Monday, December 29, 2008

A Day & A Half In New York

New York, in one word, was seductive. It was like tasting a drink. Just taking a sip and imagining how the full glass would taste.

The mist that engulfed the city added to the charm. Walking through the fog which would suddenly break down into rain, the smoke from the roadside stalls, the little potholes which were beginning to get filled by the sporadic rain, the skyscrapers which would disappear into the smog, the people - fashionably dressed, the transient nature of my stay; all of it combined to give an almost ethereal feeling. You hear so much about a city and you know that a day and a half is never going to satiate you. Especially when it's NY. And then you actually go there and feel its pull. And I don't mean the tourist spots. What got to me were the possibilities that even a first time visitor like me could see. The life that could be felt everywhere. In the subways and on the streets. Inside the tall buildings and the yellow cabs.

I spent the night of 26th December with my friends. Roaming around Times Square. Like a first timer, I kept looking around the lights around me and clicked photographs. We then got drunk on Bourbon. So much so that my friend was in no state to walk up to the PATH station that would take us to our hotel in Newark. We therefore called up our friend who had stayed back in the hotel. He came and picked us up at 4 in the morning.

We got up at 11 the next day, checked out of the hotel, had poha at another friend's place in Jersey City and went sightseeing. The other 3 guys with me had been to NY at least a dozen times and understandably were not much enthused by the sight of the Wall Street or the Brooklyn Bridge. Nevertheless I forced them to tag along with me!

We had a 6 o' clock movie to catch. Ghajini. And apart from Asin (who I thought looked gorgeous) and the comic/romantic part, I didnt like the movie. Anyway, we got out of the hall at around 9 and drove to Mithaas at Edison where we had Gujarati Thali, Chole Bhature, Raj Kachauri and lots of sweets. Our initial plans to head back to DC after dropping our friend at Horsham were put to rest once we reached there at 12 and realised that it might not be the best idea to drive through the dense fog at night.

For 2 days I kept imagining what it would be like to live in NY and experience all that it has to offer. I wanted to walk the streets with the camera in my hand for a few more days and get a feel of the city. To visit its cafes, listen to its music, eat its food and talk to the people who live there and then write about them.

I won't say that I loved NY. But it sure made me want to come back. Not for a day or two. But to stay and experience it. NY left a feeling of yearning in me.

On The Road

For someone like me who's traveling by road in the US for the first time, the experience couldn't have been any more different from what it is in India. Automatic gear, lane driving, wide roads, no cattle, no villages or small towns in between. It becomes boring after some time. I was sitting next to my friend who was driving and was continuously falling asleep. But in the stretch between Horsham and Baltimore, there was a bit of traffic. And it was the better part of the 4 hour drive.

The dog in the front would keep poking its head out now and then. And the one in the back would disappear behind the tire. Thankfully the traffic was slow and I didn't have anything more interesting to do. So I waited and finally managed to get the shot I wanted.

This one was more interesting. The first time I spotted it, I was in the middle of my half awake half asleep phases. By the time I had my camera ready, it had overtaken us (our lane was slower). 15 minutes later though, courtesy some very innovative driving from my friend, we were again close to the small truck. I couldn't get the angle I wanted but nevertheless, this is what I clicked.

Snapshots From Horsham

It's a small town near Philadelphia. Stayed there at a friend's place for a day. It's one of the most picturesque places I have seen. The sun was out and the temperature was a pleasant 15 degrees or so. A welcome change from Minneapolis!

There was still some time before we left for NY and so I went around the place with my camera. And the squirrel obliged.

It was the day after X-Mas. So the decorations outside the houses were still there.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday Night @ Hard Rock Cafe

'All of us have our day jobs but we're trying to get this going full time. Let's see.'

I was having a conversation with Matt, the bassist of the band, The Phoenix Philosophy. He told me about a few guitar stores in Minneapolis which have a good collection of acoustic-electric guitars. My friend managed to talk to Ketan, their drummer - the desi guy who had first caught our attention!

Yesterday was a live band night at the Hard Rock Cafe. We had just gone there to spend the evening. So it was a pleasant surprise to find the bands playing. The first band, Major Fifth, didn't sound good to me and even though Matt and his band was a bit too heavy for my taste, with Grey Goose, they sounded good.

