Monday, December 27, 2004

Christmas 2004 @ Silicon Valley

I had made plans to visit Vikas, my USC roomate who lives in San Jose for this Christmas. After days of endless uncertainity I left for Long Beach where Bipin Sadhwani, one of my close friends at USC and fellow GC on Thursday evening. The traffic was so bad and my car kept getting overheated I felt relieved to get there. We went to pick up the car we had reserved for rental but they shocked us by cancelling our reservation for being under-25!!! we frantically went around all the car-rentals at Irvine airport but were either met with a sold-out sign or the under-25 year olds prohibited sign!!! we had almost given up on making this trip but Bipin hooked up with a friend of his who was going to SFO to meet his guruji and we finally planned to leave on Friday morning. I had a discussion on religion, godmen with this "bhayya" and so many other stuff. The drive to SF was uneventful save for getting lost a couple of times but thankfully traffic was lite.

Finally we got to Vikas's place by around 3pm and by then Ganesh and Rohit (Bipin's old roomies) and Niranjan ( Ganesh's dosth) joined us and we just went back in time to the old days where we just kept pulling each others legs. None of the guys drink or are as jolly jolly like my mallu friends but nevertheless I had a good time. Evening we went to eat at a paki-indian restaurant called kebab & curry and the food was pretty good. we had tikka, karahi, tandoori and butter chicken besides naan.i really envied vikas and co for the first time in life. frm there we went for a movie, Meet the Fockers, and there I saw how much Indians dominate the bay area. The whole damn theater was filled with us and I just realized how easy it wud have been to pick up new friends here....I also made a mental note to include SJ in list of cities I am open to relocate for jobs. we got back, popped open a rather expensive wine vikas's bhayya got as a gift from his company and then chatted away till 3 am.Next day morning bipin and ganesh rented a mini-van for our trip to napa valley.the b@#tards looted us by charging 180 dollars for a day but with 6 of us for the trip it came to be pretty cheap. While bipin was renting the car vikas dropped me at a nearby church for the christmas mass. It felt really good to see the inside of a church after a month and I was able to spend some quality time with the Maker. Am gonna try hard never to miss sunday service again.

we had lunch at saravana bhavan(yeah the same one in madras!...) before taking off for napa. I expected the same taste but unfortunately the masala dosa disappointed. on the way we picked up vikas's friend and fellow trojan, harsh mahasey from palo alto(stanford univ) . neways vikas, the butt of all our homo jokes bcoz of being on the wrong side of his 20's and his hatred for gals blundered...on staring from home and abt to reach the freeway he calls harsh and says "yaar, mein entry maar raha hoon" and on getting close to his house he again calls and tells him "mein abhi exit loonga, jaane ke liye thayyaar kar" and on reaching his house he calls him again and says"aah harsh, i have come!!"...we twisted that out of proportion and we gave the poor guy a miserable time. taking mahasay along was a big mistake....he was a chatterbox, kept cracking jokes and laughed by himself. I cudnt understand the jokes(I thought it wuz bcoz mujhe hindi maloom illa!!) but then the hindiwalas said they cudnt figure out his cracks either. Anyways I bore the brunt of his "jokes" as he sat next to me...and the only way I realized I cud save myself was to pretend to sleep. neways the way to napa was beatiful. we were driving thru a valley between mountains(green motta kunnukal) on either side. bipin cudnt understand why the grass on the hills wudnt grow and he believed the govt was getting them trimmed!!! the houses looked so elegant and classy...i am sure all the seven fobs in our car dreamed of owning one of those. at napa we were met with disappointment as all the wineries were closed bcoz of xmas and our wine-tasting tour was nipped in the bud. we headed back cursing each other and on the way bips wanted to pee and we stopped at a town on the way.It was like a ghost-town...all the shops were closed , nobody was around and angane we answered nature's call right in its backyard...a deserted woods little off the road.

