Sunday, August 21, 2011

Songs, Places & People

Even though I think I'm a "musical" guy, I don't listen to a lot of music - like during work or while running on the treadmill. Part of it could be because I don't enjoy putting on headphones. While driving, though, I love it. So much so that I'm willing to say, I need it. I mostly listen to the radio. The zone between unpredictability at one end and the comfort of familiarity (e.g. the Today's Hits  station that each city has) is perfect for me.

Enough of beating around the bush. The reason I wanted to write this post is because with so many songs there are these places and people associated in my head that have become inextricably linked with the songs themselves. Every time a Don't Stop Believin' or Pour Some Sugar On Me or The Scientist or Collide or Coming back to Life or Dust in the Wind plays (I'll stop here, because the list is pretty long!), I invariably end up thinking about those associations. Some go back to the hostel rooms of IIT. Some to the pubs or even my house in Bangalore. Others are more recent and trace their origins to Saturday nights at a certain No. 3 in Charlottesville. Then there are the people with whom you shared the song - singing, listening along with pitchers of beer, dancing or even just sending the mp3 and having a conversation about it.

I don't know how it is with you; but for me, nostalgia is almost always bittersweet. There's the high of having had such a great time and reminiscing about it. And there's also the sense of loss. These songs are part of nostalgia too. 

Fortunately, I've found my staple radio stations in Dallas. Today's Hits, Classic Rock, Alternative New Rock and this station which mixes up everything from a Matchbox 20 to a Bruno Mars. Not surprisingly, a lot of these songs come up during my drive to and from the office. It's a pleasant distraction from the 105 temperatures and occasional traffic on US-75.

P.S. Watched this absolutely riveting movie about street art - Exit Through The Gift Shop. Best thing I've seen in a long time.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Starting Again

The absence from this space has been so long that when I logged in today, I found that Google has changed the entire Blogger interface! Like my other hiatuses, this one also has been characterized by an extended period of what I like to call 'eventful living'. Graduation and goodbyes. Travels and transitions. In that order, actually. There have been too many things I've wanted to write about. But the irony is that I don't know how to begin. 

"So where are you from?"

I don't remember if I've written about this earlier, but this is no longer a simple question for me to answer. Sometimes people are more specific (like the girl in the leasing office of my apartment) and ask "So where are you moving from?" Two years ago, when I was introducing myself to the three hundred other classmates, it was easy. Well, easier. Start with India and then ramble a bit about growing up in a small town in Eastern India and then spending time in Delhi and Bangalore. But I realized, some people wanted an easy to remember, 2 second answer. So I stuck with Kolkata or Bangalore.

Since moving to Texas, I mostly say Virginia. And if the conversation goes on for over thirty seconds, I make sure that I put in the 'have been in the US only for two years' part. To which, surprisingly a few say, 'Oh! just two years? Your English is really good!" 
Now, my English has been or less the same as it was when I was in India. Sure I've started to roll the T's and the R's and stretch the A's. Mostly so that people understand me. Not to put on an accent per se. Anyway, I take it as a compliment, say thanks and continue blabbering.

Then there's the occasional encounter with an Indian American or somebody who happens to know more about India that I would think he/she does. So my standard 'I'm from India' leads to a duh!-you-really-thought-I-couldn't-get-that-from-your-accent-and-skin-color look, I laugh awkwardly and proceed to talk about my journey from Kolkata to Bokaro to Delhi to Bangalore. 

Point being, it's not an easy question to answer. Not anymore. 

"What do you think about the US of A?"

This is not as frequently asked. But is probably harder. My answer? I give a very standard one. 
I like it here. I think the social infrastructure is great and makes life easier. Technologically, this country is way ahead. But I miss the spontaneity of India and the fact that I'm far off from my parents and a lot of my friends. Nowadays, I add the fact that how pissed I have been with customer service at most places - from AT&T to car rentals to IKEA and the fact that things work great here when there is no human intervention.
Depending on how long the conversation goes, I talk about how I find it very 'sanitized' here. About not enjoying baseball at all though starting to like American football. About missing being out of touch with cricket and all the festivals back home. And more.

But on a deeper level, what do I think about this country? The two years so far have been tremendous. But how much of it was the cocooned atmosphere of Darden and Charlottesville where everybody is nice and considerate? Then again, a lot of my preconceived perceptions about this place have changed. Some for the better. Some, not so. 

Anyway, I'm curious. To anybody who has been here for a while now and happens to read this blog - what would your answer be? And no, don't start talking about the debt ceiling and White House, please.

"Do you think you would go back to India?"

This is almost invariably asked by my non-Indian Darden friends. It's actually the easiest to answer. Right now, I mean.
I really don't know. I think I want to. But for the next 4-5 years, I've got this student loan to pay. After that, we'll see where things stand.
And it's probably the most honest answer. I mean I find it hard to plan 5 weeks in advance, so how would I know!