Thursday, October 18, 2012

Notes from a roadtrip

So, we just took a roadtrip from Minneapolis, MN to West Yellowstone, MT and back. Our main goal was to visit Yellowstone National Park and also drop by some family in Omaha, NE on the way back. We did what we set out to do and there were just so many things we learnt/observed along the way - some new and some fairly obvious - that were reinforced in ‘real-time’. This is a compilation of all that kept occurring or recurring – as the case was.
  • This country is BIG. Overall, we covered about 3000 miles and went across 7 states, but then, we would look at the map of the entire country on our road atlas, and hell, that is like a *dot's* worth of distance! So, wow, yeah, big.
  • The roads are well-labeled. I mean, it is so easy to "get" what you are getting into - from the plains to the plateaus to the nasty shocks there! And this is one of the major things I will miss once I am back in India.
  • I loved checking out the plates of all the passing cars and trucks! That was real fun. California and Illinois were the most common followed by Canada (British Columbia and Alberta, mostly) and Arizona. Twice, people came up to us to ask about (/after) Minnesota and that was nice too!
  • I wondered about small-towns in the interiors of the heartland. Would they be super-warm and fuzzy or would they be distrustful and cold? I was curious which way it would really go. Also, being as politically conscious as I am, I was acutely aware that we were leaving the our big ol' blue state and going into deep red territory all around. I wanted to find out in person about what the experience of meeting us strangers would be. Well, as with all worldly matters, turns out it is neither black or white, but rather a shade of grey (Not any of the infamous 50!) Folks in some states did great compared to others. Most pleasant folks: tie between Nebraska and Wyoming. The bizarre: you-know-who-you-are (hint: rhymes with “ontana”)
  • Some of the small towns, though, looked so very picturesque , especially the little downtown areas. There were some interesting names of the shops and pubs. Some were just non-descript with nothing remarkable about them.
  • A special note about the sky (something I am always infinitely interested in). Such a vast canvas of all sorts of colors, shapes, and objects! Of particular note was almost all of the journey back - there was a big storm right behind us, with clear skies in front. The sheer contrast (and the accompanying thrills) of it all felt like something straight out of a fantasy film!  
  • The only thing in the world (and beyond) I am *truly* scared of is snakes. I fear absolutely nothing else. So, all the signs (like, everywhere) warning us about rattlesnakes in Badlands National Park (SD) really threw me off! So, Chicken Little aka me spent most of our time there rushing back to the car and trying to avoid the trails as much as possible. I would like to say that I regret not getting around more…but honestly, I don’t. Besides, Braveheart next to me more than made up on the exploring front!
  • On the note of the rattlesnakes, I imagined that a particularly enterprising rattlesnake had actually wormed (ok, snaked) his way in to our car and we would discover him coiled inside one of our bags or something. So, each little sound inside our car had me jumping out of my skin for quite a bit of the next couple of hundred miles!
  • As a new-ish driver, I was both excited and also slightly apprehensive about how I would fare on the vast stretches of highway beyond the city (that I was used to so far). Overall, I think I did well in that I did not create any panic attacks (in fact, far from panic attacks, I actually saw him relax into reclined-seat-mode!) in my co-passenger. But, on a self-critical note, I learned that I am not too great in actually feeling my speed – so, there were times I reached 90 mph (on 75 speed limits) and not feel a thing. Luckily, a) this did not have any adverse impact on car control and b) it was not highway patrol that brought this to my attention!
  • Taking photographs on the move is so…futile. Yes, some of these turn out ok, but mostly, the wonderful, wondrous sights a) can just not be captured adequately (relative to seeing it in person) and b) shooting photos through the windshield involves glares and/or spots (from those on the shield) appearing on each photo and/or that ill-timed jerk that leaves you with a photo of the dash instead of what you intended. My zen compromise was that we just have to absorb these sights for our brains to store. Not-so-zen was making a mental note to get a freakin’ high-end camera next time!
  • About photographs – high-end or otherwise and at stops or on the move – how does one capture that magic moment anyway? There is so much going on that our tiny human brains are barely being able to process. The gumption of assuming that a lens will be able to convey what we are seeing long after we have passed forward is just….asinine.
  • Being mountain-starved for ages, the Rockies were a sight for sore eyes alright, but they are not a patch on the Himalayas. So, in that context, I am still starving…
  • Speaking of the Rockies, one would think that navigating mountainous roads would be relatively more treacherous and jokhim-bhara than the staid ol’ plains. As it turned out, there are some seriously strong winds that blow in the plains and it was an adventure in itself to keep the car from swerving into the trucks while passing/off the roads altogether! Heck, I saw transformer-style trucks sway and swerve, so we were small fish in comparison. That was, by far, the trickiest part of the entire driving experience.
  • As closed/confined spaces are wont to create/propagate, I expected A and I to be snapping each other’s heads off soon into the journey…but I am pleasantly surprised to report that that just did not happen! Maybe we are that super-couple from Honeymoon Travels after all! J
  • Nature! I never cease to be totally wonderstruck with the conjuring abilities of her. This world is so beautiful just as soon as we get away from the man-made urbanity. We passed every imaginable thing (except oceans, I suppose) and then some more that we really couldn’t ever have planned for/imagined. Reality-check: Can just behold as a passing tourist…if push came to shove, could never live/survive there.
  • RV-s – saw all shapes and sizes of these on the road and in the park. I am conflicted about what I feel about these though – on the one hand, travelling with these seems like you don’t experience living (literally) outside your comfort zone, on the other, living in these can open up so many choices too - you don’t need to be confined to areas that have hotel rooms to spare.
  • Yellowstone National Park (YNP): I first read/heard of the mysterious YNP when I read “A Short History Of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson. As anyone who has read the book would know, Bryson covers such great areas of science (as he says “…nearly everything”!) and in such engaging detail, that for one such place and its context – such as YNP was for me – to remain particularly stuck in my brain, is in itself remarkable. But it did. And since, it was one of my top places to visit (provided it didn’t all blow up first!) So, you could imagine my excitement when we finally entered the park. and it did not disappoint either. If anything, it has grown in my estimate/understanding (I use this word loosely here, because if anything, it is as far from human comprehension as…I don’t know…landing on the surface of the sun?) of it has grown. I think it is a microcosm of the entire universe right there – all just-under-9000 square kms of it. A lifetime would not be enough to cover each inch of it and especially, since it shape-shifts – both perceptibly and imperceptibly – as we stand on/speak of it. Relegating the experience to a mere bullet point entry in the context of our roadtrip is in itself a gross impertinence…and so, I will write about this separately - with the disclaimer - if I can conjure the coherence to articulate it!
Overall, I am just eternally grateful that this trip took place at all and the fact that it turned out so spectacularly successful at that is just special.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

