Sunday, August 19, 2007


13th of August, 2007 is historical in my short history. My much-older cousin brother dropped me off at the University of Texas at Austin and went of to work. With a map in one hand, and a really heavy backpack on my shoulders, I stood, pretty clueless of my surroundings. I had some formalities to sort out, and I was determined to find my own way to one of the myriad of buildings that make up UT. It was as if there was a glow in my eyes, that combination of excitement and resolute that you see in a pacing racehorse’s eyes as he strides towards the finish line - you could just see it in my face. I stood overlooking my campus ready to dismantle my barriers, and conquer [i.e. discover] that tiny GIAC [Graduate and International Admissions Center] building. But I just stood. I stood for a long long time, starring at the map, straining my “glowing” eyes to find that wretched GIAC on the map. With great effort, I did eventually find it, but all my thoughts of being a “striding” racehorse crashed away.

It was hot, my back was beginning to feel the strain of the laptop and paper-laden backpack, and I was lost. It took me a good one hour to locate GIAC. When I did find it, I realized that I had walked around it three times already. Not cool. But hey, I made sure I didn’t take any passerby’s help when I knew I easily could. This happened for the next few days. As I kept getting lost, I did also, somehow, find my way .What did all this teach me? No, I am not getting metaphorical here about how “we constantly get lost in our lives, but always seem to find a way”. That’s true, but too friggin’ Paolo Coelho – let him write all that. What the getting-lost bit helped in was figuring out the campus. My path to self-discovery of the UT campus has now resulted in me knowing the campus pretty darn well compared to other new students. Yes it took time, and I was no racehorse, but it’s something.

Besides all the self-exploration and the sorting out of formalities, UT is finally getting very exciting. Yes, there are moments when you get drowned in nostalgia and in your insecurities, but you also soon find your way out of them. Now having put many physical emoting faces to Facebookers, there is at least no feeling of being a complete stranger.

I attended International Orientation on the 17th of August and it was pretty decent. Yes, getting loads of information can be boring, but the Orientation committee tried their best to make in un-boring. They incorporated heavy participation from the audience, unscrambling scrambled letters, food and water, and a vibrant and friendly atmosphere - so out popped a plethora of different people, citing their experiences and first impressions of the US of A. The first 6 people to step up onto the podimu were Indians – some made us a little proud, some made us not so very proud and some just lied their rears off to get some free gifts: yes, we Indians leave no page unfolded. There was this Australian guy who traveled across the world, as in literally, stopping in various Asian and European places, using 7 modes of transportation [horses, water-ferries, airplanes, trains, buses, cars and feet], and finally landing in Austin. Fascinating. Oh and we met a Chinese guy with possibly the smallest full name in the world: Yu Du. Wow.

Orientation was fun. The pizza-lunch was okay. We didn’t eat much, and instead headed to Gregory’s Gym to play some basketball, but with our greater intention being to finally use our campus’ facilities. So Jason [another Sport Management-er] and I rented a basketball and “shot some hoops”. There were other people there too, as in more seasoned players, who asked us if we wanted to join in for a game. We did. We weren’t that great, but they were. Some of the players we played against were brilliantly brilliant, way better than any I have seen in Dubai. Initially I was scared I’d be embarrassed, but we just fitted in, so it was not all that bad. =)

Next week is scheduled to be hectic and crucial. We have to register for classes and I need to figure out if I will be taking up a double major or not. Other than that, meeting more Facebookers and more new people will continue. Exciting times, very exciting times.

P.S. Again, the world is so small [yeah more crazy connected people stuff happened] and we Desis are everywhere!

Emotional Rollercoaster

Till the day before, I had not properly spoken to my parents for a good fifteen days. My nights are painfully nostalgic and I am missing home more than I previously thought I would. Getting on to Facebook late in the night, - tired, but longing for belonging and longing for the treasured companionship that is now only the past, I was often depressed. Not depressed in the sense that I have issues, but just sad. Lost in memories, I started to wonder whether I will ever find friends like the ones I left behind. The whole concept of starting my life again, seems exciting, but at the same time a little scary. To physically disassociate from the life I once breathed, and the people I knew and loved, is sometimes difficult to swallow. Maybe it’s because I am thinking too much and have nothing else to do late at night. Yes, I know it’s a phase, and that everyone goes through it. Yes I know it’s temporary and it will last for sometime, before stabilizing itself like it does every morning anyway. Yes, I know I will meet new people, learn new things, grow, enjoy the independence, enjoy 6th Street [hopefully] and get accustomed to the “new life”. Yes I am excited and I have been excited ever since I have been here. I know all of this, and I know everything will eventually work itself out. But knowing is not feeling. And I can’t help but let nostalgia get the better of me sometimes. Attachment and detachment, however opposite they are, are both so hard.

