## Saturday, November 23, 2013

### Wait…

…till you hear this.

Is a common phrase.

Not that I use it myself… but it’s good to know it exists!

Anyway, 2013 is coming to an end so here’s something from Fujitsu to celebrate the year that could have been so much more

Given that it was not so, here are some wise words from someone off the web

Be more so!

## Sunday, November 17, 2013

### People I met

I know the title reminds you of ‘How I met your mother’ but you do not have to wait for 8 seasons to know that one right human. People are the most indispensable part of our lives and this post is very specially dedicated to all of them who have been a part of my life in the last few months. That includes the ones who scared me telling that the Visa rejection rates are too high these days before I was going for the interview. One of my juniors took me through a mock Visa interview some two times on the phone, every time stating that my ‘Married+Well Read’ profile is too bad for selection. It seems this is the group which never returns back to the country and have the highest rejections. My actual interview lasted for hardly 30s and I was only asked the following two questions: What do you do? What does your husband do? People don’t stop scaring you if they realize you can be easily scared. Some gave me examples of how in their previous organizations, colleagues were sent back from the transit country while they were going to the States. I was given advices on how to handle the passport and important documents, whether or not to take 2 laptops, how to manage luggage in a new country, how and where to buy things, etc. But I liked the fact that they were, in some form or the other concerned about my well-being.

The first thing that I would remember about this country is its long and wide footpaths, they were bigger than the roads in my country. I saw people walking in formal suits on them, sipping cold coffee early in the morning and all set out to chase their dreams. There were children and adults, irrespective of their age, riding skate-boards or the smart-scooter and bikers had a separate lane for themselves. People drove their black coloured cars (mostly Sedans),  the yellow taxis charged a bomb for even the shortest of rides and the Icecream trucks which ran inside the city brought cheers on faces like mine. There were long buses too and the front part was separated from the back one by some kind of a spring in the middle.

It was one of those days when I was walking to the office and somebody stopped me to give a yellow flower. When I was growing up, Ma taught me never to accept anything from strangers no matter how much good or modest they looked and even if they pleaded. I have followed it all my life but this man was offering me a rose flower with such a gesture that I was not able to say a ‘no’. He then wished me a happy day. I took it to the place I stayed in NYC and there was this Canadian budding actor who told me how to crop the stem so that the veins were not cut and the water supply was proper when placed inside the glass. The flower stayed healthy and fresh for about a week.

It was my first day and I was looking for some Grocery stores nearby. My Superpartner had come along with me for the first time and he told me a bit about the the city and general public discipline that needs to be followed. In the place that I was staying, I met this Doctor from Thailand who told me that she would like to take me to the closest store. While returning, when I started to thank her, she told me that she has been shown this place by another person and that it would be interesting if I kept the chain going. I said that I would try but I have not been able to help anyone till date with  a Grocery store. The ball is in my court now or whatever the common phrase is.

The HSBC office closer to Times Square was really very beautiful. There were people who would stand for seconds keeping the door opened as a ‘Gentlemen’ gesture, they would tell me which are those places I should visit, who were some of the common people we knew inside the bank, etc. There were some dozens of varieties of coffee in the break-out area and I took days just to memorize their names. If you wish to know my learning with the coffee-vending machine, read my non-marketed blog’s post. I met a person who was basically from Taiwan but had stayed in the States for most of her life. She was married to a person who was from China and was also staying in the country for a long time. One day, we were discussing some sensitive topics like Politics, Races and Religion in our respective countries. She told me that she had stayed in China Town (an area in NYC) while she was young and she couldn’t understand what words like these even meant then. But when she came out of China Town, it took her no time to realize what they mean. She was once travelling along with her husband in their car and while they were waiting at a signal, some children who were in the back seat of another car, looked at her, stretched their eyelids and laughed looking at her. She felt so embarrassed as well as awful that day. And I realized no matter how developed or not developed a country is, such things prevail everywhere, in some form or the other. She also told me that their weddings have a strict ‘Only cash as gifts’ custom and unlike India, where Cash is considered to be a gift when you don’t know the person too well or when you can’t take out time for buying the right gift. That leads to the married couple having too many similar items and not the ones they need.

We, in India are vaccinated for Smallpox just after birth and the vaccination leaves a scar on one of our arms. I was wearing some shirt one day which showed up this mark and the Executive from office told me that she observed this mark on my arm and added that she had one too. She then laughed and told me that she wanted to tell this to me right in the morning but was thinking of its appropriateness. She then added saying that perhaps people from the developing countries (She was from one of the Caribbean nations) are given shots of this kind. I just ended it up saying ‘Yes, it has been eradicated and I don’t think this generation gets those shots’. I figured out that two things that people remember about India were its cuisines (the spices!) and weddings (big, fat, grand and Ostentatious ones). They knew Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore. All of them wanted (or had already) to visit India once to be a part of a wedding or to get a glimpse of the rich culture.

I met fashion models, budding actors, artists, dancers, fashion designers, business students and of course tourists, people who were trying to establish themselves in the world, some to study, some to work, people who knew at least 2 international languages (I was an exception and appeared timid before them), all wanting to make it big. I learnt that after English, two most preferred languages were Spanish and French.

