Saturday, September 30, 2006

Whoz Te Neighbor?

When I’d said a goodbye to G’s palatial home and landed up at my place, I had no clue about who my neighbors are. My floor was quite desolate, and I saw barely 2 people on a daily basis. Mostly Asians, they were unable to understand my English. Someone said, “I no engliss”, to which I exclaimed, “Oh, I know engliss too”, to correct my “engliss” just in time. A lady kept repeating the same thing I asked, mimicking me. So when I looked for the restroom lights, using my hands to gesture, “restroom, no switch?”, she mimicked me and repeated the same.

I occasionally met my eccentric neighbors in the common kitchen, not knowing what to do but smile. They smiled back too, and boiled noddles and pasta with funny smells. They used their chopsticks with great finesse. Here, I could not even use the dandiya sticks well. I felt lonely, unable to make even basic conversation. That'show the first few weeks went. I went to the department, came home, and went to sleep. Sometimes, I slept for 12 hours straight. My jetlag never left me, it seemed. I hardly met any Indians at the department. The accent others had alienated me. And so did stories of my classmates who spent their weekends fishing and canoeing. The most interesting thing I had come to doing in the weekends in India was watching Ramayana and Mahabharata on television. Certainly not doing "maach dhorte jawa" and "nouko chalate jawa".

I came home one evening, so tired that I did not know whether to cook or go to bed hungry. I climb ed up the stairs unenthused, taking the door key out of my pockets. I opened the doors and froze. 



What are you doing here?

What are you doing here?

I live here.

Me too.



Me in 417.

Me in 418.


Looks like the Thai guy I had met in the department was my neighbor now. A few days back, I was chomping on my rubbery sandwich at the department orientation. He sat next to me and told me how bland he found American food. I always saw him studying in the library, while I was all up and about, excitedly going around Seattle and taking pictures. Now, the same guy was chopping cabbage in my kitchen.

I could not be more glad to find a familiar face.


Friday, September 29, 2006


When you are new to a country, there are these thousands of small things you notice that perhaps others do not. Ever since I moved here, I have been marveling at almost everything I see around me, the buses, traffic signals, and elevators. G decided to call me a “dehati”, since I was awed by everything I saw. 2 months down the line, I am sure I wouldn’t even notice these things.

I had shifted to my new home and I was looking around, trying to figure out the lights in the restroom. G had just dropped me, and a car full of my things that I had bought here. However, I was surprised that there was no light in the restroom. I asked one of my floor mates, “No light in the restroom?”, to which she mimicked my tone, making a weird facial expression, and repeated, “No light in restroom?” It seemed as if she was shell shocked that all this while she had lived there and there was no light in the restroom. Perhaps she didn’t understand my English. Perhaps she didn’t need light at nights in the restroom.

So once again I tried to figure out the lights when I touched the boards on the walls that looked like the electricity meter readers back home. Suddenly, my fingers hit something and the place was flooded with lights.

It is then that I actually got to see the switches. Those were the same stuff that had looked like the electricity meter readers. Here, take a look.

If you needed the light for say 5 min, 10 min, 15 min, or 30 min, you clicked on the necessary button. If you clicked on 5 min, the light automatically went off after 5 min. In the pic, there is this tiny red glow beside the 30 minute mark, that indicates that the timer had been set for 30 minutes.

I found this concept really cool. If someone forgot to switch off the lights, the lights would automatically go off after a while. And if you were done before, you could always use the last button and shut it off.

Amazing concept. Surely there are so many things to learn in this world.


Monday, September 25, 2006

The Mad Search.

I had always marveled at the way my friends lived in hostels while I lived at home. The independence they had would make me go green with envy. I longed to be one of them. I wanted the freedom to be able to stay up late nights and watch movies with friends (and snore the next day in class). I wanted to have a life where I could get back to my room, kick off my shoes, discard my jacket, and settle with a novel while no one would bother me about the mess in my room. I could wear what I pleased, I could eat what I liked, and have all the freedom I did not have currently. 

And then I came here. Thousands of miles away from home, there was absolutely no one to monitor what I did, when I got back, who I hanged out with, what I wore or what I ate. And I thought that was cool. So I kept coming back home and kicking off my shoes, not even bothering to keep them in their place. The towel after the bath would always be hanging from the door knob. And the study table was always strewn with papers. I loved the anarchy. I loved the disorderliness. And I loved the fact that there was no one to boss around.

