December 7, 2012

of travel and experiences contd..


of $20 sandwich, taking a leap and southwest..

traveled to oregon, bay area and vegas on three different trips in the past 4-5 months. oregon was a road trip to crater lake through the pacific coast. vegas was more like a bachelor party of a friend and bay area was part business part recreational. both vegas and california were booked through southwest, which i was a bit hesitant on, since its so frequently the subject of russel peters' jokes. but southwest was awesome. i arrived at the airport 20 minutes prior to my california flight (i was thinking 50 minutes but misread the flight time by half an hour). they let me board the flight and even my luggage was boarded on the same flight (which they had no obligation for), instead of the next one. similar thing had happened on the return trip from vegas (a chain smoker friend is to be blamed). i was let through but wasn't lucky this time with my luggage. the people at their reception counters were polite and helpful and the crew in the flight to vegas was very candid and funny in a good way. the announcer lady was cracking jokes at every chance she got and the whole flight would burst in to laughter. i am officially a fan of southwest.

this was my third trip to vegas. a particular remarkable experience was the $20 sandwich which brought us a free upgrade to a suite in treasure island and complementary champagne. go read more about it. it works. i was very intrigued by the entire idea. everything was happening under the camera right on top of the head of the guy at the reception, so there was nothing sneaky about it. i guess vegas is just looking for a reason, no matter how small, to be more hospitable.

i really like the cosmopolitan hotel there, especially its chandelier bar. it might have something to do with the fact that it had just opened when i went to vegas for the second time and it all appeared so shiny and new. wanted to check out this restaurant é-by-josé-andrés there. celebrity chef, seating capacity of 8, no phone number and reservation by email only. sounded fancy but it was all booked. not sure if i would have reserved had it not been. my most expensive meal has been a dinner for two for $340 at altura, seattle. this was more like $680 for two.

saw the show mystere. cirque du soleil's domination of the strip is quite impressive. waiting for the 12/31 release of their movie: worlds away. and continue to be amazed by the success story of guy laliberte, his friendship with steve wynn which brought mystere to treasure island and his friendship with george harrison which led to conception and creation of beatles love show which plays at mirage. very interesting example (outside the internet industry) of like minded people working together and creating something great and magical. vegas to me is a place that epitomizes innovation, indulgence, hospitality and finesse.

san-francisco was beautiful. spanish influence everywhere on the city. took this night tour and many building including the city hall were glowing in orange lighting to support the san-francisco giants. they eventually won the world series. during the day tour, this popular tourist point of painted ladies was passing by and i felt reluctant to take picture of a victorian house. i live a mile or so from queen-anne and never admired its victorian architecture to the same level. felt that i have ignored seattle and never really truly explored it. i see a ride the ducks ride for me coming one of these weekends. and i am not kidding.

coming back to the spanish influence again, i have the perception of spanish as industrious, hardworking and resourceful people. and they have influenced the american history a lot. think of the conquistadors that conquered the inca empire. i was left asking myself the question as to why is spain a nobody when it comes to power in the modern world. the answers are very interesting and give insight in to how superpowers at different times have approached sustaining their status and structured the dynamics internally and with their colonies. lot of reading regarding the egyptian, greek and roman history resulted. very interesting to see how egypt would have these so called intermediate periods of chaos every few hundred years or so after stable dynasties. and how the east-european and mid-east world has been conquered and ruled by so many different forces over time. even though the world is more civilized now, there will continue be new superpowers in future. and i believe the biggest reason towards united states of america not being able to retain its status would be the republican ideology and the conservative politicians who can sometimes sound like the backward cousins of even the worst of indian politicians. anyways, among other things i know a lot more about cleopatra and elizabeth taylor now.

oregon road trip was fun as well. on our way back we did rafting in the white salmon river near portland. there were some class 5 rapids in the way and we had to walk around those and resume the rafting again on class 3 and 4 rapids. on one such walk, there was a point of 25 feet free fall jump in to the river and many people chose to do that instead of walking down. i don't swimming that well, but i chose to do it and take the leap. it was therapeutic. even though it hurt my ear (have some strange set-up of ear drums since birth), i am so glad i did it. i would have hated myself for not experiencing it. i guess jeff bezos' idea of regret minimization works. i wish they had my jump on camera as well.

of passion, personality, profession and glory..

i find myself very interested in the idea of knowing people personally as in who they are, what they like what are the values and passionate beliefs that they stand for. what's that basic minimum that they would never do a compromise on. this clearly reflected in the choice of themes in some of the events that i was the master of ceremonies for. interesting facts about co-workers for others to guess who is being talked out. people singing in their mother tongue about the things close to them. people doing stand-up and playing keyboard and being exceptional at it. the professional avatar can be so different from the actual person someone is.

