Saturday, November 29, 2008

A really long Thanksgiving

When I think of Thanksgiving, the first thing that comes to my mind are the wonderful dinners at the Schneider's residence. Never would I ever meet two such fine people in a land away from home who made us feel so comfortable and treated like their own grand-children.
However this post is somewhat of an ode to a different set of people who have helped me tremendously and continue to do so.

Though I am only 29, I would not want to take chances on my memory lasting very late in life to write the following piece. So before Mr. Alzheimers kicks in and starts knocking those cells around, I would like to sincerely thank everyone that I can recollect who made the journey from end of fall 2002 to end of spring 2003 possible. There are multiple reasons, and more importantly people due to whom this reunion would remain etched in my mind forever.From the Enterprise rental manager who gave us an additional 50 miles a day to the new illegal immigrant who probably forgot to charge us $15 dollars or so at a gas station somewhere in ‘Bama. Nikhil's room-mates were simply wonderful and extremely accommodating and made us feel very comfortable. To bear with our non-sense and chatter for 5 days is no mean task and to top it off our weird timings of waking-up and dozing off. Mami, Vahini, Tai, Akka et al, as they were affectionately called, deserve a great deal of credit and so does Kothasthane for ensuring that we had a pleasant stay in Austin.

But most importantly however, this trip was made possible for me by a couple of angelic friends who helped me be a part of what were the best 17 days of my stay in the US. In the above "Re-Union" spaces, wherever there is a comment as "We", kindly drop my name wherever any reference to any form of payment is concerned. 4 months prior to our planned reunion date I was in educational doldrums and financially in a complete mess. (KindNote: This had nothing to do with Sharaab/Shabaab) I had nearly quit and was about to give up when I received the best of support from my friends. Through emails, phone calls, suggestions, they absolutely bombarded positive thoughts in me, which helped me overcome all the obstacles I had faced till then. In the second week of December I finally came out of my Scholastic Funk and thanks to my added working hours during the 3rd semester, I had saved enough for this trip. When we sat together later for financial settlements, I was kept so much in the dark and asked to pay so meager an amount that I almost could not believe. Till this day, this still remains to be the only financial settlement which I had not presided on!!
The only time I clearly remember paying (shared with Ameya) was once for a Papa Johns Pizza party and another time at Subway when we had a Clemson University visit.

I frequently did (and sometimes still do) rue the fact that I was unable to treat them better during their visit. They had spent hundreds of dollars traveling to Clemson, SC and another "n" hundreds during those days. In terms of today’s economy and standard those might seem a few knocked out thousands of rupees, but ask a Graduate student in the US and you will surely be able to gauge its worth in gold.

Again in the spring of 2003, I was short on dollars when I rang up a friend and asked for some "n" hundred dollars. I received a check of "n+1" hundred dollars the day after next I had made the phone call. He never made it a point to mention this then nor till date until I have done the same now. He never asked me when I was returning the same, but simply emailed/called me the day I paid it back, months later. It was a transaction between the best of friends, never tripartite.

In the simplest of words the above two are mortgages which are extremely difficult to shrug off and impossible to return. Just thoughts of mentioning this is going to draw a lot of ire, thanking them would be near blasphemous and trying to repay would be downright sinful.

5 years.., seems a small frame of time when compared to your lifetime but some span gets frozen in eternity. I have traveled a long way from being a 3-point someone and a jobless bugger to a well-settled professional in a sort-of-well-renowned company in Pune. I have struggled and worked extremely hard, but there is no denying the fact who all made it happen. From a person who had hit rock-bottom and was still digging, to a person who has reached beautiful heights and is yearning to climb yonder, I have no one to thank for but a wonderful set of friends.
It has been Thanksgiving for the last 5 years :)

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

waLu - a refreshing comedy

Just happened to watch a marathi movie "waLu" in theaters after years on end.I cannot even remember the last one but this one will linger in for some time for sure. A comical, satirical movie set on the backdrop of a Maharashtra village whose current health is disturbed by an advent of waLu - a wild bull

waLu : The real meaning of waLu is a huge, well built bull (OX) with an extra-ordinary libido capable of impregnating dozens of cattle in a really short span. Here the libidinous prowess is represented through his destructive power by harrassing the villagers.

The movie begins with a forest officer receiving a call to catch the wild bull (a huge black terrier) which has wreaked on a tiny village called Kusawade. This is a near insult for a person capable of catching and taming wild felines. He arrives in the villages with the usual fanfare accorded by the rural folks. Accompanying him are his younger brother, who wants to shoot a documentary on the plight of the villagers and the fight to catch the wild thing. The forest officers equipment consists of a couple of shot-guns and a blow-pipe with some sedatives in syringes. Though being an out-an-out MharaTi, he blurts out English suitable to a "Forest", as he is affectionately called by the KusawaDe'ites.

The very first POA for capture of "Durkyaa" as the waLu is referred, called by, is held, quite ironically, in the temple of KankaLeshwar (another name of Lord Shiva) whose vehicle is none other than the Nandi (a huge bull). As fate has it, on one hand they worship one kind and despise the second one."Forest", played by Atul Kulkarni tries to figure out the routine of Durkyaa and plan a way for the capture by putting together the narratives dictated by most of the respected public. All of this is being suitably captured in the "documentary" being put together which infact is the real deal behind the huge turn-out.

