Tuesday, February 22, 2005

An Adventure to Remember...

From experience I have come to believe that life is all about taking chances....doing something out of the ordinary. I have long been yearning for a vacation...almost 15 months now and the opportunity sprung up on me out of nowhere...Bipin Sadhwani my pal at USC got a job at Boeing in Philadelphia and needed help moving his car to Columbus, Ohio where his parents live. It was a moment of reckoning really...I always dreamed of a road-trip coast to coast across America but I was loosing two days of pay and consideration of the risks involved. Anways I am back in one peice and glad I followed my heart.Well here is a day-by-day account of the trip.

Day 0 - I pack my stuff hurriedly and leave for work. Conduct an interview with a telugu gal for my own position....am struggling hard to not show off my own inexperience. The interview is going fine until my co-worker Khanh, who is all into fashion and latest dresses, asks this gal what is that on ur forehead...referring to the potte...I loose my control and burst out laughing...so much for professionalism. I escape from work at 1:30 drop one of Jisha' s friends for an interview at Irvine and head to my own interview with a recruiter at Santa Monica. Hopefully something good will work out in the next few weeks. After that visits Jisha to say bye to her and get to eat some sumptuous food she has cooked. From there I head to USC and grabbed Chackochan's digital camera and road atlas(in hindsight my best decision...otherwise we wud have been driving around all lost in the American Mid-West). Then to my loyola classmate pappanabhans house to get a jacket for the snow. By around 10 I reach Bipin's place and our plans to have dinner at the gurudwara are foiled as its too late and we head for In-n-Out which is giving a hot challenge to McDonanalds and BurgerKing in the burger industry. By around 12 I hit the sack but one of Bipin's friends Deepak comes to bade farewell and their talking interrupted my sleep but I cud understand.

Day1, Thursday, Feb 17-We had planned to start at 6 in the morning but loading Bipin's stuff into the car takes longer than expected and finally when we hit the road at 8am we were up against the unrelenting LA office-hours traffic. We crawl out of LA and by then we have lost precious time and we stop at 100 mile intervals to take turns driving. At Barstow, we have lunch at a Subway and see the gujju owner giving an earful to his white employees...we saw more of their dominance on the way at motels and 7-11's. The rive through the Mojave Desert was boring and finally we crossed California and entered Arizona where the desert took an interesting turn with landforms of all sizes and shapes and some breathtaking views. The heart-breaking part was that we were within sniffing distance of The Grand Canyon National Park and had to give it the go-by bcoz of our unbelievable determination to hit our goals for the day (Bipin remarked if we had tried this hard we wud have been working at Microsoft now!!) Finally Arizona gave way to New Mexico and all we had for company on the road were giant trucks and trailers who went at 75-80 mph(never knew trucks cud go that fast) and by then we had mustered the courage to set the cruise control to 80 and just eased our foot away and let the fingers do all the driving. The roads were straight for miles on end and we had taken that so much for granted that curves were becoming an unneccessary nuisance. Mathew called me up in the afternoon to give some depressing news - a USC senior and a half-mallu had died in a car accident....we decided to be extra careful while driving. The sun was beating down on us harshly and the desert heat was forcing us to take breaks every 100 miles to cool the engine. The car was a 2004 honda civic and gave us no trouble all the way. By nightfall around 9:30pm after 12 hours of driving we reached our destination - Albuquerque, New Mexico. We checked into a motel and had dinner at a Chinese restaurant but the food was yuck.

Day2, Friday, Feb 19 - We woke up at 6 in the morning after a 5 hour sleep and had a free continental breakfast at the motel b4 we pushed off. We decided not to stay hungry as both our stomachs had developed cramps presumably from a combination of the long innings "in the driver's seat" and hunger. By friday the storm which had struck the california coast on thursday had caught up with us. We were in for a really wet drive and again our decision to drive at 65 was reversed by the other cars and trucks which kept going at 75-80. On wet road, cars and trucks splash such a high spray of water its hard to see the road ahead...i wonder why none of the cars here have mudguardson their tires like in India? The roads here are amazing...the water doesnt stay on the road for long, very few potholes, roadsigns to warn us of curves, construction, deer crossings, what not! But we deeply missed some of the pleasures of driving thru an Indian highway. No people on the road, none of the uncertainities of driving in India like wondering whether there is oncoming traffic beyond a curve, overtaking, etc. I had developed a bad cold which gave me a miserable time all thru the day. From New Mexico we entered Texas and here we passed thru a small town called Amarillo. Here i lost a bet to Bipin and had to take him to Starbucks and sponsor his cofee....otherwise for the whole trip the entire expense was taken care of by him. From Texas we entered Oklahoma and were beginning to see villages..I have never seen a village in America and I was certain the way ppl looked at us they hadnt seen many Indians b4. Our progress had been slow till then bcoz of the rain and we had to reach St. Louis which was on the Missouri-Illinois border for the night. But around 100 miles short of St.Louis after crossing Oklahoma and 3/4th of Missouri and close to 15 hours of driving and 950 miles covered for the day Bipin was beginning to doze away in the naviagtor's seat and I was fading too we decided to call it a day(or say night) we took an exit....after focussing on the road 50 meters away it suddenly became difficult to see the close road and signs....my eyes were crying for sleep and bipin wasnt any better...i missed a motel and we both started yelling at each other....finally after 5 minutes of a little erratic driving and quarrelling we reached the red roof inn. By then the heated words were forgotten and we were laughing abt it. We checked in and just crashed to an unconscious sleep by around 1am.