If you could read my mind - Gordon Lightfoot

an old old favorite - remembered and replayed...

"If You Could Read My Mind"

If you could read my mind, love,

What a tale my thoughts could tell.

Just like an old time movie,

'Bout a ghost from a wishing well.

In a castle dark or a fortress strong,

With chains upon my feet.

You know that ghost is me.

And I will never be set free

As long as I'm a ghost that you can't see.

If I could read your mind, love,

What a tale your thoughts could tell.

Just like a paperback novel,

The kind the drugstores sell.

When you reached the part

where the heartaches come,

The hero would be me.

But heroes often fail,

And you won't read that book again

Because the ending's just too hard to take!

I'd walk away like a movie star

Who gets burned in a three way script.

Enter number two: A movie queen to play the scene

Of bringing all the good things out in me.

But for now, love, let's be real;

I never thought I could act this way

And I've got to say that I just don't get it.

I don't know where we went wrong,

But the feeling's gone And I just can't get it back.

If you could read my mind, love,

What a tale my thoughts could tell.

Just like an old time movie,

'Bout a ghost from a wishing well.

In a castle dark or a fortress strong.

With chains upon my feet.

But stories always end,

And if you read between the lines,

You'll know that I'm just tryin' to understand

The feelin's that you lack.

I never thought I could feel this way

And I've got to say that I just don't get it.

I don't know where we went wrong,

But the feelin's gone And I just can't get it back!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

License to walk

Having been a pedestrian all my life, this issue is close to my heart. As if the bloody drivers/riders (aka non-pedestrians) with murderous instincts were not bad enough, the Walkers of the world have also started posing some serious impediments. Hence, I think it's time that justice prevail and just like drivers need a license (though fat lot of good *that* does) walkers should need a license. Here's the criteria I have helpfully compiled to aid the drive in case someone in the Government does take note/heed of my suggestion.

The following criteria, if met, opens you to a world of sidewalks, pavements, and stairways. (If not met, do us a favour, stay at home and DIE, cretin!)

1. You are alone and walk in a straight line.

Notable exceptions:
a) when under the influence of alcohol and other narcotic/hallucinogenic substances,
b) when receiving directions from navigationally-challenged friends or co-walkers

Penalty for violation: Aim for the knees, lunge, and don't let go until s/he begs for his/her mother.

2. There are 2-3 of you and you walk in a single file when you see someone approaching from the other direction.

Notable exceptions: NONE

Penalty for violation: (action for opposite side person) Jab (hard) with elbow and step (harder) on person obstructing your path.

3. You move to one side when you hear the words "Excuse" and "me" together.

Notable Exception:
a) when said person is deaf or more likely, dumb.

