it wouldn’t push back. I soon went through the screening test where some bunch of khaki guys insist you to keep my hands horizontally stretched, for a second I felt they were filming me standing at the nose of the Titanic. I was then waiting in the lobby near Gate 4, and there came the announcement. I, like all other passengers there moved steadily towards the aircraft. That was my first flight in 20 years. I was in some kinda excitement but couldn’t let it out. I’d been on fights when I was in my kindergartens, and I still have slight memories of that.

Happily sitting in the window seat, I was waiting for the flight to take off, and Ashwini from the boarding section came running towards me (I noticed her name while collecting my boarding pass), I was taken aback wondering if it was one more of my company’s tricks end my trip by showing me how the flight looks, but it was not so, she give me a new check-in luggage slip that accommodated a stop at Amsterdam.

The flight then moved, gradually towards the end of the runway waiting for the queue to clear. I never believed Chennai airport handled flights flying in and out every 60 seconds. As the flight clearly maneuvered to the end of the runway, the engine suddenly roared like a wild bull increasing aggression before it could charge, and it zipped from 0 to about 250 KMPH in a whisker. Guess what, Shumi does it even faster.

Sitting in, I didn’t feel that great, it was more like our TTDC’s 52 seats omni bus. But the flight crew complemented it; they were beautiful, ever smiling, and ready to help. (Well, that’s what they are paid for).

As the flight moved up, I cud see our Madras-namma-Madras illuminated with sodium vapor laps, it was sad coz I couldn’t really see much. As we were moving higher and higher, we reached 36000 feet with occasional jerks, we even went over the holy shrine of Tirupathi.

Dinner was served, it was good and I enjoyed it. At around quarter past 10 we reached “aamchi” Mumbai. The flight 30 mins late and with 90 mins for the next flight to leave, I was frantically rushing towards the international Airport. Unlike Chennai where the International airport is just a stone throw away, the Mumbai International Airport (ISO 9001:2000) is in Ahemdabad. There were few of them from the same flight who had almost the same route as mine (Don’t ask me how I found it). We had to load our luggage into a transition bus, and proceed to the international airport. That Volvo bus was more comfortable than the aircrafts I flew in.

I was deliriously awaiting my luggage to come out of the bus, when I acquainted with Anitha from TCS Chennai who’s going to Seattle via Amsterdam. The feeling that I had company suddenly made me feel as if I knew her for years. We went together searching for the KLM/Northwest boarding area. On the way, we noticed a plastic baggage wrapping section; we wrapped our bags completely, paid him and headed towards the KLM counter. At boarding time, there was this guy asking me all sorts of questions, including my pet dog’s name. After finishing boarding and scrutiny we left for immigration. The wrapper guys came around to me complaining that the girl didn’t pay and to her telling I didn’t pay. I some how got rid of them and went beyond immigration, into the Northwest NW041 aircraft. It was a Douglas DC10 that can carry 272 passengers and fly at a maximum of 545 miles/hour (some crazy statistics). In it I could see almost 80% were Indians, mostly mamas and mamis who going for jobs mostly baby sitting. By now I’d lost Anitha, and couldn’t spot her in that crowd.

As the flight moved, I was talking to the guy next seat. Basically an IITian, Amit, works for a company in Diamond District, the building shared by Covansys-Peoplesoft office, Bangalore. He is some kinda consultant, and claims to travel the world very often. We didn’t talk much and I desperately wanted to get some sleep. At around 2 AM IST, food was served, I am not too sure if I would call that dinner or breakfast coz I’d finished dinner and I was not fasting to break it, but I still ate it. It was some kinda bun with veggie and cheese fillings and a can of apple juice. Well I drink only Apple juice even though my dad doesn’t wear a tie and my mom doesn’t know a gown.

This flight didn’t even have a personal TV. I spent the night watching a documentary on Moscow played at the front (Hail Kremlin!). As the flight proceeded over 36000 feet at 900+ kmph, there were jerks often, the captain announced that the weather wasn’t good. I began praying god to cancel any appointments with me until I see America.

At around 9 am IST, 6:30 AM local time 22nd Aug, I was in Amsterdam, Holland. My first step outside India. Out there I spotted Anitha, and few others including, Harish, Anu and Raju all from CTS Chennai. We roamed the entire airport, and it was great being together. Anitha, is a diary writer, and she was making note of every incident, including, walking straight and turning left. We all jelled till it was time we leave, Me, Harish and Anu were heading back to the same flight to Minneapolis, while the rest two were on a different one heading Seattle.

