Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thanksgiving :)

I know I have a LONG list of imperfections, a never-ending list of the stuff I do and say and don't do and don't realize. But I am also lucky enough to have an equally long list of friends. Who see the imperfections. And love me anyways. Who don't judge, who don't plan how to change me, or crib about me to other people.

If ever in your life you have thought "that Kriti, she is ___, but she is like this only", thanks - you know who you are ! :)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Rant-1

Yesterday, I ate a good frozen paratha that told me how my standards are falling. Does the best you can get ever qualify as good ?

And one full tomato. Just like I did in India. Slice up a tomato, put some salt and eat it. Can't do that here, tomatoes are fuckin expensive. You have to think before you eat :(

And I had one full tomato for the first time yesterday. Raw.

And it tasted bad :( Dry, crumbling, non-juicy, and non-sour. Not like the tomatoes back home

I want home food. Good food. Good vegetables, and good parathas. The good stuff. Why is that too much to ask for ? :(

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Partner

No, not the movie, the term - partner. Christina at Feministe thought the whole “girlfriend”/”boyfriend” thing a little silly, and the word “partner” annoying and confusing.

She asks "How do you introduce your Bedfellow? Other Sidekicks you’ve had? What was the best/funniest/most syllabic term for S.O. you’ve ever heard? If you wanted to make the worst impression possible, what term would you use?"

Some of the answers from the comments :
  • “Hi, this is Jim. Jim and I are ‘it’s complicated’ on Facebook.”
  • Shagpiece
  • Temptress
  • “So, this person who lives with me and what not….”
  • StableBoy :D
  • So - sambo.
  • sigoth, for significant other
  • My sweetie. :)) -- ha ha, imagine saying "Hello, I would like you to meet my sweetie XYZ"
  • Beloved !!!
  • “I’d like to introduce you to My Complication”
  • my oldest child
  • POSSLQ (Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters).
  • “This is my….this is…..this is Bob.”
  • “this is my current romantic involvement, [name]”
  • sig fig. (Short for Significant Figure, which, yes, is a dumb chemistry joke.)
  • Equipment Operator.
  • my Special Lady Friend.
  • "this is my euphemism, steven”
  • Boy Toy
  • Super Friend - I like this one :)
  • "This is the boy that I’m kissing.”

Awwww

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Fire and Ice

A fire alarm rang out in Wean Hall today, and the building was evacuated. Around a 100 students and faculty stood right outside the Wean hall entrance, waiting to be let back in.

Everyone was waiting, everyone had nothing to do.

Suddenly, there was a scream, and everyone turned to look what happened, what was the problem ?

And then out of nowhere a white ball came flying and crashed on the ground.

Snowball fight !!

Random people started making snowballs, and throwing them into the crowd. Duck, pick up snow, make a ball, throw, duck. At any point in time, there were around 2-3 pretty white balls flying in the air, 2-3 people ducking, and many more bending over, patting snow into place. A 100 people, maybe 25 aggressors, and 75 "innocent" victims, who were too busy to notice that there was a fight until they got hit, and joined in as well.

A beautiful sight indeed. :)

Thursday, December 06, 2007

First Snow Fight

My first snow fight, with no gloves, and a bad cold and throat infection.
The worst of ideas are always the most fun !

Its -8 degrees Celsius in Pittsburgh now, and even a long coat with a sweater and muffler and cap and gloves and boots are not enough to keep me warm while I wait for the escort. I need to be in California in January and February !! ( The snow makes the cold worth it somehow though)

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Thanksgiving

It was a night of firsts.

Snow, the soft pretty flakes that melted when I tried to touch them, feel them, figure out what they were about, they made me want to cry cause I wanted to know, and understand, but they just disappeared. And still they kept falling, and kept staying still on the roads, and the leaves, and even on my jacket, just not on my outstretched arm. The snow fell on my face and disappeared, but never let me really figure out what it really was. I guess I will have to wait for January when snow will be all I see everywhere :)

And thanksgiving shopping, the mania, the consumerism. The night I wanted to buy everything, the night I realized that grad students are in fact quite poor :) Gap, JCrew, American Eagle, Martin and Osa, Guess, Eddie Bauer - the thrill, the mania, the depression all got mixed up, and I still haven't recovered :( May this night be my first and only shopping binge.

Missed the turkey though, will have to wait for next year now for tofu-turkey. :)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mladen & Jose's Housewarming Party


It was a surprisingly warm night, with the windows all open and the AC turned on. There was pretty red furniture, and candles and gorgeous lamps. And there was cheesecake, and chips with salmon and cheese and spinach dip. And Baileys and milk, and Coconut Rum, and Vodka and Orange juice.

There was talk about how chikoos and pears taste similar, and advisors, and Columbia, and Linux penguin earrings, and restaurants in Pittsburgh. There was salsa being taught, and dancing to "Hit me Baby one more time". And then there was more talk and laughter.

We didn't pin the tail on a real Croatian, and no one was evicted after all, but it was a superb night nevertheless. :)

Monday, November 19, 2007

American Gangster

Good v/s evil, drug addiction, a black man learning from the Italian mafia, street fights, the importance of subtlety, and of covering your bases. That was American Gangster.

It was followed by a soup dinner at Rock Bottom Cafe. And a promise to myself to buy and wear warmer clothes. Brrrrr.

Light Up Night

Friday night was 'Light Up Night' - the night when all the Christmas lights are lit up in Downtown Pittsburgh, the Christmas tree is decorated, and Santa makes his FIRST appearance. Its like a 'mela' in downtown, street vendors selling green and blue light sabers, and street food like funnel cakes, and fried Oreo cookies and corn dog.

Families are all out on the streets, Macy's has a big display of fairy tales (this pic is of the Cinderella doll and her price charming, both of whom were surprisingly ugly ! ), and there are many ginger bread cakes made by local chefs being sold for charity.