Come Thursday night and I got a call from G. She is the lady who hosted me when I initially landed here. She told me that we’d be visiting the social security office the following morning and I need to get my documents ready. I hung up knowing that things were already in place. But then, I remembered an incident a few days back when I needed a signature on a form for the SSN from the students office and I was so impressed when they had promptly done it, quite unlike the way it happens in the offices back in India where you are asked to come again and again. What more, they had given me the form in a sealed manila folder, something I found was very cool. I remember telling G about it and then I had shoved the envelope somewhere. And the following day, I needed it.

So while I was planning to spend another of those lonely evenings reading a book, I started to search for the envelope with the little signed paper inside. Where could it be? Where indeed? I was usually not into losing things, but having said that, there have been instances when I have had trouble remembering where I put things. And ever since my departmental orientation started, I have had just too many sheets and papers shoved in my hands, papers that detailed out the departmental research or the class schedules or the lab hours. Papers that advertised for apartments and papers that informed us about weekend activities. Everyday I came home, I would promise myself to go through them and sort them into separate files. But I never really did that.

Today, I needed to look into every paper I had because I was unable to find that single white sheet that I needed the next day. And you wouldn’t believe how many things I ended up doing in that single search. Initially I started looking for it among the pile of papers that had accumulated over the table last week. And that included unnecessary receipts that found their way to the trash can. That included my degrees and certificates that I had let be just like that. I assorted them chronologically and put them in a file. And then I came across the printouts of some poems I had written years back, which were stacked into the drawer. There were letters from friends. There were manuals of my cell phone and my camera. There were scribbling of poems that were never really written. There were grocery lists and lists of things I needed to do the following weekend. There were phone numbers scribbled hastily (and I had no idea whose numbers were those). The evening moved on, and it is amazing how many papers I actually found while looking for that single paper.

I found all the visiting cards strewn here and there. The unnecessary ones again went to the trash can and the necessary ones into drawers. Then there were so many other paper clippings, snaps tucked carelessly away inside text books, phone numbers written here and there. I patiently pinned them on the cork board bulletin in my room.

Half an hour later, my immunization documents were in place, and so were my degrees and the official letters. The text books and the novels no more had papers and snaps tucked inside them. The pen stands were cleaned of pencil shavings. The hair fasteners had found their way to the right place. And so had the face creams and the makeup things. The chocolate wrappers had found their way to the trash can. My study table was actually looking more hospitable and a little less intimidating than what it had the last few days. But the paper was no where to be found.

Next the floors were cleaned of the clutter. The plates had to go to the sink. The chargers and the other devices were off the switch boards now, with their wires neatly fastened. The soaps and the shampoos were neatly placed back in their racks. I had to find out that paper. So next I neatly arranged the books I had carelessly looked into and put them on the table. The copies followed them. If I wasn’t so nervous, I might have actually started to notice that the place looked cleaner. The clothes were taken off the floor and put into hangers. The socks were put for washing. The shoes went back to their racks. And I actually found my chappals from under the bed and finally put them on.

Next my rain jacket, fleece jacket, and denim jackets (all of the three had their sleeves entwined together) were separated from the amorous embrace and folded neatly to be put in the closet. The suitcases had been looked into. I was tired. I was frustrated. I knew I deserved to spend the evening doing better things than hunting for the paper.

The room looked much cleaner now. But that wasn’t god enough. The only remaining area was the bed. So the pillows were soon put neatly, the blankets folded. I even took off the bed spread and dusted it. The papers and books on the bed had gone back to their right places. And there was at last some place for me to sleep. My clothes were rescued from the hinterlands of the mattress. The tee shirt was still no where to be found. My nerves were frayed from the search. Where could one single paper vanish? It had been more than an hour and a half now. Initially I was famished, but I had lost my appetite. I had wasted far more time and energy than was necessary for the search. And I could just not give up. What if I never found it?

Suddenly, like a ray of hope, a thought struck me. Well, I didn’t hope much, but I had nothing to lose. I bent down supine on the carpet, but saw nothing. I had no flash light with me, so with my phone, I tried to see whatever little I could. I bent and squinted and was soon on my belly, stretching out my limbs as much as I could in a strange yogic posture when I touched something. God, let it better be what I was looking for. I was sure I have had enough for the day.

