Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Q. E. D.

That which needs to be said, has been said.

As a fellow trooper once said, "That'll do, monkey. That'll do."

The end.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The way it was

Whoever came up with the term heartbreak was only half right.

It's not the same break as the shattering of glass. It's more like a cave in. Something within that completely gave away due to a vaccuum formed in the absence of what now seems to have been a physical entity more than just a feeling and made everything around it fall into that void. Things just got displaced, they didn't expand to fill that space.

It's like something sinking. Except that it never finishes sinking. An inconvenient buoyancy or a constantly regenerated barge keeps it in a perennial mood of sunken-ness, if I can call it that. It refuses to rest at the bottom of whatever ocean lies above the stomach.

But it's definitely the heart that feels it. Not the brain, not the peripheral senses, not the lungs. It's the heart. That damn lump of muscle that should have stuck to circulating blood. This is what happens when it steers away from its purpose and decides to frolic around blissfully at the mere recollection of holding his hand and running through the rain towards shelter.

I'm still breathing, that tells me something somewhere is still functional. Time to let the other organs carry on with life.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Dragonslayers Anonymous

God bless the American roadways!!!

I thought I'd seen it all in GA-75 and GA-348. The five hour impulse drive on that lazy Sunday afternoon was no match to what I discovered on the bumper sticker of a beat up Dodge Ram on I-85. "I slayed the Tail of the Dragon", it claimed, with the emblem of US highway 129 beside a fire-breathing beast of lore. Search results revealed an international rider's paradise just one mountain hop away. Tennessee.

Not going would be a sin knowingly committed. No penance would liberate me.

Deals Gap was three hours away, and the eleven-mile stretch would be a twenty minute drive. I needed to do more. Perpendicular to the Tail of the Dragon extending from Nantahala National Forest into Cherokee National Forest was the mile-high Cherohala skyway. I packed my compass, a bottle of Gatorade and the Zen.

All said and done, I was late! I had wanted to leave by 5 in the morning so I can stay out of the way of cruisers, speeders and roadsters. The map showed quite a gradation in the altitude through the stretch, there was no way I would not have a line chasing me. And now I wouldn't reach the course until 10. Hopefully everybody was still at church.

Getting there was monotonous. Somebody airlift me across NC, please. Floyd wasn't helping, I needed some pumping long-drive anthems. A gentle drizzle was starting to hint the mood of the day. After what seemed like a day shorter than eternity, I started seeing the dragon insignia on souvenir shops. I soon realised Deals Gap wasn't exactly a township, no post office, no police station, just a stop along route 129. It was a resort in itself. A creek flowed to the left, and slowly turned into rapids and rocky white water. Trucks lined the banks and rafters set into their gear to tumble against/with the current. I sighed, but I had more important things to do. I was looking for the 'start line'. There was none.

Turn 1: WHAT THE... Oh, so that was turn 1.
Turn 2: Ay, Caramba!
Turn 6: Aaaaaaaa...
Turn lost-count: O...k...
Turn 318: Let's do that again!!!

So I took a big U-turn and did it all over again, this time with the windows down, Maiden blaring, and stopping to take in whatever little of the view available in an otherwise shielded mountain route.

The rest of the ride was easy. I did, however, miss wheeling some dirt onto a photographer who raised and immediately lowered his camera (as he had done on the onward drive) when he realised that not only were there four wheels, there were four doors to this toy.

Nobody insults the Civic!

This was one road where I religiously followed the speed limit. They weren't kidding when they set it to 30 (Driving to the previous limit of 55, maintained until 1992, looks arduous now). Checking the official site, I see it wasn't too long ago when riders met their end at the very place.

Reaching Robbinsville beyond Deals Gap, route 143 led into Cherohala. What I missed with the Dragon, the skyway made up for in view and speed. For this stretch, it was best to get the Led out.

There was definitely more traffic on the skyway than I'd seen at the Dragon. I realised I had to pull over and take a break just so I would stop tailing the slower drivers. Meddling with the camera was a perfect breather.