In all of this are the commonplace incidents/sidestories like a one-upsmanship between the surpanch (the village chieftan) and aaba (a new generation rebel of sorts), jeevanya - whose stock has sky-rocketed since "Forest" makes him his "Friday" for the mission. There is the brooding love-story between a belle (played by Amruta Subhash) and Shivaji whose fathers are at loggerheads due to an accidental death of a bull on the day of baeel-poLa (Festival Day for Bulls). A semi-crazy woman who is protective of the bull and the mother of jeevanya (played by Jyoti Subhash) who feeds the nasty animal each day.
The actual capture of Durkyaa by rope-a-dope is well captured in lens with total chaos in the back-ground and all previous planning which goes for a complete toss. The officer is treated as a hero-of-sorts and a procession is taken similar to those of deities. Finally the two factions and all villagers come together for celebrating this common victory.

waLu (the bull) is symbolic or metaphoric of the lives and stages happening through the life of the villagers and one very pregnant cow. The pain caused by the bull is shared by the cow through her labour pains. The disturbance and havoc is reminiscent of the gastro-entritis experienced by the village priest (Dilip Prabhawalkar in a surprizing role). The freedom of movement enjoyed by Durkyaa is missing from the lives of the two lovers who want to break barriers and elope. The loneliness of the bull grazing in the open sun but the immense power that it withholds is similar to that of the surpanch and aaba. Both powerful in their own accord but find themselves very lonely as the village meets at the temple and are left out of the documentary.

The movie ends with the very pregnant cow delivering a fresh new "waLu" - a black calf probably fathered by the beast


An Affair to Remember: Enigmatic End - Part IV

It is said that relationships are based on some very basic virtues like honesty, trust, faith etc. There is probably a level of trust which we all have for different set of people, parents/siblings, friends, colleagues and an individual typically does not (should not) be entirely honest even within his most innermost "Circle Of Trust". And that is exactly when I faltered, I tried to be too brutally honest with S.C. at a time when I could have actually summed up the courage maybe some months/years down the line. My 'sail with it, or sink wink it' approach only took me down the drain.

We were having coffee/evening snacks when we decided to delve into the past of either of us. I found it hard to believe that no1 had ever asked her out or remotely not of thought of spending his entire life with her. She probably was very honest but then she could have not been entirely convinced that we had reached an "official" relationship level for which she was bound to answer certain questions. I failed to gauge this and decided to open out more than I should have. This was actually very much against the precept that my very dear/near friends had warned me against.

We were so close to being awarded a prize on Dec 10th at Royal Albert Hall for Chemistry for 2007. Just then, some reaction occured out of a sudden and there in sublimated any chances of a miracle.

I confessed, of having written 2 emails and also receiving near identical replies on my "proposals". And that proved to be the final walk of my eventful odyssey.

She was a very sensible girl who would not have taken this decision solely based upon my one guffaw. She would have probably (actually definitely) jotted the points along the graph when I had messed up. She was too systematic/statistical not to have not noticed the multiple inflexion points that I may surely have traced. I am pretty convinced she decided to take the final call only after all the possible indices of rational behavior were so badly distorted that it left her no other option. It finally wreaked havoc on the one aspect she (and most females) was looking forward to (stability) which I lacked to provide.
We met a couple of times but that was just to bring the happenings of the last 8 months (including email exchanges) to a closure.

The abrupt ending of a till-now-smooth matter from a pragmatic, sensible person may seem like a contradiction. However, Contradictions do not exist. If there is a contradiction, one of the premise must be wrong

I learned my lesson the very hard way and I am still convinced that I did not deserve this. However who am I to judge the decision of someone when I am the so-called accused/guilty party ? (Criminal's Side of the Court).
Two very important lessons: Do not give any unwanted, unheralded information unless asked for. Even if asked for, do not still give it up, lest it jeopardize the goodwill that has already been establish. Always trust your friends (whom you trust), especially when 6 (including their spouses) have advised you against some idiotic principles you might be (unnecessarily) carrying as unwanted baggage.
(The first and foremost Basic Axiom : You can never truly understand what goes on in the minds of XX)

Though this affair did not leave anyone with shrivelled legs nor did it physically handicap someone, it did have a crippling effect on my conscience/soul for a while. However with the friends that I have getting over and moving on was never difficult.

I know it and so do most of you understand/know, that I am not a person who went into the relationship for the heck of it. If I was looking for a fling and did not care really too much for the consequences, I would have just shrugged it off and chuckled "Who is John Galt" !!


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Affair to Remember: Perfection Personified

Finding the time to meet S.C. was difficult enough from my engaging schedule. Even more challenging was of providing a reason of the time spent to a plethora of friends from school, college and colleagues as well as home. This was when my worst handicap proved to be my advantage.I worked late hours on most days and sometimes on weekends. These working hours/days provided me with the perfect alibi for the late hours on other days and "some" weekends (God bless DST Patches !!) spent.

