Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year

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Its the end of 2007. And I'm not in India. But I'm doing the same thing I did back there. Think about how I wildly could party, but actually spend the evening in a much sober, quiet environment.

I generally spend the New Years eve with close friends. At somebody's place. We chat. Watch a movie. Order food. Joke around.

But this time, everyone is someplace else. Rohit and Jay were here but had to leave cos tickets would have damn expensive otherwise.

And so, this time, I will spend a quiet evening, at someone's place. But without those close friends. It will be sober, quiet. Ppl will joke around. Probably watch a movie. Chat.

Things look up for the new year though. Research will start. My pay / stipend should continue. I'll finally decide on some nagging issues. Go to back India for a holiday. Roam around there. Gym a bit.

Signing off for this year...

Thursday, November 1, 2007

I'm loving it

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I suddenly seemed to have disappeared from the blog space after the last post. Hehe... Too many things have happened... and generally, the more interesting your life is, the lesser you tend to blog. Initially I was too amazed by the stuff that happens here and started out thinking I must note down everything and tell all my friends back home. Anyway, the novelty has worn off, and now I've gotten used to the place.

Its so cool... The alarm rings at 7.15 am.. use the snooze mode for about a loong time, then stroll towards the kitchen somehow, prepare breakfast (thank god for cereal), have tea (Yay!) get ready, miss the 9.17 bus which would have gotten me to college before time, just make it in time for the 9.27 bus (sometimes I miss that one too and then cycle down), reach Room 100 of NEB at 9.36 am, attend the lecture that Dr. Wiens takes for undergrads. Then on the schedule changes.

But, I've gotten used to it.

I'm loving the independence. Loving the fact that I'm earning the money that I spend now, and that I save for later. Loving the fact that I'm responsible for doing my laundry, making sure that I have breakfast, lunch, dinner. That as long as I have my priorities right, I get to do whatever I want. Love the fact that I now have some friends from China, Korea, US, some acquaintances from Romania, Venezuela, Palestine, South Africa, Taiwan. Love the fact that I can play almost any sport I want, and yet have someone to play with. Squash, badminton, soccer, racket-ball, pool, bowling, basketball. Or just cycle.

I'm enjoying this part of my life.

Tomorrow, I head to Ichetucknee Springs... Have already gone to Lake Wauberg and St. Augustine and will plan to go to Orlando for Thanksgiving.. and Atlanta sometime soon. Will post about those and tomorrow's trip some time.

Ciao

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Culture Shock: Part 1

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A) You flinch everytime the car/bus takes a turn because you think you are on the wrong side. No matter how many American movies you have seen, you will still find it confusing to see cars on the right side of the road.

B) If its hot, wear less clothes, is what these people think. Even the profs wear shorts to work. Dunno how many shirtless guys I must have seen.

C) Pseudo-culture shock: Its 8.00 pm and there is still enough daylight to conduct a full-fledged cricket match. So, couple that with jet-lag and you are thoroughly confused about the time and date of the day.

D) Cars actually stop to let the pedestrians cross the road. No honking or anything. (of course, the people are less, but still!)

E) You are actually glad to see an Indian, and they also take time to help.

F) You finally understand how those firangs in Koregaon Park feel like when being stared at for being "different".

G) The roads are sooooooo huge! And everything is so greatly planned! There is proper lane demarcation even at entrances to housing complexes and so on.

H) Water is expensive compared to Coke, Pepsi or any cold drink. You also give up the idea of thinking of managing on veg diets. If you aren't cooking and want to keep expenses low, it is simply not advisable to stay vegan. (If you are prepared to eat beef, costs come down even more)

I) You realise that the variety of cars available in India is nothing compared to the various cars parked in just one parking lot.

J) Kilometers, kilograms, litres, centigrades dont mean much. Re-orient yourself to miles, pounds, gallons and farenheits.

K) All doors open outside. So you keep banging into them and then realise that the thing wont open. And all americans stare at you :D.

(Photos will be clicked and put up soon)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The last "Indian" Entry

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Hey!!!

I leave for Gainesville, Florida day-after-tomorrow (technically, since right now is officially 5th and the flight is on 7th). The last 48 hours in India until a long time, I think. So effectively, this is the last entry in India.


Arrangements have been made, apartments have been booked (thanks to over-zealous Samaritans :P) and I just have to fit in teensy-weensy leftovers in the bags. I'll miss this place.. and probably all this will hit me sometime soon. Hell.. whatever.. I'll savour it all!

Anyways... really sleepy now.. and the next entry will be about my first non-stop 16 hour flight.. i think..

Friday, July 27, 2007

The last few days here

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The month has been pretty eventful.. First the tooth goes, then there is the visa interview (which goes quite well, thank you) and then comes the flurry of mind-numbing shopping where I almost buy half of Dadar, follow it up by buying half of MG Road and Ravivar Peth, and at the same time try to meet up a dozen or two friends and relatives.

Its been a strange time. I quite happy about leaving India. I was getting bogged down by the monotonous nature of things here. And going to Florida for MS is like a fresh start. New people, new place. Independence. Solitude. And hopefully, probably, I get to study something I will truly enjoy.

But leaving Pune means I have to restart the most painfully slow process that also scares me the most: making new friends... Its taken me a good four years to be comfortable with some of those in my engineering college. And it had taken me an equally good time to get close to those from junior college, japanese class, math olympiad class and so on. I've been trying to catch up with most of them & re-do the bonding and stuff. But couple that with the fact that I've managed to almost screw up potentially good friendships in the past few days means that it has been a mini-roller coaster ride.

Though I like the fact that I can say, I've friends in Calcutta, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Chandigarh, Uruguay, California, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Ohio, Alabama, UK, Germany and so on. Feels nice.