There's also fireworks, and the ice rink around the Christmas tree looks gorgeous. Sivaraman wanted to ice-skate, but all of us were too cold, so we had to say no. Sorry Sivaraman !


I went for Light Up Night with the usual gang - Mladen, Gorana, Beena, Ramnath and Sivaraman, and it was a fun Friday night indeed :)

Advice

http://www.apaonline.org/publications/newsletters/Vol07n1/Feminism/08.asp

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Camping Trip

Shenandoah National Park - my first camping trip, first trip to see the Fall Colors. Ramnath, Beena, Mladen, Gorana and I - 5 people in a car for a 5 hour drive to the national park, where we planned to camp and hike.

The park was soo beautiful, all the trees were red and orange and yellow and green, and the sky was soo blue. It was breathtaking. And it was also v v cold !!


We reached there on Saturday at around 12 pm, and first had a picnic lunch at the camp grounds - bad brown bread that was as hard as stone, with tomatoes and cheese and juice and yoghurt.

We then went on a hike through a small section of the park, and on our way back, we decided on the perfect camping spot.

Got our stuff, and went back, and camped !! I "built" my very own tent, it was super duper cooL !! I could lie down in my tent and see the stars, and the spooky leaves.


And then Ramnath cooked dinner - but putting water in dehydrated food and cooking it and it was actually quite nice :) And we roasted marshmallows on the fire, and ate them with chocolate.

The next day we packed up, and went for some more hiking, before we returned to civilization.

All in all, the perfect weekend.
Except for the tattoo that I almost got. But then I didn't :D And thats another story :)

Desh - Videsh

Dancing with dandiyas at Navratri, Indian clothes, paneer makhni, and garlic naan, performances, singing, diwali pooja, 2 year old Bhangra music and a 100 people dancing like crazy.

No family though, and isn't that what makes all the difference?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Can't wait ....

To buy a new white-board for my home. :)

Weekend

I went partying with Karan and some of his friends. We went to Tequila Willies and Privilege, both at Strip District, and a house party, followed by breakfast at Eat-n-Park. Awesome Fun !!

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Heroes-2 has started, Hiro Nakamura is back !! I'm soo happy !!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Chicago Trip

Went to Chicago to meet Reena on the weekend. Sapna came from Seattle as well, and it was an awesome one-third-MM reunion ! :)


I reached Chicago at 12, and we immediately went to the Bahai temple. Very pretty, and very big, though not as impressive as the Lotus temple in Delhi. Very quiet though, cause there was only 1 other person in the temple, so very conducive for silent thought.

That was followed by an awesome picnic lunch in a garden, and then we went to a beach !! Played in the sand, clicked a LOT of snaps, and laughed a lot at the most ridiculous of jokes - its amazing how good friends can make your sense of humor fall to amazingly low levels, where anything and everything seems funny !

We then went to the John Hancock Observatory on the 94th floor, which had a super-duper view of the whole of Chicago and the lake as well.... and then roamed around all over Downtown, gaping at the shops, and the buildings, and all the people. Unlike Pittsburgh, Chicago actually a crowd on the roads - which felt really good !! Went home to some superb pulao dinner, and fun conversations.... missed 209, and the rest of the gang though.

The next day was the Millennium Park with the "kidney bean" and the "water fountain with the man and the woman". And then right next to the planetarium with the water and the skyline. And Navy Pier, which was like an Indian Mela - people, rides, junk jewelery, food stalls, and funny hats :)

Saturday food was poha, sprouts, and pulao. Sunday lunch was prawns, bhindi, daal, dinner was gobi and dahi curry. Almost everything made by Yogesh. All of it awesome ! Had superb homemade food, cooked and served to me after so long, felt so good :)

The weekend ended way too soon, the week and all of its work and homework started way too quick. Here's hoping that many more fun weekends are here soon.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Danish Feminism



http://feministing.com/archives/005773.html

We demand: respect, equal wages and orgasms.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dogbert

If it isn't immoral, it probably won't work.

Dilli Ki Nagri

Why do I miss Delhi so much? The lab, the katta, the steps where I cried, the fountain where we all sat and had chai? TC, Big Chill, CP, Sardarji ka Dhaba, our rooftop ? I miss Tejaswi in Delhi, and Akshat and Kudrat ! And Kudrat's friends and the IRL folks. Even Handa !!

The application process, the recos, the alphablox and J2EE code. The interview studying, the SOP writing, VLDB demo, the canceled trip to Himachal, the trip that happened to Lansdowne.... The last minute Delhi-tourist trip - Red Fort and Lotus Temple, and the valentine's awkward awkward trip to the dancing fountains. :) Even the maggi counter in Delhi has soo many memories !!

The walks through IIT, giggling for the CMU admit while walking for 45 long minutes, crying for the people lost, embarrassing friends, stopping people walking away. The peacocks, the aunty ki meethi meethi chai. The airport, the uncle at the airport saying goodbye, the yellow car, Dhingra uncle, the chill, the barbeque, the crazy crazy crazy times. Packing for the Google interview. Worrying about what to wear for that first meeting, searching for a decent salwar-kameez !! :))

And cold, always cold. Oh so cold. And the snuggling up in the rajai. And the shopping at Sarojini Nagar for jackets. And all the trips to Big Chill. Soup and chocolate. And the warmth. The red tshirt I wore to my dance practice. And buying water on the way home. Home. My home. And TC. The last night at TC. When everything was going so wrong, but it really wasn't.

And breakfast and tea on the roof. And sunbathing :)) And cooking. And driving through Delhi, singing Aadat and Tere Bin. And Diwali Dhamaka. Dancing, shopping, and acting.

Hazaaron Khwahishyen Aisi in loop. Followed by Omkara. In loop again. And the bonfire at Lansdowne. And being sooo lost. Still lost.

Everytime I think of Delhi, there's a rush of snapshots that go by. Each one more intense than the other. Moments that cannot be forgotten. Make me wonder how did I survive it all ? And how is it still some of the best times of my life?

Joy and tears, stress and fun, work and break. Very intense. Very very missed !