Ahhh, life! Fascinating, we humans are.

P.S. I don’t know why it took me so long to watch Good Will Hunting – it is an unbelievably brilliant movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet, please do watch it.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Angelina Jolie, Chicago & St. Louis

The past week saw some of my dreams come true, and others just crash away. Having been deprived of a good theme park experience all my life, I owe it to St Louis’ Six Flags to de-virginize my 18 year-old good theme park virginity. I have now been on enough roller-coasters to satisfy my tank for another year or so; Universal Studios and the Disney experience still beckons.

Also at St Louis, we witnessed one of the greatest spectacles to hit the saintly city in the recent past: the St Louis Arch. Now this mammoth structure is the most pointless, lazy, BIG, metallic, upward parabola I have ever seen. Yes, its giant-ness gets you awestruck for a second, but then it’s back to ‘why the hell would you spend 13 million dollars on such a large pointless, slightly beautifying but blatantly bland silvery upright rectangular parabola?’ There is probably some “deep”, metaphorical explanation for its presence, a whole bunch of “leading into a new world” theories, but all that is pretty darn useless because it is only mildly fascinating. To put it into better light, it at least, seems to be more worthwhile than the 200 million dollars that are being spent in capturing Beck-sie Boy, his Posh and his Romeos and Juliets. However, the St Louis Arch experience wasn’t all that bad; add some younger-cousin-companionship, a decent documentary on Alaska [yeah, we saw it inside the arch in this I-Max like theatre], a sweet family picture and a glimpse of a packed baseball game through the tiny window from atop the Arch which we paid a ludicrous sum of 15$ per head, and it seems pretty worth it.

A road-trip to Chicago was next and the only major highlight was that I was fortunate enough to meet a married close friend of mine from Dubai. Slightly nostalgic, the meeting was mildly therapeutic in its own way. Oh, and I pretty much know all the basic information that there is to know about the architectural work pieces of Chicago along the Chicago river. But the second major highlight is what you guys will be really interested in: Angelina Jolie (and family) were in Chicago when I was there and were about 3 kilometers from us in a museum [we found out later]. Now if it was Sandra Bullock, I wouldn’t care much [not that I hate her, but you get the point]. Oh and we saw Oprah’s building too. =P

Sprayed between and during these road-trips were circuses, and lunches and dinners at all the finest of places that the US of A has to offer, devouring a variety of cuisines and being wonderfully spoilt – that’s what a holiday is all about. All this was possible only because of my highly loving and generous uncle and aunt. Thank you so very much for a lovely stay [Chacha, I am not sucking up!].

Right now, I am heading to Austin, Texas. Excited but more nervous, I don’t exactly know what to feel. Not blessed with the company of a decently attractive woman like last time, I am still passing time wonderfully well. We will be landing in another 45 minutes or so, and then my soon-to-be-father cousin will pick me up. University of Texas tomorrow – I really can’t wait.

P.S. The “Angelina Jolie” in the title is also a publicity stunt to get more hits. :P
Oh Bharath (and all other faithful readers), I apologize for the constant bickering and justifications of my why my posts are turning out to be long.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Hindu Heritage-ness

One of the first things I did on entering the US of A was the last thing I thought I would ever do – semi-attend a Hindu Heritage Camp. Initially I was quite bamboozled by the fact that Bloomington, Illinois, USA actually had a full out, fully Indian, hard core Hinduism camp. Organized by the HSS, the Hindu Heritage Camp aims to inculcate moral Indian values and the Hindu culture among the detached Indian American children, hoping to build bridges and bring them closer to their roots; by holding a 7 day overnight camp [for the older ones] and a 4 day overnight camp [for the younger ones], without sacrificing the concept of “fun” that every camp should ideally bring. Okay, that was the formal bit that I had to include. Anyway, these camps are held all over the US, so if you ever feel that you want to be a devout Hindu, but stay modern at the same time, just fly up to the US of A. Okay, enough advertising.

My cousin was attending the camp, and as I happened to be there at the same time, I was told to come along and see what it was all about. Still shocked with the fact that it was a Hindu camp, I didn’t know what to expect. Lots of Sadhu’s dressed in their yellow clothes-like stuff? Kids with their heads shaved off, besides the small pony tail they adorn that we all somehow mystically relate too? Cow worshipping? 100% strictly pure vegetarian food? 3’o clock rise and shines followed by Bhajan hymning? My uncle and aunty said: Anish, just come along.

