Sunday, August 31, 2008

America America

Finally I have landed in the place that people prefer to call as the land of dreams and land of hope. Makes me remember how people throng the city of Mumbai in search for a job or with hopes of becoming an actor. Funny how the analogy works. Makes me think that even I come under almost the same category. Except that I have no Hollywood dreams. Life in Arizona especially at Tempe is not all that bad I must say. Living in an apartment that is situated in the heart of the major Indian community does not make you feel so out of place. So basically you do not require too much time to get acclimatized to the surroundings. The first thing that I did learn after coming to Tempe is that Arizona is HOT. Lets just say that it is a direct reference to the weather and to the incredibly amazing population of the opposite gender species a.k.a Chicks. Well that is the first couple of things a normal guy would notice upon landing here. Life here is not all that bad at all. Once the initial hiccups are overcome I could say that it is a pretty smooth sailing routine. Sometimes it might just become routine and mechanical. But the degree that comes after 2 years is worth its weight in gold. Here are some of the interesting observations that I have made during my brief tenure so far.

* Pedestrians are GOD. Literally speaking they are gods, and get the first preference on road. But on the flip side they are not invincible. Get it right? You still have to look both ways to cross the roads.
* Every third person on the road greets you with a “Howdy”. It does not matter whether you know the person or not, you just say “howdy” and carry on with your work. ( I do not think that it is a greeting which says that you are openly accepted. Maybe it is just a courteous greeting. You never know maybe I am mistaken. ) There are always exceptions to everything. In fact some of them are genuinely nice people. [Honest observation and not being diplomatic. ]
* Every other guy has a very helping nature. You get all the facilities to make sure that you are not lost. As in you get maps and all. But if u are portraying an image with even the slightest bit of confusion or “ I am lost” look then trust me you will find atleast two people willing to help you out without you asking for their help.
* Most of the Americans love to talk. I have atleast spoken to more than half a dozen strangers in a span of 3 or 4 days. Spoken means having a literal conversation.
* Most of the people here have a dream of visiting India. That was really nice to hear. And guess what most of them have heard about cricket. Though half of them do not know how to play.
* Believe it or not, I play cricket nowadays. With a small guy who hails from Bangladesh, is not a fan of Tendulkar and loves Australia. I do not have a choice, since not many guys around here play cricket. A couple of Americans have tried their hand at the game and trust me they are yet to differentiate between cricket and baseball. They do try to learn the game though and thats an encouraging sign.
* The internet speed is faster than the damn auto-rickshwas back home. Beat this. In India BSNL offers 2 Mbps speeds for a net connection and we say wow thats pretty fast. Believe it or not at this very moment I am using a net connection that is offering speed 7.5 times that BSNL offers. Online streaming was never so fast. I watch movies online rather than downloading them ( which is a crime here by the way....crap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! )
* The punctuality of the people here is amazing. People will keep up their time no matter what.
* Some of the kids think that we are here to kill them. Have heard kids screaming not to kill them. Sounds funny when you experience it.

Well there are so many more things that I would like to tell but at the moment mind has gone blank. I guess its time to hit the sack. Its almost 2.45 in the night here. I guess its back to square one for me. The late nights never die do they??

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Sky High View II

Ever wondered how big the word huge is? Its just about four letter big. The word huge is actually an insult to the Heathrow International airport. We landed in the 5th terminal which was roughly 3 times bigger than BIAL. And there is 4 more terminals, no wonder the place is one of the busiest airports of the world. Since I was tagging along with my senior, I had absolutely no tension. I was blindly following her and doing whatever she asked me to do. It really is a major advantage if u fly with somebody who has already gone through the rigmarole of changing flights and entering into the State. It gices you time to soak in the atmosphere and the structural splendour of the airports. At this time somewhere in the corner of my heart I hoped that my own country will come up to such classy standards one day. We disembarked the fliht and I faithfully followed Sowmya ( my senior ) just like a sheep following the sheperd. Or rather in this case "Mary being followed by her lamb". Please note I purposefully left out the word little as, describing me as little would be an insult to the word. We had roughly 3 hours to catch the next flight. I naturally gaped at the wonderful exhibits at the duty free shops. My jaw dropped onto the fround when i saw the Ferrari and the Audi on display. Since we did have time to kill we waited on level one of the terminal. Even though British Airways had taken extreme care in filling my tummy I had the cravings for some home made stuff. The chapatis that mum had packed finally made its way into my tummy on international soil.