Friday, September 07, 2007

Orientation

So one of the major things happening in the past few days has been our department orientation. Professors from the CS department give research talks on their current interests for 30 minutes each, and if you get interested in something, you talk to the Professor about being his student.

So I heard about modeling human motion, and the ripples on human skin while they do tasks, about Data Intensive Super Computing, about creating a 3D view of a scene from a single 2D image, about analyzing virus genomes, and modeling biological evolution, about creating a machine that truly "understands" what it knows, and the techniques of speech synthesis, and interactive tutors, and multi-lingual question answering, and so much more.

And each talk impressed me more than the others, and as each Professor talked about his vision of the future, I got more and more excited about working in their specific area. In spite of all the exciting events I have been to in the past few days, attending the IC orientation talks has been the MOST EXCITING event by far !!

Updates !!

Was busy the whole week with homework and "parties". The homework has been ... well, homework, but the events at CMU were very interesting indeed !

Last weekend, we attended a GSA party at Ava Lounge, which was awesome !! We reached there at 10:40-ish, and they were serving Ethiopian food - which had kaali daal (v spicy) !! I have not seen any other cuisine that has daal, so that was cooL! Then there was something which was exactly like a dosa but rolled up, and some 2 non-veg dishes with vegetables, in a spicy gravy again, and with steamed rice - exactly like Indian food ! There were 3 dance floors, and we danced like crazy for almost 3 hours !! We finally left at 2 am, and found our way back with great difficulty cause cabs stop service at 2 - a not-so-exciting end to a very fun night :)



Then there was my very first Potluck at a CSD grad student's house, where I took cake, but it turned out that 15 of the 25 people had got desserts as well.... good lesson learnt - don't get dessert to a potluck !

There was also an IGSA party, with games and movie (Chak de India), and some food as well - met a lot of people I had met in the orientation from the other departments - was a lot of fun !

Then I attended the Women@SCS Potluck - which was in a very pretty home with a very pretty backyard, that was all decorated with candles for us. And there was the biggest, yet nicest dog - Max - who was so friendly, I forgot to be scared after some time !!

And then there was the SCS IC hike to Linn Run division of Forbes State Forest. We walked, and talked, and had a lot of fun !!

And I just attended a party in honor of Sharon Burks at the Phipps Conservatory, which was very very pretty. And they served the nicest food ! Strawberries and pineapple slices covered in chocolate, and broccoli and red bell peppers with rich ranch dressing, and sushi, and meatballs, and some exotic cheese-based dishes. And there was wine and cheese as well ! And the conservatory itself is beautiful, with a glass exhibition set up right in the middle of all the plants, the muted and varied shades of green, contrasting with the bright reds and electric blues of the glass snakes and balls lying all around.

There have been more events, but I forgot them now. The habit remains.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Paneer !

2 litres of milk that got spoiled today, that had to be boiled and filtered and cooked into paneer bhurji.

That was the highlight of my day so far.
From those to whom much is given, much is expected.

From http://www.gatesfoundation.org/MediaCenter/Speeches/Co-ChairSpeeches/BillgSpeeches/BGSpeechHarvard-070607.htm

Monday, August 20, 2007

New Home

Finally our new home in Pittsburgh has been set up.

We have mattresses and a couch and a desk+chair, and a fan and lots of really pretty lamps, and also a lot of gadgets in the kitchen - microwave, dishwasher, sandwich maker, blender, BIG fridge, etc. etc. It looks AWESOME !!

This is our living room :




This is my room :



And finally this is the kitchen :

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Friday Night

Today was pretty much my first real Friday night here, and I went out with Alankrita, Ramnath, Jose and Daniel to Station Square. We listened to some live music at the square, saw musical fountains, had pizza at Louie Bar, and finally, went up the incline of Mount Washington to see Pittsburgh. And when we went up the incline, some baseball match had just got over, and there were some brilliant fireworks display going on for 15 minutes !!

That was fun!

Differences

As we waited for our bus to CMU, I saw a car driver pass by, with what looked like a bottle on the top of his car. And when he turned at the intersection, of course the bottle fell in the middle of the road, and juice started spilling out all over... while he still drove on at 80 kmph, or whatever speed he was at...

And Alankrita and I were shocked to see such a callous act, especially in the US of A. I thought that maybe the driver or passenger was drunk, and thought it was a funny thing to do. But then Alankrita had a better explanation - that the driver was drinking juice as he came out of a grocery store, kept the juice on top of the car while he loaded his groceries, and then sat in the car and drove off, forgetting the juice on top, where it stayed till the first turn.

Her theory was soon validated when we saw the driver stop 200m away from the intersection, looking back trying to figure out what had happened. Then he drove off.... and we saw him a minute later, as he turned and came back, parked at the side of the street, and came to the middle of the intersection, to pick up the bottle that he had dropped.

This happens only in the US.

Friday, August 17, 2007

CMU Campus

Well, to be honest, CMU doesn't seem to have a campus, just a whole lot of buildings, since it doesn't have a campus boundary wall at all. But then again, it has this largish lawn, with trees in between the HUB and the University Center building - almost like a park ... which is the closest to an identifiable campus-like area.

And today evening, while I walked through it, in search of my own building, I crossed under-grads playing ball, and frisbee, and other students walking along, talking animatedly, and this one guy who was sitting under a tree, playing the guitar and singing songs.

The weather was warm, yet a nice breeze was blowing, ruffling my freshly washed hair, and there was nice music, and it just felt so good.

So I sat down in the grass as well, and listened to him play, and watched the sunshine through the leaves in the trees, and stared dreamily at all the people. With a lap to lie down on, life would be perfect.

Roadside Blues

So the first thing that has started bothering me about the US is that they drive on the wrong side of the road, so I never know which side to look when I cross !!!

And then you have to worry about not jay-walking, and not standing on the wrong side of the road when you are waiting for a bus, and you have to remember when to pay the driver (its not fixed, it depends on the time of the day, and the direction the bus is going - I think).