The day wasn't without its black mark. When all the fun driving was done and I was back in the plains on my way home, I had to make a blind 150-degree left turn. Only midway through the turn did I realise it was a blind intersection to the oncoming traffic as well. The other driver looked horrified, but we managed to stay off each other's way. Whatever caused me to be two seconds ahead of him in the whole day saved both of us from ricocheting off each other. Call it God, call it destiny, call it probability, call it coincidence. I worship all of them.

I had to refuel. I made it back to the same fuel station in my neighbourhood ten hours after my earlier refill the same day. The Zen died out when I pulled in at the pump - it had been playing since I left there in the morning. Now that's what I call a one-tank trip.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The one for me

There lives a man for me
A man, I'm sure, not a woman.

The one for me, my one and only
The stars have aligned to unite our paths.

But will he love me?
Doesn't matter. As long as his parents like me.

Is there a place for me in his heart?
Doesn't matter. There is a place for me in his house.

Will he let me wear black?
Doesn't matter. It's ominous. (Lace excluded.)

Will he be a good person?
Doesn't matter. His parents are the best people in the world, just like mine.

Will he charm me with his humour?
Doesn't matter. He will be taller than me.

Will he respect me and my ideas?
Doesn't matter. He will be Stanford educated.

Will he treat me as an equal?
He better. I'm giving him a hundred kilograms of gold.

Will he headbang with me?
Doesn't matter. He can afford the speakers.

Will no mean no?
Like it matters. Ha!

Will I serve him with love?
Doesn't matter. I will serve him dinner every night.

Will he let me work?
Of course. As long as I am the wife in this marriage.

Will he make my parents happy?
Of course. What kind of question is this?

Will he make me happy?
Of course. Refer star alignment.

Will he make the whole world proud?
Of course. Refer Stanford education, speaker affordability.

Will our children be good people?
Of course. Refer lineage of best people.

Will I forget everything else that happened?
Of cou... Wait... nobody said anything about...

Will I snap and lose my bearings?
Listen... there are duties. As a wife, as a daughter-in-law.

Will I get to speak my mind?
Of course. As long as nobody is offended.

Will I think and act different from others?
Now... why not just be normal for once, like everybody else?

Ok. Come, let's get married.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I don't hate Greyhound

I swore I would take back everything I said about Greyhound if this happened. And it did. So I keep up my word.

I was scheduled to leave at 11:30 at night to another city in order to take a flight for the Thanksgiving holiday. The flight was early in the morning, but this was the latest I could leave in order to minimize my wait time at the airport. And then a friend told me: The train you have to take from the bus terminal to the airport runs only at these times... and the terminal isn't open at the hour you reach.

I decided to pay the additional $15 for changing my bus schedule to an earlier time: 8.20pm. The change was done; the bus was delayed.

I waited. Scenarios and solutions ran wild in my head. Greyhound. It had led me down. Again. I shouldn't have been surprised, I guess it had been a while since I relied on public transport to get around. If only airport parking fees weren't higher than my train and bus tickets combined...

The bus was to leave at 9.30pm. Scheduled time of arrival 11.35pm. The last train to the airport was at 11.25pm. This is not happening. No, this is just not happening.

Option 1: Wait at the bus terminal. Take the first train in the morning to the airport.

Option 2: Wait at the train terminal. Take the first train in the morning to the airport.

Option 3: If both bus and train terminals are closed, take a local bus to the airport.

Option 4: Call 911. Cry like a baby.

And then it happened. I heard something... Was I hallucinating? Did I inhale some bus fumes? Is it really...? YES! The bus driver honked. He overtook half a dozen cars. I shook out of my state of panic and looked out the window to estimate that he must have been travelling at about 70mph when I've always seen buses on highways keep to 5 below the limit.

It was as though he knew...

My destination was the second of a two-stop journey. The first stop was to be reached at 11pm; he made it there at 10.55. I cursed the people who took more than 10 seconds to get their bags out. I cursed even more the girl who stopped the driver to ask him something. I stopped myself from cursing the driver for closing the baggage compartment too slowly. I needed him to be curse-free for the next 30 minutes.

Should I make a desperate plea to him? Perhaps he might consider my situation and make an informed attempt to reach the final stop before it is too late. I was almost about to get off my seat when he slammed the door, hit the lights, and stepped on it.

And then I swore... if this happens, I will take back everything I ever said about Greyhound. This one man's action is reason enough for me.