The checking in process did not look like the monstrous process that people make it out to be. It was a fairly simple and smooth process. Maybe it felt smooth to me because of the calming presence of Sowmya. The flight to Phoenix from London was a 10 hour ordeal. Finally I managed to get some sleep and the flight journey was over before I realised it.

Landing at the Sky Harbour International aiport signalled the start of a new beginnning. There was again no problem with the customs. Sowmya did have a minor problem with the customs. It was just a matter of time before we stepped out of the airport, to be welcomed by the rains.

The Sky High View I

This post has been long over due. I would as usual escape by blaming laziness to be the cause for it all. Plus the fact that there was no net at my disposal. So here is my so called experience which I managed to key in to my trusted cell phone sitting way up above at an altitutde of 30k plus feet.

Emotions never goes down so well with guys. I guess it is an un-written law of nature that checks the deep emotions in guys. Or was it just a conscious effort from my side to keep a check on mine. I really am not sure what the reason was but during the course of my last day in India ( atleast for the time being ) there was not much shedding of tears. I will admit though that there was the expected few drops of waterfall, but it was broken down into several stages. The moistening of the eyes and the sudden outbursts on a couple of occasions. Finally it was time to say goodbye. I somehow did manage to keep a chec on my emotions while I was engulfed into the BIAL terminal. It was a strange kind of sensation when I boarded the jumbo jet outbound for London. The excitement, the tension and the unfathomable emotions from the previous days morning finally got to me and lo behold I was fast asleep even before we left terra firma.

It is said that before we die then our entire life seems to flash past across our eyes. Well thats certainly one thing that nobody would claim to have experienced. When I did wake up ( which was just about an hour later ) I seemed to have a very similar feeling. As we climbed to dizzying heights I was leaving behind one phase of my life and entering a new phase. This was the time when my mind was in rewind mode. But as during the screening of the movies on tv ( when a very interesting situation is interrupted by an irritating commercial ) I was interrupted with food and beverages from the flight attendants. Being in the middle seat I was sitting sandwiched between an elderly lady and a guy sitting on the aisle seat who refused to shift. So basically even though I was travelling with my senior I was pretty much travelling alone at the moment. Talking about senior, I must say that I was extremely lucky to have gotten myself tickets on the same plane as her. She had a strange kind of calming effect on me. Just her mere presence was enough to assure me that things would be a cake walk and nothing would go wrong. Well almost a cake walk!

The flight would have been really eventless had it not been for yet another VTU victim sitting next to me. He did manage to spill orange juice all over me during the flight and i do not know how her managed to do it though. The balding attendent had quite a laugh when i kept asking for tissues to clean up. I know anybody who looks at a guy with orange juice dripping from his pants might laugh his heart out, but please give me a break man. It was not my fault in the first place that I had the stupid juice all over my seat and plates.

British Airways does have a decent in flight entertainment system. Its a different story that I had seen most of the movies that they had provided. I still did manage to watch a dumb comedy starring Arshad Warsi and Suniel Shetty. The elderly lady sitting next to me was pretty sweet. She even told me that orange juice will not leave behind a tell tale stain as I had washed it immediately. So basically my flight till London was characterized by conversations with this sweet lady and the poor VTU victim who had a strange habit of providing facts of the day everytime he seemed to remember one.

Once you are on board for a really long international flight you just seem to have loads of time to yourself. The same goes gor me as well. I had time to reflect upon the previous days events. I realised how little time I had spent with my parents on the day of my departure. In fact I was not able to spend quality time with anybody to be frank. I did not know what is there in each of the bag that I was carrying. The entire packing was done by my mum. I was pretty much spoon fed that day. Mum and dad doing the packing and some of my friends also pitching in with what they could. Amidst all these thoughts I guess I did manage to catch a few more minutes of sleep.