Perfection Personified=>
S.C. was an epitome of low maintenance, she used to be dressed elegantly, decent clothing though not expensive ones. Comparing with her "Target" and "Filenes Basement" for no reason, I felt like I was shopping at "Banana Republic" or "Saks on the 5th". But S.C. carried herself with such elan that she never needed to enhance it any further.
The number of visits I had made to a salon/parlor exceeded hers by one ;)
Would have spoilt her looks anyway

S.C. had another great quality and that was of "patience". She probably had a store somewhere deep in her soul from where she kept on drawing and her reserves never seemed to end. She did not mind me canceling pre-decided dates, timings on account of work and added hours. S.C. quietly spent her time reading, till I reached and always welcome me with an eager smile. I used to be irritated with myself but felt it really amusing that she never mentioned the late appearances but focused on the time spent together. The only solace for me was that S.C. too used cell phone to a minimum, especially during office hours. Unanswered, missed calls on my instrument did not deter her from calling me later in the evening. S.C. never seemed disturbed, worried or bothered about these "trivial" (her term) events and this disturbed, worried, bothered me to no end!!

Once she showed me pictures of her room, a modest one compared to today's lavish ones but it was so neatly maintained, not one item out of place. S.C. was so particular about arranging stuff, I sometimes called her Monica instead !! She remembered Birthdays, Anniversaries not only of first cousins but of seconds and their spouses and kids without help of a Birthday Alarm, which I use to impress others ;) My falsely pretentious "kawach-kunDals of particularity had taken a beating like never before and now they were lying on the floor, cracked permanently
Heck, she was even good at driving even though I did not dare give my 2nd love in her careful hands.
I was also gleefully surprised when she mildly chastised me for bringing her some cliched "White Teddy with a Red Heart" in mid-Feb.

I always tried to find some chink in her armour which I would be able to focus and beat her (not physically, mentally) at atleast one daily activity. I gave up and finally concluded, the only thing I did ever "defeat" her was in gorging on food. S.C. was a healthy eater but she was no match for me. I was way better her than in all sports, but lets not take our focus from day-to-day activities for the moment.
Though we were as different as day and night, rather as different as solar and lunar eclipses to be exact, we did connect on most issues. We never had any differences of opinion on any topic and on most occasions would arrive at a consensus without compromise.

The most amazing moment came when we were once shopping in a mall for her beloved Jiju.. A very bright and definitely prudent gentleman came straight towards us. S.C. bent and touched his feet the next instant (I followed suit to impress ;) ) who was her adorable teacher in school. They talked for a while , while I listened and smiled. Just before leaving he turned to me and said "You know what my biggest regret in life is.., Not having a son of suitable age to be able to take her home as my daughter-in-law !!" And then He left, as I just stood there mesmerized by things happening that instant. That was in my opinion the greatest compliment any person could receive.

Secret between you and me : I had at one point of time wished progeny inheriting characteristics in the ratio 45:1


An Affair to Remember: Dizzyingly Delightful - Part III

Delectable December and reJuvenating January and Fantabulous February:

There were multiple instances/days/events to rewind and play over and over again. However from a revolutionalizing and refreshing experience point of view the following excerpt is worth mentioning. The most memorable of our "date" that I think was when we had gone to Sinhagad on a clear, chilly Sunday morning.

The weather was great for such an outing and there was the usual hustle-bustle seen on the fort on most Sundays. We had started quite early and though we took multiple breaks looking at the quickly wuthering foliage around, they were also acting as welcome breathers in between :) With my belly contracting between a size 32 to size 30 and at times to size 33 due to the breathlessness from the thin-air, S.C. had a hearty laugh throughout the climb. On the way up, we also made fun of the other lovey-dovey birds who were proudly exhibiting their PDAs at frequent intervals on the context of helping to step on a rock about 6 inches tall ;)

We had started climbing in near darkness, experienced twilight passed the halfway point. We had reached the summit (it was almost an Everest like) just as the rays kissed the Towers atop the fort, which were still almost a blur. S.C was carrying her newly purchased S3-IS and we waited with bated breath to capture some eternal moments. The sun (rather the earth) was going through its routine but it was a first for the two of us.

We were discussing the events in the week before, when the topics shifted to the just held appraisal at S.C.'s company and how well she had "held" her own. She did not meekly submit to the points/grades offered but fought for her rights. My wicked, sarcastic smile did not amuse her much and that forced me to spill the beans. And so began my monologue for the next half an hour so. My typical laid-back approach to one of the most useless and controversial processes followed in most companies (obviously my personal opinion again) to suppress any hardworking, sincere engineer/employee (yeah, C.A.'s are not engineers but way beyond). What do they know of what I have been through, and this is nothing but just "A Walk In The Clouds" - similar to the emotions of reality that we were just passing through.

I had never seen S.C. with her real steely resolve coming to the fore. She was absolutely stunned and more-so-over frustrated as I did not even wish to desire whatever I deserved. I tried to vainly impress her with some hackneyed Hindi-Urdu dialogue about how worthless these events were compared to the time spent with her. Now it was her turn to smile which was neither of the sort that I had displayed some minutes back.

The next hour or so S.C. spoke and I listened, speechless, stunned and somewhat energized. S.C. delivered her words with such caution and even more passion that there was nothing else to do but genuflect in pure submission. She even mentioned that I should actually "go to the mattresses" (probably got to do with the surroundings - Sinhagad - and its immortal history) !! She just could not emphasize enough how it was "Not Personal, But Business". From someone who recited paragraphs from the Gita and who was a vivid and ardent follower of Swami Vivekananda and his philosophy, mention from Puzo's GodFather was quite shocking, to the point of being over-whelming.