Hadn't thought that non-drivers would also get confused about looking left/right first, and then crossing.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Robotics

So I walk into the Newell Simon building today afternoon, and I see a robot walking (rolling) towards me. It stopped in front of 2 guys ahead of me, and said "would you like some sweets?". It had a tray full of a variety of chocolates (one of each type), and you could ask for a chocolate, and it would recognize what you are asking for, and then you had to pick it up, and show the chocolate to it, and it said "OK" (not sure whether it was learning the types of chocolates, or actually cross-checking whether you took the right chocolate). Superb stuff !!

And did I mention that there is a robo-receptionist here, who doesn't have voice recognition yet, but has NLP capabilities, so you can ask it for "directions to XYZ's office", and it will answer ?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

My Hero

I remember being in seventh standard still.
Watching Yeh Dillagi 10 times. And all the rest of Saif Ali Khan's movies. Even the worst of them were watched again and again.

Watching his bad dancing, and wishing I were dancing with him.
Smuggling bad postcards that cost 1 Rupee and had his photograph on it into school. Punishment for being caught with such a postcard in school was severe, the risk taken was worth the thrill of having your hero in your bag to stare at all through the day.

Day dreaming about him in history and geography class.
Planning to bunk school with Neha Naik, and try and find his house, and stand outside it to get a glimpse of him (she wanted to go to Shahrukh's home). Never found the guts though.

Making weird acronyms that started with SAK(Saif) and SK(Shahrukh), progressing to weird poems with each line starting with S, A and K in succession.
Learning the steps to "Job bhi koi ladki dekhon", the dialogues in his movies, being so jealous of Kajol, cause he loved her, and danced with her, and ...

Refusing to believe that "Main Anari, Tu Khiladi" could be a flop !! Such a great movie !!

Growing up and realizing in 11th what a bad bad actor he was then. :(
And how pathetic he really looked with his girly long hair, and weird dancing steps.
Falling out of love, never to idolize anyone this much ever again. No more heroes.

Noticing a couple of years ago how he has improved, how he looks good now, and acts soo well.
Not falling in love again though. With him or any other "hero".

The days of innocent hero-worship have gone.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Pre-Bye?

Exactly 1 Month left before I fly to the US of A.
Immunization, shopping, packing, mails, meeting friends, arranging for accomodation, saying good-byes.

Me thinks its all happening much too quickly.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Play With Me

It started with 'The Island'- someone mentioned that it was an English play playing at Rangashakara, and we decided to go. It was hard to follow at first, hadn't watched many plays before, and as the two guys conversed about digging and filling a sand hole we couldn't see, as they were hit by jailors we had to imagine were there, and as they roamed around wearing their imaginary shackles, I wondered whether I had already lost what was happening. But then one of them announced his release from prison in a month, and they discussed what they missed about life, and how they coped, and suddenly the Island hit me, moved me, and hooked me to plays.

'Exit the King' followed, a story of a king who's dying, and his 2 queens, the young and the old, and shouts of "The King is Dying!!", and "The King is Dead!" Never quite understood what the whole thing represented though.

Girish Karnad's "Flowers" followed, with the priest who loved Shiva's Ling, and cheated on his wife, and loved the courteasan Chandravati, whom he decorated with the Ling's flowers. The king, and the humiliation, and the miracle followed. And the priest defied the Lord's miracles, refused to live a life with God's favors, and left me with questions, but no answers, making it one of my favorite plays.

And then there was Bikhre Bimb, with Arundhati Nag playing the succesful Indian writer with a big hit of an English novel, with her dead crippled sister, and her nice husband, and her own soul in the television, asking her whether it was all worth it.

Kannada play still left to watch though.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Wonderful Weekends

Saturday was a day of movies - the really crappy 'Fantastic Four', followed by the really nice 'The Chronicle of Nardnia', and another nice movie - 'Bridge To Terebhitia'. And that was followed by some music at Java City, and a nice soup and salad dinner at The Great Wall, and some Hersheys Kisses.

Sunday started with the morning show of Die Hard 4.0, great movie indeed, with some caramel popcorn. Lunch was my favorite - masala pav, then off to Akshay and Archana's place, and then Bhikre Bimb at Rangashankara, which also had pita bread and hummus and a mediterranean salad. And then a rajma-chawal dinner at home.

Hope each weekend is as good, and as fun as this one.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Back to Bangalore

We left from Darjeeling after breakfast at 9am, and thoroughly enjoyed the 3 hour drive back to Siliguri, along the curving roads, and the breathtaking views. Had a very light lunch at Siliguri, and took a cab to Baghdogra airport, which we reached at 1 pm itself. Baghdogra airport has only 10-12 flights landing/flying from there everyday, so the ground staff has a lot of time on their hands. So they ensure that your hand baggage doesn't have liquids, or umbrellas, or fake knives, and start security check 2 hours before the flight arrival, and even visit the restaurant insie the terminal to ensure that none of the passengers are hanging around there, instead of doing security check. :)

We spent an hour at the airport, cheking out more tea and souvenir shops, and eating some more so that we could hang out in the AC restaurant (the airport itself was not air-conditioned). My flight from Baghdogra to Kolkatta was on time, and uneventful, lasting only 45 minutes, but my onwards flight from Kolkatta to Bangalore was delayed by 2 hours, so I had 4 hours to kill in Kolkata. Everyone I called warned me about the notorious Kolkatta traffic jams, and asked me not ro risk going into the city itself, so I ended up taking a rickshaw to the nearest market, where I roamed around for 30 minutes, before starting to stop passers-by asking them to recommend a restaurant. The first 2 recommendations were really bad, the kind of place where 2 people could have a meal for 30 Rs, till eventually a lady recommended I take a rick to "Gora road, Debonair restaurant", which ended up being airconditioned, and having a band playing live old hindi music.