Florida is calling. And I'm leaving for it on the 7th of August, 2007. If you haven't met me here by then, lets hope to meet up in Gainesville, FL.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Teething troubles

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Wisdom teeth suck! They come at the wrong places, routinely cause pain and sometimes come up heading in the wrong directions. Ask me about it.

I had this wisdom tooth coming out horizontal!!! I mean, which tooth is so self-disrespecting enough to do that! I know that I nap most of the time, and it might have been confused with whats up. But it should learn from the other teeth...

Anyways, the point being that since I wish to go to the US, where dental care is expensive, I had to get my teeth fixed in time. The teeth cleaning exercise and then repairing the fillings activity was done in the last month, between my papers. What was left was the rogue wisdom tooth. Since the tooth had also decided to not pop out of the gum surface, it was double trouble. The dentist I go to does not do surgery. "Surgery" he called it!!! Me = shit worried. I hate hospitals & blood & things poking into me. (That I love to watch violent Tarantino-style movies is something else. Its not my blood, flesh etc. Its good make up!) Add to that the fact that I hate swallowing pills without chewing them and that you can't chew pills, meant I was stuck.

But I got around these worries somehow. Being stuck in a foreign country in pain is much less likeable than 2 days of agony, worry etc. So, the "surgery" was scheduled for today - 4th of July (Happy independence day my american readers, if that category exists). The doc who performs the surgery visits the clinic only on certain days. And today was one of them. I went there, a bit tensed up, at 12.30 sharp to hear that the doc was late.

45 mins of staring at nothingness or stupid Femina cover pages and doc arrives and summons me immediately. I sit on the chair and he asks me, "Which tooth?" Now it was 6 months back that the tooth hurt and I honestly didn't remember whether it was the right or left. I mumbled vaguely and told him to check the X-rays. :D (I am smart) Somehow, my guess - the right lower tooth - was right and he promptly pumped in two shots of anasthesia. Man, do they work fast!

I had my jaw wide open and eyes tightly shut so I actually didn't realise the he had finished injecting. Then he went out to work on another patient. Since I had nothing to do but wait, I suddenly recalled the great Feynman's antics. And I started to check how the anasthesia was holding up. First the lip starting going heavy. There was the mild pain due to the injection. The inner wall of the right cheek started going numb. Amazing thing is, there is distinct partition of whats "heavy" and whats not. Then anasthesia was working full time. It affected a bit of my ear too. Though the upper part of the ear did scream in pain when I pinched it.

I was asked to sit out in the waiting room for some time again. I sat there again. Bored to death. The doc then called me. And I got nervous. Those things might hurt. And I dint want to see any part of me being cut up. He made sit on that amazing inclined chair. Assuring me that it wont hurt, he fished out his tools and asked me to open my mouth. The cutting up happened quite fast I think. And then pulled out the drill. I think its the drill, or jack-hammer or powersaw. I didn't have the nerve to look at the THING that would wreck havoc in my mouth.

A dentist is essential a mechanical engineer. Or maybe a carpenter. Thats what i was thinking when he shoved that drill in mouth and started cutting out that tooth. He shoved, pushed, leaned on the drill and did everything possible that could get me to try and remember all the 33 crore Gods... I just kept praying that his drill didn't slip and cause permanent damage. Once, after about 5 mins of power display, he did try to pull the tooth out. He tugged, then kept his hand on mouth to hold my head down & tugged again harder. Back to drilling!

Thankfully, tooth extraction is a much shorter process than doing some filling. The jaw doesn't have to be kept open for eternity. He removed the tooth quite quickly, I must say. And then proudly showed it to me. Then came the stiches. They were done quite fast too. And off to home I was sent, with instructions on what to & what not to eat. Two days of drinking juices, syrups and non-hot stuff.

Sucks.. especially when its raining and all parts of your stomach and tongue crave for that hot steaming "kanda bhaji". Such is life...

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Looong time.. I know

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I suddenly lost the enthu to type out the details about the last day in Goa. Too many things came up that time. The exams, unfinished project work, some other irritating problems, the delay in getting my I20 form and so on. So I took my own sweet time to write this last post...

just to try out the picasa feature here is the slideshow of the photos:



the link to the photos: http://picasaweb.google.com/mandarharshe/GoaTrip

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Goa- Day 3 -- The Return of the Kings

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Day 3 began in much the same way as Day 2 - Nilesh staring at my face and trying to wake me up, only this time he wasn't determined to kick me out of the bed. 2 days of travel, lack of sleep, excitement etc etc do tend to get you tired. And especially so, if you act like an insomniac when you aren't one. Nilesh asked me whether we should go to where-ever we wanted to go. I said yes.. groggily. The he asked me if I wanted to wash up/ get ready so on before others... I said no... groggily, but vehemently. Sleep is precious, especially when in the confines of an AC room for which you are paying peanuts.

Nilesh then woke up Harshal, who had suddenly gotten Nilesh's enthusiasm for things. Nilesh, went back to sleep. I was woken up soon. Everybody was ready, almost, and were just chilling. I hurried up to finish business :D. We left the room at about 7 ish, a little late as compared to yesterday since none of us could really get yourselves awake fast. As always, we had our little discussion about "where to go, what to see" etc. We really believed in "dynamic selection of optimal entertainment outlets" - in Nilesh's words. The good thing was that we had finalised our two destinations - Fort Aguada and Sinquerim Beach. The bad thing was we hadn't decided the order. I say bad thing, because that turned to be a point of another discussion.