I was like a pure "Neo"phyte in the presence of Krishna and Vivekananda at the same time in "Zion"


Monday, December 31, 2007

"THE" Re-Union : Day Nine

26 December, 2002:
Auburn, AL: Just like we had bade Nikhil's home a farewell it was time to bid Kaustubh's home a final farewell as well. (Fact: They later changes places about 2-3 times as well, under the pretext and supporting statements that it barely takes 30 minutes to move out from one place and perch in the next ?? ) We had spent 2 wonderful nights in Auburn and more importantly got to meet some of Godya's room-mates, one out-sizing the other. Kaustubh, all of a sudden seemed to be like a cute stuffed teddy compared to them :)

Atlanta, GA: We either missed or took an incorrect exit or took some street South instead of North and the likes. But we definitely missed the place we had initially planned for. We finally managed to trace a Gujju Bhaaya's place and decided to satisfy our palates at the dine-in. What a wondeful treat it was from Kaustubh, on his fellowship grant, and we all ate till we were able to tickle the food just under/behind the tonsils !! With bloated bellies and droopy, sleepy eyes we made the final mad dash to Clemson, SC. We were going to lose an hour driving from CST to EST and had to hand-over the car to Enterprize lest we paid for an extra day. I was driving the Neon and all others were blissfully sleeping their "backs" off. The loud Kishore songs were hardly a deterrant to the ephedrine-like toxins secreted from the lunch menu.

Clemson, SC: Just passed the border into SC, all were awake and it was hardly any distance to go before we reached 115 Village Green. We had some time remaining and did some quick groceries at Winn Dixie and parallely did some VHS renting out at the adjacent video store. It was a great feeling to come back home as nothing heels you better than the first step inside "your own place".

After dropping the grocery, tapes and our bags and baggage home, we headed back to Seneca to bid farewell to our wondeful (at times irritable) companion. We had got the rental for a whopping 2800 miles and when we returned the car we had travelled 2792 miles !! The manager at the rental was simply amazed and commended us saying never had anyone got their calculations so correct for such a huge trip.

Little did he know nor does he still understand the underlying common thread between the last names Aphale, Divekar, Godbole and Ranade


"THE" Re-Union : Day Eight

25 December 2002 :
College Station, TX: Finally, it was time to good-bye and we left with our baggage in quite a somber mood. With great memories from our stay and tons of wishes for our safe journey we left the twin-apartment for the last time. With Kaustubh in the drivers seat and a very-insistent "I will remain awake for sure" Nikhil, we left for Auburn, AL. We were going to again spend the night at Godya's place and then proceed to Clemson the next day morning. It was Christmas and people were enjoying at home and had left the road empty for wanderers like us. I remember a clear stretch of highway in TX, LA where-in we covered more than 200 miles in less than 3 hours or so. We (Kaustubh and I) had decided to give Atul a break from driving as he had done the bulk of the load towards TX from SC. Now from TX to SC, it was pay-back time and we gladly obliged. I recollect at times taking exits on freeways in search of Gas and Food Joints and then frustratingly finding them closed for Christmas :(

Someplace Dubdub3, MS: We dined at weird places and obliged ourselves mostly to some burger or american break-fast, Ham-Eggs on Toast at lunch time in Huddle House. Towards the fag end of the day, which was around 5pm, we were feeling sort of tired with an unseemingly unending road ahead of us. There were nothing but trusses and arches and bridges over the swamps and frequency of yawns seemed more than heart-beats. Finally the AL border was in sight and that in it itself was a sign of relief. The last couple of hundred miles remained to be covered and after a stomachful we decided to go at one-go. Unfortunately nature intervened and dialled calls so feverishly that we all had to take notice and make a quick stop at a road-side rest area. Within a couple of minutes and with five extremely light bladders, Godya drove into his hometown.

Auburn, AL: We had travelled more than 700 miles since morning and legs ached from sitting in cramped spaces for hours on end. We cursed expletives at the Dodge-Neon (like we had throughout our trip) and blamed all our woes on her. This time there were no plans for TableTennis as driver/navigators/passengers were drained alike. The last 250 odd miles remained which were to be accentuated and punctuated by a wondeful lunch in Downtown Atlanta at a terrific Indian Restaurant.


"THE" Re-Union : Day Seven

24 Decmber 2002:
College Station, TX: The last day of our planned trip in the "Lone Star State". We had initially decided to visit the NASA space center. Just then a sort of an alarm rang "Houston, we have a problem". We had all gotten up pretty late as we were all busy chatting the previous day after returning from SanAntonio. It was nearly 12 or past 12, when we came to know that the last trip (viewing tour) starts at 3pm. TAMU room-mates mentioned that it was a drive which generally took more than two and a half hours or so. By the time we ready to roll it was past 1pm and the overall picture looked bleak.

On-Road-To-NASA, TX: We started driving and more news hit us when we came to know that NASA was actually even further down south of Houston, more closer closer to Galveston. But with some Shumachresque driving from Atul (and exquiste Navigation by "who else but me" ;) )and zigzagging like crazy through Downtown Houston we barely reached the NASA gate. Unfortunately the last shuttle and ride was already full and we had missed our chance. But "lady luck" smiled her brightest then, and we received the news that to accomodate the other turned up visitors during Holiday season, they would conjure another ride. We being among the first were very sure to make it and received preferred seating.

NASA, TX: The previous day was quite warm, barring the thunderstorm that lashed late evening. This day was the exact opposite as winds wailed and the cold breeze was almost cutting through skin. Luckily all of us had some kind of jumpers put on which helped us survive ?? the wintry ride. The open air carriage did not help much and it was really some great relief when we were inside the main building. On the walls were pictures of the many missions NASA had undertaken, space walks, moon trips and the like. (There is in fact a Flag for every mission that is carried out as well) There were some rock samples kept in vaccumized glass bottles kept for display behind closed Glass Walls.

