September 23, 2007

NRI to ex-NRI

On 10th Septemebr 2007, I landed back on indian soil after a six month long stay at Los Angeles starting 10th March. The trip back to India was better than expected, Singapore city tour organized by Singapore Airlines and the roaming with my friend and her husband in Singapore Metro rail was enough to spend the eight hours delay time between the flights. By taking the transit pass in Singapore, my passport now has the seal of one more country other than US!

While landing in Chennai, I was thinking about what one of my managers who was settled in US told. Only when you land back in India you will feel how better the US actually is, how good the infrastructure is and how better the roads are. But while in the car, I felt as if I landed after a domestic trip and found everything normal except for the noise outside (of automobile horns). Its true that later on, I came closer to reality when I had to fight hard with the Chennai mosquitoes to sleep!!But none of these small inconveniences could overcome the comfort I felt for being in my home country, being able to eat Dosa-Idli for breakfast and rice for lunch, and being able to walk un-afraid on the roads where you are never alone.

From another perspective, life becomes tougher when you are back here. Travelling in Chennai buses is horrible as you have to struggle to find leg space, compare it to the big spacious air conditioned Metro buses in LA!. You obviously start missing the all-time-pleasant climate and the cleaner surroundings in LA. The simple courtesies of life - of saying thank you and opening the door for a stranger - makes a lot of impact on your daily life. Back here its a cat race where everyone is in a hurry to get ahead, yet we say life is faster in US!.

On this Sept 21st, I am four years old as a software professional. I felt really happy and contented while walking through the roads near Satyam, Thousand Lights, and the CSI building which was the training center for my first job. Those were enthusiastic days, time of curiosity to find out what the job of a software engineer was and preparing best to do that dream job well. I felt proud for reasons not unknown, probably the thought that I have achieved what I have never thought about when I started my career, which kept my spirits high while walking through those roads again.

To check how the old places have changed, I went to T.Nagar shopping area near Ranganathan street. I was in the Titan watches showroom inquiring about some of the expensive models, the sales guy looked at my company ID and asked "are you working for XYZ company?". I got amused, I did see the guy looking at my Id card to read the company name but it was surprising that he knew about my company. Has my company name become famous in India while I was in US? With pride and lot of self esteem that I am working for one of the top MNCs I said "yes". Then came the next question: "what is the fees for MS office training now?". He had, as any local Chennaite would, thought that I am from the popular local training center with the same name!! I quickly concluded my browsing of the premium watches then and there and ran out of the showroom with a quick explanation of what the three letters on my ID card meant!. Later, I found myself happy that not much has changed here while I was out of the country and this city!

August 15, 2007

TWTWT: The Weekends That We Toured

We learn a lot of facts from our text books in school and forget most of them in due time. But there are some tidbits from these books that make a permanent mark in one's memory. I still remember a picture in my primary class text book, of a big tree that is hollow near its root with a car inside it! I had the chance to see these trees in real during this weekend at Sequoia National Forest.]

The trip was a two day weekend outing to Kern river valley starting on Saturday morning 5.30!, first time I was awake this early here in LA after my jet lag days. We first went to River's End Rafting at Bakersfield. They take you to a place some what upside of the stream in a bus, and after rafting will collect you from end point and bring back to the initial place in the same bus. The rafting was my first experience and was a decent one though not very exciting as the water in the river was less. We had a detailed lecture on classification of stream currents called rapids from one of the guys with us who is actually the coordinator for the event. By 12 O clock we started from the rafting place for boating and jet-skiing at Lake Isabella, and then for camping at one of the camp grounds. Most of the camp grounds have the stream near-by, we did enjoy the bath in the stream. For me, it brought back memories of our trekking to Deviyar while studying at school. First event on next day morning was a trekking on a near by trail, and then we went to the Trail of 100 Giants in Sequoia National Forest Area. While returning in the evening we visited the Red Rock Canyon in Mojave desert, and managed to be back home at 10 O clock night as per the plan.