The logic (my logic :D) that won out was - go to the fort first, walk around and see the place and get tired etc in heat and then head to the beach where we can swim, relax, etcetra to our hearts content. We took the same road out of Panaji, that heads to Mapusa, took the left turn at Porvorim that takes us on the road to Calangute, Baga, Sinquerim, Aguada and I-dunno-where-else. We went past the right turn that takes us to Calangute and Baga and slowly, the number of continental restaurants, cool coffee shops and money changers increased. Clearly a place where foreigners tend to outnumber Indians. Almost.

We took the left turn to Aguada and as we went up the small hill, we could see Panaji city and road that we had taken in the distance. The road turns around the hill, and gives you a view of the beach lining Panaji - Miramar beach, where we had been the previous evening. At times, climb up seems amazing, almost impossible for the 97 cc bikes that we had rented. (I will always point out that the Hero Honda Splendour has an engine with a smaller displacement than my beloved Bajaj Caliber). The road almost seems to run through a small forest. There is the jail on the other side of the hill, and clearly, they want this place as depopulated as possible.

Harshal was smarting over the Aguada-first plan. It wasn't his choice. And his irritation doubled when, on reaching the fort, we were told that the fort opens to public at 9.00. It probably the first time that I have been unhappy that certain things aren't available early in the morning. I like things opening after 10.00 - college, class, movie, maybe work too. It was just past 8.00. An hour to kill! And that hurts, especially since we had chosen summer time to make this trip. We were a little hungry, but the only food available was Lays, cold drinks and coconut water.... We devoured some of those goddamn chips filled in packets that are 3/4th empty. Had some pepsi/mirinda etc and then decided to go to the other side of the hill and check out the prison.

The road goes round the hill completely and at one point it snakes in with the sea on the left and the dense thicket of trees on the right. We found a clearing on the left, a nice spot to sit and watch the sea.

Cool view na. We sat there for quite some time, fooled around. Od threatening to throw my camera, then trying to do some rock climbing, but never going higher than about 3 inches, me trying to click a group photo without using the tripod and so on... Harshal and I also managed to spot this insect/fly and tried to take one of those winning photos. The final result wasnt so cool... but we had fun trying to corner an insect in the middle of the forest. Finally, we decided to try our luck back at the fort. We didn't want to go see the prison. You have no idea what could happen, right?

Anyways, we reached there, and did more timepass waiting for the "caretaker" or whatever to come and "open" the fort. At the end of the road which runs along the fort is the lighthouse. Had a look at it too. That damn thing was also open only in the evenings! We walked back to the fort, to be told that fort had been opened some time back, those vendors et al hadn't seen the guy walk up and go in and realised only when they saw some tourists come out of the fort!!! Cursing those idiots (mentally of course. You don't curse 20 vendors with knives to cut open coconuts when there are only 4 of you with a digital camera and keys to 2 bikes), we went in to see the fort.

Nilesh had hyped up our interest by saying that this was the place where the DCH scene was shot. The scene where the three friends talk how things will change and they will all move apart as they go on with their lives. The last half hour spent around the fort had convinced us that this wasn't that fort. The horizon here wasn't the clear blue sea -sky thingy into which ships disappeared. There was a freakin' island kinda thing there. Plus the place in the movie was a bare patch of land. No thicket of trees. When we entered the fort, our assumptions were confirmed. The three of us each gave Nilesh a look of contempt. We turned around to move around the fort, only to realise that the fort was "over". The place was bloody small (in terms of "fort size") that it kinda ended before we even started. There seemed to be some cool chambers and corriders but they were blocked. The big board at the entrance said that this upper fort and a lower fort were connected and the lower fort also served a harbour or something. But we couldn't figure out how one went to the lower fort. We felt like we had been cheated. And we were pissed. (Look at Harshal's photo ... and you'll get how we felt, btw he wasn't posing or anything)


We walked around the perimeter and came out thirsty. Thankfully the ice-cream guy had come by now, and we ate those over-priced ice-creams in silence. Harshal had lost it. He was the most susceptible, and he made no bones about demonstrating his frustration. This seemed to be a sign that the day wouldn't be a good one. We had fun days one too many, I thought.

Hoping things go well, we headed towards Sinquerim beach. The road to the place is quite funny. You believe the road is good because the authorities made an effort to impress the firangs. So you follow the yellow brick road... uh.. no.. not exactly.. you follow the black tar road. At one point, there is this fork where the good tar road turns left and the road going straight is a dusty, untarred monstrosity. Its then that you realise that the road turning left is actually the entrace to The Taj, while the "road" ahead is the way to the beach. Now you know why the road was so good until now. We reluctantly went straight.

The view, again, was awesome. The beach is generally full, and the presence of so many foreigners along with the most amazing sea shore has ensured that there are a lot of adventure sport activities. We could see people out in power boats, water scooters, banana boats and what not! I had intended to do something of the sort - some adventure thingy. I was hoping for paragliding, but then we heard the rates - 400 for a scooter ride, and 250 per head for a motor boat. We werent convinced. We had a quick cash situation review.

We were short. Only about 600 bucks totally. All of us had spare cash... in our bags at the room. Ouch! And we were yearning to do something fun. Those guys who manage all those sports are quite convincing salespeople. The convinced us to take the ride and asked us to pay later. There are many ATMs around, they said. We had a quick chat regarding what option to take. The power boat thingy was good, a good 3 km ride and all of us would enjoy that together. But then a water scooter is a water scooter!

We sat 2 on a scooter, with the prof guy driving the thingy. Three on the scooter that is. And it is just so cool. Add to that the skill these guys possess in riding the waves and making sure you almost feel you are gonna fall.. wow is all i can say. After all of us were done with the ride, we quickly jumped back into the sea. Initially, we had kept our life jackets on because we were too lazy to remove them, but thank god we kept them. None of us can swim well, and the water there is terrific.. rather.. terrifying.. :D. We were in waist deep water, but when the waves crashed in, the water regularly rose by about 3-4 feet. The life-jackets ensured that we were lifted off our feet each time and thrown hopelessly towards the beach. Nilesh's bruised knee bears testimony to that fact. In fact all of us had minor scratches etc on elbows, knees etc.