And there amid the dust and a few strands of shed hair came out the envelope I had been looking for all evening. Had this been India, I might have found a few cobwebs and cockroach eggs as well. 

And it is after this mad search for more than an hour and a half that I realized a few things. I realized that it’s high time I got into the habit of putting my papers in proper files rather than deferring them till I actually lost some of them. And most importantly, I realized that it was not that fun to have all the freedom and not appreciate it. With independence came responsibilities, and people who did not realize their responsibilities had no right to enjoy their freedom.

Henceforth, I try to keep my things in place. I try not to clutter my room too much. I try to keep some free space in my bed to sit. And I just don’t go about strewing my clothes and stuff here and there. For it might be fine to wake up one fine morning and realize that the toothbrush is missing, and eventually go to the department without brushing. But the SSN office wouldn’t spare me the next time my credentials go missing.


Thursday, September 21, 2006

Trin Trin Trouble.

Well, you always want to talk to your folks back at home when you are thousands of miles away. But then, sometimes this could be emotionally draining, sometimes weird, and sometimes damn funny. It took me a couple of days after I came here to get myself a phone and a calling card. And the moment I punched in the numbers and heard mom's voice at the other end of the line, I knew what I was in for. I must have guessed it anyway. People are always shocked when you call unannounced, and that too right from the other end of the globe. Somehow I couldn't decipher why she kept speaking so fast. When I asked her to slow down so that I could actually understand what she was saying, her first reaction was...."But it must be costing you a fortune."
Ah, so this is it. And all this while I wondered what dialect of Bengali has she picked up recently that 10 days I am gone and I am unable to understand what she speaks.

Its okay mom, I can afford it once in a while. So you might as well slow down.
Hereafter, the conversation got down to such a speed that I could at least understand what she was saying. But guess what she asks me the first thing?

I hope you haven't put on weight. And I hope you are having the low fat double toned milk and are not hogging on chocolates and meat.

Mom, this is what you have to ask me the first thing? For all you know, I might as well have had a hand to mouth existence, eating one meal a day.

Ah, but I know you too well for that,
she says confidently.

Sighs. Its true, the way I have been eating the chocolates and the fruits and the desserts of late, I might as well join a gym before I am due home.

So the conversation goes back to normal chitchat, including the regular What do you eat? When do you get home? I hope you aren't into late night parties and dating. I kept on sketching a cartoon face as I tried to feign seriousness. For little did she know how lonely and how unsocial I felt here. Not that I was planning to tell her anyway.

Yeah, don't worry mom, I have decided to join a nunnery here. And I am already on my way to join the vegan club.
So that's my mom. And just before I am about to hang up, I give her some latest updates on my recently upgraded standard of living.

You know mom, I got a cell phone with a camera. Quite unlike the one I had back at home which I could use in self-defense, so heavy it was. 
There are not many eve teasers here. So I might as well use the phone strictly for conversation and communication purpose instead of going around hitting people on the head.

A phone with a camera? Don't tell me you have been seeing me all this while.

I did not know what to say.

So that was the gist of my conversation with mom. And then I decided to call up grandma. Well, I should have at least let her know beforehand. The poor lady almost had a heart attach on hearing my voice.

Hello, hello, but you are okay? Are you in trouble?

Of course I am okay. I just called to say a hi.

Well, if that was my intent, I should have kept some ear buds handy. Perhaps she thought that I was calling from somewhere in Pluto, the way she kept screaming at the other end of the line.

Relax, and be a little less loud. I can hear you fine.

Hellooo, helllooo, but it must be very expensive. You keep down the phone.

Ufff, but I can afford it.

But I was just talking in the air. Even before I had had a chance to tell her that I was fine, she had hung up. I looked at my phone. 2 minutes 44 seconds. 

The moment grandma is done conveying the basic information on a long distance call, she hangs up on her own. So after she had asked me if I was doing fine, and telling me that her fever was better, she kept down the phone. Sighs, she never even gave me a chance to say that I myself had fever last weekend.

So that's my family. You call, and the first thing they ask you is if you have put on weight.

Thankfully, dad was the only sensible man around to talk to. But then having said that, I wish he didn't take so long to figure out who I was. And that goes for Munnu as well. What, does it get so difficult to recognize a voice from the US?

I wish the next time I call home, my folks talk to me more normally. And grandma doesn't slam down the phone on her own.