At around 12 o' clock the three of us were standing outside, contemplating whether to catch the last bus home or stay another hour and take a cab ride. Bensonwells, the last band for the night, had just started playing. I was beginning to enjoy their sound. And the vodka and Margarita had also started taking effect. A minute later, we were back in the bar with another drink.

It was a great evening. We ended up buying the CD from the vocalist of Bensonwells and today when I heard it, they sounded quite amazing. Just the kind of indie, alternative music I've come to like over the last year and more. And yes, I asked the name of the cute waitress who has been serving us for the last 3 times. 'Karen', she said. I told her that she is beautiful and she smiled and went away.

Thursday, December 18, 2008


Wednesday evening. Driving to downtown.

Wish You Were Here. Witchy Woman. With A Little Help From My Friends. With Or Without You. KQRS92 is playing 'W' in its Classic Rock A-Z which has been running since the 1st of the month. Three out of the five of us are humming along with the songs, trying to remember the lyrics when we can. An NBA game awaits us upon reaching Target Center. And even though I just about know the rules of the game, it's something new and I'm excited as usual.

Thursday afternoon.

"The coffee's on me. Don't worry about it", Dave, the restaurant's owner, tells me. We've been going to Zakia Deli for more than 2 weeks now and I really like the food. I have the day's special: Kafta and Rice, and it tastes delicious as ever. I grab the coffee, take a copy of the local City Pages because the title says 'Year in Music 2008' and step out into the bright afternoon with my jacket unzipped. It's a pleasant -8 deg outside.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Not this. Maybe something else...

This is going to be a long one. So you might want to do something else.

There's a kind of satisfaction which comes with giving your best shot. Something often bordering on a sense of arrogance. When I decided to apply for a US MBA this earlier this year, I knew it was going to be a very uphill climb. Last year, I had closely seen someone go through it and even if I knew I would do things differently, I knew that I had a lot on my plate.

I had this feeling that this was going to be intense. And in a good way. I wanted to do it. I thought I was good at it. It would be something I hadn't done ever in my life. And it had the power to change many things.

Today I got a reject from my top school. A school I would have really wanted to attend. But wait. This is neither going to be a i-hate-this-flawed-process post nor a oh-im-ruined one.

I had done everything I had the power to do. I couldn't change my past. My weaknesses. But in effort and intent, I think I would have done better than a few who would get into the school. Blogs, emails, phone calls, forums, websites, brochures and info sessions. I did all the usual things. I made excel sheets too! But what I enjoyed doing most was asking myself questions. Asking myself what I wanted out of the two years at the school. And beyond. So by the time I submitted the application, I had clear answers to all of them. And most importantly, they were my answers. I wrote about them passionately. I poured my heart into them. It was quite liberating. I stringed together each sentence carefully. My transitions were good. The flow was there. I distilled out what my experiences and memories had taught me and I wrote honestly. Yes, I embellished my achievements. But they were small, personal ones. I feared they would get lost amongst the larger, earth shattering ones that others would have. Oh, you should have seen my essays. Each ending was unique. Each beginning had a bite. I know its like being boastful about myself. But they were. I don't always like what I write. But the essays... I really did a good job of them. The few who read my first drafts would agree.

Anyway, the fact that I have a major release to take care of tomorrow has sort of helped. And of course the new life. I am sad. I mean I had dreamed about getting the admit email so many times. I had played over in my head what I would do. What I would put on this blog. But now that it has actually not happened, I don't feel all that depressed or down. Somebody told be not long ago that I can make it a habit to cry about how things aren't going my way. But this email hasn't had a similar effect. At least no so far.

I am generally very critical of myself. So much so that I often hesitate to disagree or argue if I am absolutely not sure about my own knowledge or information. I hate seeing the faults in others till the point I am certain that I'm not misunderstanding them and that I have the facts right. So I wont hold a grudge for this. Disheartened? Definitely. Felt let down? No. Wished it had been different? Yes. Feel that the world around me has shattered? Naah.