Penalty for violation: Pull his/her shirt collar and puke your breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between in the space between cloth and skin. That should help his/hearing in case of a 'next time'.

4. Landings on stair cases are not where you take important decisions especially during rush hour.

Notable exception:
a) if you've left something behind. In that case take an immediate (read: within nanoseconds) u-turn and join the flow in the opposite direction. Will not be held liable in case anyone gets violent with you for breaking their queue.

Penalty for violation: Cause a stampede.Bury the evidence.

5. You do not walk when you talk or talk when you walk. whatever.

Notable exception:
a) if the talk in question is with inner self and/or the voices in your head

Penalty for violation: You will never walk or talk again.

More lists are in the offing - these will focus on other topics of pertinence:
1) How I mated your mother (handling crowds in buses)
2) Letting go - up or down (using escalators and elevators successfully)
3) YES, you can (life without cellphones)

Feedback to improve/expand the said lists and criteria will be welcome.

Friday, February 13, 2009

25 Random things about me

This was actually one of 'em facebook tag thingies. But, I figured if I made the effort for that, I could use it for this one too. (# 1 on the list will tell you why)


Please be warned, that the words 'random' and 'me' are kinda oxymoronic.

Rules: Once you've been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it's because I want to know more about you.

1. I am 3/4ths lazy and 1/4th over-anxious/scrupulous/manic – somehow, the quarter me manages to battle the rest of me and get things done.
2. I have been many things at various times – idealist, feminist, romanticist, pessimist, etc.…now I am just ‘happy-ist’.
3. I have met my share (and possibly yours too) of psychos in this world. I have also *been* my share of psychos!
4. I am a standard warm/friendly/approachable type, but I (voluntarily) have very few friends in this world.
5. I miss some of the friends I have lost along the way, but I don’t miss the reason/s I am not friends with them anymore.
6. I think my parents and I are mutually lucky people – I am lucky to have them and they are very lucky to have me.
7. My one and only regret in life is that I never pursued sports (a-ny sport) in a like, full-on/full-time manner.
8. I really, really love me-time. It is an absolute daily essential.
9. I never owned any soft toys all my life…until I got married. Now, I have an uncontrollably large (and counting…) family of them!
10. I believe that anti-retrograde amnesia (or whatever the hell Aamir Khan had in Ghajini) has been a malaise among our politicians for centuries now. It is quite high time the WHO declared this an epidemic and called for aid or a wipeout (preferably of both the disease and the said diseased). Alternately, it could be the next big FB movement.
11. To re-emphasize, I hate politicians – yes, all of them and believe they should be packed off to a galaxy far, far way.
12. Haha! I am writing all this with the happy (refer to #2) assumption that someone is actually reading this! At your own peril then!
13. I never registered to vote until end-ish 2008 (you do the math!).
14. My first real pet(s) ever – 5 teeny-weeny fish brought in 2 weeks ago! And erm, I am a dog person.
15. I am also a cheese person. I like to eat it, ie.
16. I have petted real tigers. Many of ‘em.
17. I get very worried about the fact that my (scientifically-proven small) brain is crammed with so much useless trivia and even more useless memories that there will soon be no room left for the really important things.
18. I hate being told what to do/how to do/when to do, etc. I am programmed to react in exactly the opposite manner whenever that happens and hence, it is useless to try that.
19. Office meetings, large groups, crowded places make me go into the deluded-invisible mode – signs and symptoms include chronic incoherence, glazed staring into space and/or rapid-fire blinking. This is usually followed immediately by profuse-perspiration-and-parched-throat-it is. (anyone having encountered me in one of these will be nodding wisely about #3 now)
20. I think the world (or at least, many offices I know!) could be a better place if we just did our own work to the best of our abilities and not as much spend time/energy on *sigh* politics. (see?)
21. My family and friends will always be # 1 on my priority list. However, they only make it to # 20 on this one.
22. I am quite obsessive about hygiene and cleanliness at home. (Not to say that I cease to be or anything away from it)
23. I l.o.v.e. cooking and more so when (any!) others like my cooking.
24. Positively blasphemous: I have not read a single Wodehouse till date, I have not watched any of the Star Wars movies, and I have not heard any Grateful Dead (sorry, Soumik!)
25. This is positively the last time I let 1/4th (ref: #1) con me in to one of these things!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Open Letter to L.K. Advani

Dear Mr Advani,

Hope this letter finds you in good health – after all you’ll need all that more to pursue your lifelong dream of grabbing being elected the Prime Minister for many more hundred decades to come and with ever-increasing rabidity vigour at that.

Let me begin by saying that I have never voted for you and your party. Before you jump and drool froth “Congress Conspiracy”, let me also tell you that I have never voted for the Congress either...nor for the CPI/M/Z/K/P…nor the Samaj(Hah!)wadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party…etcetera…etcetera…you see, I am one of those statistics in the electoral rolls – educated, earning, urban, but never voted.