On our way to London we flew over Afghanistan. Despite the terror label that it has, it did have a good landscape. Or maybe everything looks small and pretty from an altitude of 35,ooo feet. I did have a strange kind of happiness when we passed over the Caspian sea. After marking the water body a hundred times on the maps I was really happy to see it from atleast this high. The descent to Heathrow International airport was really a sight to behold. London is really beautiful from the heavens. With the Thames cutting its way across the city and the ocean surrounding the entire landmass. The formation of clouds all along was simply one of the most picturesque sight that one can get to see. I also managed to get a glimpse of Arsenal's home pitch ( well thats what the walking talking wikipedia sitting next to me told me. I am not much of a football follower anyways ). Anyways whichever the stadium was, it was truly amazing. Words are not enough to describe the beauty of the sight. Finally the long journey was over when the plane taxied into terminal 5 of the Heathrow airport.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The first Official International Post

I cannot believe this post is originating all the way from America.
Its almost a week since I set foot on this soil and I still have not found time to put up a post on my blog. I actually want to share my experience from the time I boarded the flight all the way back in Bangalore till I got down in Pheonix. Its not that I do not have access to net, its just that I am pretty much lazy to type out the stuff that I have in my cell, all over again. So another few more days and I guess that will be up on the blog. Lets make this International post short and very sweet. So until next time, keep waiting for the next post from half way across the globe.

P.S- Will be getting a net connection very very soon.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

In the Nick of Time

This post has been a long overdue. So as per the basic laws of nature, the interest to write about it and I am sure to read about it ( i.e. if somebody does really read about it ;-) has gone plummeting down. Keeping the laws of nature in mind I will curtail this to as short a post as possible. This is basically how things went just in the nick of time for me before the visa interview.
My interview was scheduled on thursday morning at around 9.

Monday- 11.30 a.m
The fact dawns upon me that a PDC ( provisional degree certificate ) will be quite essential for my visa interview. It usually takes about 2 weeks for the PDC to arrive by post, but if collected personally from the university office in Belgaum it takes about a day. I book tickets (to and fro) to go to Belgaum.
Monday- 12.00 p.m
I remember that my cousin leaves for Norway in about 8 hours.
I rush to say goodbye.
Monday- 4.00 p.m
I decide to go to the university meet happening at Barista. ( thank god i did otherwise would have still been hunting for room-mates :-D )
Monday- 6.45 p.m
I leave the meet in a hurry as my bus for Belgaum leaves in an hours time.
Monday- 8.00 p.m
I manage to board the bus to Belgaum.

Fast forward to tuesday, i.e after the mental trauma of having to agonizingly wait in the university head-quarters, as described previously.
Tuesday- 8.45 p.m
I board the bus back to Bangalore.
Wednesay- 8.30 a.m
I reach home, thankfully in one piece after having to painfully sleep in a berth 2/3rds my height. ( I am hoping that the automobile industry will come up with transports customized for people of my height!!!!!)
Wednesday- 10.00 a.m
I prepare all the documents required for my visa interview.
Wednesday- 10.30 a.m
I realize that one of the print-outs of the visa form is not back to back, but done on different sheets.
Wednesday- 11.00 a.m
Finally I manage to reach back home with the proper print-outs after having stumbled across 4 internet cafes without power.
Wednesday- 12.15 p.m
My friend made me realize that I do not have the proper photograph required for the visa form. ( I know which dumb-ass idiot will not remember to get a photograph when it has been clearly specified on the form!!!)
Wednesday- 12.30 p.m
I get my mug-shot done with my ears being prominently visible ( obviously without the name-plates ;-). This was possible only after I literally begged the guy to give me the snaps in 45 minutes time.
Wednesday- 12.45 p.m
I realize that I have forgotten to inform my dad about an important financial document required for the visa interview. ( pretty obvious I did get yelled at for this :-D )
Wednesday- 1.15 p.m
I go back to the studio and collect my mug-shots. ( thankfully they were ready by then )
Wednesday- 2.15 p.m
I sit inside the train along with my mum and wait for it to depart.
Wednesday- 2.20 p.m
My dad's colleague comes to the station to provide that financial document that I had forgotten.
Wednesday- 2.30 p.m
Train departs for Chennai. ( Phew!!!!!! )
Ok wait there is just one more thing to add to this last minute tension episodes.
Thursday- 8.45 a.m
I realize that I have not pasted or stuck my mug-shot to the visa form and the interview starts in half an hours time.
Thursday- 9.00 a.m
I stick the damn photo to the form and finally enter the consulate building.

After gong through so much of tension and last minute rushes, the visa interview lasted for about 10 seconds. The guy hardly posed any questions to me and he did not even bother to check my financial documents. ( not that I am complaining :-D )

P.S- I know I said that I will make this as short as possible, but i just dont seem to stop once I start ;-)