profession, passion and personality need to be the same ideally. i guess it's not that simple. various competing ideologies are at play based on the social and economic fabric of your surroundings. the ones like work is worship (what do you do for fun? is a valid question in this world). and life is a race, keep running (how the millionaire mind works is a valid suggested reading material in this world). it's discipline and learning that are emphasized on in these ideologies. over self-exploration and expression. but without that there is no possibility of bringing the best out of you and no shot at glory. find avenues to explore and express yourself in the things that you really like. and you will be one step closer in knowing what's that one thing that you are best in the world at. no one can beat you at that. keep looking if you haven't found it yet. there is at least one such thing.

December 3, 2012

of travel and experiences..

almost four years since the last post.. this is a series of two posts. other one will soon follow.

of a flight of faith..

earlier this year i was traveling to india and booked tickets through england planning to spend a day with my relatives there. i booked tickets planning to land at heathrow and board again some 20 hours later from gatwick, which was nearer to their place. to my surprise the british visa processing time was close to a month and and it required biometrics to be done again, irrespective of the fact if you have gotten it done earlier. tried mutiple times through customer service at vayama to get things sorted out but it was a non-refundable ticket and landing at one airport and taking off from another made things complex. after quite some deliberation and calls to customer service at vayama, i decided not to book another ticket and instead changed to a flight taking off from heathrow and spend all this time at heathrow if it comes to that. took penalty on a ticket which was already double the typical price of travel to india, since i had booked at short notice. it was a star alliance itinerary through canada, first canadian airlines taking me to england and then lufthansa taking me from there to delhi.

it was a flight of faith. boarding air canada hoping they would not check my british visa. still hoping that i would be able to see my relatives and manage a 24 hour visa talking to an immigration personnel at heathrow and among all this still able to take care of my luggage landing at terminal 3 and taking off from terminal 5, after the air canada customer service clearly told me that i would have to get out at heathrow to claim my luggage. add to this the fact that if there are two countries most wary of punjabis trying to sneak in, it's canada and england. a flight of faith indeed. i reached the seattle airport at time and while checking in my luggage, air canada lady told me the same thing again that i would have to get out at heathrow to get my luggage. i don't know if it was previously expired british visa stamp that confused her or something but she raised no alarm and i didn't ask too many questions either.

i land at heathrow and first connected lufthansa and air canada on my luggage and air canada confirmed with me that my luggage is taken care of and will be trasferred to the lufthansa flight. i then filled up forms to talk to the immigration personnel. tried 5 minutes thinking about convoluted stories but later resorted to practicing the opening sentence of my plea to him that my british visa has expired and that i work in the states and on a rather hurriedly booked short trip to india and would like to spend time with my relatives in england because i have a 20 hour  long stopover here.  he sneered at me and asked me questions. honestly telling him the facts (with 2 carefully chosen lies) helped and it think him being a turbaned sardaar (the only one among some 20 officers there) helped as well. he looked at my face again and got up from his seat, roamed around other counters which i later realized was to get the stamp of the 24 hour visa, got back stamped my passport. i of course had little control on who i would be able to talk to, it was a lucky thing for me. i called up my relatives to come to the airport and pick me up. they were overjoyed and so was i. to my surprise i found my luggage at the unclaimed luggage area of air canada on getting out with the person there telling me that with new regulations inter terminal luggage transfers are no longer allowed. well, a good thing for me. so much so for the assurances of air canada that my luggage would be transferred over.


lot of other things ensued.. realization that britishers truly believe in upkeep and doing things properly (think downton abbey) after being refused an entry (at first) in to a club in rochester for i was wearing sneakers; some sambucas, beers and a wine glass followed. after that an amazing meal at home including bharwa baingan that re-affirmed that i love baingan. lot of liquor, countless hugs and many songs of rajesh khanna later (i think he had just died couple of days ago) the only thing we could have done was doze off. some sleep ensued and i was at heathrow again, later realizing that i had left my favorite shirt, the one i had gotten approval for from my parents and sister for wearing at the celebration function in india, back at their place.

vayama was very disappointing (even more on that later). their customer service was horrible. felt glad that i work for company that treats customer as king. so thankful to that person at heathrow for letting me through. experienced first hand that unexpectedly good things can happen to you (one after the other) and made me believe that people are more open to helping you even if they have no incentive to do that (more on that later). i for one have strongly felt otherwise all these years. meeting with my relatives was magical, even more so because the trip with them last year was equally dramatic. let's not start on that here.

of choice and responsibility..