Control Room, NASA, TX: This was the place where it all happens (happened), the heart and soul of any mission, manned or un-manned. This was the place where the words first were heard from the moon "The eagle has landed" (though this may have different meanings with changing contexts). There was a huge screen where all the parameters were displayed and the tracking for the shuttle performed. This was the haven which ensured that "Apollo 13" came back safely to earth !! The only difference the tour-guide mentioned was that previously it was a smoking facility which has now been converted to a non-smoking one. From a viewing point of view, the Control Room was open for public viewing prior to 9/11, now it was only visible from behind closed glass doors.

NASA, TX: The day had started to wane and so had the available warmth from the surroundings. On our way back to the NASA gallery it was even worse than when we had reached there. We spent the next hour or so viewing the different models on display from full-size command modules to a cock-pit of a jumbo. Then, it was time to turn back to College Station. We had to leave for Auburn, quite early the next day and it was truly sad that the wonderful trip was coming to a close.

Houston, TX: We had dinner at some restaurant but the Ok types food did not help much in overcoming the impending gloom. I dont know whether it was only me or others felt the same but never-the-less, none of expressed the obvious.

College Station, TX: It was not too late when we came back to pack our belongings and gear-up ourselves to a long, arduos and at-times treacherous journey. We were always hammering Nikhil that he HAD to come with us to Clemson and spent the remaining of his vacation with all of us. After much deliberation and slight use of physical and mental force, we managed to convince of making the trip back. We had a great clicking session which went way into the night and also reminiscing our last 5 wonderful days.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

"THE" Re-Union : Day Six

23 December 2002:
Austin, TX: We were all pretty early as we had a lot to travel to SanAntonio in the morning and return to College Station that very night. This was a sort-of-treacherous route w/o any interstates and only lonely, neglected State Highways. We had taken the directions for San Antonio and as told by my cousin, River View was supposed to be the best location in city. With correct and precise direction taken through MapQuest ( ?? :D ) we left for the Spurs' hometown.

San Antonio, TX: The skyline was visible from quite afar and then we started drifting away from the city. But we ensured to follow the directions as seen on the print-outs and reached River View Drive or Way !! We had crossed the main city and now found ourselves looking at a drain and wondering whether that was infact the desired destination. After quizzing a few along the way, we realized that we had hopelessly lost our way and that River View was in Downtown SanAntonio. But, just then we saw driving direction to the Zoo which was about a mile from the place we were.

SanAntonio Zoo, TX: This was the day when 5 adults decided to shed all inhibitions and act like 3 year olds. We had paid a decent sum of amount to the zoo keepers and made it a point to make every cent count. The zoo was itself pretty huge which animals ranging from 1 tiger to 1 elephant to 1 bear, multiple types of monkeys (there were 5 who were let loose to entertain others ;) ). The best part was that there was a lot of room for all animals and nor were they caged in a cramped place like we had in Peshwe Park previously. There was "some" natural surrounding that was created for each animal and also safety of viewers was also ensured by making huge pits between the Animal area and Viewing Area.
There was this one particular type of tiger/leopard/panther whom Godya wanted to capture as he looked dead-straight at the camera. Unfortunately for all us he never did and we spent about 50 clicks on eyes, ears, tails, abdomen of that feline.

Has anyone of you watched the movie "Birds" by Hitchcock ? Never before had I thought about birds as scary and able to outfight humans, manly ego I guess. But that was again a work of fiction we would suppose. However as we entered a bird-cage, mostly with species of parrots, parakeets all the fear could be actually experienced. We were in their area and it was really frightening when they decided to fly from one tree to the other in the enclosed area. We would have been able to capture a couple of parrots sitting on Ameya's shoulders had Mr. Photos not clicked too many features of a tiger and exhausted the batteries.
The nicest scene was of one parakeet removing the Cap of the bird-keeper as kept interacting with other people.

We had a light snack quite early on and then left after having a comprehensive visit of the park left for the actual River View.

RiverView, SanAntonio, TX: This has got to be the most romantic spot in this arid state and definitely the most crowded. (In the meantime we had obtained fresh set of batteries) Then we had a round of photos taken along the banks of the manmade channels and then moved around the area. Each one of us surely dreamt of visiting this place with their to-be someones at some point later in life :) We had moved a lot during the day and the outputted energy had hopelessly outnumbered the inputted one. There was a provision to have dinner as people undertook a boat ride in the water bed but we passed on as it was too expensive and the line was quite lengthy as well.Atul then treated us (just one the many he belted out at multiple places) at a very special Mexican Restaurant for supper. The food was definitely wonderful but the ambience just added the correct spice to the wonderful moment.
The picture taken by our table attendant also came out very well against the backdrop of the punts, boats.

The last destination for the day was "Tower of Americas" which consists of a revolving restaurant and a viewing-gallery on 3 huge pillars. It was not at all difficult locating the towers however finding the approach took very long as we kept on circling the roads around it. Finally we found a parking lot from where we could walk to the base of the tower.Just then there was a violent thunderstorm that lashed the city like crazy. It lasted for something like 15-20 mins which felt like eternity. There were trash cans kept along the pavements being uprooted and strewn across the roads. We took shelter near a convention center for some time and then the others (barring me) left for the tower. I was terribly scared to move but followed them as the storm subsided.