from there we drove non-stop to san francisco and there from atop a lighthouse we saw the golden gate bridge and the alcatraz(aka the rock and aka hotel california). next stop was castro street (the gay capital of the world) and it was a sight for sore eyes...gays walking hand in hand, some even making out...that vikas remarked a woman wud feel safe here even at we went up sfo's up and down road's with the city's impressive skyline looming at eye-level. dinner was had at a punjabi bar cum grill and again it was the same...tikka, karahi, tandoori, biriyani and naan. the food wasnt good but the consolation was the really excellent tea they served. It was complimentary and vikas, used to a 6 cups a day tea routine made up for the defecit there.back at home we spent another 3-4 hrs talking b4 hitting the sack. next morning(sunday) bipin left for his pooja and the guruji's place and vikas and i shopped for some groceries, spent a couple of hours at a starbucks b4 rohit came to pick me up and we all left to have lunch at bipin's. we unashamedly walked in, everyone staring at us for coming in after the poojas got over but the embarassment was soon forgotten in the best food I have eaten in more than a year. there was gobi, paneer, noodles, rajma andsome other vegi stuff but the quality and taste of the food was superb. vikas and rohit left and soon bipin, raju bhaiyya and i started the long drive back to LA amidst thousands of other cars carrying vacationers like us returning back to SoCal.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

A Lesson Learnt...

Some of the most humbling moments in life come in our interactions with people who we see as less educated and hence less wiser than us. I was doing my Masters at USC and on my first day of work ever.The job I got was at a cafe and while my friends got jobs at the counter or cooking, I got a cleaning job.I was wondering whether I came all the way from India for doing this but i comforted myself by thinking "wht the hell..I wudnt need to depend on anyone for money".So I swept the floor and this one cent coin was lying on the ground...I kept sweeping it along not picking it up bcoz it was worthless until a young mexican guy i met earlier... a school dropout, came over to me, picked up the penny, put it in my pocket and said..."Bro when u see a penny lyin on the floor...pick it will bring u good luck one day".I was totally ashamed of my conduct. In India I never gave a damn for all those 5 paise and 10 and 25 paise coins. But from that day on I picked up every penny lying on the floor or change from shopping and I put it in a box.I never used it and it just kept piling up.Two years later I was out of school, quit my job and hunting for the next one and 4 weeks on, my money was almost over and I kept going hungry. Then i remembered my penny box...took it to the change breaker machine at Ralph's at after all the coins that went in there....I got a "whopping" eight dollars...that meant atleast 6OO pennies were there in my box besides the few dimes and nickels. I thought about what to do with this money and decided the best way to make it worthwhile was to have a hearty dinner and walked in the direction of Pizza Hut................

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

As 2004 slips away....

This year marked a watershed in my life...all along i felt like a tourist thrown out of a place even before he cud even relish its sights and sounds. Well I was talking about leaving the secure, abounding-with-friends confines of academic life and entering the treacherous uncertainities of a professional career. Today I feel a bit disenchanted with two successive career missteps, piling financial responsibilities and increasing apathy to my job. While sleeping I dream of looking aggressively for a career change...but the mornings injects me with some realism...I head back to work deciding to bide my time.

My memories of the early part of the year are fading away...but as this year has been all began with trying to rustle up funds pay my I was declined financial aid for the semester. I had just been back from a memorable holiday at rochester with viswan and totally bankrupt just 3-4 days into the holiday.anyways borrowed money from friends and family and tided that crisis. I also took a directed research course in software testing which would make sure I had a happy-go-lucky time for the rest of the sem unlike last year. My work at the film school was turning interesting...this being the 75th anniversary of the school and my boss, Justin being in the thick of things...I helped himorganize many movie screenings we did this year. I tried to live frugally to pay off the debts but somehow I never saved much. My job applying hadnt yet picked up speed despite my best intentions and i remember sleeping 12 hour days and yet waking up crying for more. Time flew mercilessly and before I was ready to accept it my parents were visiting me for graduation and the simmering restlessness from being unemployed bustled about me and I regret today the half-hearted cold welcome I gave them then. Anways they felt really happy and proud seeing me graduate. I skipped my graduation party sulking and reasoning that only the guys with a job need to celebrate. I was given a grand farewell by the film school staff and was showered with a lot of gifts.Anyways job applying picked up speed suddenly and before I realized it I had a job in hand and the propspect of moving out of LA also looming.

The shift to SD was an expensive and in hindsight an ill-conceived one. All the happiness I had in life emanated from the company of good friends whom I thought would never be in short supply considering the enormous influence they played even in a city far away from TVM like LA. was like a slave-trader who made us work like robots and paid us too less to manage a decent lifestyle. But I doubt if any other company would hire a software engineer with no prior .Net experience and blood him on crucial projects and responsibilities amongst tight deadlines. I got better at my craft but with Jisha coming and the car also to be taken care of I needed more dough and somehow I fretted and convinced myself to walk out. Then followed another six weeks of frustration where I kept getting tantalizingly close to jobs but nothing materialising until I fell prey to two desi consultants who referred me to a job here where I feel more trapped and stifled than ever.