This process has given me a lot of clarity. Loads of confidence about my ability to think and come to conclusions. I know it's not the right time to talk about confidence when you have just got a rejection. But it's after all the judgement 2 people made about my abilities and potential. And it's different from what I think of myself. There are still a couple of schools which might have different opinions about me. And even if they dont there's always a next time. But just having done this so thoroughly has given me immense satisfaction. I still think that I put in a great application.

I'm beginning to believe that what matters really is what you think of yourself. And then, what the people around you - those who know you closely, think about you. Because whenever I 've let strangers judge me, they've dissapointed me.

Anyway. Guess I am done rambling about nothing in particular. And yes, there are still new things happening everyday. Take temperatures of -32 degree for example.

A dream got shattered today. A huge one. It's perhaps time to start creating a new one.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Something New

The last three weeks have seen me experiencing a new way of life, doing a few firsts, and planning for more. I thought I would die to put them down in this blog. Strangely, I haven't. A time when new things are happening to me everyday has also been characterized by a lethargy, even reluctance, to write about them. Or maybe, I love writing the most when I have nothing else on my mind. But there are a few who still like what I write. Or what I used to. Some who remember that this blog turned three a few days back; who would still be happy to read one of my random ramblings about balance in life and such. About change and nostalgia and memories. This post, is for one such person.

I love it when it's snowing here. I love the sense of romance it carries with it. The way snow flakes settle on my black jacket and reveal their fractals if you care enough to look closely before they melt into tiny droplets of water. The day after a night of heavy snowfall is one of the most gorgeous sights I have seen. Especially when the sun comes out and the pure white snow dazzles all around me. The wooden houses of suburban Minneapolis which line the road that takes me to office, the snow covered parking lots, the lone biker who has perhaps been born and brought up here and is no stranger to the weather, the bearded, homeless man who stands with a sign asking you to help him - each day brings with it a new way to look at the world.
Mundane things like grocery shopping take on daunting proportions as I walk the kilometer long stretch to the mall braving the cold winds which make the temperature fall to -20.

For a long time now, I have wanted my life to spring up surprises. Mostly pleasant ones, I would say! At heart I love uncertainties. Yes, I do crave for the assurance that comes with knowing exactly what to expect from your surroundings and the people you interact with. But maybe because I have led a pretty predictable life, or maybe because I have a tendency to believe in miracles - I keep imagining that I would have moments which would be anything but predictable and mundane. Somebody told me long back that I am a romantic at heart. And to quite an extent, I think I am.

Today I find myself in that kind of situation. A new country, new faces on the streets, new places to visit. The working hours are different as is the way people work. They greet strangers here but at times ask too many questions. I mean do I really care if you put the receipt in the bag or give it to me? There are too many varieties of milk and I give a damn if it contains 2% less fat or has Vitamin X. But there are also so many shoes that I have already bought 3 for myself! At one level there's a lot to feel and absorb. It overwhelms me. I feel I would be able to assimilate only a small bit of it. Particularly because it's a temporary change. On the other hand, knowing for sure that I will go back to Bangalore which by all standards has given me a very comfortable, hassle free life for the last two years and more - makes me enjoy this 'break' more than I might have done, had it been permanent. And of course, the time of the year helps. I have enough breaks to go around a bit, grab all those deals and generally not work too hard at office!

I think I'm really enjoying my stay here because it's a huge shift from my regular life but at the same time comes with an expiry tag. It's like being given space and time to experience something and go all out.

Blogging will most probably be slow paced. As it has been for most of this year. It's contradictory I know, since there would be so much to write about. But I think it's only when I separate myself from events which happen in my life, that I am able to write about them. I take time to assimilate and feel the experiences. The spontaneous reaction is also something, I know. And I wish I had the drive to keep writing as and when things happen. On the fly. In real time. It would have offered a different perspective, I'm sure. But that's the way I am. And moreover, I don't just want to report events.

By the way, the Oasis concert was mind blowing. Matt Costa's opening act with his acoustic guitar was a treat. Ryan Adams disappointed big time. Oasis was out of the world. The stage with the 4 big screens. The lights. The sound. It was indeed magical. And yes, you could buy beer too. We came out with amazement and delight writ large on our faces. Went to HRC for another round of beer. The cute waitress looked way more hot. Or maybe I was too high on alcohol and music.