I wanted to visit San Jose and San Francisco but thought it would not be possible for me in this time, but then I got this call from Anoop to visit these cities last weekend. He wanted to visit some of his friends, only two of us were in the final trip though the initial plans were to have more people. Anoop was the only driver for the trip to San Jose, we took only five and a half hours though he was complaining about the pulling of Kia brand rented car. I liked San Jose the moment we reached there, it had the serenity of a small village but actually was the silicon capital of the world with offices of all major and minor companies one has ever heard. Added to that was the taste of food at Spice Hut, one of the many Indian restaurants owned by a partnership of mallu and tamil guys. I am not really sure if this one is the best South Indian restaurant out there, but I would recommend it for every mallu in San Jose.
By evening we left to San Francisco with a friend of Anoop. The road from San Jose to San Francisco goes through some of the places which I have only heard before with respect. Sunnyvale, Mountain View which has Google HQ, Stanford University, Oracle HQ and University of Berkley were some the land marks on the way. We went to the Golden Gate Bridge on the same day and stayed with two other friends of Anoop in their apartment in downtown. I found the San Francisco downtown streets the most scariest of all I have ever seen in my short stay in US. We went to Napa Valley the next day morning, it is a scenic place with full of wine yards and wineries. We visited Artesa Winery which is on top of a hill, the view from their was superb!. The return journey which started in the afternoon from San Francisco ended when we reached LA at mid-night, I was fully exhausted but was happy for not missing these wonderful places before I start to India after two weeks.

July 19, 2007

Velluppa - My Grand Father

While walking towards my office today morning I got a call from my brother back in India, I was a bit worried when I took the call at an unusual time. He was calm when he told me that Vellupa, our dear grand father has expired. At first I was a little shocked, I thought I will cry but I did not and I am surprised at the numbness I felt and is still feeling about it.

Velluppa, my mother's father was the one who looked after me till the age of five when I stayed at my mom's house. My mother got employed in government service as soon as my younger brother was born, she found it difficult to leave both of us at home while she went to work. I was a very troublesome kid then, so she had left me with my grandmother and grandfather. I lived with them for quite sometime (I do not remember how long), till I was five when I started going to school.

My grandfather was one of the most humble and soft spoken personalities whom was acquainted with in my childhood, and I am sure he has gifted me some of this behavioural traits to me as well. But for the naughty kid I was, I still remember the many occasions when he has beaten me for creating problems. And I still have good memories of those days when he took me for the daily walk and the trips we have made to Kara Vakkadapuram and Kodungallur Bharani, specifically I remember the incident when I lost one of my chappels in a crowded bus while returning from Kodungallur.

I know no other person who loved walking as much as he did. He used to get up at five in the morning everyday and would go to a teashop in town to drink tea, and then for his morning walk. While he was still working as a teacher in the near by primary school, he used to walk long distances after his job hours. After he was retired, and got affected by old age illnesses, he was forced to discontinue his morning walk by doctors and his children. But still he continued his evening walk, as he did not have many friends of his age he started making a trip to nearby houses of his son and daughter after his usual visit to the village market.

He always wore white shirts and white mundus, he was an orphan from childhood and had only one elder brother who is no more. His wife, my grandmother also expired ten years ago while I was studying in 10th class. I am sure he became alone after that, though he stayed with his elder son and grand children. Even being that old, he still had a good health and vision, only disability was with hearing and we had to talk loud to him. My mother used to tell that his good health was due to the walking that he did all his life and she used to encourage us to do the same.

It was one of these evening walks during last week that he got hit by a cycle and got admitted to hospital. He had to undergo a head operation two days back, and was improving in strength. But he left us last night when it was raining heavily as told by my brother. The news was not a surprise to me as I new that he was in hospital, but I am still surprised at the numbness I feel towards it. Am I slowly changing to the American way of living where you have no time to worry about anything else but only you?!

July 17, 2007

LA Experiences - Epidose 2

Its been four months since I have landed in Los Angeles and I have roamed around for quite some time, but I have only one entry on this blog about LA. So with a broken wish that will never again be fulfilled, here is a second list of itinerary before I forget what I did.

Of all the things that I have enjoyed here, the visit to Sixflags will unarguably be the best and unforgettable experience in my life. The roller coasters there rotated me in all the directions which my mom would have done while I was a baby. The rides Tatsu, Xtreme, Dejavu Superman, Riddler's Revenge etc gave an experince that was thrilling and unexpected. After the visit to Sixflags, the Universal Studios trip was not so exciting though there were some good shows like Waterworld and some rides like Mummy returns. And there was a trip to Sandiego for Seaworld and then again for Sandiego Zoo's Wild Animal Park. While the first was good, the latter was a waste of time and money. The list of parks was completed yesterday with a visit to Disneyland, it was a wonderful experience and for a kid its always "where dreams come true". The fireworks they have at the closing ceremony makes an experience of a lifetime. I did also visit the Peterson Auto Museum and Natural History Museum during this time.