After a light dinner of just soup, I wandered the markets, and what struck me was that the language barrier was even worse in Kolkata than in Bangalore. In Bangalore, either people speak Kannada, and you know that they are speaking Kannada, or they speak good Hindi/English, which is easy to understand. On the other hand, while talking to people in Kolkata, I couldn't even understand that they were speaking in Hindi, their accent was really bad. I had difficulty even understanding what was the figure quoted by the rickshaw guy to take me back to the airport, and I had to ask him to repeat it 3 times before realizing that he was talking in Hindi after all. The same thing was true for the waiter in the restaurant, the shopkeeper where I tried to buy some jewellery, and the people on the street.

Eventually, I had spent enough time roaming around, and it was time to go back to the airport, and back to Bangalore at 1:30 am, my present home. The holiday was over, but I hope the memories remain.

Darjeeling

We left from Kurseong to Darjeeling by the 6:00 am toy train, which had a steam engine dragging only 2 coaches, out of which we occupied the whole of the first class coach.

The train covered the 30 km distance in 4 hours, with a speed of 8 kmph - slow enough for a person to jog alongwith the train, and we saw a lot of locals just hop on and off the train while it was still moving. We crossed three small stations on the way, and since the first class coach had been fully reserved for us, the train conductor used to ensure that we were ready to leave before starting the train again :) - at one of the stations, the "whole train" waited while our piping hot samosas and tea was delivered to our coach !! Awesome !

Darjeeling itself looked like any other town, and after the awesome hotel at Kurseong, our hotel at Darjeeling was a disappointment (in spite of being so much more expensive). We freshened up, and left immediately for an early lunch, and then hired a cab to drive us to a tea estate, which was gorgeous. At the tea estate, we were given a tour of the tea factory, by a very friendly guy called Edward. We learnt how tea leaves were softened in cold air for 8 hours, followed by drying in hot air for 4 hours, followed by cleaning, and rolling to release its enzymes, and hot air to dry it further, and give it its color, and finally some sorting is done manually, to remove twigs. Edward had a very cute Nepali accent, which made it very hard to understand what he was saying, and we had to ask him to repeat what he was saying 2-3 times each time :)

After that we roamed around in the tea estate, and fooled around, posing for pics with the typical tea basket on our heads, but then it started to rain, and Edward started getting worried cause his tea basket was not waterproof. We then went to a chai tapari, where we sat down for multiple cups of tea. This tapari was right on the edge of a hill, so we had the most beautiful view of the valley, with the rains, and as we sat and watched, the clouds moved to block our view, and then moved again to unblock it. As I caught glimpses of the greenery, through the soft drizzle, and the hazy white clouds, sitting on a wooden bench, sipping hot tea, I felt at peace, even as I missed everyone who was not there with me.

In the evening, we went shopping, and I bought a lot of tea, but didn't like any of the souvenirs being sold, except for a small pretty pink Japanese fan, which I got for Jisha. We had a "light" dinner of daal, chawal, dahi and curd, and returned back to our hotel to catch some sleep at 11pm, feeling very tired, and a little sad about the end of the last day of this wonderful holiday.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Kurseong

Our train from Katihar reached NJP at 1pm, and we took a cab from there to take the 9 of us to Kurseong, a hill station 30 kms away from Darjeeling. The journey was beautiful, winding roads, with gorgeous views of the plains that we were leaving behind. The sun and shadows made beautiful contrasts on the scenery, highlighting meadows, and tea gardens, making a picture whose beauty just couldn't be captured on camera.

At Kurseong, we stayed at the Cochrane place, which fits my idea of the perfect hotel. It seems to have been built in British times, and is very cozy and pretty, with a teddy bear on the bed, and a fireplace in every room, and a balcony that overlooked the most beautiful view of Kurseong possible. Cocharne place also has a beautiful drawing room, with antique furniture in the middle of a green garden, and an amazing tea bar, with windows shaped like tea pots, serving some 100 varieties of black and milk tea. And they serve a candlelight dinner, with live piano music in the background. Absolutely prefect !

In the evening at Kurseong, we went for a short walk in the mountains - through green shrubs and trees, and pretty views of the valleys. The only sad part was that when we reached back, we realized that all of us had leeches on us, sucking our blood. And after I removed the leeches I found on me, I realized that the blood wouldn't stop flowing thanks to the anticoagulants that the leech would have injected in my blood. Very creepy. And I ended up having my 5th bath in 2 days to make sure that I didn't have any more leeches on me.

After the most amazing day at Kurseong, we slept very late at around 12 am, only to wake up at 4:45 am the next day, for our onward trip to Darjeeling. More coming up very soon :)

Akshat's Wedding

5 of us from IRL flew from Delhi to Baghdogra, which is the military airport of Siliguri. Saw 2 MIGs landing, just after our plane landed, and we also walked by a Pavan Hans helicopter while walking from the plane to the airport.

Akshat had sent a driver to pick us up for the 3.5 hours drive to Purnea, most of which was on NH 31, parts of which are still under construction. So we alternated between nice 4-lane road and dirt road every couple of kilometers. Our driver assured us that in 2010 the whole highway construction will be done, and the whole road will be converted into 6 lanes. But what struck me was that when we were driving on the smoother parts of the roads, we could see that 2 lanes had been taken over by the farmers, to spread corn on the road to let it dry. We are building roads which are serving as drying areas for agricultural products. India rocks !

We reached Purnea at around 6:30 pm, and got a quick tour of Akshat's house - very big, very pretty, complete with a grand circular staircase to the upper floors, a backyard with a vegetable garden and a lush green lawn and a pond with lotus flowers in the front yard. After the tour, we went quickly to the hotel room, got dressed for the Baraat, and reached back to Akshat's place just in time.

We had big plans for dancing in the baraat, but it was soo humid, that within around 20 minutes, we were all wet with sweat, and panting, but even those 20 minutes were a lot of fun !! It has been a really long time since I have been part of a baraat, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Of course, later I felt dehydrated, and had to keep drinking all the varieties of drinks that were being offered, from shikanji, to lassi, to pepsi to grape juice to badam milk, and many others.