This swim turned out to be the best one ever. We went much deeper, since we had jackets on, and since there were many good swimmers/lifeguards around. There was also a better crowd out there. Firangs, and in general, good ppl. Not old, fat people like at other places. After quite some time, the crowd thickened. I mean, the number of people incresed... not their size..! Anyways, feeling concerned about the status of all our baggage - clothes, cameras, phones et al, Nilesh and I got out. Nilesh was a bit tired too. So we decided to withdraw the cash from the ATM and pay the scooter rent thingy. Even though you see millions of ATMs operated by ICICI bank (all of which are always full!) in any city in India, we didnt chance upon one that day. I knew that there was one near Calangute beach, about 5-6 km away, but that was too far!

Nilesh used another ATM (costing us an extra 50 bucks :(... ), we returned with the money, and paid it promptly. Our conscience was clear. :P. Harshal and Od had just come out of the water. Those (&*((^^%$&(&^&. We were extremely thirsty, so had some water. Onkar was supposed to meet his uncle. Its so amazing to have a friend with relatives in Goa! His uncle has a place near all these beaches: its near Provorim. Meeting his uncle was quite an hilarious incident. Od's uncle waved at him. And told him that his place was a bit in the opposite direction. So we would have to turn back. Harshal had to wear his helmet, with a cloth inside it. He set himself upon it.. and nilesh and I started to turn our bike round. We look back to realise that Od's uncle has reched the other side of the road.. and is almost starting to leave.

I looked over to Harshal to tell him to hurry up, and just then, the flow of vehicles increased! So we couldnt take the U-turn. Od's uncle had left just a micro-sec before this. So he dint know we were stuck. It took us a good 5 mins to get around and head back. Noticing that we were missing, Od's uncle stopped near a snack joint on the way. By the time we arrived, he had been waiting for quite some time. We stopped, and he treated us to some Egg pattice and cold drinks... As we left, the same situation happened. By the time, nilesh and harshal were ready with their helmets etc, uncle had already left, and was disappearing in the traffic. He had told us that we had to take left turn, so we started slowing down at every one of them. Finally, we saw him waiting far ahead, just before the turn. We caught up, and he showed us his place. Its an amazing place, next to a cute little school (forgot the name, i think it was something like - chuby cheeks or something.. )

He suggested quite a few places for chow time. And the best part was that all those which he suggested specialised in Goan food & were cheap! Something even better was, all those he named were on the main roads, at decent locations, were AC and almost at the center of Panaji city. We ate at this place near the maind bus stand in Panaji (again, i forget the name, but its quite famous, about 50 feet away from the bus stand, is almost always crowded to capacity and is dirt cheap but has excellent food. The name is something like Rego..) We ate like royals, ordering non-veg, veg, cold-drinks, whatever , only to later realise that bill was about 250 bucks only. An amazing surprise. What a bill to end your trip with! :D

We went back to the room, packed all out stuff, cleared all the money we owed each other and cleared the BSNL room rent. We still had time, so we lazed around. Nilesh and Harshal had a big arguement on whose money management system was better. Nilesh had proposed a system where each pays his own, but one guy notes down all expenses incurred and later sorts out. Harshal had proposed pooling a common amount of money, through which all expenses would be met. Nilesh's system worked well on the first day, and Harshal's worked well on the second. but it collapsed when we extended it to the last day since each one had got different amounts of money and did not contribute equally. Od and I had great fun joining the fight and poking fun at each, since we were content with having all our money accounted for. We knew how much we had paid and how much was owed. Who cares about the other person then!

We left for the bus stand in the evening at about 6.00. I quickly picked up some cashewnuts etc... I wanted to buy some souvenirs for myself, friends etc... but there was no time. We had to return the bikes, get some food and be seated in the bus. The bike rental guy came quite late, causing panic among us. But we reached with enough time to spare on some bhel & paani puri. The bus left at 7 ish.. quite on time one must say. But we had been cheated. That guy had given us the second last row. Apparently, this was because the bus had changed at the last moment or something. It was quite obvious that our argument the previous day had caused this. There was nothing much we could do. A gang of south indian guys, aged similar to us, sat behind us. Some were clear drunk, or were drinking. Thankfully they dint create a ruckus. Too tired to do any timepass, I dozed off first. The others watched a stupid Z grade film that had been put on in the bus.

The dinner stop was a nightmare. About 15 buses had reached the place at the same time... so there were about 300 -400 hungry ppl ordering at the same time. And the bus was supposed to wait for only 30 mins. Madness! We barely ate anything... and went back to sleep. I remember being even more scared whenever I woke than the time in the ST while going towards goa. This driver was worse! And it seemed all those other private bus drivers were of the same mould. All drove at hellish speeds. They should allow buses to compete in F1. Lets see if that Hamilton guy can win then.

Reached Pune on time the next day. Took a rick home... and went to sleep!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Goa - Day 2 - The two beaches

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The last thing I recall about the first day is that Nilesh and Harshal were watching football... Od too was watching that I think... Things are fuzzy. I was tired, remember?

Anyway, the first thing I saw on Sunday was Nilesh! Dammit! This guy is an insomniac. He had got up earlier because of (surprise surprise) my alarm. Started getting ready and proceeded to wake all of us. Man, was he determined to do a "yatra" of all the beaches. After a prolonged "getting ready" session (I fell asleep in the bathroom... thank god there wasn't a bathtub, otherwise I would have drowned!), we headed out. Anjuna and Vagator is what had been decided the day before. We decided to follow that general direction. Which to be done first would be decided later.

