Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Manipal

Manipal

I had intended to write a detailed account of our trip to Manipal, in the form of a novel. As always, I gave up soon after starting. Browsing through the old files and folders, I came upon the first chapter that I had written sometime in Dec '03! I am publishing it as it is here.


As usual we were late.

We were supposed to be in front of Manipal Hospital by 9 pm sharp. We didn't have any idea how we would be going except that there would be some bus coming there, and there would be a person called Basavraj, who was from Karmic and who would accompany us to Manipal. The coincidential similarity in names of our destination and the starting point of our journey had been a topic of conversation and a topic of jokes among us for the past few days.

By the time me and Anant had a hearty dinner of Egg Biryani at Vishal's (it was then a newly discovered eat-out for us) and trudged along to the Hospital, it was 9:15. We were greeted by a number of loud voices cracking jokes at our punctuality. Amidst the confusion, I noticed one stranger, a heavy-set fellow with curly hair and a thick moustache. He came over and introduced himself as Basavraj from Karmic. We shook hands with him.

Most of us had come alone, but there were several of Sumeet's room-mates, who had come to see him off. (Sumeet's alleged innumerable room-mates are a source of continuous entertainment to us, at his expense, even to this day!)

The wait for the bus was not all that bad. The group was a mixed one. We did not know each other all that well then. But through a series of meetings that had happened before the trip, we were at least familiar with each other to different degrees.

There were eleven of us. Koushik, Anant, Sumeet and I had been working on the same project for the past one and a half month. We were quite familiar with each other. Of course Anant was my room mate. Koushik stays with his parents in Rajajinagar. His home is the furthest, among us, from our office on the airport road.

I used to know Ashish as a joking, bantering kind of guy with a cheerful spirit. He was the loudest in the group, cracking jokes, laughing loudly. He had brought his guitar along with him, and I was trying out my inexpert attempts at producing music on it as we waited.

The tall shy Lokesh (Lokerson) was to me 'the dancer'. His numerous other interests and talents were as yet unknown to me. The contrasting nature of Ashish and Lokesh was highlighted all the more by their great friendship. Both of them were from the same college, and had known each other for long.

Ankur Saboo was an enigmatic character. I knew almost nothing about him. That there will always be difference of opinion between me and him, whatever be the discussion about, I could sense. That I will be so friendly with him later, I never anticipated.

While the seven of us were from the WLAN group, the other four were from DSL. Krishnakanth or KK was the actor. His exemplary acting skills came to light when we put up a half-an-hour stage show a few days back, for the benifit of the rest of BSTC. He was another guy who was always in good spirits, and never ceased to smile.

Bhaskar was the one who had raised his hand when Vivek Pawar had asked for volunteers to lead the group for the expedition. So had a couple of others (probably Ashish and someone else, I don't remember), but it was Bhaskar, who would be our voice when communicating with the seniors of TI and the people in Karmic.

Subhash was a totally unknown factor. It would be quite some time before his 'bloodthirsty' spirit would break though, but he was and is a nice person to be with.

Venky or Venkatesh was another local guy. He was called Batani by everyone. He had had that name since his school-days, ever since he mentioned 'Batani' among the different sciences, as he told us one later day over a cup of coffee at the mess 'Akshay'.


The bus came at 9:45 PM. It looked nice and new from the outside, with the word 'SUGAMA TRAVELS' written in bold letters. 9:45 was the right time but knowing our tendencies to be late for everything, they had asked us to come at 9. After putting all the luggage in the boot under Basavraj's supervision, we piled onto the bus, cheering and shouting. Basavraj had already told us the seat numbers booked for us. I was the last to board. By the time I had started looking for my seat, all the others were already seating in pairs in the seats of two. I sat down in the last (frontmost) seat, and slid to the window. Basu came and sat beside me.

"Which one's mine and which ones's yours?" I asked.

"The window one is mine, but its okay, you sit there."

The bus started almost immediately. I took out my new mobile phone from my pocket, and sent an sms to someone. Basu asked me, "Who all among you have mobiles?" I told him what I knew. At that time, probably me and KK were the only two people to have mobile phones. Basu took down the names on a piece of paper. I was wondering why. It had been impressed upon us that Dr. Mahant-Shetty, the person who ran Karmic, was a simple person. I somehow felt that owning a mobile while we were going for training may not be looked upon very nicely. From then onwards, till the day we came back, I always made an effort to make the mobile as less evident as possible.