Day3, February 20, Saturday - We woke up late at 8 and after another free breakfast we were off only by 9 with Bipin behind the wheels. I had done most of the driving yesterday and was still reeling from the strain but thankfully the cold I had yesterday mysteriously vanished and with another 600 miles to go we still had a lot of driving to do. Bipin took up the challenge and soon we passed St.Louis at 11 and entered Illinois....I drove only 200 miles and bipin took care of the rest. We had seen isolated snow yesterday and were beginnning to reconcile to driving on snow for today and the rigours accompanying it like skidding and low speed now that we were out of desert country and were soon entering the heart of the mid-west. But every time I have been on the east coast the weather has been thankfully great. Slowly but steadily we passed Illinous, slogged our way thru Indiana and entered Ohio. By 6:30 pm after what seemed like an eternity we reached Columbus. We had not picked up a single speeding ticket and had not had a single close shave too...god was with us rite thru.I had a quick dinner with Bipin's family and soon Viswan, my sct-pal and Mithun, my Loyola bud, my right and left arms in the US were at their doorsteps waiting to pick me up. It was the icing on the cake...being with these two good friends after a great journey. I was reinvigorated and soon we were joking away and I havent laughed like this in a long long time. Viswan and I were seeing each other after 15 months and he had to endure a speeding ticket to get here while Muthu came with good news of finally getting a job after a 2 month search. We hunted unsuccesfully for motels in Columbus and not finding any started driving towards Indianapolis where we were supposed to have lunch with our sct friend Merine. On the way we stopped at a small town called Springfield where we decided to spend the night at a Super8 motel. We had a bottle of Chivas Regal to celebrate the occasion but everyone was so tired we just had a little b4 we started watching the movie, Chakram but we slept off midway.

Day4, February 21, Sunday - We woke up only at 10 am and by the time we got ready and started out for Merine's house it was 1:30pm. Shan, one of our fellow Savages, had come online and we chatted with him for an hour b4 deciding this wuz not enuf and also rang him up. On the way we did a real crazy thing. We watched the rest of the movie, Chakram on Viswan's laptop inside the car with Muthu driving and amidst pouring rain. I remarked I had the balcony seat bcoz I was in the back while they had the thara tickets. Speaking of the movie we three were convinced Prithviraj given time is goin to hit it big in Malayalam. Merine meanwhile was livid with anger as we had been hours late and finally when we got there I got the biggest surprise of the trip.It was a pleasant one though - the dear gal had cooked up a real feast for us - there was aviyal, pulissery, theeyal, vendakka thorran, cabbage torran, pachadi, chicken curry, carrot thorran...dunno what all i missed...viswan had given her a list of things to make but none of us expected her to take all this effort. We three ate like dogs and after sitting and talking and joking and pulling each others legs merine showed us some of the sights of Indianapolis. We bade goodbye to her and reached the hotel at 10 pm and again went to sleep. We three had just more than a day together but it was filled with so much bonhomie and laughter and fun...muthu's wildly exaggerated tales and viswan's inimitable ability to take pokes and my slippery ability to comment adikkufy without getting any flak back and the way we use famous mallu movie dialogues to intersperse our conversations it was one hell of a time together.