On the way, Od continued with his "on the fly" photography. It was only when we reached a fork - the left road leading to Anjuna and the right to Vagator - that we were faced with making a crucial decision. I passed the buck to Od, sitting behind me, who promptly decided to let Nilesh make the call. Nilesh and Harshal, on the other bike, turned right. And we had no choice but to follow them. Another 4 Km ahead and we reached a little incline. The road leads to the sunset, if you arrive in the evening. We arrived in the morning, 7 AM to be more specific. But the view was amazing. Just imagine a beautiful picturesque beach, the blue sea blending in perfectly with the clear blue sky, with the horizon barely decipherably due to the almost same hues of the water and the sky, stretching across, in front of you, who's now finally managed to shake off that drowsiness off your eyes. Feels like Heaven, feels like God!


We climbed down.. and walked to the far end. Od was sleepy. Who won't after barely 3 hours of sleep. But we others were determined to have fun. The three of us proceeded for a swim. ( A swim is actually a misnomer. All of us were apprehensive of actually swimming in the sea. So we just stayed around in waist to shoulder deep water and let the waves pound us sore.) Nilesh decided to scout the area before swimming. He wanted to check out the area beyond the mountains. Harshal and I wanted to enjoy the waters. Vagator has the most amazing unpopulated, clean beach with great waves and strong undercurrents that you can hope for. The waves generally rise above your head. And if the wave is just forming when this happens, you are lucky. You just get carried up, and are thrown to the shore. But if the wave just breaks a few feet before it reaches you, you are a goner. The water throws you towards the shore. But in doing so, it delivers an amazing knockout punch you wished you never should have experienced. And then, the water receeds. It pulls at your feet. Since you are heavy (unlike me), it is content with pulling the sand under your feet. Enough to make you lose your footing.

"Apne pair ke neeche se jameen hil jati hai!"

We just couldn't resist cracking this one and chuckling over it time and again in Goa. Nilesh came after some time and told us that Od was gonna take a nap. Also, the patch beyond the mountain was amazingly choppy, rocky et al. We swam for some more time and then went to look at the place Nilesh had described. Its amazing how a few rocks here and there just change the nature of the sea. Clearly that area was not safe for a swim. But some people were hanging around there. Some firangs. (:D) and a few others interested in the flora clinging on to the rocks. All we were concerned was that no crab bites us when we step on the rocks. We came back... only to see Od gone... with all our stuff lying out there unattended.

Od's version of things: I woke up. Actually couldn't sleep at all. Harshal, Nilesh and Mandar must be having a good time. Those *IY&*%^&$%^#$#&^%*%. Wait for me you buggers! But then when I walk a bit, I can't see any of them. They were'nt so confident of swimming... what the??? Nah. Must be somewhere here. So I went around a bit. I started climbing that hill out there. Seemed that there was a fort up there. And a nice trail led to it. I think the fort was called Chapora or something. As I went up, clicking photos (take that Mandar, I'm gonna fill this memory stick with photos about nothing) I saw those three coming back fro the right. Oh yea. Seems that Nilesh took them to where he had gone half an hour earlier. Chalo. Time to go. Let's join them in the sea.

We swam a bit and then saw Od come down. He too joined in. Four of us taking on the waves. A little distraction and water promptly enters your nostrils, and is out through your mouth. Disgusting! But great fun. We just didn't feel like coming out. Finally at about 10.00 or so we were out. After all that exhausting fun, we're out of water to drink! We went back up to where our bikes were. Me dizzy out of thirst. ( How the hell do those guys in the deserts survive???) Coconut water/juice and a bottle or two of water. Whew! Relief. We sit around for some time. Hunger sets in. We loitered around for some time. And the plan for the rest of the day was etched out. Go to Panaji, have lunch/brunch. Take a nap. And go to Fort Aguada and the beach nearby.


We left Vagator. The ride back was pretty uneventful. All we knew was that there was a Kamat restaurant near our room and we should head there. But man! Finding it was a pain. Especially with all the one-ways, the Sunday street markets and police stopping us every other minute to check our licenses. We spotted a "Bombay Shivsagar" and entered it. Od, Nilesh & Harshal ordered Punjabi. Me South Indian. What great service! The "restaurant" is actually nothing more than a glorified eatery. It is housed in this small space in which generally shops are. But these guys had managed to keep it clean, cook great food and also respond to your orders in a minute. Wow! We left, with a generous tip and headed back to the room. A shower, and time for a nap. harshal and Nilesh switch on the TV for their football and takeshi's castle.

But before we actually fall asleep the plan changes again. Fort Aguada is scheduled for tomorrow. We decided to go to Miramar Beach, Dona Paula etc in Panaji itself. We doze off and wake up in the evening. Around 5.00 pm. We left the room, fresh and with a nice bedsheet to lie down on at the beach and clothes, in case we entered the water. But before Miramar, we went to book our tickets back home. We didn't want to travel by the Maharashtra ST buses. Leg room is too less. We looked up the Goa ST (Kadamba Buses or something) and Karnataka ST Buses. Either full, or only last seats available. A private transport bus agent catches hold of us. He told us that he could get better seats. For around 400 bucks. We followed him, a little vary. He offered us well.. the second last seats! We obviously weren't impressed. Od and I decided to check out if others had any better seats to offer. We found one guy who gave us better ones. And finalised the deal. Since Harshal and Nilesh had the money, we called them to the place where we were waiting. The agent followed them. And then, starting arguing that since we had "finalized" the booking in his bus, we couldn't book anywhere else. Ridiculous. Since we had not told him anything, but to wait. Drama ensued and finally we got the tickets we wanted. And then we headed to Miramar.