Some of us had some food and snacks which we all shared. I think I also had some stuff. For the first half an hour we were pretty noisy. I think there were a few attempts at playing Antakshari and singing, but gradually those died down. Once the bus left Bangalore city limits, the driver switched off all the lights. One by one everyone dozed off. Owing to the discomfort I always feel when travelling by road, I was up till late. Next to me Basavraj was sleeping peacefully as if he was sleeping on his own bed at home! I tried looking out of the window for some time. For the first few minutes it was interesting. But slowly it started becoming dull and monotonous. I gradually eased into a state of restless slumber.

The roads down here are very nice. They are much better than the highways near Calcutta, which are so full of potholes that if there is a smooth stretch, people look out of the windows in amazement, wondering why the bus has come to a sudden stop! For the first time in my life, on this journey, I travelled for eight hours on a bus and didn't suffer from nausea!

I was woken up by the sound of people talking, and a lot of movement around. The bus had come to a stop. It was one of those road-side bus stations where all long distance busses have a pit-stop, so that passengers can get down, stretch there legs, and freshen up. I could see a lot of food stalls outside. Several sleepy eyed people were wandering about outside. I wanted to get down. It also seemed to be a good idea to make use of the toilet while the oppurtunity was there, we had another good 4-5 hours of journey left. But somehow, I didn't feel like moving from the seat. One gathers this lethargic inertia in the uncomfortable sweating semi-seated posture after being that way for hours. I debated with myself for five minutes about whether to get down or not, and ultimately decided to make a move.

As soon as I alighted, the driver boarded the bus and pressed the horn. It was a signal for everyone to get back on board. I made a pretense of stretching myself, and got into the bus. Other people filed in behind me. The conductor came back and did a quick head count to make sure everyone was there. Satisfied, he gave a thumbs-up to the driver, who immediately started backing out of the place. This time I went to sleep pretty quickly.

When I opened my eyes, there was a hint of light in the horizon. I looked around to see if anyone else was up. Apparently, no one was. I drew aside the curtain and looked out. The view outside was beautiful. The trees shining in the early morning light, the sparkling streams that we crossed every now and then, the foggy morning atmosphere, saturated with dew, it was perfect. So far the main attraction for Manipal, to me, was that it was very near to Goa. Suddenly, I started looking forward to spending time in this heavenly place.

By the time the bus came to a halt and the conductor looked in and shouted 'Udupi! Udupi!' almost everyone was up. There was a big gate kind of structure with the sculpture of a lion. About half the people in the bus got off. It was about 5:30 / 6 in the morning.

Manipal was the last stop. The bus stopped at what appeared to be a kind of junction of roads. Basavraj informed us that this was Tiger Circle. As we would later find out, this was the town centre, and we would be coming here all the time.

There was a Tata Sumo waiting for us. As we removed our luggage from the bus, we discovered that Koushik's leather suitcase had a big gash on one side, courtesy a few pieces of rusted iron that was also there in the boot of the bus. A few of us got into the Sumo, and they were taken away. The rest of us waited there for a second trip. All the while Koushik kept cribbing about his torn suitcase. Some of us cracked a few jokes at his expense.

The Sumo came back for us. We all piled in. We drove along a narrow road with a lake (rain-water) on one side and jungle on the other! We soon came across a small T-fork, where we took the left. The car stopped in front of an yellow two storeyed house. Mallickarjun, who was accompanying us on the car, took out a piece of paper and read out a couple of names, "Somshubhra Paul and Anant Shankar Kamath!" We acknowledged.

"You will be living here."

We got down from the Sumo. The Sumo started off, with the others. I took in the surroundings for a moment. The house looked pretty nice from outside. It had a sloping tiled roof. There were a couple of glossy brown-tiled balconeys, one on each floor. Inside the gate, to the right hand side was a small lawn. The rest of the courtyard was tiled. Opposite the house, on the other side of the lane was the jungle. I was half expecting some wild animal to step out from among the trees, when I heard the main door open behind me.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Achtung! Arachnoid!!

"ACHTUNG!
wrik may actually be a spider-human hybrid

Username:
From Go-Quiz.com


Apparently I have arachnidan traits! Don't know about that, but since I haven't posted anything for a long time, I thought I will post this!!

Monday, July 18, 2005

The high ball landed a few feet in front of Anant and the defender. A few quick steps, Anant reached the ball first. There was no time to control the ball, a small jump, Anant headed it towards the center. The ball bounced high, another defender made his way towards it. I jumped up and tapped it with my head, downwards, towards Anant, who was now some distance away from the guy marking him. A perfect trap with the right foot, control the ball to keep it with himself and pass along the ground with his right foot, Anant knew where I would be, and I was there. But there was another guy in front of me, I tried to go forward but didn't get enough free space. Sapto had come up from behind, I could see him to my left from the corner of my eye, but the defender had also seen him, and was between the two of us. I pulled the ball backwards between my legs, turned back, took a couple of steps and tapped hard with my left foot towards the right, of course Sapto was there in the clear for the pass. Sapto took the ball with his right foot, shuffled it a couple of times between right and left, pirouetted through 360 degress, with the ball glued to his left foot, to leave the hapless defender behind, rushed past the other guy, and there he was with only the goal-keeper in front. The rest was, of course, simple, the same routine, the goal-keeper coming forward to cut the angle, Sapto making as if to shoot straight, but passing cross-wise instead along the ground, no one marking me, a tap with the side of my right foot, the goal-keeper, still with Sapto, watching as the ball rolled smoothly between the two make-shift posts six feet apart....goooooaaalll!