Other than the the theme parks, my usual hang outs in LA have been restaurants. I have tasted quite a variety of food by now, thanks to my colleague who was generous enough to take all of us to these places. If I put the hierarchy of tastes I liked, it will be in the order - Thai, Italian, Chinese, Mexican and then American! Yeah, I also found that none of these tastes are as good, nor does have the variety that Indian food provides. I did taste Srilankan and Pakistani food also, but these are actually Indian food in different name!

The climate in LA now almost same as a typical Hyderabad climate during start of summer. But unlike in India where people wait for Summer to get over, everyone enjoy the climate here. They have special barbeques in offices on first day in summer - yeah summer has an official start date here!

It is less than two months for my date of departure, and I am eagerly waiting for it. But during this time I may go for a trip to Las Vegas though I feel its not a must see tour. So let me conclude this post with a punch line in Hollywood style, "Las Vegas, here I come!".

April 08, 2007

Balle Balle Hyd to LA

The previous post titled "Long interval" was to put an end to the long interval for which I had written something on this blog, but that turned out to be an excuse to take another one!

But this time I have enough justifications though. After big confusion and tension, I decided to travel out of India as part of my job and here I am, writing this very line from Los Angeles - the entertainment capital of the world. Obviously this has been one of my most awaited moments in my life and something which I was looking forward to from the day I started my career three and half years ago. And yes, life is quite different on this other side of the globe.

It all started when the Chennai US consulate decided that I am fit to be in US of A during my second appearance for the visa interview. I had already planned my visit to Kerala after the interview and the trip was good with me being the next-lucky-guy to go to US next week, the 9th of March 2007.

The international travel in Singapore airlines was another first, when I realised that treading half the way around globe is quite different than the usual one hour domestic ones. The latter is short and simple while traveling a full day in the sitting posture on that "less comfortable economy class" is difficult. And since you have started it, there is nothing doing until you land at your destination as an alien!! Even after having two stoppages at Singapore and Tokyo, I found the travel tiring.

Out here in LA, things are amazing for this newcomer. The first trip from airport to apartment in yellow cab on freeways, the orderly fashion in which the streets are planned, the roads are built and operated, the red and orange Metro buses which look better than the best "videocoach" in India, the line discipline on the roads, the fire engines and cop cars which rule the roads, the occasional bikers with best-of-its calls bikes were things to get used to. This place has all the characteristics of a developed country. The luxury cars you would dream of in India with mostly single occupant, beautiful houses with no sign of occupation which gives the feel of a postcard picture or a painting, skyscrapers in downtown are few examples. The city has a good bus service which charges you one dollar and a quarter for any trip you make. We use the monthly pass for the trip to office which needs two buses. Then there is the 9-1-1 service of which you get amused at first and then reminded of always by the sight of fire engines in the road and the sound of fire alarms at night. I have my colleague who was served two times in two weeks since he reached, once by accident and once in real emergency! And lastly yeah, I can see the famous Hollywood sign if I get out of my apartment!

But everything is not as cozy as they show you in Hollywood movies. There are many beggars around in streets, whom they call here home-less. They tend to wear all they own on their body, so look fat and stinks at one mile distance! People say they are dangerous too, especially at night and when you are alone. I am not sure why such rich a nation who have aid fund allocated for the whole world cannot manage to give shelter to all of its people!

Of all the things that I will learn with my USA experience, I think my cooking skills will be the most polished. Though there are some Indian restaurants around and places like Artesia - a mini India with restaurants and theaters which show Bollywood movies, they are not easily accessible and are costly. So we are depending on the desi stores which sell Indian groceries and food where you will get all you want to experiment in cooking. And these are places where they sell Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi food together and people form all these countries do not think twice while buying!

The first two weekends were busy ones with a travel to Cachuma lake for camping and Seaworld Sandiego. Both trips were really amazing with lots of new experiences. And a trip to Hollywood street completed the first month roaming.