Tower of Americas, SanAntonio, TX: We moved in to the soothing comment that we would not be able to visit the viewing gallery due to the lightning and thunderstorm. The good news was that the elevators were going to take us to the hotel and that we were not going to be charged for it !! We must've climbed about 75 odd meters in a matter of some seconds and that too in a glass escalator. With the speed of the elevator and the sudden stop gives a giddy feeling. Thankfully none of required any plastic bags but there was a feeling that the floor was moving. We went a little further to view the city from a bar area (which does not revolve) but did not venture out on the revolving floor. Heartbreak was in store for Ameya and Godu when they saw a stunning young lady in a cocktail dress move in to dine with a much older gentleman.
And lastly we had a snap taken in which my friends compelled (like they always do) me give a crazy pose !!

This was definitely The Best Day I had during our 8 day trip


Saturday, December 22, 2007

"THE" Re-Union : Day Five

22 December 2002:
College Station, TX: The main intention of our trip, of that attending the graduation had been a grand success. Now we decided to explore the areas in-and-around ?? College Station. Arriving at a consensus of from where to start and how to end our trip was difficult with multiple choices and several impediments along the way.

We finally decided to leave for Austin late that afternoon and to visit Lake Basstrop on the way. Kaustubh was the one who had least driven the car till then and he decided to drive. With a royal battle staging who would reach the destination first, our "Major" was nearing 90-100 on the speedometer at frequent interval !! Inspite of several warnings, we gave up knowing that only a Ticket would slow the car down. Fortunately the cops too were enjoying their December vacation and resting somewhere else.

Lake Basstrop, TX: A beautiful natural lake surrounded my miniature hills on most sides and a quite well maintained one. There was actually an entrance ticket to the lake and adjoining areas but with No Keeper and the vending machine out of order it was free enjoyment for all of us. Again some snaps captured in the most weird of poses, especially one "wass-up, how-u-doin" pose is still fresh in my memory. We were there for about a couple of hours and enjoyed at the lakeside a lot.

Austin, TX: Next we were on our way to Austin, the capital of the state of Texas. We were going to stay at Kotasthane's place for the night before leaving for SanAntonio the next day. Austin, is supposedly The Best town in Texas, with plenty of greenery around, which is as close as you come to a hill-station in this arid-land.
The Hill:We first decided to visit the Hill (cannot recall the name) which overlooks the town and from where there is a beautiful view of the neighboring countryside. The only similarity this hill has with our own Parwati is that it is located within the heart of the city and has an equal number of steps to reach the top. Thats all where the similarities end, from Cleanliness, to the ample foliage that surrounds this place was "Once Upon a Time" true of Parwati. Again we had some snaps taken but the flashes just got wasted in thin and extremely dark air.
Capitol : All of the states and the country have a similar kind of state building and I guess called "Capitol" throughout. There was a beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the way to the entrance of the building. We were just a little late for the last tour of the building and hence could not see the place from inside. Again a few snaps and then we left to have dinner. This was again a treat by the Graduating class for the last time at a decent Indian restaurant.

University of Texas, Austin: We then made a short trip around the University and took a nice picture of "The Owl" also called as the University of Texas Tower.The top of the building is lighted such that when seen from a diagonal the top resembles the head of an owl and hence the name.

We then called it a day after deciding on the course to take the next day to San Antonio which was our next destination.


"THE" Re-Union : Day Four

21 December 2002:
College Station, TX: This was the day we had reserved in our schedule to visit the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University (TAMU) Campus.

We first visited the Industrial Engineering Department from which Niks had just completed his graduation. It was neatly constructed quite new a building on the campus compared to one that I went to at Clemson. The classrooms and the labs (that we peeped and saw through closed doors) were of a much larger size and seemed spacious. This building was probably shared by some other department as well but cannot now recollect which one it was. We had a picture taken of the 6 of us on the stairs of the building.

We then walked through many more departments, some special in Ranade's mind maybe because of some sweet memories maybe ;)

The stand-out room of that day was an International Hall or Flag Room or something of sorts. There were flags of almost all countries (recognized by the US) proudly were seen hanging from the ceiling. In one corner of this room was a piano waiting to be played and Ranade obliged the same. He played about 3-4 different songs on the beauty while we watched and listened in awe as the sound-of-music reverberated in the Hall. There was another family visiting the place and they too were listening to the tunes being played.

We also visited the Cafeteria where Nikhil worked and at one point of time had his hands full of dishes ready to be washed. He also showed us the room where they had once served at a buffet attended by "Dubya" just before he had become president in late 2000. I think I still having a feeling of deja-vu looking at the place and knowing what it is to work at such a place.

The 6 of us then moved around the campus in the car a lot before descending upon some place to eat. Quite surprisingly but absolutely cannot remember where we had food. We also captured the "Leaning Tower of College Station" in our camera while driving across the Univ. Lastly I remember climbing on a very tall building just after clicking some photos of all of us in idiotic poses below it. There was a huge walkway connecting two buildings which gave us a near giddy feeling and scratched our vertigo (Ameya's for sure)

We returned back and then dropped Tejas at the College Station greyhound station who returned back to Houston at his obscure relatives' place and has been out of touch since.