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Idiocracy. Or is it Indiocracy?

* This story is based on real life, and is perfectly possible. However, some of the incidents mentioned below haven't happened yet! *

The clerk sitting behind the table with a pile of folders with A4 sheets of paper bursting out of them looked at me through his thick glasses and blinked twice. My brain somehow started believing that I was an alien from Jupiter, or worse still, Uranus.

"Four wheeler license ...." I started.

"LL or DL?" Sharply!

"Pardon me?"

"LL or DL?" Contemptuously!

"I have an US driving license ..." I started.

"Door 3." Close of conversation. He went back to leafing through the million pages in a purple folder. I went in search of door 3 and soon found it. Inside, there were a row of glass counters.

There was a queue at the nearest counter (number 8) and no one behind or in front of any of the others. I stood at the end of the queue. Everyone in front of me had a filled up form or two and I was feeling oddly out of place. I awaited my turn patiently behind five people. The guy at the counter seemed oblivious to the fact that there may exist some other activity in this world that might require the presence of one or more of these people standing at the queue. He took his own time in leafing through the forms, yawning between every two pages, stopping to share a joke with another guy inside the glass enclosure between every two yawns and peering suspiciously at each person in the queue.

In about what seemed like half-an-hour (one should not actually measure time when one is in a place where time has no value and doesn't exist, but being as I mentioned earlier, an alien, I could not but help glancing at my watch every once in a while), I was at the head of the queue.

"I have an American DL, and I want to get an Indian four wheeler license."

"Please go to counter number 4." This guy seemed to be very courteous. I glanced at counter number four. There was no one there in front of the counter or behind, or for that matter, anywhere within a mile radius. I looked back at this guy. "Don't worry, someone will be coming there soon."

By this time, I had lost all hope of going to office on time - anyway, I never go to office on time - so I went and waited at the counter number four. For fifteen minutes, I had no other occupation but to glance around and 'take in' the room. There was nothing much to take in, it was just another government office, with cobwebs and paperwork strewn all over the floor, ceiling, desks and window sills. There was by now a pretty long queue at the counter from which I just came. At the end of the room, there was an open door bearing the legend "Assistant Officer In Charge, Regional Transport Office" and a pretty fast moving queue at the door. Some way off inside the room with the glass counters, where two ladies were sitting across a desk and chatting.

Presently, one of the ladies took pity on me and came and sat at the counter at which I was waiting. She moved about a few things on the desk, took out a pin cushion, and made preparations for (what appeared to be) a day's work ahead. Thus customizing the desk for 5 minutes, she looked at me and asked, "Yes?"

I repeated my request.

"Please go over there and talk with the Assisstant Officer in Charge."

I knew better than to protest and I went and joined the long queue. I was relatively certain that the Assisstant Officer in Charge didn't really have anywhere to redirect me to because the Officer in Charge was nowhere to be seen. Being a (mis)believer of the doctrine of Patience and its payoffs, I waited patiently. Soon (within fifteen minutes) I was in front of the great man himself.

"I have an American DL, and I want to get an Indian four wheeler license." I repeated.

The person at the desk nodded. "I need your driving license, a couple of passport-sized photographs and your residence proof. What residence-proof do you have?"

"I have this BSNL land line telephone bill here..."

Shaking his head ... "It has to be either a Passport or a Ration Card or an LIC policy."

"But ..." if I have a land line telephone connection I surely must have a residence!

The guy was shaking his head.

"But my Passport and Ration Card are in the Kolkata address."

"Then get your license at Kolkata."

"But I live here now."

"We have no proof that you live here now."

"But .... okay I have my Rental Agreement ..."

"We do not accept a House Rental Agreement as a residence proof." You may have rented the house for, I don't know, not living there perhaps. Perhaps you have too much money and just want to spend some of it as house rent!

"Well, I also have this proof of residence certificate given by my office on our official letterhead."

"Do you work for any government office?"

"No."

"Then the certificate is not acceptable." Only the government offices are honest and incorruptible, everyone else is a liar!

"But I can't really get a Ration Card here ..."