Sunday, September 17, 2006

Se(a)ttled In.

Shifting places is not a very easy thing to do. Leaving home and shifting places is perhaps more difficult. But shifting a country is one of the most difficult things. This happens especially when you have been pampered silly back at home all this while. When I landed in LA and was told that my stuff hadn't arrived, I was scared. I was tired, jet-lagged, and the initial excitement had started to wane. But then, things have a way of eventually figuring out. Eventually. So after another really cramped flight (domestic airlines are worse, trust me), I finally reached my destination at 2 am. The one thing that immediately caught my attention during the land was the way the city was illuminated with millions of lights. It was a breathtaking view. But when you are tired and jet lagged the way I was, you would perhaps not even notice if Tom Hanks was waving back at you. It’s p(h)unny, how sleepless I’d been to be in this place all this while.

Anyway, a lot, and actually a lot has happened since then. The only reason I have been unable to write about them is the simple fact that the library is closed on the weekends till school starts this fall. But just to give you a brief idea of my tremendous progress with things (and I assure you I’d be writing about them in detail later), I got myself a place to stay. Yup, ask me how amazing the experience was to get the keys to your own place. I just had to walk into my room and exclaim, “Wow !!!! This is gonna be my domain henceforth”.

And then I got myself the other stuff, among which are the bank accounts, id card, and blah blah blah. It so happened that we were all tired after hours of walking on the streets trying to find a place, and then we decided to go take a break and hence visit this place for the id card. And the person just asked me to sit on a chair and wait. I thought that it was lunch time, and the person was asking me to wait for another half an hour before he would actually even start to hear out why I was there in the first place. But the moment I sat, I heard a click. Ask me isn’t it criminal to click someone’s snap without even allowing her so much as a little time to comb her hair, apply some make up, and at least put on some perfume?

Anyway, a few visits to Walmart (and the other departmental stores) later, I am finally beginning to settle in. And the first thing I realized here is that it is criminal not to have a camera around. So that is one of the things I bought first. Apparently, the manual that came with it seemed heavier than the actual camera, and I am planning to spend the next few days getting myself acquainted with the manual before I can start clicking. Back at home, I could never imagine I’d be so rich to afford so many things at one go. But then, you need things when you are on your own.

So henceforth starts my life in a new country. I plan to write in detail about the stark differences I found here. Also I am planning to include more of pics henceforth. It’s an amazing place, and it would be foolish not to make best use of my camera. I am also planning to have a shift in address. Naah, I didn’t mean my apartment, I just meant I was thinking of starting a fresh blog since now I am in a new place.

The title of the blog wasn’t a spelling error. Those are my current coordinates.


Wednesday, September 13, 2006

On "Top" Of The World.

Okhayi (and that was the typical American accent I am trying to mimic these days), this would be the final, and the most exciting post about my first flight.

Mumbai onward, I was horrified to find a seat by the aisle. The traveling agent must have screwed up things big time despite my specific instructions that I have never seen a take off in broad daylight and wanted a window seat. And with the crowd out there, I didn't think I'd be lucky enough to get a seat by the window.

It seemed God had made some “air-tight” plans about my fellow passengers. On my right were those 3 seats I so really wanted with a happy South Indian family of husband, wife, and kid. So all I could hear at my right was the howling of the kid who deemed it fit to use his freedom of expression at the apt moment when the plane just took off. This resulted in tremendous chaos, followed by a flurry of Tamil conversations (or Kannada maybe), followed by total mess of the place during their constant eating sessions.

On my right were an old man, another old man, and an old woman. I might as well have been sitting besides a bunch of aliens who could do something better than sleep for most of the flight. This old man besides me soon blindfolded himself and went off to sleep. Breakfast later, the South Indian couple also went off to sleep, making me wonder why they needed a window seat when sleeping was their only priority. I didn't believe it that I was supposed to spend the next 22 hours this way, looking at the fellow passengers hogging and snoring besides me. Eventually the old man woke up and tried starting up a conversation. Initially they were short questions to which I nodded a simple yes or a no. I was not really interested in striking up a conversation with him. I told him how it was my first time on the plane and I wanted a seat by the window but had to end up there. And he kept explaining me how it’d have made more sense to fly to Chicago instead of taking the LA route. God, why couldn’t someone mix some sleeping pills in his food?