Day 5, Monday, Feb 21 - We wake up at 5 am, have breakfast, checked out, said a hurried goodbye to bips and his parents(wish i had more time to spend with them...they surprised me with gifts for accompanying their son...one friend lesser in LA now) and then viswan left for New York...he left me with a bearhug and kisses(!!) too(sadly he got a ticket on the way back too...now 7 alogether in US, Canada and India...i think he will soon give hollywood stars a complex) and Muthu drove me to the airport with just an hour left for the flight. His driving is just amazing...even under pressure he doesnt go beyond 70. I reached Santa Ana en-rote Mineapolis but Bipin's roomie whom he had delegated to pick me up went to LAX bcoz he mistook the name. Anyways got back thru an airport shuttle, met Jisha and drove back at night towards San Diego. And today here I am in the office...jotting down this long long blog dreaming of my next vacation...hopefully if we three save enuf money a trip to Bahamas in July.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Living on Movies!!!

The best investments I make is in selecting friends...I picked up a bad habit from Loyola of only picking friends who will stick with me through thick and thin. As a result I have slim pickings in the friendship game but a large number of acquantances who I loose touch with over time. Well to return to the topic of investments I made a rare good investment. The last 31 days saw me watching almost 50 movies courtesy Blockbuster's one-month $15 unlimited dvd rental movie pass. I made a 400% profit out of the whole deal but more than the money it was one month I spent without cribbing about having nothing to do!
Well here's a list of the movies I watched. Earlier I used to get disappointed by most of the movies I saw. I decided I was beginning to tire of my most favorite pastime and decided to consider films as timepass and try to enjoy the movie while it ran and do a critique of it later. Nowadays I like 95% of all movies I watch unless the movie is impossibly horrible. I decided to give an ABC grading for the movies and also have doned the role of a one line critic.
Primal Fear - A. Ed Norton & Richard Gere are superb, the faked schizo and the twists!
Life of David Gale - A. Kevin Spacey, amazing twists, story has so much conviction
Two Weeks Notice - A. Incredible chemistry between Hugh Grant & Sandra Bullock
Laws of Attraction - B. Oft-told story. Brosnan & Julianne Moore complement each other well.
Runaway Bride - A. Julia Roberts & Richard Gere repeats the Pretty Woman magic.
King Arthur - A. Clive Owen in a realistic portrayal of King Arthur. The legend is humanised. Beatiful Keira Knightley is Guinevere.
Ashoka - C. Good story but too many songs but picturised well.Shahrukh's acting is inconsistent.
Cleopatra - B. Timothy Dalton as Julius Ceasar is at his best. Billy Zane as Mark Antony sucks.
From Hell - A. Another terryfing Jack the Ripper story. Another Johnny Depp masterpeice.
JFK - A. Kevin Costner's out-of-the-world acting..equal credit to Oliver Stone for the script and dialogues.
Body Double - C. Just okay.
Body Heat - A. Original of Jism. Bipasha isnt even a patch on Kathleen Turner.
Knight's Tale - B. A sincere performance from Heath Ledger. Weak script.
Lolita - B. Jeremy Irons and a good story line.
Disclosure - A. Michael Douglas and Demi Moore does justice to this Michael Crichton novel.
Traffic - A. Too many sub-plots and characters. Benicio del Toro stands out.Relishingly different.
Omen2 - B. Omen1 is better but still spine-chilling. Grab screenplay of Omen1 written as novel!
Stigmata - B. gabriel byrne is magnetic. movie cud've been different but ended up like exorcist.
Mask of Zorro - B. A success of perfect casting....Zeta-Jones, Hopkins and Banderas rock.
Entrapment - B. Unusual pairing of Connery and Zeta-Jones leaves us hooked to end.
Cold Mountain - A. Epic par-excellence. Jude Law, Nicole and Renne in career-best roles.
The Firm - A. Tom Cruise revels as John Grisham's most "hero"ic character.
Jerry Maguire - A. Cruise in yet another charismatic role with shades of harmless grey(his best??)
Me, Myself & Irene - B. Jim Carrey's comic take as schizophreniac and a pretty Renee!
The Last Samurai - A. Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe & cross-cultural respect touch our hearts.
Intolerable Cruelty - B. Romantic comdy. Clooney and Zeta-Jones making a ravising pair.
Clear and Present Danger - B. Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan tried hard to live up to Tom Clancy.
In the Line of Fire - B. Breaks ur heart having to see old Clint romancing Rene Russo and saving the President.
First Knight - A. An iconoclastic movie. Connery is chivalrous but old Arthur, Gere swashbuckling Lancelot & Julia Ormond sweet and noble Guinevere.
The Bone Collector - A. Good crime-thriller.An unsexy Jolie combines well with bed-ridden Denzel.
Malice - B. Nicole plays bad-gal to unsuspecting hus, Bill Pullman with Alec Baldwin as conspirator.
Far and Away - B Tom and Nicole in an epic rags-to-riches journey from Ireland to US.
Fargo - B. Crime story on futility of riches and violence. Kudos to the helmsmen, Coen Brothers.
Tailor of Panama - C. An unusual and tame spy thriller. Geoffrey Rush is saving grace.
Cold Creek Manor - A. Terrific suspense with Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone struggling to save their marriage and lives.
Proof of Life - B. Different kind of kidnapping drama. Russel Crowe & Meg Ryan display unusual chemistry.
Le Divorce - B. an interesting and comic contrast of American and French cultures through the lives of sisters, Naomi Watts and Kate Hudson
Broken Arrow - C. Travolta and Christian Slater square off. Films begins with promise but the script leaves these two talented actors with little to do other than fight.
Wicker Park - A. Surprise movie of the pack. Unassuming actors, a script which gives nothing away till the end...was in rapt attention all the while.
Spiderman2 - B. Peter Parker's moral dilemma crowns this sequel. Tardy graphics.
King HenryV - B. A rare movie truthful to the orginal Shakesperean dialogues.
Lord of Rings2 - B. Not as good as LOTR1 and 3.
Die Another Day - C. Pierce Brosnan is good. The rest ...the story, effects, all suck.
Eternal Sunshine of Spotless Mind - B. Spirit overcomes science in this well-edited romance. Carrey and Winslett makes for an unusual casting coup.
Signs - A. Shyamalan make us reaffirms our faith in god thru his protagonist, Mel Gibson.
The Village - A.Shyamalan's thought provoking story of the innocence, fear and courage in a village fighting mysterious creatures and urbanization.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Christ, The Church and Me...