That evening again there was a "maifil" set again and the same set of people entertained us throughout the late evening.


"THE" Re-Union : Day Three

20 December 2002:
College Station, TX: We all got up pretty late as we were extremely fatigued following the really long but thoroughly enjoyable drive of about 1100 miles !! Both of the houses had started to get ready for the graduation ceremony while we watched with our near sleepy eyes. It was nearly 1pm by which all of us were ready with a minor breakfast or the like. The graduation was in some huge coliseum kind of a place and reasonably far-off from Nikhil's place. We were about 6 of us stuffed in the Dodge-Neon, a really small segment car. During the next 2 days of our driving it was probably luck that did not get us caught.

The graduation ceremony was packed, the lower tier with all the graduating students, first Doctoral, then Masters, then the Bachelors. The upper tier was filled with family, friends and other near-dear ones of the lower tier. The guest-of-honor was some lady and as usual there was some message from her for the passing out students, which bored everyone to death (like usual). Then one-by-one the students starting collecting their Certificates (look like Batons from a relay race) to loud cheers from their side of friends. We waited and then shouted like crazy, and clicked multiple snaps when Ranade saan was collecting his diploma. (The pathetic zoom and low lighting did not help) . The saddest part of the ceremony is that the cancidates cannot leave the hall till ALL other students have had their turn. We then left the arena for a short time and went for a walk and view of the campus around the coliseum. The gymnasium and the swimming pool and some other sporting complex was awesome. But with December vacations in progress and most of the campus crowd home for Christmas there was hardly any activity around. We returned about 10-15 minutes before the ceremony was about to end and then again went out to see all the students fling their graduation caps high in the air. The next hour or so was spent in first finding Nikhil and his co-graduators and then clicking numerous photos on the lawns outside.

We all then went back to their residence and then had some amazing tea prepared in a pressure-cooker !! The quality and quantity was both of the highest order. For the evening dinner we were treated at a wonderful sandwich place close by. By this time there were another 3-4 new additions to the place with another of our friend driving from Austin, brother-in-law of another roommate from Monroe, LA.

There was to be an even better treat when we reached home in the form of a "maifil" by 3-4 singers, prominent among them being Kotasthane, affectionately called as "Popat" by his buddies from COEP. The stage was set with Voice Boxes, Tuners for all the singers to set the room alight with their beautiful rendering of music. Kotasthane was belting out mostly classical numbers or bhajans/bhavgeete with classical base. Panya/Ranade sang a couple of melodious tunes from old Hindi/Marathi movies or from albums of Sudhir Phadke. There was a one-of-its-kind duet from Udayan and Mami which well appreciated by all those who cannot distinguish a Sa from a Dha ;)

There was another girl who sang a couple of ghazals of Asha Bhosale from Ijaazat while another colleague of Ranade's sang Karnatic music which too was soulful though the words did not pierce through. There was also a song by our own Godya, but it was probably only appreciated truly by our Supply-304 gang.

21st December had arrived and also was quite past us when we called it a day.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"THE" Re-Union : Day Two

19 December 2002:
Auburn, AL: TaTe duo must probably returned way past mid-night and the only thing that woke me up at night was an insect which so conveniently after disturbing my sleep went off its own way. All of us were up earlier than usual and usual can be anywhere between 10-12am.
We had to take some print-outs of directions in Houston as we were going to pick-up another school friend, Tejas (on the way ???) who was visiting his distant family.This was a time when the traffic in Bama was least, (lazy buggers getting up late from the night booze and hangovers) and I decided to take up the drivers duty. We had barely started when it started to drizzle and we then started scampering for the wipers.

Rule of Thumb: Whenever you take control of any new vehicle, make a note of its controls. This might have serious consequences.

What might have been with iota of loss of concentration was nothing short of life-threatening. The car was immediately on the pavement and the tires literally skidded and only a violent jerk saved from what would have been a disaster. All the energy seemed to have snapped from my legs and I could feel the shaking right upto my neurotic nerve :D
The next 2 hours compared to the first 2 minutes were almost heavenly as nature did not interfere any further. I was distressed somehow that now I would have to move into the backseat and Kaustubh would have his day in the sun.
Now with a different pupil to teach, driving tutorials began afresh. "Overtake only when there is no car in the left rear-view mirror, change lanes when the car at the rear is seen completely in the main-rear-view mirror" were hummed continuously :)
(Wish we could apply the same driving skills on our roads ;) )

SomePlace Dubdub1, MS: Rat infested colons soon started plaguing us and it was time for lunch. We ate at a pretty nondescript KFC in Mississippi (it takes one second to pronounce this word : statistics had to come sooner than later) and then it was time to give the driving onus to Atul.
Dangerous Moments 1: Within a few minutes and miles of driving we encountered what has been the worst thunderstorm and rain combo that I have witnessed and being a part of till date. With visibility down to a few meters and trucks/trailers/lorries whizzing past we decided to take an exit, seemed an easy solution but easier said than done. We just could not locate the exits and one went through without us even aware of that one. Somehow, just somehow Atul managed to follow the yellow/white lane marking which helped us proceed onto the exit ramp and later onto a Gas Station. We waited for a while till the rain gods smiled and then moved back onto the interstate.