Soon, an air hostess came and politely asked him if he would like to shift upstairs, to which he smiled back and left. Good for me, I finally got rid of the seat divider (or whatever it is called), kicked off my shoes, took his blankets and pillows as well, got in an embryonic position, and went to sleep in those two seats much to the jealousy of the other people who were cramped in one. You don’t give me a window seat, and I show you how I pay for one ticket and manage two seats instead.

So I slept for God knows how long, but was awakened by someone. Groggily, I woke up and squinted at the perpetrator to find that he was the same old man. I started to get up.

Hey no, I don’t want to get in. Come with me.

I still didn’t think I understood.

Come with me lady.

Err…. Where? Are you a kidnapper or hijacker?
 I wanted to ask.

Hey, don’t bother putting on your shoes. Leave them like that.

Uhh… so the kidnapper was a shoe thief too?

So I was woken out of my slumber to be carried away to god-knows-where by this old man who didn’t let me wear my shoes. We climbed up the stairs and walked through the business class area. Man, what opulence these people lived in while we middle class people cramped ourselves. Suddenly the business class seemed a proper plane to me and the economy class more like a local train. Must be the old man wanted to show me how rich people traveled. But wait, wasn’t he walking past the business class area?

Come in. He opened a tiny door and motioned to me. I was still confused about his intentions.

You wouldn’t believe, the old man took me to the cockpit and got me introduced to the pilots.

This lady is on her first flight and didn’t get a window seat. So I thought I would show her around.

The co-pilot vacated his seat and motioned me to take it. I was dumbstruck, still unable to come out of shock. I looked at the old man helplessly.

He smiled at me and told me that he was a retired pilot and these were his friends. So while I was sleeping, he was here and asked his pals if it would be okay for me to come up for a while. To which they agreed. Initial introductions made, they went back to chat.

I stuck my nose to the windows again, and man, what a sight. The pilot told me that we were flying over Istanbul, and were soon to cross the Black Sea. My first reaction on seeing down was, “But why are we moving so slowly?” It seemed to me that we were flying over some huge playground at a very slow speed. Common sense prevailed when I realized that it wasn’t a huge playground I was seeing. Below me were hundreds of miles of desert stretching endlessly, and the slowness only seemed because we were almost 11,000 m above the ground. And wherever I saw, I saw sand with occasional patches of something gleaming. Those must have been some kind of rocks shining when sunlight fell on them. And then I saw small tributaries and distributaries of water bodies that meandered about and seemed as thin as hair. Before me was history spread out where thousands of years ago, people had invaded, kings had ruled and civilizations had thrived and perished. In front of me were endless stretches of clouds we were piercing through. We crossed the mountains as if we were crossing mounds of sand dunes.

The pilot explained to me the basic functioning of systems. I was amazed to find that he did nothing, just listened to some instructions, did and undid a few knobs and chatted with us. You wouldn’t believe that he was controlling a plane, a real huge airplane, and hundreds of people below were sleeping peacefully. I saw no steering wheel, no nothing. How was I to know how planes flew? Occasionally he would control a few buttons, and that’s it. There were thousands of knobs and switches over his head, with lights blinking. It seemed more like a spaceship to me. And the pilot seemed as if he was playing some video game on the computer.

So for one full hour, I was allowed to sit besides him and absorb in the sights around me. And like a child marveling at everything on his first visit to the science park, I kept looking at the switches, the machinery, and the sights around me.

When I came back, I just looked at the people still asleep or watching a movie and smiled silently. You’ll never know the sight you just missed buddy.

Yeah, ask me how does it feel to be on top of the world. One of the sights I would never forget even when I am too old to blog. I wondered how many were lucky enough to spend an hour in the cockpit, and that too on their first trip. Trust me, even a hundred good looking men sitting next to me couldn't have matched up to the sight I'd just seen there.


Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Day-To-Day Life.

This one was written during my flight to LA.

It was almost 11 pm IST. But darkness was nowhere to be seen. For almost the last 18 hours, I had been in bright daylight. This is exactly what happens when you moved along the direction of the rotation of the earth. And as I looked out of my window, all I could see around me was a thick, dense layer of white foam, as if it was a huge bathtub out there and someone has emptied all the soap and washing powder in the world. Suspended 36,000 feet above the ground (that is approx. 11 km), all I could think of was- Is that Heaven?