Men and women, with freedom for everything constituted this city. The city was enlightening, warm and inviting, active, brisk and happening. Not feeling like bidding it a farewell, instead just want to say, ‘I will miss you’.

### Places I Visited

Well… that was the end of the train journey, the end to roaming around the university and here I’m in Bangalore more than a month after the visit, enjoying a weekend at home, watching movies back to back on Romedy now (Romedy=Romantic+Comedy). I’m going to write more and if you wish to waste your next 10 minutes or so on the blog, please go ahead and read the posts. Else, go out and do something more fun. You might have arrived at this blog thinking this guy might have written some reviews on Windows 8.1 or new cameras, or photography tips. Sorry, they are not present at the moment. Blame him, yes, he hasn’t written on any of those topics.

As the title reads, this one is about the places I visited in NYC, the next one will be about the people I met and hopefully you have already read the one dedicated to my Superpartner. When it comes to places, let me start with the museums first. I visited the Museum of Natural History (near the ‘Central Park’) and the Metropolitan Museum of Art (on the 5th Avenue). Each of them took half a day which amounted to a complete weekend. There were more inside the city – The Guggenheim Museum (this too located on the 5th Ave), The Museum of Modern art (MoMA which is between 5th and 6th Ave), Museum of Sex (again on the 5th Ave and it was on my way to the office and I caught a few glimpses of a jeweled penis through the glass walls among many other funky pieces of art). These were all close to the place I was staying (2nd Ave) and very close to where I worked (5th Ave). If I happen to visit the city again (someday in future), I would definitely like to pay them a proper visit. I liked everything inside the MMA. If you appreciate Art and all its forms, this is a must-visit. If you are choosy about Art, there are other options too. The MNH was amazing, especially the Dinosaurs' section. The Planetarium there was good and the section where they had the man-made representation of animals living in their natural habitat was really (really!) beautiful. I think it would be a similar feeling if I were to watch them live someday.

Central Park has been the biggest park I have seen in my life so far. It was huge, clean and well-maintained. The only confusing thing was its layout or maybe I’m cartographically-challenged that even after going there thrice, I couldn’t guess the layout and came out on a wrong street and Ave as if by default . It happened when I was there with my Superpartner too, we used all possible maps on our phones, analyzed them and yet walked in all possible wrong directions. The photographs that I’m sharing below are from our first visit there. He got super-excited after seeing the turtles and fish inside one of the lakes (too many lakes there, I’ve simply lost count). Apparently, he decided not to bring his 2nd zoom lens (he has only 2) but told me later ‘how clear the pictures would have looked had he used that lens’. One side of me felt sad that he couldn’t do as much as he could have. But on the other side, I was relieved that we could roam around the park without him spending a lot of time shooting pictures. We climbed up to a place inside the park which was a Chess zone; the chairs and desks were all stone-made there. We sat there for a while watching parents’ help their children learn chess moves. We clicked photos of each other too. This is what he says about human photography: ‘Who clicks humans, man?’ As I mentioned earlier, we got so lost that neither the maps inside the park nor the one on our phones helped. We definitely walked some good miles that day but fortunately were not too far from where we had wanted to be when we got out of the park. Also, we managed to reach the Penn station on time.

I realized that the city has many different avenues, each avenue leading to many different streets. For an example, if your office is 15 streets away and 5 Aves down, can you tell me how many possible routes are there to reach your office? I paid a visit to the most sought after Times Square area (as people say ‘the first place to see in NYC’). There was hustle-bustle everywhere. I had read about Empire State building in wikipedia, watched people going there in sit-coms and movies. I was watching ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ recently and Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet there for the first time (they see/hear each other many times before that). It was so touchy to watch it because I had stood in the very same place trying to click a good picture of the city, 86 floors above the ground. I had gone there at noon but this scene in the movie was from evening. The cars on the streets and buildings all looked like toys. I’ve clicked some decent photographs of the city from the building (or so I feel) and he has made some great panoramas from the videos I shot.

Standing too many feet above the ground, I realized what it would be like being an Astronaut, getting to live in a place so far away from Mother Earth. I’ve met and interacted with people from different disciplines but not an Astronaut till date. At this juncture comes my kind request: Please watch the movie ‘Gravity’ if you have not seen it yet. Superpartner watched it after I nagged him too much. He did give his review but his initial statement was just ‘It is good’. I also went to the most coveted Apple Store, was astonished looking at the crowd there and the zeal with which the trainers and sales people worked. A picture from inside the store:

We went to the Wax Museum too (Madame Tussauds). I thought someone was posing for a photograph, so I started to wait and then he burst out laughing ‘You’ve come to the right place’. We had fun recollecting some of the names and shooting pictures. He scolded me a few times for wasting time staring at some of the idols/not adjusting the camera settings/not giving enough space to the passerby's/not guessing some important names/etc.

