Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back from a trip to heaven

I am back to Houston, back from a trip to heaven called .. India. One of the dictionary meanings of heaven is "a place or state of supreme happiness" and that's what it was like during my short stay in India.

The trip had everything I could have asked for; hangouts with friends, long drives with someone I love, bike rides - getting reckless sometimes on the busy roads of Pune, visiting relatives with my family, mom-made food (need not say delicious .. when I say mom-made it means the same thing) and some Pune-special fast food, going around shopping for myself and my family, playing baddy, konkan trips, my birthday celebrations, even the small things like watching movies, watching cricket matches on TV, reading newspaper in the morning with a cup of tea and simply the feeling of being at home (my mom might not agree as I hardly spent time at home :-( ). Well the list goes on and those are precisely some of the things I want from life. I am a simple man you know .. some times I do feel that way. I do have my own ambitions but even such small things can bring joy in my life.

The feeling and buildup of leaving Houston and Pune and coming back was way too contrasting. When I left Houston, I was all alone in my apartment packing my bags since other people were busy in their schedule. When I left Pune my house was full of people who came to see me off and giving out some goodies I can carry here to Houston. In dec, when I reached Mumbai airport, I had a "bus-full" of people waiting with excitement to see me. On the other hand, in Houston there was no excitement as I was about to come out of the airport. I booked a shuttle for me and reached my apartment. There I had a couple of friends who came to see me and helped me with the luggage. But barring that, in my apartment I had only this piece of paper to welcome me back as all my roomies were back in Pune. It was so grim.

I will be back in August this year. And when I say that to my friends here, that raises more than a few eyebrows. That happened when I talked to some people when I was in India too. I have started to get fed up of convincing people why I want to go back. And yet when I do that I am not able to manage that. Then I pretend saying that I will think about it to end the topic. Come on folks .. I mean this is just another country. You don't have to be so keen to convince me to stay here. I do come across some people who have exactly opposite feelings of this blog and they might laugh at it. People complain about roads, traffic, pollution, corruption, politics when they say why they like to stay here than back home. They don't talk about people . That makes me wonder how can someone put living conditions ahead of living beings. Is it getting too emotional? Well that's what blogs are meant for :P

A month had never flown so fast. I just didn't want to come back; after all I was on a trip to heaven!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Garden Court vs Cafe Good Luck

These are some of the random thoughts that crossed my mind while I was traveling in a bus today; thought they can become good blog material :)

Garden Court, the restaurant located in quiet locality of Pune that we all have been to, sometime or the other. A place that offers very spacious seating and wonderful ambiance. People don't need to and don't want to share tables and they won't bother thinking who is sitting on the table next to you. Waiters are all well-dressed and exhibit certain mannerisms. Clean tables and plates make you feel like a "polished article". A poolside table in a candle light sets up a warm dinner and makes the place look luxuriuos. Well, rates are on a bit higher side. But Garden Court has its own class of visitors; the visitors who can afford a dinner over there.

Good Luck, on the other hand is situated in one of busiest streets in Pune but the buzz around makes the place lively. Waiters are in uniforms but not as tidy as Garden Court. The tables and plates sometimes might not be as clean and you never go there for enjoying the ambiance. There isn't one. Sometimes during peak hours you need to share a table with someone else; but you don't mind that. Rates are in affordable range that can allow people from each and every strata of the society to come and enjoy the food. And yes, it has its own culture; the 'since 1939' line written on tea cups does emphasize that.

Among all these factors, there is something that I haven't written about yet - the taste of food. The taste, essentially the essence and soul of a dinner; that is what you visit a restaurant primarily for. That's one thing in which former can't beat the latter. The taste which has helped to form a huge following for Cafe Good Luck. The taste to which most of the youth in city gets attracted and never even bother to see if it presents any ambiance and luxurious treatment.

Good Luck, a place that's close to my heart and when given a choice I will always go for it and not the earlier flashy place. May be I will fail to convince my viewpoint to many other people that belong to the class of Garden Court frequent visitors.