"I can't help you ... Next please."

***

After a discussion for about an hour and a half, we had narrowed down the possibilities to the one perfect policy for me. I was happy that I will soon get a Life Insurance Policy as well as an address proof. The agent sitting in front of me was happy that he had made one more sale, which means more commission in his pocket.

"Now to get to the paperwork. I need a couple of passport sized photographs, a medical fitness certificate and a proof of your residence. What residence proof do you have?"

"I have a BSNL telephone bill, a certificate from my office and my rental agreement."

The guy nods. "Yes, I understand. We do not accept those."

"Wha..what? Why?" Then why are you nodding?

Still nodding. "Yes, it has to be your passport or your ration card. Your driving license will do also."

"But I don't have a driving lincense." That is why I need the LIC policy! "And the other two are in my Kolkata address."

"Sorry, I can't help you then. You need to get an address proof." Still nodding.

"But I do have proofs of my residence here. My telephone bill..."

"No it has to be your Passport or your DL."

"That means I can't make an LIC policy here?"

"Of course you can, sir. You just need the address proof."

***

The corridors looked similar, the counters looked similar, the clerks behind the counters looked and acted similarly. All government offices look the same.

Finding my way to the correct counter was easy. The signs on the wall bearing the legend "Change of Address" all pointed to the same place. The clerk at the counter looked strangely similar to the one at the RTO. Wondering if it would be polite to ask the guy if he had many twins, each of whom worked at a different Government Public Service Office in Bangalore, I approached the person.

"I want to change the address in my passport to my current address."

That is the only thing done at this counter. Of course you want to change the address in your passport. The guy looked at me severly. This person was markedly less polite than his twin brother at counter 8 in the RTO. "What address proof do you have?"

By now I could answer this question as a reflex and didn't have to think. I replied.

"Not possible."

"Why?"

"We do not accept those as proof of residence."

"What do you accept?" Of course I knew what they accepted.

"Your Driving License or your Ration Card. Even an LIC Policy will do."

***

I was at the RTO in Kolkata.

"I have this American DL. I want to get an Indian DL. I have two photographs and I have my Passport or Ration Card as address proof."

"We need three photographs."

"Okay I have three."

"Do you stay at this address?"

"I ... uh ..."

"This is a government quarter. Do you work for the government?"

"No my dad does."

"Are you a dependant?"

"No."

"Then I need your address proof."

"Can't I stay with my dad? I have got all the proof that you want here."

"Do you stay here in Kolkata? Most young people like you are going out these days."

"I ... "

"Where do you work? Do you work in Kolkata? Bring me a proof that you work here. Otherwise I will not accept this proof of residence. You do not live here."


Congratulations, Somshubhra, you don't live anywhere any more!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Tag

With the innumerable "forwards" being forwarded all over hyper-space thanks to people superstitious by virtue of birth, upbringing, estrangement and jilting, or people who just want their associates to also have a quick laugh as they did, the word chain-mail (if it can be treated as a single word) takes a new meaning with every passing moment. Forwarding through short messaging services had to follow of course. Memes are probably the only way (albeit a more interesting one) that the forwarding viri could catch up with the web-logging domain.

With such an introduction, I will now proceed to reply to Sumeet's tag.


Number of Books I Own

I never did count the total number of books I own. For one, the number keeps changing quite frequently. And then, I keep 'borowing' my dad's, uncle's & grand-dad's books everytime I go home, but I never return them. So effectively these books are also mine. Unlike some friends of mine though, the number of technical books I own lie outside the three sigma limits of the total number!


The Last Book I Read

Five Point Someone - Chetan Bhagat.

I do not own this book. Anant had bought a copy a couple of months back, before I went to Dallas. I managed to read it only last week though, after returning. It is to some extent an interesting book. But definitely not the greatest that I have read, by more miles than there are on a Bangalore-Dallas round trip. Like many other books, I do not think that all the hype about this one is justified. (I have to admit, I had actually forgotten the name of the author, and had to look it up in Google for this post!)


The Last Book I Bought

Having been out of town for some time (and having found the price of books in USA too high, specially compared to the M G Road pirated sales!) I have not bought any books over the last couple of months. Before going, however, I had bought a couple of Agatha Christies (one fiction & one non-fiction) and a copy of 'A Tale of Two Cities' (Charles Dickens).


Books That Mean a Lot to Me

I will assume that this implies books which I really enjoyed reading and keep talking about / recommending to others!

Day of the Jackal - Frederick Forsyth

My all time favourite. Purely for the amazing and gripping plot and the fluid writing style of my favourite author. I read the book for the first time when I was in Bangalore doing my summer training in 2001. I remember staying up till 4 in the morning just to finish the book. Which was pretty painful for my classmate Diptendu, who was trying to sleep in the same room, but I kept the light on all night!