Well this is one topic I have been wanting to write about for some time. The good thing about blogs is that we can write our opinions freely. I am a proud catholic (is it because I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church or does the word Catholic have more meaningful connotations...I think I once knew it but have forgotten in the daily grind...how much more pathetic cud i get...in learning and comprehending more i have forgoten very foundation of my professed faith) but am I a good Christian...am I a true follower of Christ?? I dont have answers. Lemme go back to my childhood. I read most of the Bible and a lot of the Hindu scriptures while I was in the 4th and 5th grade. My faith has gone thru its share of upheavals...for starters my parents didnt impose their belief's on me. My grandmother used to say my dad was very religious as a kid, even becoming the altar-boy, then seeing so many books of Marx and Lenin in our mini-library at home I know he took to communism but later he recovered his faith but he wasnt regular in going to church. My mom on the other hand always read the bible at night and prayed before sleeping.Her mother, our ammachi prayed every time she had a moment to spare and in her prayers my family has been blessed with happiness, prosperity and goodwill. More than being a good christian I think my dad believed in feeding his spirt by helping others and my mom conducted her life on rational thought and doing the right thing. I was so hooked on to ramayana and mahabharatha as a child I wud prefer watching them than going to sunday school. After initial reluctance my mom gave in and my father would ask a once in a year question...ninakke sunday schooline onnum ponde??

Those were the days of innocence, bad at studies, getting sick, regular cryings I complained to god about my miserable life. We started the evening prayer at home and that was such a fresh change...the saying "A family that prays together stays together" is so true. When I enterd the 11th I was soon becoming more and more independent and confident in life and as a result my regular telepathic exchanges with the Creator decreased in frequency. Soon my faith went through cycles of devotion and disbelief...visiting church was more of a pretense to keep mom happy and to see chicks rather than devote myself to an hour of prayer and meditation. I was sucked into an orbit of materialism and suddenly more than books( my best friends till then) things like clothes, money, looks became important. This denialist phase also coincided with a very happy, blissful careful period in my life. But all through I was aware of the good fortune I kept falling into and I knew God must be responsible for this. All the happiness, all the fun, all the confidence, all the independence, all the recognition I craved for, cried for and prayed for in life to Jesus was coming in then but sadly I cudnt find the time to thank him enuf or pray to him for a better tomorrow.