11.15pm. I can see the skyline. We are close. But the midnight traffic is surprisingly high.

11.17pm. Screeeeeeeech. The bus steers to the left lane and brakes to a halt. I had just then heard metal crumble and glass shatter to my right. The SUV that was ahead of us had collided head on into a pick-up truck at high speed. The bus driver had avoided getting into the mess in a split second.

11.22pm. The bus terminal. We had reached. But the passengers in the seats ahead of me were slow in alighting. Curses.

I got off the bus. I ran into the terminal and out through the front door. The chill hit me. I ran down the flight of stairs at the entrance. "Damn... you so fine..." I felt his breath on my cheek. I didn't stop to look at his face. The train station was across the street. I prayed that the doors not be locked. I smiled in gratitude as I pulled them open. I ran down the escalator in search of tracks, listening hard for chugging wheels, looking here and there for train schedules.

11.25pm. The train was a minute late. As I ran down to the track, I heard it coming. I saw it coming. I saw it not slowing down. I was on the wrong track.

I ran upstairs to the information booth, and was told to head in the opposite direction.

I ran down the correct stairs. The train had stopped a while, and was starting to move. No, no, no.

The conductor saw me. "Airport?"
"Hop on."
"Thank you!"
YES !!!!!!!!

I reached the airport and called the host of my holiday visit to update. "Hey! What are you doing at this late hour? Aren't you supposed to be asleep?"


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Inner workings of a certified loser

Many a general matter-of-conversation questions from those aged 25 to 50 with different social backgrounds have led me into 2-minute soul searching trances on multiple occasions.

"So, what do you do for fun?"
What DO I do? Listen to music. Everybody does that. Come up with something else. I listen to classics on vinyl. Heck, 20 records of a random assortment from The Kinks to Tchaikovsky do not count for being an audiophile. Well, I do have 30 gigs of mp3. That is low even by my standards… I'm not going to talk about it. Perhaps I should say I play the guitar. Reality check: can't hold down an F chord. What else do I do? Photography. Ownership of a canon S5 and a handful of foliage shots do not qualify for photography. Read. No… don't ever say that. One, you aren't a bookworm, you picked up your first book hardly 3 years ago. Two, you read world history, science and religion. Don't want people to think you are linked to a terror network now, do you? Comics. Graphic novels. No, haven't read enough. I could say I like to hike. But thought has not manifested into action. My last hike was ages ago. Hmmm… oh yes, I like to drive. But driving an automatic means nothing. The better phrase would be I like to go on long drives. But those drives have had destinations: places, people. Rephrase: I like to meet up with friends. Everybody does that. Back to square one.

"I… well, not much, the usual…"

"You stay downtown… you must like the nightlife!"
"Actually, no…"
I don't drink, I don't gyrate, I can't headbang to hip hop. So that rules out the stereotypical nightlife you expect me to enjoy. I live where I live simply because I cannot live in a neighbourhood which believes that street lighting leads to environmental imbalance, and that sleeping amidst trees gets one spiritually closer to nature. Neither do I believe that watching little children learn to ride their bicycle is a sign of hope for the joy and progress of mankind.

"Oh you should try the restaurant row, it's quite good!"
"Yes, but I'm a vegetarian."
And I found half a dozen places to eat incredible food outside the city.
"No wonder you are so thin."
The two are very unrelated, and no I'm not a diet.
"But what kind of nutrition can you get?!"
"I can get everything I need."

And I don't have to kill an animal for it.

"So are you vegan?"
I'm a Hindu, not a hippie.
"Why don't you try some of…"
"Sorry, I must decline today. It's my fortnightly fast."
"You fast ?!"
"Yes. Scientific and religious."
My way of trying to tell my hunger who's the boss.

Blanked out… oh no not now! Come up with something, anything… what's the name of that movie I saw last night?!

"Watch any TV?"
"No, don't have one."
I needn't have said that. I still watch everything I want to, online.
"No TV?! You've got to be kidding me!"
"Done with TV. Wasted enough time in school and college."
Not to mention the fact that nowadays reality shows dominate every network, have made the dumb even dumber, made everyone self-righteous and judgmental, when the central characters were chosen on their immoral inappropriateness and a regression of the number of Google hits against the money to be paid for being on the show. News channels will die out unless Americans are at war with something. They fail to identify, among other things, that fuel prices have gone down. And of course, USA loves all and nobody returns the favour. I watch… Anime? Negative. Five full series only. Not enough.