On the first day, I was decently tired – I still obviously hadn’t fully recovered from the jet-lag, how much ever I would love to boast that I did and that I am too cool. So my first visit went in observation, and I thanked the mightiest form of the Hindu God for not making the camp overly serious. It was nowhere close to being extreme, but rather was a brilliant balance of fun and the Hinduism stuff. I was pleasantly surprised [yeah I know that sounds British] by how much the kids wanted to be there, and genuinely enjoyed the camp – my cousin has since been reading comics, Ramayan comics. The lunch and dinner was 100% pure vegetarian but was not always Indian food. It was multi-cultural: Mexican [Tacos], Italian [Lasagne] and Indian. I guess Hinduism also preached multi-culture-ism.

After the observation day, I somehow got myself entangled in semi-attending the next day, as a proper student. My uncle laughed when I politely, but reluctantly said yes to the ordeal. But then I thought about my whole “experience” philosophy, and how this would expose me to the Indian American culture, and how it would also bring along a little bit of Hindu enlightenment that I think I require, and converted the pessimism into semi-optimism. So the next morning, I got up at 5:30 AM and my uncle dropped me off to the camp where I started the day with a yoga session. I hadn’t warmed up and was stiff all over, so ended up straining my back, and internally I yelped in pain. Anyway it wasn’t that bad and I later ridiculed my internal-melo-dramatics. The physical conditioning followed the Yoga session. The children learnt Hindu martial arts, “Dandh” [fighting with a stick] and Hindu games. As I was new, I just got a lesson on the basics of using the “Dandh”. Fascinating. We then played games, Hindu games: stuff like “Vish Amrut” and “Kho Kho”. This rekindled my days in Aurangabad [a city next to Mumbai] where I played such games with my long lost friends – Sai! Vishal! Vaibhav! Those were the days [not a disturbed childhood Ali]!

It was then the turn of a preachy and boring lecture, in which half the class slept or got lost in his or her own worlds. After the boring lecture that preached about the basic concepts of “Adharma” and “Dharma” [i.e Bad and Good], it was time for musical instruments. Most students were into the percussions bit, and I was amused to see a Hindu form of written percussion beats. Fascinating. I didn’t contribute much; just continued to observe. Lunch followed [Tacos] and a sleeping or “relaxing” session followed the lunch. The yoga teacher quite literally made everyone fall asleep. I didn’t sleep because I thought I wasn’t supposed to. When the Yoga teacher asked us to get up, only 3 out of 20 people got up, and rest snored away. Bloody fascinating.

It was then time for me to escape and go play a cricket match for my Uncle’s team. To cut it short, it was no heroic day for me. We lost and I scored a golden duck. Slightly depressed, I returned back to the camp, and witnessed the “Talent” show. Yes it did showcase glimpses of talent, but was poorly organized [sound issues]. But all that did not matter, as everyone had fun, and the mums and dads loved seeing their children do crazy stuff. Oh I had to mention, one of the performances was a Hindu Bhajan rap accompanied by percussion; which was quite funked out and did not give anyone the slightest thought of it being a mockery, thank the mightiest form of the Hindu God again.

Now, this post is getting way too long, so it doesn’t really matter what I write, because most of you will most probably not reach this bit. But I still have to conclude this Mightiest-form-of-the-Hindu-God darn experience. It was fun and mighty fascinating. My first experience with American brewed Indian students and kids was pleasantly pleasant. I am still shocked at witnessing such an ardently preachy religious camp in the middle of the US of A. And guess what, it’s been on for 20 years. Something like this can never happen in Dubai. The power of democracy, I say.

P.S. I too don’t like long posts because they are too long and get draggy, and I therefore apologize for being a hypocrite. But somehow, for some reason I just felt like writing this, so deal with it.