The wedding itself was beautiful - the tikka rituals started at 1am, and the actual wedding started only at 3. Akshat had kept us in charge of his 'joote', and of course, Balaji came up with the superb idea to sell the 'joote' to Vimmi's sister, for 50% of the money - the bargaining lasted almost an hour, and was superb fun !
The 'phere' were very cute, with Vimmi walking in the front, and Akshat behind, with his arms around her waist - looked very sweet.

We left the wedding hall at 5 am, when some ritual was still going on, with the priest making designs on Akshat and Vimmi's feet with alta. Went to the hotel room, slept for all of 15 minutes, and left for Katihar station, to catch our train to NJP - New Jalpaiguri.

More about that later.

Delhi Home

I left Bangalore on Wednesday night for Delhi, and went back to my old Delhi home. Met Kudrat, and her new flatmate Seema, who is now living in my room. Seema still has my 2 mattresses, with the bedsheet my grandmom had gifted me still spread on it, and my old pillows are also lying there. The curtains from my grandmom's house are still there, so is the poster I bought, and so are the buckets in the bathroom, and the utensils I didn't take along in the kitchen. Even the pretty candles that I had bought for Diwali were still lying on the fridge where I had left them.

Felt a big deja vu, like I hadn't left Delhi at all, still stayed there, still went to Sardarji ka dhaba for dinner with Akshat, and to Big Chill for comfort food, whenever I felt depressed. Kudrat and I sat on the terrace, with tea in my hand, talking about life, about office, and it felt just the same. We laughed, we cribbed about everything, and discussed her cooking skills, and everything else under the sun.

Slept very late at 3:30 am, got up at 8, hurriedly got dressed, and left for the airport, to go to Purnea, Bihar for Akshat's wedding.

But thats another blog post.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I Blush

I-blush is the new "product" by Ponds, that "helps you get the pink glow of blushing, and smoothened soft cheeks naturally".
Their site asks women to talk about when they blush, and of course, they can mail their "blush moment" to their boyfriend as well.

There are entries like
"When in the middle of a conversation, he suddenyl says i love u"
, and
"when i was hanging with ma frendz, he sudenly came and sat near 2 me, n i realisesed that he is near 2 me after haf an hour"
, and
"when he huged me and kised me like anything"
Of course, there is this review of the site., that commends i-blush for being so "simple", unlike Sunsilk gang-of-Girls*, which has high expectations from us stupid women :

Sunsilk gang of girls had also started beautifully using excellent ads, but where they really lost out was asking girls to shoot videos and put them up online.
How many girls are comfortable with Video cameras or possess handy cams?
How many of them know how to transfer the video from the camera/phone on to the computer?
How many of them understand different formats? 3gp, Mpeg, avi etc?
How many of them will take actually the pains to shoot, transfer, edit and upload a video.
What were they trying to achieve???
Ponds on the other hand have kept it very simple


Yup, we poor women, who don't know anything.

*To clarify, I think Sunsilk's site is as bad, with women talking in the parlor, and stuff, but at least they don't want women to want to look pretty while blushing for their boyfriends.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Weekend

Made some pav bhaji.
Watched some pool-playing.
Tried some bowling, but I still suck at it.
Went to ISKCON, which was disappointing, thanks to its extremely commercial nature.
Had some great chinese at Three Quarter Chinese (I have a "standard order dish" there, thats the only "expensive" restaurant in Bangalore at which I have a standard order!)
Missed hearing the great band at Java City, since the whole place was packed.
Had some to-die-for Bavarian Chocolate Icecream at Baskin and Robbins.
Saw "Before Sunset" - brilliant, brilliant movie.

Some good tea, some good coffee.
Good weekend, as usual. :)

Friday, June 08, 2007

Pirates of the Caribbean

2 of the 9 pirate lords are women, and one of them is elected Pirate King, and there is not a single joke about her being called "Pirate Queen" instead. (Woman Pirate King == subtle support for Hillary for President 2008?)

Also, the word fuck is not used even once in the movie. (statistic claimed by Tejaswi)

And, when the Goddess is released, she grows 40 feet high, and her clothes actually grow with her as well, and don't tear off to reveal the glorious naked Goddess body, but instead, the focus remains on her anger, and whatever it was that she was saying, which I couldn't understand thanks to her unobvious accent, and the lack of Dolby Digital Sound in the theatre. The point remains though that she was talking, and we were listening, and there were no torn clothes.

When the pirates go to meet the Singapore Pirate Lord, the "male pirates" are asked to remove all their weapons, but can keep wearing their multiple-layered "fashionably torn" clothes, but Elizabeth (the female pirate) is considered dangerous enough, that she is made to strip to prove she is not hiding any weapons anywhere.

The first movie I have seen with a strong feminine negative role-model, one who can be emulated in fantasy land. Nows where's my Will Turner???

Only In India

Airport Road is one of the bigger roads in Bangalore, connecting the airport, and the many residential areas near the airport to the rest of the city. Its a very well made road, no potholes, good footpath to walk on, and lots and lots of traffic all the time, very urban.

For the past one month, I have been trying to walk from home to office along this road, around twice a week, and have seen many interesting sights on this road :
1. Man peeing on the footpath while traffic goes by. What do I do? Keep walking and risk seeing things I don't want to see, or worse? Walk on the road to avoid the man and his thingie, and risk a rash motorist? Wait on the side while he finishes, and goes away - but then what if he walks towards me.... ??