"Damn, you don't have any fun at all, do you?"
"Guess so."
Guess again. Your point of reference to measure the value of my lighter side has just been proven to be from a different domain.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Working woman!

The first day of work. It was 7:30 in the morning.

"Hey, Joe? Um... I'm lost."

My boss picked me up and drove me to the office. What a start! It so happened that I was lost on a stretch of road thinking there was nothing beyond the barricade, when in fact the office was a 10 minute walk further down.

The usual orientation: cafeteria, mailroom, restroom (which literally was for resting: it had a couch!) and my very own cubicle. Right next to the boss'. And of course, plenty of brochures and other material to read. 4 hours I sat inside a box. Rather, I couldn't. Kept pacing around like a dog chasing its tail.

Lunch time, at last. Followed boss. Ran back, brought ID to be able to swipe back in. Then realized I didn't bring my wallet. Ran back, brought cardholder. Then realized cash only. Ran back, brought cash. Did not want to make eye contact with anyone after that, but still had half a day to go!!!

Spices, apparently, are unheard of in vegetarian cooking here. I was served pasta with no sauce and salted corn when I asked for veggie helpings. Thank god they at least had onion rings :) General discussions about work ensued.

Another 4 hours, walking in circles. At least I got some thinking work done when at it. But by the time it was 4.50, i was counting the seconds...

Met a whole lot of people, didn't remember anyone's names at the end of the day. It was like the first day at a new school, only this time, I'll have the embarassing details for life.

Highlight of the day, though:
After I clarify the project details (which turns out to be a major cross-functional problem that has to be modelled and analysed)
"So, are there any more interns to come?"
"No, you're the only intern in the project."
"Who is the team, the four of us?"
"No, just you."
"And me of course, I'm your manager."
Seriously, Joe, we gotta talk about my compensation.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The tale of the eternal bus misser

After an uphill run, there was the bus, whizzing away without me.

I have a knack for missing buses. There are times when I would be a minute late, and the bus would have left. There are times when I would be there on dot, and the bus would have still left, early. There are times when I leave early (in my defence, early enough...), and the bus would have been earlier still! I have a bad luck with buses.

I was so afraid, that when I left NYC after thanksgiving, I reached the bus stop 1 hour in advance so I wouldn't miss it. For the rest of the journey, I was hungry. When I had left home during the break, I reached the bus stop 30 minutes in advance. But in my anxiety, I forgot to bring my passport for a flight I was to take in a few days. When we stopped in Harrisburg, I missed the bus because it was overbooked. I had to wait 2 hours for the next one. I was in half a mind to go back home.

I had to call my roommate and ask her to bring my passport to Philadelphia, and meet her when she gets there to take a flight. Sad part was, I had to take a bus to go to Philadelphia. And this time too, I missed it. I missed it big.

It was that morning when I left Greenbelt, and Kiran came to Washington to send me off. After we got out of the train station, we were searching for I Street. Rather, we thought it was First Street, and later someone corrected us that it wasn't the Roman numeral '1', it was upper case 'i'. So the entire time, we had to have looked for 'i' street.

We ran.

I called the bus service when I was on the way. Chinese guy tried hard to understand what I said, and I tried hard to drain out the traffic noise and get what he was saying. He told his address alright, but not the directions. I told him I was on my way, just 5 minutes, please hold the bus.

5 minutes later, I was almost there. We found H street, K street, there was no I street in between. There was a Manhattan St in its place! This can't be right... We ran. More. I called them up again, nobody answered. Poor Kiran. My little trolley suitcase was too heavy to lift and run, but too short to drag and run. I took it from him, gave him my phone, asked him to keep calling them. Finally someone did answer, and the bus had left. I was still searching for their office.

When I did get there, they went on and on in some accented English that I didn't understand a word of. What I did get, was that they had no more buses running, but there was another bus service around the corner, with a bus to Philadelphia leaving any minute!

We ran. Again.