the eternal optimist that my mom is, she keeps telling me about some wedding of an xyz distant relative of mine whom i have never met in my life and saying how wonderful it would have been if i were able to make it. on many such occasions, it's clearly a choice thing but sometimes this can get tricky like the recent retirement of my father from public office. is it my responsibility to be around for that, it can get subjective and lot of interesting discussions on being a responsible son, giving family values their due importance can result. this was the thing that led me to finally give in and choose to travel and make arrangements at a short notice and i tried to play smart and spend a day in london without taking care of the visa first.

was surprised as to how complete the trip felt, even though it was just a week. and my continued belief of being the odd man out in the otherwise royal nature of my family continued. the process of choosing a different shirt turned out to be simpler than i had thought.
met many people after years and based on what part of history they had met me, some of them said i had gained weight and others saying i had lost a lot. it was a big function and i loved it. given how much i loved it inspite of thinking and saying that it need not be on this scale, i feel indians and punjabis in particular (including me) will continue to over-spend on celebrations for a long long time to come. had another surprise for me waiting at the delhi airport. a shengen visa is required if you are taking two stops in europe traveling to a country that you not a resident of. inspite of all that happened earlier, this was the thing that pissed me off the most about vayama. i would have expected them to tell me this. another penalty to change the flight directly to frankfurt (not stopping in vienna) and credit card machine was out. i had just enough money in cash to make it happen. was short of 40 Rs. asked this lady who i believe was getting a change in a ticket herself and she obliged. it was a small amount and i am sure i would have managed it but getting it at the first request still counts as out of ordinary. i am pretty sure it was not my charming smile, she just wanted to help someone in need. another unexpectedly good thing happened to me.

March 8, 2009

of little miss sunshine ..

My mind has literally been pulp of late and I guess another round of 'little miss sunshine' was exactly what I needed to get up and running again. It has all the makings of a classic entwined in to the plot. A dysfunctional family that sticks together; loud mouthed, disgruntled old age; genius struggling in personal life; budding youth coming to terms with the reality that dreams might never come true; a never say die personality driven by sheer belief and conviction; and to top it all a kick ass, unconventional performance in the 'little miss sunshine' beauty pageant offending all the lesser mortals around and all this put in perspective of a zany, imperfect world with weird cops, dead people in the trunk of the car and clutch wires and horns going out of order.

The whole craziness of the movie culminates in to the entire family dancing on the stage to the song 'super freak' with everyone watching in complete shock and surprise. This song, sung by Rick James, is one of my favorites and peps up the mood every time I hear it.

She's a very kinky girl
The kind you don't take home to mother
.
.
That girl is pretty wild now
The girl's a super freak
The kind of girl you read about
In new-wave magazine
I really love to taste her
Every time we meet
She's all right, she's all right
That girl's all right with me, yeah
She's a super freak, super freak


A must watch for everyone.

February 8, 2008

5 reasons why people at office will miss me ..

Today is my last working day at my current workplace and I would be moving to Hyderabad on sunday. Though i leave people over here infinite reasons to miss me .. the following 5 reasons top the list.

loud sneezes
they made many people shake off the afternoon laziness and get back to work .. reassured of my comforting presence around.

my penchant for playing around with my hairstyle
trust me .. one can manage to have a hairstyle even with the meager bunch that one is left with. the frequent changes brought a sense of dynamism in the lives of everyone around.

shayari and the PJs
would tickle the funny bone of everyone around mimicking the popular figures in office. the jokes and the quips would often make sidhuisms seem rather mundane and boring.

a ready reference when it came to food
be it the alphabetical list of offerings at haldiram , the special indian menu at pizza hut, the list of kebabs at the kebab factory or the offerings at the food court of a local mall .. i would handle quite a few queries on a daily basis.

an epitome of courage and motivation
single, dysfunctional personal life and yet a smiling face .. i wonder if there would ever be an alternate role-model for everyone around to draw inspiration from.

January 18, 2008

of poets and bloggers ..

poet1 : आप तो कटाक्ष करते हैं समाज कि बुराइयों पर ओर जिस व्यंग्य के साथ वाकयी में सराहनीय है ..... मेरी नई कविता .....

poet2 : (abrupting him in the middle) : आपके बारे में भी बहुत सुना है, जिस तरह आप इन नेतायों की पोल खोलते हैं, आपके हास्य का जो अंदाज़ है ... काबिले तारीफ है ... लीजिये चार पंक्तियां मेरी ओर से (goes on for the next 15 minutes) ..

poet1 : बहुत बढ़िया चार पंक्तियाँ .... वाकयी में बहुत ही उम्दा .... लीजिये आठ पंक्तियाँ मेरी ओर से ... (goes on for the next .. you know how many minutes) ..

blogger 1: Hey you got a cool blog there .. read my extremely humorous post here .. leave a comment and subscribe to it if you like it and pls link to it from your blog ..
blogger 2: I liked your post .. you write really well .. pls join my community on mybloglog ...
blogger 1: Great that you liked my post .. digg it or vote for it on stumble-upon and ask all your community members to do it if you can ..