I dont know where I am going wrong. Some people get better when they have responsibilities but I still stumble. Am not being able to spark enthusiasm for this job. Cant leave as I have no bank balance and cant ask my parents for cash to fund me while I look about as they have my sis to think about. I am definitely tougher than I was...until some months back it was easy to cry at my state of affairs but now tears refuse to come...i have broodingly accepted my helplessness and found comfort in the belief that my destiny will have better things in store. The church used to be my place of refuge in times of emotional not having one close by has caused me to loose that habit. I have a friend who fought back from the verge of a suicidal situation. I believe we all have reserves of courage, devotion, faith and discipline which gets a chance to be revealed only when we are tested to the max.

Well its time for resolutions...I have never been good at making them or following them. Anyways I figure that having a plan is better than none. ..For starters I am going in for a career change...whatever the price I will have to pay I am leaving software behind...have never regretting anything I have done till now...both the good and bad leaves me wondering...whether I have a conscience! If i loose here this will be my last battle in the US... I came here oozing with confidence, the American Dream wud make my life...but its all eroded away... like the migratory birds which went away looking for better horizons i will come back to my nesting place.....eventually!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Anothern American Wedding

today I would be going for a mallu wedding in LA. This wud be my second mallu wedding I attanded besides my USC senior, Philip's.Difference being Philips wedding all of us pitched in and helped in organizing but i didnt know the ppl getting married and these ppl were friends of my uncle and aunt's and since they wanted to see us had invited us for the wedding too. Jisha gave me a call at 7am to wake me up.However I continued sleeping till 9.After brushing my teeth stuffing my suit into a bag, putting on a hawaiian shirt I pushed off to San Diego. I am trying out all I know to max the mileage.avoiding using brakes as much as possible without fatal consequences, driving on cruise control, no a/c usage and keeping windows closed(a friend said sometime back the air coming in requires the engine to push harder!!!),controlling my instinct to go above 75 and any other stupid ideas i get.on the way as usual i listen to swapnakoode, runway, chronic bachelor, kaakha kaakha and indi popper, shaan's hit collection.the drive to LA is pretty good on a weekend...the traffic out of san diego is lite and only after i reach irvine does it get crazy.i am relieved to hear my uncle and aunt who have come from chicago for the wedding will pick up jisha...that saved me 30 miles of crawling thru LA but her next demand floors me.They need a camera to take pics of the wedding for my aunt in baltimore. angane i head to usc where i get one from my old mallu dosths there...they are shocked and ask me inganeyaano kalyaanthine pokunne...hawaii, unshaven, unshowered,etc,etc.

we were introduced to a young couple whith whom my uncle and aunt were staying, simon and bindhu.both are mallus who grew up in north india but very nice folks. they fell in love in muscait, married and came over to the states.neways we became really friendly with them in those few hours...they are also avid movie buffs and wanted my collection of films next time i met them.neways i shower and get ready at their place. the water was ice-cold and heater didnt work. i have rarely had a chance to take a cold-shower since leaving kerala and mixing the hot water and cold water doesnt always get me the desired effect.neways the marriage service at church was one of the best i have ever been to. the very young priest explained for the benefit of the non-mallus present the meaning of the certain customs we follow like exchange of rings, minnu kettu(i am sure none of u knew there is a sexual symbolism in that), giving the bride the mantrakodi...he was saying all these were borrowed from hindu traditions...i must admit i didnt know why most of these things were done. the service was in english with only the songs sung in malayalam. i must admit the bride and groom looked great together.most of the gals at the wedding were the born-again( pentecost) kind and some where very pretty but they didnt have any gold on them and somehow i have this feeling of revulsion for gals who dont wear jewellery if they can afford it. after the wedding we headed for the reception at hotel hilton and it was a very novel one.the newly weds had made a slide show showing pics from their young days uptill now, a video where they talked abt how they first met and how things happened from then on - all projected onto a big screen, speeches by close friends and family and then to wind all that up we had a 4-course dinner. i must say abcd's despite all their faults are a very smart, capable and eloquent race. i was scared there wud be a ball following the wedding and my lead-foot wud give way but neways i made a quick escape from there saying i had to be in san diego next day for some urgent work(orakkam) thanne and after dropping jisha off at her palatial house at santa monica i started my sleepy drive back to SD at midnight and got back by 2.