That bus had already left too. At least they had another bus, but that was at 4 in the evening, reaching at 6 45. My roommate had to be in the airport by that time, so bye-bye passport!

Dejected, we stood outside the bus office. Kiran suggested we get back to the train station, since that is the only other fast way to Philadelphia. (Don't even start about taking a flight... I don't have my passport... catch-22 here)

We got there, and the next train to Philly was in 5 minutes!
Put me on it pleeeeez!
Sure, do you have some ID?
Er... Student ID ok?
Oh thank you thank you thank you!
Thank god I did not bring a big suitcase, I couldn't have checked it in!

After a quick goodbye hug and more running, I got into the train, collapsed into the seat, unable to bear the cramps, not to mention the fact that I had run enough to counter a month's consumption of choc chip cookies.

I reached Philly in time to meet my roomie, took my passport from her. At the end of the day, all was well... and I was $68 short :(

Friday, December 29, 2006

I hate greyhound

I took a bus from my campus at 3 in the afternoon, scheduled to reach Washington at 7.50pm. There was to be a transfer at the not-so-nearby city of Harrisburg.

The bus left at 3.15, but reached H-burg at 4.55 itself. Perfect, I was impressed! We took our luggage out of the bus, saw a Washington bus leave at 5, waited for the one we were supposed to board.

So we waited.

And we waited.

It took me a while to realize only half the passengers who had come with me were still there. Where were the others? Why am I waiting with these guys, I'm not even sure if they're going the same way as me!

I waited. It was 6.45pm by then. No way was a bus going to take me to DC before 7.50! There had to be a mistake. And me being the genius that I am, must be the one to have committed it. I went into the bus station, waited for the receptionist. She told me the one that reaches a 7.50 left the terminus at 5. The one I saw leaving. The one with half the passengers who came with me.

The one I should have been on.

Dejected with myself, I drag my feet outside to the cold. How could I have been so stupid ???

Where the remaining guys supposed to take the next bus? Is that why they were waiting? Was i on another schedule? But who in their right mind would book their tickets specifically asking for a two-hour layover? No, can't be. Am I really making sense? But before all of that, can I still take the next bus with my old ticket ?!?! I rush back in, the same girl nods in familiarity. Yes hon, ya' can use it for the next one! Thanks Ma'am!

Out again, having cleared up the confusion on the ticket, I set out to find out what is really going on. What I found out left me speechless.

The bus I was (well, me and the other two dozen people were) supposed to take was overbooked. Yes, overbooked. That means more than one person had been sold the ticket to a single seat, expecting half of them to not turn up. Typical ticketing system, but not at this magnitude. You can sell two extra tickets for every twenty or thirty seats. Not 25 extra tickets for 50 seats. And although this has been going on for a very long time now (I learnt of that too), another bus is usually sent to ferry the remaining passengers to the same destination. Senseless. Double the running costs for half the used capacity. I guess Greyhound Operations did come to their senses, but only on the day that I had to wait at a seedy-looking bus station in the middle of a crime-ridden capital in the dark hours of the winter evening. They did not send the second bus. At all.

We took the next bus on routine schedule, but it so happened that we got priority and those who were headed to other places who couldn't fit in the bus, had to wait for the next one.

I reached Washington DC at 11 in the night. And trust me, you don't want to be there. It is not Capitol, it is not the White house, it is of no significant importance, that means no security to a commoner. The nearest train station was a 5 minute walk, but more than 2 people (locals themselves) told me NO!!!

I had to wait for my host to pick me up and escort me all the way. It was 1 when I reached his place.

When there is nothing else, I don't have an option. But nevertheless, I hate Greyhound.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

My days...

The morning starts with waking up to the beep of the alarm. It is 8 45. Hmmm, class is only at 11 15, the bus is at 10 50, i need to leave the house at 10 47, i need to put on my shoes at 10 45, i need to start my breakfast at 10 35, i need to pack my lunch (and snack, and water, and gatorade... not the lime flavour, it's lemony! Not the grape flavour, it's grapy! Orange flavour, hmmm, not so orangy, i'll take that) at 10, i need to get dressed at 9 50 (moisturiser, moisturiser... dry skin? No... Oily skin? No... Normal to oily skin, that's the one!) not to forget sunscreen. Just a teensy dab of the spf-20 lotion to protect my soft rosy cheeks from the burning november sun in this hill station. So, I need to have my bath at 9 30. 45 minutes more. I go back to sleep.