Jurrasic Park - Michael Chricton

A must read for everyone. The book is chilling to say the least. Everytime I read it in the night, all the hair on my neck stand up and quiver when I go out in the dark, and I keep glancing back all the time, expecting a Procompsognathid or a Velociraptor to pounce on me any moment. The book is a million times more interesting than the movie, and the movie ranks among my favourites! Incidentally, this is the only Chricton novel, where the ending does not dissappoint the reader.

The Dark Crusader - Alistair McLean

The first time I came across Alistair McLean's writing style. All my close friends are tired of hearing me quote lines / puns from this book. Also this was the first thriller that I read. Before reading this book, my staple diet used to consist of Enid Blytons, Agatha Christies, Nancy Drews & a few Hardy Boys!

A Hitch-hiker's Guide to The Galaxy - Douglass Adams

42 :).


There are so many other books that I have enjoyed, but it is of course possible to name only a few. The list above represents what came to my mind first while typing this post. There may be a couple of favourites that escapes my memory right now. I may eventually modify the post and add more to the list.


Books I wish I had completed (and plan to complete)

Atlas Shrugged - Ayn Rand

I have read The Fountainhead and We The Living, and although I do not subscribe to the belief that Ayn Rand is God, I am after all an aethist. I like reading her books when I am in a mood to concentrate on some serious reading, which is only very occassionally. On the next such occassion, I will read what is arguably her best work.

Crime and Punishment - Theodore Dostoevsky

I started reading the epic but I am ashamed to admit that I gave up after a page or two because I was not really in a mood for serious reading. I promise to give it a try again.

The Lord of The Rings - J R R Tolkien

I claim to be an avid book reader, and not having read a book that half the readers in the world have read, and the other half are reading, doesn't do much justice to the claim. The book promises so much that I admire in a book, like consistency from beginning to end, and attention to the minutest of details. Yet, although the book lies on my shelf, borrowed from Prerna a couple of years back, I have not yet made much headway beyond the first 70 odd pages.


People I Tag

Ashish, Prerna, J Lal (a.k.a. Anand), Lokesh, Souradeep, Koushik.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

A lot of interest is shown in what is known as multiple personality in a person. Many stories have been written on the topic, there have been many movies, and both, of course, quote from real life, the examples of multiple personalities in the past. Having multiple personalities is considered to be unusual. But is it really so much out of the ordinary?

It is my theory that all people do have different facets in their personality, which come to light in different situations. That may sound like another way of saying that people may react in a way which is 'out of character' in certain extreme situations, but that is not what I mean. My point is actually more specific to the 'cyber world' or the 'virtual space'.

I consider myself to be part of a generation (or at least a section of the society) which is 'net-savvy' or maybe even 'nerd'ish to those who do not 'belong' to the same circles. I have a definite presence as a character in the cyber-world. This is marked by my blog, my email account and my yahoo messenger & chatroom aliases. I interact with other people who qualify in the same category. But my interaction with these people are probably very different from the when I interact with friends in the 'real world' to borrow Matrix terminology.

For one, the language I use is different. Even though I use English more often than any other language in my day to day life, it is a different English that I type out. When online, I think before putting something down. I give my opinion on various topics which I probably do not discuss with friends. The anonimity, or at least the fact that the reader is not face-to-face, actually helps me in being more blatant if I may say so. I used to have, for example, a classmate in college, who was of one of the most introvertish natures in person. Online however, he was not only talkative, but had friends from all over the world, girls and guys, and probably having very different nature. The internet does not only shrink the world to our desk, but it brings out another dimension of our personality, or, brings out another personality altogether, from within us.

The subject of online dating has received a lot of interest lately. People have been known to meet, successfully as it is proved later, the love of their lives, in yahoo chatrooms or orkut, or across web-logs. But I think it is on rare occassions that the person whom one knows across the net has stayed the same when present in flesh and blood. To try and develope an online relation into a real world one almost always results in disillusion followed by a lot of dissappointment and pain. Of course it is not wrong to meet a web aquaintance in the real life. But one should expect in such cases to have to develope a relation from scratch, and not try to continue a cyber-relation under totally different conditions.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

If you want to kill an earthworm by asphynxation, pinching its nose is not going to help. Or so the girl-on-the-train told me. Which revealed to me a mystery which has haunted me for long ... more than 8 years actually.