It’d been an eventful day. Earlier that morning, I’d landed in Mumbai. At noon, I touched Europe for the first time. Spent a few hours in Frankfurt, thanks to all the tech problems in the aircraft. After a few hours, I had almost crossed the Atlantic, flying above the rear end of Greenland. Whatever I saw out of the window, I’d seen it before only in the geography text books and in the National Geographic channels. Most of my fellow passengers were either peacefully ensconced in the arms of sleep or were watching some movie. Not me. Even after almost 24 hours on flight, I was all excited, looking out of the window panes. I’d heard people being indifferent about the excitement of flying on air, especially how boring they found endless stretches of clouds. And that was exactly what I spent my entire time seeing. God, those were the most amazing sights I could have seen. And as I cruised westward ho, I knew the daylight would thankfully continue for a few more hours, till I reached the US at least. That’s exactly what you’d call an amazng “day to day” life.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The First Time.

For years, I kept wondering about how it would feel like the first time I would be on air. It’s been amazing ever since I cleared security. I think I never wept a tear as my entire family stood waving at me because everything was so new. I couldn’t wait to board the plane. However, it was past 3 am and there was nothing much to see in the dark. So as I sat by the window seat, I was prepared to “feel” things rather than “see” them. It was just a short trip to Mumbai anyway, and I could always see things during the other leg of the journey.

So for what seemed like a lifetime, I kept waiting. I had got my first mild shock when after being escorted down a closed, narrow tunnel, I found myself directly entering the belly of the plane. I mean I saw no plane, but kept walking down the passage like it happens in underworld movies. Like an excited child, I kept my nose glued to the double window panes. Everything seemed frosty in the darkness. Yet I knew from the slight whirr the moment the plane started to move. Why did I feel that the plane was moving backward? It was weird, since I never knew planes could take off backwards as well. May be the seats were arranged the wrong way. You see, that was the first time, and I was not exactly supposed to know things. So all I could make out from the lights was that the plane was moving backward, and that too very slowly. The runway was beautifully lit with blue and yellow lights. However I did not know if these were the runway lights or the lights from the city.

However, nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. After taxiing for some time, the plane came to a halt. I still had my nose glued to the windows while the man beside me had already attacked his orange drink. Finally, the plane started moving. However, you could not have imagined the speed it gathered in the next few seconds. As it was all dark, I just kept looking at the runway lights to get an idea of the speed. God, it was an amazing feeling. And then, the most unexpected thing happened. I suddenly felt a swarm of butterflies in my stomach while my ears heard nothing but static. And I gasped in amazement, my nose still glued to the window to see that we had already taken off. I saw nothing but lights, more and more of lights getting distant and dimmer. There were millions, blinking and shining, as if the ground below was studded with jewels. I was just behind the right wing and my goodness, they were so huge and powerful. Soon we were out of the city and there was nothing more to see but darkness. So for the next two hours, I kept staring at the blinking lights on the wing, wondering if all this was true.

So that was my first experience on air. I saw nothing, neither the green fields, nor the roads or the rivers. All I saw was the runway and the city with lights blinking like multicolored stars. The city of joy seemed nothing but a crown studded with millions of jewels. It seemed it was Diwali night and there were lamps everywhere. It was breathtakingly beautiful. A sight only the darkness could make me see.


Thursday, September 07, 2006

A 12 Year Long Partnership.

We have been sharing a room for the last 12 years now.

We have spent nights talking and giggling over nonsense things. We have spent nights when I would switch on the fan full speed and she would go switch it off. We have spent wintry nights fighting under the pillows. And when she couldn’t cope with my might, she has woken up in the mornings to go open the balcony doors so that the cold breeze hit my head and disturbed my peaceful slumber. And instead of closing shut the door, I have been a lazy bum, pulling the blanket over my head and getting back into the arms of Morpheus (that’s the Greek God of dreams).