I went to the NY Public Library too and spent nearly half of my weekday there. The actual plan was to come out in a couple of hours. The Children’s section had books so neatly stacked, all hardcovers and colourful, wish I had access to such good ones when I was growing up. There were DVD’s too, so many of them and a large screen to watch those. If I had more time, I would have watched a fairy tale sitting there. The History, Literary, Comics’ section were just storehouses of information.

I’m reminded of this quote by an anonymous writer here: “I don't want much from my life. All I want to do is, to sit there, alone, for hours and hours, reading all those books, I want to read, watching all those movies, I want to watch, pondering on all those paintings which are too indecipherable to comprehend, and spend those sleepless and aloof nights, just thinking about you and writing about you.”

I wish there were a profession which enabled us doing all this for a lifetime . I went on a Ferry cruise near the end of my stay. It was my first time looking at the city from a boat. I sat on the top floor, right under the sky, wondering if this journey would continue forever.

## Monday, November 4, 2013

### Inside the University

I had always wondered what it would be like studying in a foreign country, interacting with students from all over the world, learning from teachers who have a different accent and teaching style and being in a place with new smell and lifestyle. I found Stony Brook, very very green, quiet and serene. People lived in beautiful Pent houses, maintained their Gardens too well, drove plush black cars and followed traffic signals at 7 in the morning and 10 in the night. People did not judge each other based on their looks, where they belonged to or their backgrounds.

The train station was a small, yet neat and organized one. I had fun inserting coins, currency notes (or bills as Americans call them) in the ticket-vending machines and buying the tickets for the to-and-fro rides from NYC to Stony Brook. He told me how the machines did not accept folded or soggy bills. The bills were okay to understand but it took me days to figure out the coins. I used to simply handover coins to the shopkeepers during the early days (in an attempt to not appear like a fool wasting their time) and they either returned some saying ‘You have handed over more’ or quoted the billed amount again, which meant I need to shell out some more coins. I quickly realized that the Dollars are the biggest by the circumference, then follow the Quarters (\$0.25), Nickels next (\$0.05), strangely Dimes (\$0.10) are smaller than the Nickels and lastly come the Pennies (1 Cent or \$0.01).

He used to take me along to his weekend Shopping place (while he is walking and I’m trying to catch up with his speed running from behind and clicking pictures).

It was a good 10-15 minutes walk from his house to Waldbaum’s. He often cribbed about the insects that we met along the way and which irritated him even with his spectacles on. It is anyways too difficult walking alongside him (he walks too fast) and with the insects flying in his eyes, he made me walk even faster. Somehow I was never troubled by the flying insects but he was always . We passed by a house which had a dog and the dog “always” barked at me. I never saw it outside but there was not a single time when it did not bark when we crossed that part of the street and I know it barked at me because he said it never barked when he walked around there alone.

He says People (people here just means ‘me’) should follow Etiquettes of walking. Man – I have heard of such Etiquettes for dining, living, fashion, etc. but ‘Walking’… only he can come up with such things. That’s what I thought till I read something like this. He told me that I never adjusted the space when we walked, never cared about where the zigzags (the curves on the road) started, have still not learnt how to give space to the co-walker and things like where the leaves are, where the sand is wet, where the grass is overgrown, where there’s a puddle and many more such random stuff. He generally talks about ‘talks and lectures’ when he walks and I treat it like a story said to a child and get amused every time it is said.

I clicked pictures of Seagulls (the ones shown above) in the parking lot around Waldbaum’s and other birds (around the university) whenever I got the opportunity.

Unfortunately, I never saw the Deer(s) which he had seen a few times.

He is a man who prefers entering each and every aisle inside the shopping malls. I tried all kinds of Dairy products while being there. Chocolates and Chewing gums also tasted different from what we get in India. He made me try different kinds of bakery stuff: Bagelfuls, Croissants, Pies, Pastas, Pizzas, (fruit) Turnovers, etc. They were indeed ‘happy hours. I enjoyed eating trail mixes, cut-fruits with him while we listened to good Sher-0-Shayari.

We took the University buses whenever and wherever we could. I saw a lot of women drivers, all driving very effortlessly and at the same time cautiously. I really wanted to take a few videos inside the bus where the women drove and how the passengers greeted them, only to show it to the people here whose eyes pop-out when they see women drivers around. Though things are slowly changing in Bangalore and the ratio of women drivers on the road is steadily growing, it is still nowhere close to where we should be. I once heard a friend saying ‘There are two kinds of learning licenses. One is the normal learning and another is the Ladies learning’. And he laughed very loudly after that.

We went for small walks inside the university and he showed me the different departments and the place where he works. I sat in his office a couple of times, played with the chalk pieces, checked out the random collection of books, played ‘Temple run’ or ‘Angry Birds’ on my phone and bugged him with questions while he typed Problem sets and Solutions for the students.

He always accompanied me to and from the train station, figured out the suitable bus times much in advance and was punctual, which was not a good thing because the trains were most of the time not! But as they say, all Good things come to an end, and before I could have opened my eyes for another sunrise, more than a month had passed and I was back in India waiting for the cabs, discussing traffic of the road, listening to another story of corruption on the television, another strike, shortage of water and electricity, and the list goes on…

Happy Diwali