Well sunny days gotta end...i knew gloom wud set in and it did but I wasnt ready for it...I was far away in the US battling adulthood, a tough academic curriculum and loss of the financial shelter my parents provided. Here an unlikely influence in the form of Fr.Bill Messenger of the USC Catholic Church took shape. Here was a radical and a fierce democrat(untiringly critical of Bush's war in Iraq week after week in church), unabashed enjoyer of life, whiskey and wine but with a knack of taking his sermons right to the edge of blasphemy allowed for a roman catholic preist which would have made our presists squirm with displeasure. Here was a man openly questioning some of the laws of the Church, past actions of Rome, teachings ingrained in us about the idea of hell, salvation, intolerance to other religions, etc...man he taught me once again to think for myself about my faith while keeping myself within the framework of Catholicism. In America, for the first time I was seeing preists like Bill and my uncle, who were so scholarly, would read works of several theologists and present such a stately sermon unlike most of our priests back home who deliver lengthy, wordy discourses which we hear out but wouldnt give a second thought to...I really feel cheated about how much better I could have evolved my beliefs if I had got to hear these people at an earlier age. I used to be so scared of reading books like The Last Temptation of Christ and Da Vinci Code thinking they would seriously erode my faith. But now I think...what the hell...so what if Jesus wasnt born of an immaculate conception...does it change the fact that he has produced miracles in my life....what if he married mary magdalene...for me jesus is most of the time a friend...a human being somebody who will identify with me...and what if he didnt resurrect...does that change anything with regards to his teachings...these things just divert us from our failings as human beings...and wht I increasingly see as a way to subvert the morale of the Catholic Church lacking strong leadership with an ailing pope(in his prime wuz one of the best ever) in the grip of a strong coterie of cardinals and clergy with no grassroot appeal.

One thing that rankles me though is my inability to be more actively associated with church activities bcoz of a fear of being embarassed at my ignorance of common church rituals and customs. I cannot understand people like Pentecostals and Evangelists who pray so loud and wild and tell people to convert or face damnation nor can I hide my irritation at our bishops who openly indulge in votebank politics...they would do well to remember how corrupted the Vatican became because of the Christian empires Popes dreamed of building and our intolerance which caused so many righteous xians to be martyered and so many others to become lutherans, episcopals and the like...hinduism (discounting casteism..idol worship - i wonder whether most of us indian xians practise this...the crucifix, statues of jesus, mary and saints were meant to be symbols but I am confused by our kissing, putting flowers, garlands on them at church and home) on the other hand is such a rich, tolerant and ancient religion and syrian christianity survived because it adapted so well to indian culture by assimilating so many hindu customs but these new-age proselytizers alienating our hindu brothers sickens me giving so many of our jesuits and missionaries such a bad name.

I think jesus, gandhi, budha, sree krishnan, mohammed were all sent by god at various times in the world's history to show people an ideal person to be imitated and followed. I could learn love from jesus, service from gandhiji, humbleness from budha and the relevant teachings of the gita from sri krishnan. But like mortals before me I run the risk of talking, writing and maybe giving occasional thought to these things and pass to dust before I realize its too late!!! Except for the sunday mass where I am able to cuss my mind to mediatate and worship, daily prayer for me is now a ten second activity of drawing the cross and muttering a silent one when I enter my car and see the rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror and a replica of velankanni mata with unni-easow smiling to me. But definitely I have changed...I have lost a lot of my selfishness, I understand I need to be of service to other people, not being judgemental and I sometimes surprise myself by wondering how Jesus or a Gandhiji would have done for situations I find myself in(the comic realization that results from these deliberations is "kaakha kulichalum kokkakathilla"!! ) . I think its nice to put ones faith into writing once in a while...I am sure in a years time I would have evolved further on. Well this was typical of me...verbose, at places self-contradictory, but hopefully worth a cursory read!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005


Now I am confused in all respects. About my future plans, visit to India, relocating to LA and even writing this blog!!! Why did life have to become so complicated!!?? I am thinking of changing jobs again but am met with a surprisingly common question by my recruiters...why this job hopping...aint u not stable??? fact is the two jobs although they taught me a lot...were just meant to be ill-fated...the first one i was under-paid and fatigued, and in the current one a mammoth application written in VB(my pet-hate in the world now) has become my waterloo. But the silver lining and infact the bottom line now thru these misadventures was that I finally have found direction, confidence and purpose in the IT field after 6 years of barely staying afloat and letting the tide take me along. I am getting more and more confident in .Net. But what of the future...wht about 3 years from now...will I still remain a programmer...or phrased better...do I still want to be coding away 3 years from now!!! What about the grand illusions of business accumen or writing skills lying potent and waiting to be harnessed away. Guess there will come a time of reckoning... god has given me all I wanted but made me wait for it...maybe he was attending to ppl with greater needs than me then but ironically by the time fruition is reached I have gravitated away to other fancies and he is panting hard and fast to catch up with my next desire. Its been two damned tough years since I've been back home. Every day is spent dreaming abt the sweet homecoming. Life is such a bitch now....I hate becoming older. I wonder if there are ppl in the world who dont have anything to worry abt. Well this is the worst of my blogs...I dont know why I wrote this one...am just plain bored stiff here at work.