So why this letter? You see, you and I have finally discovered something in common – both of us have finally stopped pretending. Just like the terrorists have stopped pretending they have a cause, you have stopped pretending that you care about this country and its people – whatever their religion/caste/income bracket be.

Actually, you did that right that day when you crossed the length and breadth of this country for an exercise ridden with cheap thrills and culminating in one of our great historical monuments being vandalized. I kept quiet then.

You did that when you kept quiet while churches and poor folks burned. In fact, you leapt up in defense of all your pals who were doing this. I seethed, but did not speak.

Time and time again, you continued to parrot the “H” word (like a kabaddi game on drugs) so much so that I disassociated myself from the religion I was born in to out of sheer embarrassment.

You had quick statements to make each and every time we the people came under a terrorist attack – but they were not about us. There were complaints/accusations/ whines/watchamacalit…but never a rational solution. You actually went the extra mile to blame the guys who were doing this job! I raged, grieved, and looked on helplessly for a couple of days and then ultimately, silence.

But now, I am done with all that. As are you. You have finally gone and done it – shed the pretence. By skipping the All-party meeting called by the Prime Minister at this time and choosing instead to continue campaigning, you and I came together on that common ground.

Only one thing though – one campaigns for votes...right? And these votes are won based on issues and the candidate’s ability to solve them? Well then, guess what the single biggest issue in this country is today? (Hint: rhymes with “schmerrorism”) and aw shucks, you skipped missed your chance to be - for once - useful. Tough.

As for me, I have stopped pretending that I don’t count in this country and that not voting for you is probably bringing you the power to do all that you have done and continue to do in a platter more than anything else. So, I am happy (for myself) to inform that I have begun the procedure to register myself to vote.

And I will vote. But not you. Never you.

So, here’s to good health, coz you gotta keep coming back to try and grab this one.

Goodbye and good luck.
Long suffering Citizen - India

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Djokovich - all for one and one for all

Found this hilarious video on YouTube - This is Novak Djokovic (in the 2007 US Open players' dressing room area) mimicing all his contemporaries. Watch him 'do' Roger, Rafa, Roddick...and even Sharapova!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Indian Ish-ports - kuch khayalat

  • Ching-Chong China-Mina Donkey-Monkey STOP!: I bet this is what the US Sporting fraternity as well as half the rest of the world is fervently chanting what with China having stamped it’s authority on the Olympics - both in the actual events and in their organization. On a personal note, I wish we could have the same (or even similar) gritty and determination, but we as a country/culture lack the discipline to make significant inroads into newer sports. Heck, we don’t even better the ones we’ve been in for donkey’s years. I don’t say we don’t want to, we just don’t get away enough from the dream to translate this to reality.
  • Dhishkayeon-Dhishkayeon: One guy does get away – and he only incidentally belongs to India. He would have achieved this feat if he belonged to any other country. Really. So, bravo to him and may he dream on. On a personal note, he would rise far more in my esteem if he were to donate all his prize money to better facilities for others of his sport and perhaps, other sports too. If he chooses not, well hey, more glory to him.
  • The Kumars at Number 1: At least, that’s what I am hoping! Though, the number 1 among the Kumars did have a heartbreaking loss yesterday. Hope is a four-letter word alright, but kambakth ussi pe duniya kayam hai!
  • Hockey mein chhakke nahi hote: …and evidently hamare cricket matches mein bhi.
  • Vamos Rafa Vamos!: A truly utterly deeply heartfelt moment of joy to see Rafael Nadal get the gold on the eve of his world number 1 coronation. Though, on a rather petty note, I would have liked it better if Federer had been the one to beat in the finals. His game was shockingly and rather embarrassingly un-Roger-y in the match against Blake. As a Rafa fan, it would have been somehow more satisfying if it were he and only he who could beat the mighty Fed on any surface. But, sigh, Fed seems to have his own plans here.
  • Of pervy-pervs and nervy-nerves: Was it just me or did the weightlifting coach of one of the USSR offshoots keep slapping his ward at the bottom each time before her bout? And then there was this (mutually consenting) huggy-kissy-touchy-feely between a US gymnastics contestant and her coach each time she went to perform and returned after. I am no moral police but she was 16, I think.
  • Saina ka kya kehna: The nerves in the previous point actually were in reference to this spunky 18-year-old. Ahhh…to go down after being up 11-3 in the decider is a pain only she can know of. My deepest regards for her game and spirit and thank you, Saina for allowing us to genuinely gloat, albeit for a few minutes in that match! We know who to look out for in London, 2012 – as do the badminton contingents of every other nation.

Basabhi picture to baaki haiaur ye post bhi….I guess.