We were airborne, flying over the gigantic Atlantic Ocean. The sky was bright and the base was blue, I was reminded of the helicopter of Jurassic park. Just because I was flying in the same flight again, doesn’t mean they must show me the Moscow’s documentary again and again :(. This time, my neighbour was Jon Well, a long gray haired old man from Las Vegas. He is (still) a bachelor and has his horse as his only company. With no one to save his money for, he travels the world often, this time he was back from Poland. We had a great time talking about almost everything under the sun. The flight journey was 10 hrs and we spent 7 hrs talking/eating/talking. We exchanged chocolates, currencies, stamps and what not!

It was 1.30pm local time and I was now in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It is my port of entry and I was waiting for the Immigration, a bit nervous. I came to the officer and requested him 4 weeks of stay, he asked me if I was sure, and I said yes, he asked if I was pucca, confident and if he could lock my words ;-), and I said YES, and he stamped me 3 months. I was exalted, as my visa was expiring in a month, and now my I94 makes me stay longer. The customs was again a cake walk. I was pinching myself to see if this was real.

After this long journey, I’m still not done. I had to catch another fight from Minneapolis to Philadelphia. Wondering if I was crazy to catch a flight via Minneapolis (in the mid) when my destination was Philadelphia (in the east)? That was the cheapest deal my company could get. I walked the huge Minneapolis airport for a while before I could spot my gate. From now everything was dollars and I was still not used to spending dollars.

The flight to Philly was nothing of a great sort, it was 2 hrs of idle time and I was busy reading “Windmills of the gods” by Sidney Sheldon. At around 6:30 pm local time I reached Philadelphia, and was happy to see my baggage safe and sound. I reached the ground clearance section, booked a shuttle to Homestead studio suites, Malvern, around 33 miles from Philly.

The Shuttle was a Dodge van that links major Hotels and inns with the Airport. This was my first direct view of American roads; they are awesome, huge, clean and well disciplined. And the cars that zoom! I could spot every brand, including, Mercedes, BMW, Audi, Volkswagen, Volvo, Ford, Jaguar, Mazda, Chevrolet, GMC, Cadillac, Lincoln, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Mercury, Mitsubishi, Subaru, Kia, Saab, Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep, Nissan, Infiniti, Toyota, Lexes, Honda, Acura, Suzuki, Hyundai, Isuzu, International, Mack, Peterbilt … I am tired!

I was sitting in the van along with three other passengers. One of them was going to the Day-inn, one to the Sheraton and one more the Hilton. Though I was the first into the van and though my place (“Malvern”) was crossed 3 times, he dropped me last. That’s when I realized whatever your nationality is, all are humans.

I checked into the Homestead Suites, and went into my room (no. 200). The studio apartment was a well furnished full kitchen hotel with no restaurant. After all this travel, I had to make my own dinner because, to buy anything outside, I need a car. There was nothing in walking distance and most in most roads pedestrians are prohibited.

Now the time is 8:30 PM, Sunday 22nd August. (6 AM Monday in India)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

The Sigh Of Relief!

How do I define Relief? Can I call it as the state of euphoria, when a person gets what he wants? Relief here is happiness. Or is it the peace of mind that he gets by doing something he wants or getting away from something he doesn’t want? Here relief is alleviation.

Well, Relief is relative, and it could be short or long term.
For a student, securing the maximum in a paper is excitement, for a sportsman, winning a gold is elation, for a mother, seeing her kid back home is joy. Meaning happiness, excitement and joy are all kinds of relief.

For a commuter in a crowed train or bus, alighting safely and breathing fresh air is alleviation, and for a kid, getting its favorite toy is reassuring. I can go on adding illustrations for relief and for a blog writer this is gratification.

Speaking of gratification, I remember a story from the Tales of Thennalirama, where, once the King K.D Raya called on his ministry and asked them what is the most satisfying thing in this world. Many of his courtiers replied as “having all the wealth in the world”, “eating the best cuisine”, “owning the biggest palace”, and then came our hero T.Rama, and he proudly told the king, that “Answering nature’s call is the most satisfying thing”, the entire court flared into laughter.

Embarrassed with this, Rama decides to educate the king. The next day, early morning, he made the Royal loo indicate a busy signal (Hm.. Sad the Palace had only one). The king and the queen frantically took turns in separate iterations to check for availability, and the indication showed “BUSY”. After making them run for a while, Rama decided to free the room, the king felt so relieved that he called for Rama immediately, affirmed his thoughts and apologized.

Well this is a story, and if you are tired reading this article and happy it ends here, that’s the best Sigh Of Relief...