We have kicked each other, urging to take the phone call when it kept shrieking, waiting for attention in the next room. And we have done the same to the ringing of the doorbell. Abbe tu ja, abbe tu ja, last time main gayi thi, last time main gayi thi, is what we kept telling each other. We have hugged each other, feigning sleep while mom kept shouting at us to wake up and start studying for the exams. We have spent nights hearing our favorite songs in the walkman where one half of the headphone would be tucked in my left ear and the other headphone would be in her right ear. We have quarreled about what songs to hear, till we would decide to hear one each from each one’s favorite collection. So while I tolerated the Enrique crap, she had to put up with Jagjit Singh and Kishore. We have kept giggling at inane jokes the whole night, and then feigned sleep when mom woke up due to the noise and came to check on us. We have played silly games like who could burp louder. We have played missed call-missed call, and sent each other silly sms, lying side by side in bed. I have given her missed calls, my hands hidden well under the pillow while she would check it, thinking it to be from a friend. And then, we have scared the shit out of each other with those horror stories.

We have been together in our midnight adventures when we have stolen sweets from the fridge, gulping rasgullas and stuffing our pockets with chocolates. We have made each other the midnight coffee during the exams. And on our respective birthdays, we have woken each other from sleep to wish and give gifts. And when we would be unwilling to wake up on the Christmas nights to exchange presents, we have sung the Silent Night carol in the weirdest of adenoidal tones. We have sung the birthday song in a baritone voice to wake up the other person, all this done without the knowledge of the other people at home fast asleep. And then we have cut the birthday cake, opened gifts, had chocolates, brushed, and gone back to sleep. I have called her silly and foolish when she hung up her stinking socks on the Christmas eve. And when dad secretly filled up the socks with a hundred rupee note, she has called me a donkey in return. And then the next night, I was proved more foolish when I hung up my socks too, only to find it stuffed with shredded papers the next day.

We have slept with our backs to each other when we fought. When she was angry and I wasn’t, I’ve put my elephant-sized legs on her to irritate her. We have kicked each other, taking our turns till one of us got irritated enough to get up and start a pillow fight. And then, we have spent the night hurling pillows at each other. We have tried to bribe each other with chocolates when we forgot to switch on the mosquito repellant and were too lazy to get up and do it. And when I was down with fever, she has woken me up from sleep to feed me dinner, made me gulp those bitter tablets, and has lulled me to sleep again.

I have slept like a baby in her arms. She has snored like a hippo in my arms. We have slept on the floors in summer nights when both of us were too lazy to clean our beds of the mess of clothes and books. And then we have bargained over who would tuck in how much of the mosquito net and who would make the bed. I have slept with those pillared legs of mine over her while she kept kicking me in sleep. And when nothing would do, we have sung songs made horrible by us to disturb the other person. We have played silly games where we would give a word to the other person and ask her to sing a song with that word. And then I have given her words like Rangoon (mere piya gaye Rangoon) and ghonchu (main akal ka kolu hoon ghonchu hoon). And when she would sing a sweet song on moonlit nights when there was no electricity, I have sung a different song at a different scale on purpose to confuse her.

But mostly, we have spent nights switching on the fan full volume and switching it off, and hurling bed sheets and pillows at each other. Not to mention the way I’ve howled like a dog when she would be singing a sweet lullaby. And yes, I have secretly kissed her cheek just to see her smile in sleep. And she claims that she has done the same with me.

Finally, the 12 year long partnership shall come to an end. Henceforth, we shall be sleeping on our respective beds thousands and thousands of miles away from each other. And while she turns in sleep, I’ll turn in my sleep, our respective thoughts laden with memories of these sweet moments frozen in time.

Tonight shall be our last night together.



Legacy is something handed down to you by a predecessor. So while I leave the city in about 36 hours and am busy with the last minute packing, everyone in the family has given me something to carry with me.

Grandma gave me a jumbo-sized b/w snap of their wedding. Both looked so young and head over heels in love, and they made such a handsome couple. Grandma wore a Benarasi sari and looked freshly out of school, while grandpa looked no older.

And then mom gave me a bright steel blue South Indian silk sari dad had got her from Chennai on their 20th anniversary. Sis gave me a collection of CDs that had everything from cartoons to songs and movies. And the most amazing part was that she got me a CD from one of the family weddings copied. It was in the beginning of 2000 when we had been to Kanpur to attend a family wedding. There, we had danced for some 3 hours with the baraat, and everything was there in the CD for me to see. Such nostalgic moments.

And now comes dad’s turn. Guess what he gave me? A small wooden box. No, there was no jewelry or a wristwatch inside, the way they show it in those Titan watch ads with music playing behind. The moment I opened it, I almost stifled a shocked response to find a wooden toolbox with screw drivers, a hammer, nails, screws, and all those things you had last seen in the motor mechanic’s garage.