Miramir, situated in Panaji, is one helluva crowded place. Atleast, on Sundays it is. And we felt more so, since Vagator, Baga and Calangute were relatively empty. Anyway, with the setting sun in front, and nothing to be done urgently, we just sat. And chatted. And watched the crowd play, build sandcastles, throw frisbees, jump, swim, run, walk past giving us and our camera - tripod stand a stare; watched the ships come back, the ferries go out with the festivities for the Sunday crowd as the night set in; and just watched the sun set behind the Aguada Fort & the lighthouse as the moon too moved past the zenith and headed into the west.


We sat there for a long time. Took some fundoo snaps. Finally stomachs started rumbling. We walked out of the beach, looking for a restaurant close by. Dona Paula was being slowly relegated to the "not- seen" list. Foodland has got itself the best location. You walk out of the beach. And the closest thing to you is -- Foodland! A nice plump DJ plays some music from his laptop there. And occasionally sings if the song is his type or if he has the lyrics. Nice place. But service is bad. Felt more so after the Shivsagar experience. Food took a long time. And we were too bored to pursue any activity. After all, we were on a holiday.

We returned to the beach. Sat down and wasted time again. Over-enthu Nilesh and Hashal went for a walk along the beach again.

Finally at about 11 ish or so we decided to call it a day. Conserve energy for tomorrow. Those bike rides are tiring and since we go on the same road everyday, it kinda gets monotonous. We went back to the room. Finalised on Fort Aguada and Sinquerim beach for the next morning. As with other days, and other times where I started dozing off, the TV was on. Set on some sports channel, showing some Barca match. There was Snatch going on some movie channel. But the start had been missed, and it might have been difficult for the others to catch on to the plot. So, channel changed.. to Asterix - Mission Cleopatra. I dozed off as Obelix tried to hide the broken tip of the Sphinx's nose....

Friday, May 25, 2007

photos

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writing takes time... especially when i have to a project report to do..

photos also have to compiled... i cant just upload all 500 of them can I?.... Will post when the I'm done with selecting the best ones to upload. The details of the next 2 days of goa trip will trickle in slowly.. I think I'll change the writing style for that to the normal one - use past tense.

thanks for visiting :D

mandar

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Goa - Settling in....Day 1

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And so, I reach the bus stand at 8, thanks to a lift by my cousin. Od, Nilesh and Harshal have already reached and are waiting for me so that they can have a pseudo dinner or something. I learn that my flip-flops had almost got the entire plan cancelled and it was only on Od's and Nilesh's insistence (and threats) that Harshal had agreed to go. Seems everyone let out a collective breath of relief when I was cleared for holiday!

Word of caution when taking an Asiad bus to Goa: Read up on the concept of patience. This is what I realise when I look at my watch. Its 9.00 pm and the bus is just about to leave Pune station.... and head to Swargate! We reach Swargate after some agonising 15 minutes to the small congested streets of Pune only to wait for another 15 minutes. More passengers file. The bus is full. Thank God! There is a little confusion and chaos since our seats aren't together. I booked my ticket late, remember? We get some seats exchanged.. though we still aren't exactly in the best possible places, we decide to rest with what we have.

After the intial banter, the situation is like this:
Me:


Od:


Nilesh and Harshal:


Hehe.... Now let me describe the general ritual followed by bus drivers:
To sum up for the time lost waiting at the bus stands, all bus drivers pray and invoke the spirit of Aryton Senna or Michael Schumacher (if thats possible) or both. They then switch off the bus lights so no passenger can see what the heck is happening and start feeling drowsy (the passengers, not the driver). If at all you wake up at night, while the bus is at its full speed, you will stop being an atheist. Hell, you'll even not want to remain agnostic! You'll just want GOD to exist... and that too in the same bus as yours so that you may be saved.

Sleeping fitfully in the bus is an example of an oxymoron... We wake up in the morning thoroughly satisfied with the validity of the above statement. It seems the bus has stopped and the driver has gone out. Probably to the loo... And so we try to doze back to sleep. Ahem, thats not allowed I think. You are not allowed to doze back, is what some people who have to reach places at exact 8.30 in the morning believe. Turns out that the driver has gone out to get some alcohol (to take home, not however, to drink) from somewhere it is cheaply available. (That means, we have entered the state of Goa.. yahooo) And two people are unhappy. And they believe that the best way to display their unhappiness is by continuously repeating : "kaay phaltugiri ahey. hyala kaay artha ahey ka?" in a weird accent which only makes you laugh. Then put in some other sentences like : "konich kahi bolat kasa nahi. kaay phaltugiri ahey! driver cha number lihun gheto ani takrar nondavto" (the man believes in talking in chaste marathi)

Fortunately, driver returns, things cool down, bus starts, Mr Senna's ghost reappears and we all doze back. 8.25 am and I'm woken up to the beautiful city of Panaji. What amazing roads! What amazing planning! It gives you the feel of being in an European town. wow! Outta the bus and looking for a taxi. With "TOURIST" written al over us, we just have to figure out which cab/rickshaw is gonna fleece us the least. We settle on a taxi who's gonna charge 60 bucks to take us to an area called Altinho. Is it good, I hear you ask. It is not, is my reply. Altinho is barely 4 kilometres from the bus stand.... That is all I will say. After the initial requisite confusion in finding the correct place, we land at the BSNL office, near the microwave tower. And we are shown into the Inspection Quarters.

Let me describe you the quarters: These are where generally BSNL employees stay when on tours. The rooms are air-conditioned, fully furnished with a cupboard, 2 side-tables, a cozy double bed, attached bathroom (which is quite big) and a flatscreen TV with cable - ie over 50 channels to watch. The employees can let their immdiate relatives stay in these quarters if booked sufficiently in advance. Nilesh's father had done so.
The rent is Rs. 50 per day.