Friday, August 03, 2007

End Of An Era: Epilogue

Just when I thought nothing more could happen in the “wonderful” city of Dubai before I leave, a few Eastern people entered the fray and enthralled us. Ali, Tejas and Romit dropped me off at the airport [I feel the love guys], and Omar and NC just happened to be there too. Checked in, relaxed, I came out to say my final goodbyes. But before that there has to be a conversational, “hearty” build up you know. So we were talking about how these guys had done haram things before coming to the airport, and we just happened to be a little loud. An Eastern, Kazakhstani-type [not Filipino] couple got a bit annoyed. So the woman of the two, who obviously thought she was the hottest damn queen in the world, snapped at us rather impolitely: Could you please shut up? Now a weird ascent, and a high pitched high volume statement like that cannot be taken lightly, and thus, Omar semi-flipped. He snapped back [more politely than her] telling her that she could have been more polite. But then her ego came sliding in, and she retorted. We retorted too. She then randomly told us to go to the Indian Airport and talk loudly there. I think she was trying to insult us by making a racist comment. You pay for the tickets loser! But then she became more direct. She started yelling, and told us to “shut up our mouse” and go to “India/Pakistan” which she claimed to be the same things. She then called us all one “Indian Animal”. We on the other hand were not quiet, but we dared not to enter racist territory. We laughed at how angry those Eastern-asses were getting, and then we laughed more even more because they got even more annoyed with our mockingly “loud” laughter. Amidst all this laughter we did spray a few “Indian” insults [she was really asking for it]. Then her husband/friend/[really want to but will not use the profane word that I have thought of so you can fill in the meanest thing that comes into your head about Eastern Uzbekistani-type people] joined in. “I will shut up your mouth,” he said, acting all protective and cool. But we laughed. After a decent number of exchanges we got bored, so we calmed things down and walked away. But I tell you, it was an enthralling experience.

Right now I am flying to Chicago in an American Airlines flight, a happy man. Everyone has those hopes of getting a decently attractive person of the opposite sex sitting next to him and her. Today I had no hopes because whenever I did have such illusionary hopes, it only led to disappointment. But today, right now, things are different. I am partially enjoying the company of a fairly attractive German girl. She is next to me looking at the screen, but she says her English is not that very good. But if she is reading this I am kind off screwed. Anyway we have both just dealt with farewells and annual separations so it’s all cool! =)

I will reach Chicago in exactly 2 hours and 2 minutes. I hope I don’t get too jet-lagged. 8 hours of flying time with crappy in-flight entertainment is not that fun.

P.S. The whole enthralling first bit is not intended to be racist in any way, and I don’t intened to hurt anyone’s sentiments except for that wonderfully awful Eastern couple that entertained us in the most insulting of ways.

Romit & Tejas – I saw ‘Lucky You’. Drew is a bore, but Poker is a total score!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

End Of An Era

It’s 30 minutes before I leave, so this is going to be short. I just got off Facebook and MSN, after saying my e-goodbyes. I am still shaken by the “farewell” get together that took place at home. It started off normally; then slowly moved into gear. It then shifted to [in order] condoms and bananas [thanks Romit], pool, foosball, an unbelievably awesome gift, some Indian chat, truth and dare, stripping of my pants, some awesome Ishika-singing, ketchup massage by Ali on Romit’s head, Dad’s entry, Mum’s constant camera work, all the letters and finally, Ali’s “Never Say Goodbye”. Suddenly, it hit me. It hit me hard. It would probably never be the same again. Yes, we would see each other again and again, but time and distance are bitches. Yes, the “love” would be there, but our priorities will have changed – drastically. It would never be the same again - a temporary goodbye for sure, but a permanent end to a friggin’ era.

18 years and “era”? It almost doesn’t make sense. But together, we and alone, I have been through oh so much, done a billion things, had the loudest “output” laughs ever, fought like rabid dogs with egos clashing like Expelliarmus and Avada Kedavra, worked our butts of with Redial Entertainment without much compromise on fun, won the friggin’ Inter School Football Tournament against all odds, went to Burjuman and City Centre a record number of times, buried Romit in Jumeirah Beach, drifted away into another world at Poseidon’s Pier, given exams that we hated, seew my sister leave, seen my parents win the Best Parents In The Entire Universe Award, SFS-ed all year round, prepared for universities, dealt with separations, dropped Mcdonalds and the rest of the fast-food gang for a year, ate pizza, saw a bunch load of midnight premieres, grew our hair and shaved it off completely [Romit!], loved and hated school, loved and hated ourselves, but loved and loved each other. Always. This is my first ending. The final chapter of Part 1 of my life has concluded – time for Part 2.

Mum’s calling. She wants me rattle out the traditional Indian prayers, before heading out with my bags. My mouth smells a bit thanks to the garlic butter in the Shawarma I just had. Oh I am going to miss Shawarma. Tears wiped, goodbyes said [most], hugs hugged and bags packed – it’s Austin time.

P.S. Sonia, I told you I’d do my last entry whilst in Dubai. =)