2. Man waiting in car while his small kid pees on the road. Much much easier to feel less embarrased about.

3. Man with 3 cows standing on the footpath (seen 2 weeks ago)
Man with 3 cows, tied to a post, cows eating hay, and man sitting with friend on footpath,singing songs (seen last week)
Man with 3 cows, man and his friend milking cows, collecting milk in a bucket, me wondering where does the milk go (seen this week)
Man with 3 cows, friend and man milking cows, a line of 10 women(yes, 10 women, I counted), waiting with bottles/mugs in their hands for milk, answering my unanswered questions. (seen yesteday)

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Congratulations

http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/news/city/2007/05/23/580936a4-8341-4e1d-aae7-9d91969207b1.lpf

Jenny Bailey becomes Mayor of Cambridge - the first transgender person to take the office. Jenny was born a boy, but went through a sex change operation to become a woman when she was in her 30s. And her partner, former councillor Jennifer Liddle - who will spend the year by Jenny's side as Mayoress - has also gone through the same process.

Jenny says : When I first joined the Liberal Democrats there was a vetting process and they asked "is there anything in your past that is going to be difficult?" I said I was transgender and they said "no, is there anything that is going to be difficult"?

Is the world becoming more accepting of "individuals" after all?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Saturday Night Fever

An awesome home-cooked bisibelebath lunch, followed by a game of pool, and then a round of darts (without the beer), and some awesome live music at Java City, followed by some really fun bowling, and then some EmGees dinner.

All this in the company of some great friends. What a Saturday !

There is no such thing as Race or Culture

Race

In order to define a ‘race’, it would be necessary to choose a list of genes and then make some decisions. Shall we suggest 10 such markers or, perhaps, 20? Shall we put a person in the box marked ‘the fast feet-waggling race’ if they have 6 out of ten markers (60%), or will we demand all 10? Which of the markers shall we choose? Exactly how ‘black’ must the skin be? Just how fast must they be able to waggle their feet? What if they have the fast foot-waggling gene, but through a life of chip and chocolate eating they weigh 150 kilos? Clearly, these earth-shattering decisions will require well-funded government committees of race technicians just to make sure there are no slip-ups.

Culture

You will see from the above, that similar techniques will be needed in order to define a ‘culture’. A list again will be required such as “does this person speak ‘English’?” Be aware that every person who speaks ‘English’ has a differing concept of the meaning of every word in ‘that’ language. Further, some users of English know a thousand or two thousand words, where others may know ten or twenty thousand words. Is each of these people to be regarded as ‘speaking English’? Will 5 words do? Or 367? Decisions decisions decisions!

Can they play cricket? Do they know the rules? Are they any good at cricket? Must they like cricket? How will you tell? What if they have one leg? Is it a square leg?

Do they like warm beer? Can they hold down 10 pints without throwing up? We must know.

How many items ticked off on the list are enough to qualify as a full-blooded English citizen? How many items are required on the list? Who is going to make the list? What about marginal cases where the aspiring member of the English club can only down 9 pints? Is there an allowance for weight or sex? What about requiring some ‘English’ genes?

From http://www.abelard.org/statistics.htm

Monday, June 04, 2007

The Man Who Knew Infinity

The Man who knew Infinity was Ramanujan of course, and the book is about his life, and how brilliant he was.

One of the chapters discusses Hardy, the famous British Mathematician who got Ramanujan to England. And while trying to analyze his character, it speculates on whether he was a homosexual, in a very matter-of-fact way. But it also discusses what a big deal homosexuality was then, and how Hardy (if he was in fact one) would have spent his life being extremely careful to avoid his preferences being known.

Another chapter discusses how Ramanujan, being Brahmin, couldn't cross the seven seas, else he would have been ostracized from society on his return back to India, and how in spite of his love for mathematics, and his excitement about a great mathematician like Hardy wanting him in England, he was too scared to violate the principles of his religion.

Being homosexual in Britain is no big deal anymore. Neither is a Brahmin guy crossing the sea a big deal in India (in fact, going abroad is a cool thing now, irrespective of caste).

But it was SUCH A BIG DEAL to people just a 100 years ago, even the really smart people.

Makes me wonder what are the things society would just not accept now, which would be matter of fact in another 100 years.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Worst Way to Begin the Day

And I thought only Muslim law required four pious Muslim male eye-witnesses to prosecute a rape :(

http://www.ktvu.com/news/13370961/detail.html

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

My Dream

A poem by Ogden Nash entitled 'My Dream'.

This is my dream,
It is my own dream,
I dreamt it.
I dreamt that my hair was kempt.
Then I dreamt that my true love unkempt it.

This whole post has been copied verbatim from Mind Hacks

Monday, May 14, 2007

Dream Girls

After a long long time, I saw a movie, just because I wanted to, just because I liked the trailer. I hadn't read a single review, hadn't heard anyone talking about it, but when I saw the DVD with the friendly pirated DVD guy, it seemed like a fun way of spending a lonely Sunday evening.

Dream Girls is about the lives of many people, the great black singer, his three backup singers, how his soul-music isn't good enough for the white folks, and neither is his saucy dance style, how he gets replaced, and his backup singers become stars, but again, not the great backup singer - no, she is too fat and too soulful - instead the pretty one becomes a star, a big star, a huge star.

Lives get destroyed along the way, but for no fault of the pretty one, who is almost without personality, she is neither nice, nor bad, just a product that spells success, simply because the white folks control the money, and the white folks like the pop songs, and her fluffy young voice, instead of the mature soul stirring singing of all the other RnB singers.

Dream Girls is about dreams, about women, about success, about how our society puts style over substance, about failure, and about being true to yourself.

Dream Girls is about the time when the mother of the pretty one tells the manager how she didn't think her daughter was a great singer, and he replied that she wasn't, but she had "the quality", that made her a great product.

Dream Girls is about the old guy telling the great backup singer that she seems to have the misunderstanding that just because she has a great voice, she doesn't have to prove herself, she doesn't have to have discipline, or humility, but she is wrong.

Dream Girls is about an eight year long extra-marital affair, one built with the hope that "he will tell his wife as soon as possible", its about writing a song "that people will love to hear in their cars", its about the husband telling his wife that she can't go to the funeral, its about finding your own voice.