If you want to read that again, allow me to repeat: The rent is Rs. 50 per day.

:D

What more can four 21 year olds, intent on making an economy, fun-filled trip to Goa, ask for? (The answer is cheap food and firang crowds, if you are curious).

We unpack bags, freshen up. The watchman tells us that we can get bikes for about Rs 250 per day. (Bike = Splendor.. not Pulsor or enfield etc :-( ) We tell him to get the bikes... and start watching TV, trying to decide what to do that day.

Thankfully, the plan is decided by the time the bikes arrive. We decide to go to Ponda (pronounced Fonda for some funny reason unknown to us) where Od's grandmother stays. Spend the afternoon there and then head to the beaches. We have decided to go to Baga and Calangute beaches that day.

The road to Ponda (Fonda?) is awesome. The road just does not have potholes. Its heaven. Its also windy, and Nilesh loses his cap a couple of frustating times. Since its just 11.30 am when we leave, most of the restaurants aren't open. Nobody eats so early is their philosophy. Clearly, the haven't met us. One lucky (unlucky?) restuarant, situated by the Mandovi River, offering a scenic view, gets chosen at random and we enter it. The chef, manager etc are all surprised. (I think that they rushed in to brush their teeth, freshen up etc etc when they saw us.) Only chicken chilly milly (or something like that.. its tasty though) and fried rice are available. We take it. And gobble it up. Its lipsmackingly delicious! Chicken! mmmmmmmmmm...

We reach Ponda. Get lost a couple of times while trying to reaching the house, conveniently misdirected by different people. Finally, sanity and honesty prevails. And we reach the house. We just relax. Eat mangoes (what a day, first great chicken and then alphonsoes!). Harshal decides to confuse Od by controlling the TV with his cell phone. Od and Nilesh think that the TV remote is faulty.... and give up watching. hehe.. time for a nap.

We wake at around 4. After a light snack, we're off to Baga beach. Od realises that we're gonna miss watching sunset at the beach. So he continues his "on-the-fly photography". He is good at it, you know. The roads and road signs in Goa are the best thing for any outsider. Finding Baga beach is a piece of cake, though we realise its there only when we reach the end :P. And a great shocl awaits us! There is no good crowd!!!! Its mostly kids, uncles, auntys and some tapori crowd! Naheeeeeeeee!

Od, Nilesh and Harshal go in to the water for a swim. I start taking photos. Its low light conditions, and I have a tripod to help me take awesome photos. Tada! (thanks nitant) . After some time... I exchange places with Nilesh. I go into the water and he "guards" our stuff. Finally we call it quits. Its too dark now. Od, inspired by F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and thousands of other funny serials, decides to bury himself in sand.... Harshal too starts doing the same. Photography ensues.
About 63 odd people pass by, and each one makes it a point to give us a stare. We don't take any of them. :P

Hunger has set in. And we've heard lots about the saturday night market. We start hunting for it. Its not open today, is what we hear from 2-3 guys. Turns out that this off- peak season. No foreigners in droves. So no market. Damn! So head to Calangute Beach. Its anyways on the way back. There is party type thingy organised by the Goa tourism board there. Free entry. We promptly enter. Od tries his hand at some stupid game. Its designed to make you lose. And Od loses! We start hunting for food. Chicken lollipop and Biryani! Its not as great as morning, but its good. Plus, there is live music and lotsa ppl dancing. Fun!

Post dinner we head to the beach. Its 10 pm types. And the shacks and shanties on the beach are getting filled up. The most amazing thing here is that these people set tables and sofas facing the sea. So you can sit in peace, watch the waves, sip you favourite bevarage (to the shanty owner's frustration, it is Sprite and Mirinda in our case. None of us wants to drink alcohol!) and chat. We do all that. Then decide to go somewhere else. But a look at the watch tells us its past midnight. And our room is in Panaji, 20 Km away. We stroll out slowly. It takes 20 minutes to reach the bikes.

Damn. First day over. The ride back home is serene. No traffic on already awesome roads going through amazing locales. We get stopped once by the police. Routine checking. Back at the room at about 1.30 am. After some TV (Takeshi's castle!! and football), we argue on the beach to visit the next day. Anjuna and Vagator beach is decided. An alarm for 5.00 am is set. Its 2.30 am now. Wonder how we'll get up tomo... or rather.. today. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

GOA!!!!

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Splash!!!!! Just back from a trip to Goa... and whoa! .. was it fun {grinning smiley}...

just for kicks: my orkut name is now "Back from Goa".. and orkut greets me as "welcome, back from Goa"... hehe.. has a nice ring to it :D


Hmmmm, and on Nilesh's insistence.. and my own wish to keep writing, here's an account of the trip.. will do it in 3 different posts .. i hope..

Lets go somewhere.... How about Goa?
.. comes nilesh's call... Me immediately happy, I think: Nothing wrong with the idea. Exam starts late, on 31st; I have a holiday of about a week before every paper (very unfortunate, but good since it might get me to goa) And, the chance of me getting to go to Goa with friends is almost nil after the exams. Especially, since after exams I will be busy with trips to the doc, the visa office and what not to get me prepared for going to the USA (wink). Hmm, lets throw this idea on mom and dad and see their reaction.

Mom and dad share a look (I think), they know that I WANT to go. And I guess that they know that this could be last chance in a loooooong time before i get such an awesome holiday. But work must be done, passport work and loan application for my MS is pending and unless that is done I shouldn't even think of going anywhere, is what my mom says. I think, that's cool. Passport once submitted won't come in about 10 days, loan application should be done in a jiffy. So, I come out happy and tell Nilesh and Od that you could almost count me in, but I'll let you know soon.