The first thing that every normal, decent guy with the right mind (and no girlfriend or wife tagging along) does when he is getting on a train, is check the list of passengers next to the door for entries marked with F**!! (The ** can be filled up with any double digit number depending on his age and choice!) Such scans more often than not end up with negative results. On this occassion however, there was an young girl in the compartment, and she was actually occupying the very next seat! The trip back from Kolkata promised to be interesting! The girl turned out to be a student of Zoology going for an interview at a Bangalore college. The Zoology of course explains her extensive knowledge on cockroaches, earthworms, etc and their breathing habits. Earthworms for example breathe sub-cutaneously! So if you want to kill an earthworm, you should rather skin it alive than pinch its nose! More on earthworms coming up later.

She (the-girl-on-the-train, hereafter referred to as 'she'), apart from being a student of the world of animals, also turned out to be a big fan of the television serial F.R.I.E.N.D.S and an avid reader of thrillers etc. This discovery was the point when the conversation really took off! When two F.R.I.E.N.D.S fans get together and happen to have similar choice in books also, the combination is deadly, specially for the fellow passengers who die of boredom as these two keep talking about incidents involving Joey and Monica and Phoebe, and which author should be read after trying out Jeffrey Archer. The fact that she is not interested in sports and detests cricket was overlooked with plenty of common interests to discuss over the one-and-a-half day ride. At the end of the journey, she was all armed up with a list of authors to try out, and I had strengthened my resolution to go through my to-read waiting list fast (both her suggestions were already present in my to-read list!)

Coming back to the earthworm. It all started on a fine summer day in the year of 1997. It was summer vacation for me, and I was spending the month long vacation at my grandma's / uncle's playing carrom with my one-year-elder cousin sister and devicing methods to kill the innumerable earthworms that infested their (my grandma's / uncle's / cousin's) habitat. One of the more innovative ways to kill earthworms that I had perfected during that time was to burn them with a concentrated beam of sunlight by holding a strong magnifying glass (intended to study stamps) behind their back! With such earth(worm)-shattering ideas, I attempted to slay one worm by dropping it into a tank of water. It went straight to the bottom, and then start a long and tedious climb up the side of the tank. Although it was under water for about half an hour, I was amazed to see that it did not die of drowning after clutching its throat with its tail or thrashing about in the water or anything. Rather, it made its way all the way up to the sill of the tank, and calmly proceeded on its own business as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened. Well, now I know, it was because the worm could still breathe under water, through its skin. That's what she told me.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Drive!!!

I know that I don't have a bigger "Haoos" of Cards but I am definitely catching up. Now, about everyone who is anyone, and almost anyone who is not (just wanted to say that!!) has 2 or more credit cards. I have 2 personal and one business AMEX. Plus (only) one debit card. But when you add the Lufthansa Frequent Flyer, the TI Badge (which has the perfect size and shape to qualify as a 'card'! Now, has anyone noticed that all 'cards' have the same size? Including hotel door keys!), two hotel door keys, one PAN Card, one expired Indian 4-wheeler DL (the two wheeler DL is a book!) and one IEE (yes, only two Es) Membership card, veterans of Card-ology will look up and say, now you are talking. But there is more. I have recently acquired membership in the Richardson Public Library (They give everyone membership, everyone, that is, who have a Dallas Driving License.) Ohh yes, I have a Dallas DL too. Only, it is still a piece of paper, the actual 'card' is yet to reach me.

Well so much for cards (and the digressions (anyone who has been reading my blog (yes, this page (I guess I can call it a page, one of the words that can be alternatively used for a web-site)) know that I keep on digressing (digression n 1: a message that departs from the main subject (syn: aside, excursus, divagation, parenthesis)) whenever I set to write (actually type) about something)). To come back to the point (anyone who has read the last sentence and is still reading, deserves a break!), I will continue to write (or type) on the point which I actually wanted to speak (or write (or type)) about!

The point in question being the last in the list given above, the entry which is still to obtain 'card' status', the piece of paper which (along with my passport (and the visa stamp in it (along with the I-94 form stapled next page))) gives me the license to drive in the US. (If anyone is bothered by this incessant detours & non-linear discontinuous torrent of words, my apologies, I want to write about driving in US, and not drive anyone crazy.) I received the license to drive, on having successfully driven a two-wheel drive sonata with 'Dallas Driving School' written on the wind-shield during the Practical Driving Tests to the satisfaction of the Driving instructor (or examiner) last friday.

The first (actually twenty-third) thing i did after getting the license was rent an Avis Pontiac Grandam. And immediately (actually, twenty hours later) we went on a five hour drive to Natural Bridge Caverns near San Antonio. Waving aside all protests from my fellow driving-aspirants, I did not allow anyone at the wheel for even half the journey to and half the journey fro, I mean back. And it was (definitely) worth the fight I had to put to earn (autonomically) the driving rights! The place we went to was great, but I enjoyed the drive more.