SomePlace Dubdub2, LA:
Dangerous Moments 2: I had just dozed off when I felt the car take a wild swish to the left and then barely saw a ladder on the road before we moved past it. Through the rear-windshield we saw multitudes of vehicles in a near hit-and-miss affair while the Red-Necks from whose truck the ladder had fallen were just taking an exit to retrieve their package. From what I heard, the ladder was tied (quite loosely) on the truck's rear and it just came out from its bindings and attached itself to the road pretty well.

BatonRouge, LA : Just before entering BR, I took over for the last of my allotted driving time suited to a rookie driver. With traffic similar to Atlanta and lanes merging/demerging, it was a test of nerves as I previously driven on near-empty stretches. However I passed the test with flying colors (pat on my own back) and then again it was old school and old roads. We were having just a gala time and reminiscing the past and dreaming about the nearest of futures. With the brilliant arch-bridges over the swamps behind us it was no longer a beautiful sight. Even more, the sun had decided to set early as it does in December and poked me straight in the eye from the bottom-left-hand-corner.Twilight they say is the worst time to drive !!Three hours and a nearing empty fuel tank later, I call it a day and drag my cramped legs onto the back seat for some well deserved rest. With night approaching fast and plenty of distance to cover, Atul took up the wheel for a one last lunge into TX.

Suburban Houston, TX: The roads are a near mess, the road signs have no clear meaning, and road side is as pathetic as downtown AddisAbaba. Welcome to Cowboy Country, Buckle Up, Giddy Up Horsie !! We are looking up one road South and traveling N miles North, then we take numerous lefts, rights, some U's and finally land up close to pick up Tejas. Don't care to know who his relatives were who do not invite us in for a break or a cup-of-water even -XIt is way past 10 and we are now hovering and closing on College Station, our final destination. Roads finally have some signs, correct distances and some light to shed on the above.

College Station, TX: Again there are a series of lefts/rights but we are unable to locate the residence. We finally alight at a MacD's and ask Nikhil to come over to pick us up. Ranade saan and a room-mate make their way in. Its good to finally meet him after 2 and a half years after our miss at Tekdy when he was doing his Co-Op with GE and I was on my way to Niagara.As 19th comes to a close and graduation day nearly begins we enter the twin apartments shared by Nishkeel (another of his names) and his 7 friends. There is another room-mate whose first cousin (her husband would arrive the next day) is visiting as well but there is enough space for all.

Ending Quote of the Day : Agar Dil Mein Jagah Ho, To Ghar Mein To Mil Hi Jaayegi


"THE" Re-Union : Day One

Approx 5 years and 3 months to this date:
Auburn/Clemson/Purdue : We school friends decide to make a Road Trip half the way across the country to Texas to attend our friend's Masters graduation ceremony. He is the first amongst our school gang to graduate and we would not miss this event for anything. Ameya and I have no plans (and money to go with it) to visit India, Kaustubh has just arrived in Fall, Atul too had just visited 5 months back. Our room-mates, all of ours would be visiting Mother India in December and we were going to have a free hand.The graduation date was 20th December and we decided to embark on our journey on 18th December and return by 26th December back to Clemson. 8 days and more miles than one can imagine.

18 December 2002:
Clemson, SC: The day finally arrives when we would be leaving for TAMU (Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA) and we all pretty geared up and very excited for the road trip. It would be the first driving experience for me on the InterStates. (I had earlier driven my aunt's car in Natick much to the displeasure of my uncle). A day before we have been able to convince the rental company to permit us 350 miles per day for an 8 day trip. We had roughly calculated the distances within the state that we would be traveling. Atul and Kaustubh have got some nice gifts for all of us and we take idiotic pictures and amazing poses are clicked as we show them off :)
Atul and Ameya went off to get the rental car while Kaustubh and I cleaned up our home and got rid of the trash by 4. By 5pm we are all seated and ready to roll. Some more pictures are clicked and then we drive off towards Anderson. Atul as expected is in the driver's seat while I was the navigator for the initial stretch. We mess up on the lights and forget to switch them on, mistaking the lights seen on the dashboard as a sign of them being correctly set. We receive a lot of wild stares from drivers and their navigators. We then play around and voila, they are on and the road ahead seems to be much better lighted.

Atlanta, GA : Just passed 7-30 we are in the midst of the traffic in Atlanta and on the ring road it is all chaos. Cars vrooming left, right, changing lanes, cutting lanes (screw the cops) and it is a near edge-of-the-seat thriller. This is the first time I was in a car in such peak traffic and at speeds worthy on expressways here. After about 20 odd mins we are passed the heavy traffic and now enjoying a nice, smooth ride in Georgia countryside (though it was absolutely not visible). Now it is the turn of YoursTruly to take the wheels (steering wheel included) in my stride. Another 15 mins and we are now in Alabama, and for a change the clock turns back to 7:10 as we enter the Central Time Zone. I am having once heck of a time as the traffic has now subsided and we are doing about 60 miles an hour. Not too bad it is till those huge 18-wheeler beasts decide to spoil the ongoing party. I was nearly derailing onto the dirt track everytime I saw them coming close and Atul kept pushing the steering to remain on the main line. Tens of them might have passed after which I got a feel of the situation and then it was just a video-game after that.

Auburn, AL: We reached Godu's place and were extremely shocked to see his roommates (some in pics), all of them on the higher scales of the weight/size/shape factor. We had Bread-Eggs for dinner quite late and then we tried to doze off as we were looking at a 15 hour drive the next day. Ameya and Mr. AnythingPossible decided that this was the best time to play table tennis at a church/chapel nearby !!