But dad, I am not gonna be a carpenter or a mechanic there.

Keep it. You never know what you might need out there.

Well, dad has a way with machines. He has a huge toolbox filled with the most amazing things you’d only get to see at a motor mechanic’s place. And then he has this knack for carpentry; he has designed every single furniture at home, and the moment he sees a piece of wood, he would go knock-knock twice and give his expert opinion about the type and quality of wood. I’ve seen him painting, I’ve seen him making furniture designs, I have seen him dismantling machines and then fixing them up. Surely he got himself into the wrong profession.

So now I must carry this heavy toolbox with things carefully taken out of his assorted toolbox collection. Sentiments are involved here, you see. When dad gave me that, it seemed as if he was telling me, “But these are not merely the components of my toolbox, this is my heart I am giving you. Take good care of it”.

Sighs. Legacy, you see. I must get back to my suitcases and take out some of the jeans I bought for myself. I can afford not to take a few extra jeans, but can’t afford to leave these things behind.

Men !!!!


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Once Taken, Twice I Buy.

The women in my family are dangerous. They will cook you amazing food, love you, spoil you silly, and take your stuff. 

I learnt this lesson the hard way. First, grandma came to visit and I was enthusiastically showing her all that I had shopped. She started eyeing a particular handbag that I had bought on sale for hundred rupees. Her eyes were full of adoration as she kept fiddling with the handbag.

"Do you like it? Would you like to keep it?", I asked. 

She needed no second invitation. She grinned happily and stuffed the handbag in her suitcase. The grapevine has it that she has been going around showing that bag to everyone who visits, boasting about the granddaughter. 

On a similar note, I was flaunting my tee shirt to my sister. Being expensive, I waited for months for them to go on sale. Sister started eyeing a nice red and white stripped shirt. 

"Don't you think this would look great on me?", she asked. "You are yet to give me a birthday gift this year."

 And just like that, the shirt went in her closet. 

"Hey, wait! Isn't your birthday in seven months?", I asked. By then, I was just talking to the empty walls in an empty room. 

The next week, when aunt visited us and wanted to see all that I had bought, I lied that I lost the suitcase keys. Once bitten, twice shy. Twice bitten, I must lie.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Consequences Of Splurging.

Someone left a shopaholic into just any mall of the city for one full month. That shopaholic was me.

I finally decided that unbranded jeans were as good as the branded stuff provided you got them at the right place. Surprisingly, they would cost almost one third. So I ended up buying 7 pairs of jeans!

The problem is, 7 jeans weigh what 7 jeans should weigh. And it's not just about jeans. I always thought I wasn’t very organized when it came down to shopping. But now that I look at my suitcases, I realize that I have perhaps got myself everything I would need for the next five years. Thanks to all that extra help and effort by mom, you can find anything in my bags ranging from kitchen napkins to bottle openers. So when I was allotted roughly 70 kg in all by my airline, I was overjoyed that perhaps this way I would be able to carry almost half my home with me. I kept on shopping till I finally decided to start packing.

You know, my suitcases could be used as mono bath tubs as well. So like mini dragons, they kept on engulfing the things I kept stuffing. And then when I thought that I was a little more than halfway through, I weighed them and found to my horror that I was almost more than 10 kg overweight (not me, my bags I mean). There must have been some error. So I borrowed another weighing machine from the neighbor and got the same result. Holy shit !!! And I thought I was only half way through.

Now the trouble was that I wasn’t really sure what would I keep and what would I throw away. Of course text books weighed like baby elephants. So I took out a few books and somehow got within the safe weight limit. But wait, wasn’t I going there to study? Naah, the jeans had to wait. So I put back the books and took out a few clothes. And then I realized that I would need all the clothes in a cold country, but perhaps not as many cosmetics.

So for the whole evening, I have been taking out books, weighing the suitcases, and then putting them back, taking out clothes and weighing them again, and then putting them back and taking out a few utensils and kitchen items, and hauling everything up on the weighing machine. And if this continues, I am sure I’ll need a spine transplant before I leave. You see, I am in a mess. And the idea of leaving anything behind breaks my heart. And you know who has been having the last laugh in all this? My sister, who knows that whatever I don’t take (except books, which she won’t touch) will go to her.

How I wish airlines had no weight limits.