A detailed description of the actual drive may follow (given my track records, nothing will follow of course) some time later. For the time being, I wanted to drive home the point that I drove here. I guess I have succeeded!

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Don't Panic

Don't Panic

The likelihood of being the first to do something often makes a person go out of his way to do what he normally wouldn’t. Imagine me, typing out a blog entry within a day of posting the last one!!

I had to watch The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy here, before leaving this country. Otherwise, the ‘Universe’ only knows how long I would have had to wait before they released the movie in India. Or how much longer before the Kannada activists let it be screened in Bangalore theatres! But I owe the fact that I managed to watch the movie on the first day (not first show) to the enthusiasm with which Biman-da & Akshay agreed to the suggestion that we go watch the movie today. I went one step forward and took a printout of the list of theatres in and around Dallas, which are screening the movie. Biman-da picked up the nearest theatre, and we are just returning after the 8:50 show!

Marvin was amazing. The robot with the head the size of a planet lived up to my imagination! Trillian & Arthur were good. Ford Prefect was not how I had pictured him. Did Zaphod Beeblobox have two heads? I somehow had the idea he had four! I have to read the book again to be sure.

They had to leave out a lot of the book to fit it in a two hour show. And they made a few modifications here and there. Again, have to read the book to be sure. I don’t think the story ends the way it is shown. Some liberties have to be taken on the big screen I guess. On the whole it is a very well made movie. I didn’t like it ending so soon, but then….
I hope they do make a sequel or something with the rest of the chapters. I enjoyed all the old jokes, plus the few new ones that they put in. The theme song in the lines of “So Long and Thanks for all the Fish” was quite catchy. I guess, I will watch the movie again, when it does finally reach Bangalore!

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Paid 65 cents in exact change. Pressed E, then pressed 4. 4 did not appear on the screen, so pressed 4 again.

Two Herchey's bars came out!!!


Gave one to a friend here, had the other.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Haradhan and his Ten Kids

Haradhan and his Ten Kids

It started with 10 kids that some guy called Haradhan had. Interestingly, Haradhan never appears in the tale. The first kid probably gets eaten up by a fish, while fishing! Of the remaining nine, the second kid gets cut by a hacksaw or something. (Ya, pretty grim!) And so on and so forth, till there are none left.

The above is the gist of a Bengali poetry for kids going something like this, “Haradhaner doshti chhele….”. I had read it when I was a kid. I had also heard that there is another piece of verse existing where all ten come back one by one. But the latter is not so popular, and I have never come across it. In all probabilities, the latter was cooked up by my mom because I was rather sad on reading about Haradhan’s ten kids.


We had a group of twelve, who used to hang out together. Well, I don’t remember many occasions when all twelve were there, but we used to go out in subsets out of the twelve! The whole group existed only as a list of e-mail ids, but everyone was there.

Ankur Saboo was the first to leave. He has joined a reputed Management Institute of India. Right now he is doing his training in Hong Kong. Sumeet Kulkarni went for an MS degree at Darmstadt University, Germany. He was always keen on going to Germany and anything German had interested him. He knows Duetche well enough to have topped exams at the end of a pretty advanced Duetche course (advanced enough to make him eligible to teach German!) at Max Mueller Bhavan.

Swapna went to the USA, and Souradeep relocated to Belgium. Both of them will be returning of course, in another few months. Now with Prerna and Ashish all set to fly across the globe to Canada for higher studies, it’s six down out of twelve. And there is one guy, (name withheld, may be disclosed by himself in comments page) who has got admission in Stanford University, and will be flying in September. One more person has been studying furiously to crack the GMAT (name withheld etc etc).

I don’t foresee myself leaving Bangalore in any long term basis in the near future. Anant has also declared that he is not going to leave TI India till he has obtained a black belt. (He is learning Karate from an instructor who teaches TII employees, and currently has an orange belt.)
So it is time, as I am told (by one of those who is now outside India), to incur fresh blood in the group. So be it. The group of twelve will still exist as an e-group, but there will now be more gmail.com in the list of ids than ti.com. As I think of the people moving on, I can’t help but think of Haradhan’s ten kids. All Bengali kids have read about the ten disappearing one by one. But no one has read of them coming back together again!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Mysore

From the very beginning, it was an un-planned excursion. We decided on Friday, during lunch time, that we should go somewhere over the long weekend. When I suggested that we go to Mysore, Anant agreed at once. He would probably have suggested the same.

We made a few attempts to rope in a few other people. Prasenjit was invited, and accepted after some discussion. He later pulled out at the last moment. Anupam was invited and declined the offer. He later joined in at the last moment. Preetam, Tommy had other plans. So finally, it was the three of us.