Soon... hehe... nice word. That's what i said 2 days earlier. But SBI wants EVERY bloody damn paper related to the house to process the house. The passport application also looks as if its gonna give problems. Things look bleak. I call and tell Nilesh that I cant come. I go to bed. The next day we start looking for the papers, and we bloody cant find them! It seems those papers will take about a week to be processed and so, SBI gives an alternative... a third part guarantor: my mom can be one, and suddenly things fall into place. I submit all the remaining papers and the loan thingy moves ahead.

But its thursday, and Nilesh, Od and Harshal are leaving on friday night.... so I possibly can't do anything. I meet Nilesh and Priyank over dinner/supper and tell Nilesh that things have fallen in place and now I have to wait for all those materials to get processed. Nilesh tells me I can still come, I just have to go early in the morining and hope to get the tickets for the same bus. I get permission from parents to attempt this, and I end that Thursday with a satisfied mind.

Friday morning, I wake up early (a rare occurence, I can assure you) and rush to the Bus Stand, minus the morning bath, to get the tickets. I think the body odour helped get me the tickets faster than usual. :D Kidding
Tada!.. tickets done, bags packed and I'm ready to go....

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Hmm.. I guess, the trip part should come in separately... so, I'll write that in a separate post. :D



Sunday, April 1, 2007

Your Calling?

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I had an interesting discussion today. A few of us were generally fooling around, talking about fundoo stuff and so on. And suddenly the conversation turns into something quite serious. What does one do after graduation? The answer: "A job" sounds cool, but has one really given a thought to it?

The question is especially relevant to those chose to study a field not necessarily their first choice. Of course, nobody has a valid, irrefutable first choice which could be logically defended as to the reason for it being so. Most who choose engineering do so because they got good marks, most who do pure sciences do so because they didn't get those good marks. And I'm only talking about the science and tech side because I presume to have a tad bit more knowledge about these than the other fields. Even when one has chosen engineering, the choice of his/her discipline is mostly a game of dice. It depends on your perspective of the branch (which is generally false), your marks (which are again a misrepresentation of your interests most of the time), the wishes of your relatives, friends and the raddi-wallah (all who ideally shouldn't matter) and a host of other things which I wouldn't want to know.

Anyways, the point being this: you are probably doing engineering because you did not have a better idea of what to do. In this case, how do you actually find your calling? It might be a bit easier if you aren't averse to engineering. Atleast from this seat in the middle of India, it seems that someone who realises that engineering isn't what he wants to do is doomed. MBA is not a cup of tea (atleast getting admission into a decent institute isn't) and changing careers paths is frowned upon most of the times.

The only thing that comes to my mind is this: experiment with everything. The best part of the American system of education is that it allows you to take a wide variety of courses before you actually decide your major area of your studies. Imagine taking music, art, politics and then coming back to study quantum mechanics! So, the way out is this. You are stuck in your respective branch of engineering which you aren't even sure you like. The only way you can find out whether you like something or not is to learn more about it. The hitch is, what if you don't? That is why I said experiment. The first two years of engineering are mostly about introduction. The third is where you learn some important fundamentals. And the fourth is where you realise your "calling", select your project accordingly and determine the way the winds are blowing. All this is the ideal scenario.

People tell me that it is amazing that right now, I know that I want to study robotics and do atleast a Masters degree in that. But these are the same people to whom I said four years ago: "Its amazing that you want to select this particular branch. I don't even know what field to plunge into. " I basically wanted to study math. Then suddenly, I changed my mind and decided to study physics. Things happened and it was destiny or fate or whatever-you-may-call-it that made me take up mechanical engineering. Anyway, it was me who was worried the most about my flip-flops the most. And a line one of profs said struck a chord. He said: Atleast try to find out what you don't like. Then you know you will be in a much better position.

And thats what I did. Still enthusiastic about physics, I continued reading physics. Picked up books on advanced relativity, a topic that was my favorite. Then, I heard about these robotics competitions at IIT and also one at COEP. I gave a try to the one at COEP and failed miserably. But it just showed me something interesting. I learnt electronics - all I could understand about transistors and diodes before it was time to study the "syllabus" for the exams. I learnt a bit of programming, more than others in my batch. I tried to think up this "innovative" engine operating on cycle of 6 strokes, before I found that it was already being done. I learnt about micro-controllers. Each one showed me a bit of what I could like and what I couldn't. By the end of my second year, I had decided to give up the notion of doing an MSc in Physics after my BE. But I wasn't entirely sure of my calling.

Many more things have happened which seemed to suggest to me that I should do robotics - and in particular, in the fields of kinematics, dynamics and controls. The point is, am I sure that I want to do this the rest of my life? I am not sure and I hope that I don't do so. I mean, why should only 4 of the first 21 years decide what should be done in the next 40? Atleast, the intended path for the next 5 - 10 years seems less hazy. And that is what I'm content with. I don't think its possible to find your "calling" so easily and so early.

The only thing that one must try to determine is what is not your "calling". Narrow down your search. And in the process you will know a host of things, and will be delighted to stumble upon what you truly enjoy.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Welcome to my lair..

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To write or not to write a blog is what I had been contemplating for months... I had a website up and running (where you are now..) and in the attempts to make it easier for me to post on it, I almost made it pseudo-bloggish ...

But the more vexing question was, will I or won't I keep posting. Especially since I tend to get introverted at times ... and have a verbal diarrhoea at other times. And I decided: To heck with it. I'll start writing a blog... and if I dont continue, I can press the Delete button innit?

But before I get to writing stuff, telling about whats up in life, or in general ramble on, I'll pass on for now... The first step has been taken... and a blog has begun! Tada!