"Wake up, woman, it is 10 !!!"

Who... where am i... damn... what the...

Thankfully, my roomie is quick at everything. She blitzes through her shower, so I have the bathroom at my disposal. She's already packed her lunch the previous night, pours milk and cereal into a bowl, and she's off. If only I could!

I yawn through the shower, swear at the dryness in the air that forces me to apply moisturiser for 5 whole minutes everyday, apply extra layer of sunscreen on my face, coz I know I have to walk the whole way. Thank god for my gentle exfoliating face wash bar, I can get all this off in the night.

I put rice to cook in the pressure cooker, meanwhile heating the 3-day-old vegetable and kozhambu in the microwave. I'm simultaneously making porridge, stirring the boiling milk. Not 1%, it's unpalatable, not 2% (BIG difference), it's still unpalatable, not skimmed milk, it's still very unpalatable. WHOLE milk. Full fat. Vitamin D. Just so it can get past my tongue. I need to pack a snack. One snack won't do. Make it two. One bottle of trail mix. Almonds, raisins, dried pineapple, papaya, peanuts, walnuts. Two sets of sandwich. Whole wheat bread with strawberry preserves and... hmmm... what do I put on the other side? Plain unsalted butter or creamy peanut butter? Wait a minute, I'm carrying two sandwiches. I'll apply each on one. The rice is ready. I pack it into a microwaveable lunch box and stuff it into my bag.

My bag. My home away from home. I load it with a mini version of everything. Umbrella, water bottle, 3 different colored folders for three subjects, a notebook, pencil pouch, planner (ye, I'm busy!!!) calculator, post-its (pink or yellow? Compromise. Pink for my bag, yellow for my table), wallet, keys, mints, comb, lip balm, moisturiser (more!), campus map, bus schedule, lunch, snack, drink, gloves, cap... it goes on. I stare at the back of the door, wondering what to wear. My denim jacket, the university branded sweatshirt, or the double layered winter jacket. It may be sunny, but that doesnt mean it ain't freezing cold. I go for the last option.

My denim-blue leather strapped casual sporty watch says 11. Class in 15 minutes. I start from home, my 30 GB jukebox in hand and the mega bookbag on my bony back. I walk, walk, walk. Up and down the hilly slopes (Happy valley, they call it. Ye, right. Some valley.) Huff, puff, pant. Cars speed by, thankfully I don't cough to their exhausts. I walk past the green meadows... wait, that is a football field. I walk past tall trees... wait, they are houses made of wood. I walk past a coin lying on the pavement... wait, that's a condom.

It is 11 20 when I reach the department. I rush to the classroom. Ouch!!! Static electricity in the air gives my thumb a bad shock, and I wince in pain for 2 seconds. I'm still catching my breath, I'm inside class, the professor glances at me, nothing new, acknowledges my constistent 5-minute late arrival to his class. I pull out the folder and my 0.7 leaded pencil when I realise I have no clue what he is talking about.

The next class isn't all that bad. I nod along to everything he says. The next class is bad, it is for 75 minutes.

I go for work, tutoring tired athletes. I throw calculus at them when all they want is a good night's sleep.
"So... what am I trying to find again?"
"So... oh, wait, my mistake..."
"So... Hey ye that's the answer!"
"So... ye that makes sense, I'm comfortable with that."
"So... if it is x multiplying 8+x, does the x go to both or jus the 8?"
God shall not forgive me for it, but at least he pays me for the month's expenses. Thank you Lord.

I walk back home at 10. I wonder if I should settle for a box of chocolate chip cookies, or have pasta with chunky garden vegetable sauce. Then I remember I still have food in the fridge. I heat and eat the now 3-and-half day old vegetable and kozhambu for dinner, check my mail, break my head over the assignment whose submission is in 2 days. I give up, have a glass of cold milk with dark chocolate syrup, cleanse the cosmetics off my face with the glycerine bar, brush my sensitive teeth with a medicated tooth paste and go to bed.

And I say a little prayer. Thank you God, for not letting me give in to this materialistic world...


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