Be it a poet, hungry for appreciation or a professional blogger trying to increase his page view per month, everyone likes to be taken notice of.

Well, I just like to be read, but I guess my means to popularise my blog are far too subtle (putting it on orkut, sending the url to some of my friends, pointing my gtalk status to my latest post for a couple of days) to register themselves with anyone. Being bullishly conspicuous kills the whole fun of it.

Google can't come to the rescue for i hardly write about current affairs. The Google Analytics report tells me that the only case where the search engine has been of any help is the query for kerala+sexy+beauty, that points to one of my posts about my kerala trip where infact the sexy refers to the boat I took in the kerala backwaters.
(..stifled laughter..)

But then again i have been infrequent and irregular with my posts, cardinal sins for a blogger. Spent the latter half of the last year in US (a post coming) entangled in work and of late was in a job hunt and moving to Hyderabad next month (another post coming).

Let's just hope for now that I would manage to post more frequently and save this blog from obscurity and oblivion.

October 30, 2007

12 signs you are single and *not so* loving it

1) "Har kisi ko nahin milta yahan pyaar zindagi main" figures among your top five favourite songs.
2) "Yeh dil na hota bechara .. kadam na hote awara" figures among your top ten favourite songs.
3) You watch couples coo-chi-cooing; give a long, broad smile and then an even longer sigh.
4) You sit sulking while you flat-mate prattles non-stop with his girlfriend on the phone.
5) You chuckle (wanting to holler hip-hip-hurray) when your flat-mate tells the tale of his recent break-up.
6) When a friend invites you on his marriage/engagement .. after an animated congrats .. you reply "might be difficult .. work you know .." even if all you are doing at work is expanding you social network on orkut, myspace, friendster, facebook, linkedin, 360, hi5, tagged, twitter, ning and mybloglog.
7) "Obsessed with career"|"Freedom is the mantra" are the answers you have memorized in case someone queries about your status.
8) You keep a confident "can't-find-my-type" as back-up, in case the earlier two answers fail.
9) In case even that fails .. you let out a painful "better be single than heart-broken" using all your acting prowess.. suggesting not to be reminded of the break-up that never happened!!
10) You have an email alias named *potential-list*, containing the ids of all your (seemingly single) acquaintances of the superior sex, that you send all the funny forwards to.
11) You had already planned a trip to home when your team comes up with a you-and-your-better-halves outing plan on the weekend.
12) You had already planned a trip to home when your team comes up with a you-and-your-better-halves outing plan on the weekend again .. and you laugh off the situation as height-of-coincidence.

September 21, 2007

the charming girl ..

She threw a furtive look towards this guy and wondered what was keeping him glued to his seat. Repeatedly brushing her fingers through her hair and turning her wrist to confirm the time she eagerly waited for him to make the move.

Acting like a coffee addict this guy got up and moved to the coffee room. She followed after a span of time that they had so atomically mastered in maintaining, as both of them went on realizing yet another meeting masqueraded as a co-incidence.

This had been happening for few months now but still this moment was far from being treated as routine and whispers were exchanged each time, for she was such a celebrity. What often boggled people was as to why would she choose this guy. "Love indeed is blind. It has to be for this to happen", some would say.
Her twinkling eyes, her perennial smile, her special-effect hi and her special-effects bye never ceased to charm people. And this guy, crude, artificial, with his vain attempts of sounding sugary, was so repulsive.

She indeed was classy. Simple yet dashing. Humble yet dominating. Her mind a precious bundle of beautiful thoughts and yet skilled in the art of handling people. Letting a guy, smitten by her charms, know his limit with conscious and repeated use of the word friend in phrases like Cheers for friends like you.

But was she naive or even foolish enough in assuming that her secret is unknown to anyone around ? Perhaps she knew that this protocol of unbroken silence would never be breached by a confronting question. She so resembled the subject of Billy Joel's classic she is always a woman to me

She can kill with a smile
She can wound with her eyes

She can ruin your faith with her casual lies

And she only reveals what she wants you to see

She hides like a child

But she's always a woman to me

...
She can do as she pleases

She's nobody's fool

And she can't be convicted

She's earned her degree

And the most she will do

Is throw shadows at you

But she's always a woman to me