Well, my intention here is not to write a review of these two restaurants. Now re-read the blog by imagining the country I am in currently as Garden Court and India as Good Luck and that will express exactly what I have been feeling since coming here. Since I came here many people have asked me this question - how do you find the new place? .. And here was the answer.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Enter the Space City - Houston .. first glimpses

I guess I have seen many things, places in my first week in Houston. I have been temporarily staying with Dhananjay, my ex-collegemate, and a few others. Everyone has been very helpful and making my transition kind of easy. When these people arrived here in fall, they didn't have anybody to show around. I guess I am lucky in that sense.

Firstly, I did some required things - opening bank account, applying for a credit card n all. While doind that I had a small experience which highlights a kind of cultural difference that I'll be coming across. The lady officer in bank was asking for my personal details. She wanted know my mother's name. "Please tell me your mother's name before marriage if she was ever married.", she said politely. I was like "if she was ever married!! How weird is that!!". Would you expect same statement from a lady officer sitting at Bank of Maharashtra, Bajirao Road branch? Absolutely not!

Apart from seeing some Malls like Fiesta (a one-stop shop for grocery etc), Wallmart, Fry's electronics (a huge centre for computers and electronic stuff), I also visited a temple; it was a special feeling being in Houston.

They also took me to some area called "Hillcroft" where there is a variety of Indian stores and restaurants. We stopped by to have some chat dishes. As I entered I was taken aback by the rates of dishes. $4 i.e. Rs 200 for panipuri, $5 i.e. Rs 250 for Bhel. That's ridiculous man! I chose the cheapest one - $2.5 for a Samosa plate. Never in my life I had thought twice before ordering a samosa or a panipuri.

While doing all this, the roads I travelled on were fantastic; all cement roads, well paved area for pedestrians, lush green lawns on both sides of road, huge parking lots. I guess being fourth largest city in the US, most part of the Houston will be similar. You get to see only a few motor bikes over here. In my stay so far I have hardly seen 5 may be 6 and all were racer bikes; no economy class bikes. Thats obvious when you get a gallon (3.7 litres) of petrol in just under two dollars. The thing I have noticed is driving on these roads would not require any skill but yes .. lot of discipline. That's why I think you can see equal number of female drivers out on the road :P

This week it was all fun. But yes .. a new beginning at a new place with new people.

My first international flight

This was my first international flight - two British Airways flights from Mumbai to London to Houston. Kind of different experience I would say. On Mumbai airport we had Amitabh Bachchan and Anil Kapur with us during security checks. While we waited in long never ending queues; they had this privilege of bypassing all the waiting and go straight in after minimal checks. Anyways, once I entered the flight what I saw were very spacious and well compartmentalized seats. For a moment I was delighted to see that but next minute we were guided towards economy class from the first class (as they call it) where we were standing. Economy class offers nothing but very congested seats. Barring the fact that you get free food (which wasn't great either) and screen in front of every screen, non to mention some kind air-hostesses; the comfort level was nothing better than Volvos we have in India.

First flight started at 3.40 after one hour delay; I spent most of it in sleeping. It landed me at Heathrow airport, London. Unlike Mumbai airport, one at London is absolutely amazing. I loved it - huge, ultra clean, directions everywhere; bit stringent though.

Second flight took me to George Bush Intercontinental Airport, Houston. It was somewhat like Heathrow. As I stepped out, two seniors were waiting for me. During our drive to the place I am staying right now, they got to know from me that I didn't go to USC even after getting an admit from them, they really cursed me for a bad decision of turning my back to USC and choosing UH over it. According to what they told me, I should try to get a transfer to a better place after completing first sem. Well .. I have no such plans as of now.

During my time in flights, I had mixed feelings. I was feeling low as I was leaving behind the people, things and places I loved most and was somewhat excited to be in new place. But certainly the former feeling was stronger. You only realize the value of relationships, bonds that gets developed over the long years when you are going away from them. And it was my turn of realization.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Finally off for MS

The decision to leave the country for MS was not easy considering the fact that I didn't have a "burning" desire for a post graduation. Going away from family, friends and everything that I loved back home was difficult. Also I was all settled and doing well in a good-earning job; my job - one of the few things that I am good at. Leaving that wasn't easy either; not only because of money I had been getting but also the team that I had a part of for 3 years. But .. but after thinking a lot about everything, after all the time, money that we had spent to get to this point and after all the frustration of getting all rejects in fall, I had to leave .. finally.