It isn't a great movie, the movie is almost wholly songs, with very limited dialogue, and maybe a little too long, but its definitely worth a watch.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Biases

As the French presidential election drama continued, it hurt to realize that I support Royal, just because she's a woman, the first one to ever come so close to the French President's post, and the fact that she is the socialist candidate didn't matter at all.

Finding reverse biases in yourself hurts, almost more than the pain brought on by the original bias itself.

Almost, but not quite.
After a long long time, as I listen to Naina and Banwra Man in loop again, it seems almost like I'm back in my lab at IRL, and the last 3 months didn't happen at all.

Passion

I have often seen people totally fascinated by their work or their hobbies, or seen women totally committed to serving their families, and I wonder where do they get their drive, their passion from. What does it mean to be totally committed to something? To love something enough to devote your life to it - may it be computers or social service or your life partner. Will I ever be fully passionate about something, enough to give up other aspects of my life to it?

Even worse, are there good and bad passions? If you are consumed by the idea of praying to God, and living an ascetic life, with almost no earnings, no family, no career, is this good enough? Is being passionate about proving that bedsheets are in fact gateways into black holes not acceptable? Then how come being passionate about proving any new theory (which _you think_ is more plausible) OK? How do you judge whats good enough? Where's the line? What if I become passionate about drugs? Or something that will hurt someone else - someone I know and love, or some strangers?

And worst of all, what if after devoting 20 years of your life, loving and following some ideology, you realize it was all a sham ? That you were swept away by stupid ideas.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Paranoia

My mom called me early morning today, to tell me about some scholarship that had been advertised in the newspapers, and she wanted me to apply. So I started writing a mail to some Mr XYZ, about me, and why I should get that scholarship, and got freaked - I am sending my details, my resume - which contains my address and my phone number to some stranger. And then got more freaked, that in fact, my resume is online in the first place.

Is this the beginning of paranoia?

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Gotcha !

I have been reading about various captchas for the past few days, and today I actually went and tried hot captcha.

It asks you to identify the "3 hot people" from a selection of 9, either 9 women or 9 men. I took the test around 30-40 times, and I _correctly_ cleared the woman's captcha only 3 times, and the men's captcha exactly once. Seems like I make a really bad human, and not a v smart bot either. :)

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Hello Bangalore

As all things change with time, the brilliant Delhi winter also drew to an end. Summer with all its heat was beginning.... and we all know how unbearably hot Delhi gets.

So I have moved to the summer capital of India, Bengaluru for the summer. Will be in Yahoo!, am looking for a place to stay, have a new phone number.

Thats it from me.
Chow.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Music

Its 12:30 am and I am listening to some really great music. I should be sleeping because I have to go early to work tomorrow, but I really don't feel like it. Dire Straits, The Beatles, Duran Duran, John Denver, Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Police, U2, Robbie Williams, Meatloaf, Coldplay, Guns 'n' Roses and Sixpence None The Richer are all belting out numbers, and I am singing along.

Some of the songs I want to share with friends, call them up and let them know that I am thinking of them, thinking of the good old times. Other songs are stuff I want new friends to listen to, to understand how special some songs are. Want someone to appreciate the mood change as I listen to my favorite songs, appreciate the context, the feel of the music, the words, want to be on the terrace dancing in candle light, smiling, laughing, crying.

Music will keep us alive?

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

Celebrated the advent of the new year with a terrace party at my place - 12 of us, a bon fire, party hats, balloons and streamers, some tikka starters and biryani, black forest cake, some good music, lots of dancing, black boots, lots of Delhi winter cold, lots of fog, lots of laughs, and eventually some truth-or-dare. What else can one ask from a happy new year?

Confession

Its been called an independence streak by some of my friends, selfishness by others, and even more recently, I have been branded a capitalist.

For a simple reason, that I don't like the idea of inequality in my life. Don't like the idea of being dependent on someone, or the idea of someone being fully dependent on me (though immediate family is not really included in this). I don't like my grand-parents giving me gifts/cash to spend whenever I meet them, knowing that I will never give it back. Don't like the idea of having a friend drop me home, when I would never do the same (hate the fact that being a girl, I have to be often dropped home after late nights). Don't like getting gifts from anyone, cause I immediately start worrying how will I "pay it back". Don't like asking for favors from friends or strangers when I don't know if that person will ever ask me for help "in return".

The fact that I can never repay my school teachers for having taught me, all the authors whose writing have affected my thought processes, all the books and movies that made me rethink my life decisions, my eye doctor for making sure my eyes work fine bothers me soo much that I tend to value their "services" in terms of money, and try to fool myself into believing that I have paid them their "just fees" for the services that they have provided me, all of which is determined by the capitalistic demand-supply equation.

As if paying 100Rs. to watch American Beauty would justify the number of times I have thought about it while making a decision in my life. As if paying my eye doctor 10000Rs. would be adequate payment for the fact that I would have been semi-blind and maybe jobless if she hadn't operated on my eyes. As if the 100Rs. annual fees I paid in school was enough payment for all that I was taught.

And it gets worse when I start wondering about all the scientific work on which our life of today runs. From round wheels to electricity to the printing press - all these inventions and more have fundamentally changed who I am, what I do, how I live. And then there are the philosophers who have established some ground truths, and are helping me find out the purpose of my existence. And yet, none of these inventors/philosophers ask me for money, or ask me to repay this debt by doing something for them.

So evaluating everything in terms of money is a really bad idea. I can see this. But I can't help not doing it. Can't stop treating cash as the baseline into which all units of work/play must be converted, using an arbitrary conversion system, which is itself a function of personal values, and society norms. Damn, even my conversion function has been derived from others, proving that "each second of my life is a debt to the society in which I live". (I still can't help feeling though, that the society which gave me so much, would want me to live my life the way I want it, setting my own standards, and maybe redefining someone else's standards for the better.)

So effectively, this useless conversion system must be stopped.
The first of my new years resolutions is to stop trying to find the baseline to evaluate this world on, my life on, and maybe rely a little bit more on gut-feel.

Oh, and I have also resolved to lose some weight. :)