We had decided that we will go by train. Train journeys are much more comfortable than bus journeys according to me (but then, my opinion should not be taken as universal, I believe bikes are more comfortable than cars.) Anant rarely gets the chance to travel by train, so he also wanted to go by train this time. A quick call (half-an-hour long, and after being passed on to and fro between a host of automated response systems) to the railway enquiry, and we were told that there was a train at 11:55 in the night.

We reached the station in due time, reserved three berths, went out to have dinner, came back, waited for the two sleepers to be coupled to the rest of the train for half-an-hour, boarded the train, went to sleep, and reached Mysore, all in no time.

At four o'clock in the morning (or night), all towns look and feel curiously alike. Specially if there are no pavements anywhere, and you are walking miles along desolate streets in the middle of the night, and you still do not have any place to put up, and are searching for a hotel. We had reached Waynad at 4:30 in the morning, Pondicherry, slightly later. (Refer to this post and this post for the details of these earlier trips.) This time it was 3:30 AM when the train chugged into Mysore station. I suggested that we put up in the station Retiring Room. After bouncing about between an invisible dormitory attendant and an unhelpful security guard (RPF) we decided to find out the Retiring Rooms ourselves.

After following a cold trail (Anant vaguely remembered having seen the legend 'Retiring Rooms' from the train window) we finally reached an unimpressive doorway which promised to take us up to our destination. We went in and up a flight of stairs to reach the Empirical era. The rooms were huge, the ceilings so high above as not to be visible. We walked along a wide verandah (in the wrong direction as we found out later) searching for an attendant or an office. After trekking for about a mile on the moonlit stone floor, we reached a dead end. We turned back, and made our way to the juncture were the flight of stairs had left us. Here we met a shadowy figure clad in white, who told us that all rooms had been taken, and we could have easily used what few grey cells we had in our heads, to find that out ourselves, by pressing a switch on a switchboard at the top of the stairs.

Banished from the Railway Station, the night found us trudging along a desolate street in search of 'Hotel Ramanashree', which had advertised its presence in Mysore through a large banner at the Railway Station exit. A few traffic policemen outside the station had confirmed that indeed such hotel did exist, and was the best to be found nearby. So we walked for about a couple of kilometres, directed by a few mortal souls, who for some reason unknown to us, had chosen to be around at that un-earthly hour.

The tout found us about a hundred metres away from the destination. He showered us with a deluge of pamphlets and cards and information regarding hotel rates and managed to confuse us thoroughly. We ended up checking in at the Mysore Hotel Complex. They had only the "Superior Double Bed Rooms with TV" available for Rs 650 per night (plus Rs 50 for an extra mattress for the extra person). What we did not know then was that Hotel room charges, like everything else in Mysore, were negotiable. Finally we ended up paying Rs 1100 for one room for two nights, when they refused to accept credit cards, and we claimed to be short of cash (which we were actually).

The Superior Room turned out to be superior indeed - in terms of the mustiness, the thick carpet of dust on the floor, and the huge volume of mosquitoes, ants and bed bugs. The latter, for some inexplicable reason, chose to let Anupam be (Anupam and I shared the bed, while Anant slept on the mattress and had to cope with the mosquitoes and ants only) and turned all their unwelcome attention towards me. After a night of troubled, scratchy & itchy sleep, when I woke up, my face, swollen in parts, would have put Frankenstein to shame. The only thing missing was a big nut & bolt sticking out of my neck.

We spent the first morning hunting for second hand books. It may be an unconventional thing to do on a trip, but then this was an unconventional trip. Actually, the huge collection of second hand books available at a place was one of the motivations for Anant to go to Mysore.

We didn't do much in Mysore. We visited the Chamundi hills in the afternoon, went (quite late) over to the Brindavan Gardens in the evening (there was no current there and the Gardens were shrouded in darkness.) We also went to visit the Maharaja's Palace on Sunday morning, a singularly uninteresting palace, if there has been any. Before going, I was keen on the GRS Water Theme Park, but we chose to give the theme park a pass this time around.

The ad hoc visit also included having lunch at Bhattacharya Restaurant (Anupam was very excited in finding a Bengali place in Mysore), a free auto ride throughout Mysore in search of a Citibank ATM, with an over-enthusiastic auto driver who claimed to know what he was doing, a couple of long bus rides to and from Brindavan Gardens, with a painful local movie playing on one of the busses, and a few other adventures, like having the apprehension of running out of cash before buying return tickets, a mile long queue in front of the ticket counter, with about twenty minutes left before departure and so on.

All in all, it was a nice trip, including the train journey back home where we discovered that there exist TTEs in this world who are young (on the right side of thirty) & helpful (not necessarily above corruption, though)!