Sunday, January 22, 2006

Chennai Chronicles

Since I landed up in India, this is the first day I am spending at home lazing around. For me, an ideal vacation should have at least one day of doing absolutely NOTHING. Today's nothing day is extra special because it was originally meant to be spent at the dentist's getting a tooth extracted :-O! But I got an unexpected reprieve and no tooth is getting pulled out. Now, is that being in heaven or what :-)?

Chennai's been great so far. The weather is super-awesome right now - like the porridge in Goldilocks and the three bears, it's neither too hot or cold. At home, I am being pampered and spoilt rotten :-D. Don't even ask about the food. I have been hogging like there is no tomorrow. Everytime I go to any store which features any kind of food, I start marvelling at the sheer varieties of food available and feel obliged to buy something to taste. This besides eating all the wonderful food my mom and my relatives have been making for me. Again I am proving beyond any doubt that I am the original foodie :-D.

I spent most of last week in Bangalore in honor of Shilpa's wedding. Boy, it was reallllllllllll great to attend a wedding after such a long time. Since I did not have much time to shop before leaving for Bangalore, other than buying shoes, I had to raid my sister's and my mom's closets for the clothes for the various functions. Once I got to B'lore, I landed both feet first bang in the middle of the wedding preparations. The three days of the wedding festivities just flew past - fun, frolic, some work but mostly a lot of joy - I will defer to Shilpa to write about it. But I must say that the actual wedding ceremony was really beautiful. And should also mention that Shilpa looked sooo pretty and bride-like, we all had trouble believing it was indeed her - heheheh :-)!

I should mention my total disappointment with Bangalore's traffic and roads. Compared to the pot-holed and cratered roads of Bangalore, Chennai just rocks! Bangalore, the silicon valley of India? With roads like those, sorry, I really don't think so!

My cousins, as expected, have all become even taller than when I saw then a year and a half ago:

Incident 1: At the airport, I heard a voice welcoming me but couldn't spot the source. Then I looked up skywards and there was my cousin K saying "Welcome akka". I asked my uncle how tall K was - and my uncle said "6 feet 3 inches and growing. We don't know how much taller he will be tomorrow". Sigh!

Incident 2: I was seeing another uncle and my cousin S off after their visit to my house. And my uncle went "Oh Archu, have you become shorter since I saw you the last time?". Whatttt!?! For heaven's sake, I was wearing heels at that time. Looks like S is shooting upwards too. Sigghhh!

Incident 3: Another cousin, I asked him how tall he was even before I stood up beside him. He's only a good 13 centimeters taller than me. Siiiigggghhhhhh!

Ah, how could I not mention TV? Whenever I get the chance, I have been watching Tamil channels in fond hopes of associating visuals with all the songs that I have heard on raaga back in the US. Also a couple of movies. Hopefully my eyes won't be hanging out of their sockets by the time I get back.

These are all just the brief highlights of what I have been upto so far. Vactioning in general is fun. Vacationing in India is bliss. It's official folks - I am in a state of vacation moksha :-D!

p.s. Saranya - see I did put up a post from india :-D. Even if it meant subjecting you all to reading the mundane happenings of my mundane life ....*evil laughter* X-)!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

My best friend's wedding

One of the reasons why the trip to India this time is going to be extra-special is because I will be going for Shilpa's wedding. S and I have been friends for nearly 15 years now. She is my oldest best friend. We each know enough secrets about the other to be able to do successful blackmailing if we wanted. I have eaten her head about a lot of things. She calls me up at any time with a "I was bored and you are the perfect person to bug." We can talk for hours together about any topic under the sun.

We met in the seventh grade (okay stop calculating my age now). And studied for exactly two years together after that. Since then we have never stayed in the same city, forget the same school. Yet the friendship continues - first through handwritten mails and then through emails, instant messaging and telephoning. There are some people with whom you just stay connected without any conscious effort on your part. S is right there among the top people on the list

After I came to the US I have lost count of the number of friends whose weddings I have had to miss thanks to staying in a country 10,000 miles away. Ever since I knew about S and Vikram's (her future husband) relationship, I had always threatened S to dare not get married without my presence. I think I was among the first people to know when the wedding dates were fixed last year - S wanted me to start planning my visit.

For a while, it seemed that after all the effort, I would not be able to make it after all. But luckily things worked out and I am going to be there for the WHOLE ceremony. I am so thrilled :-D!

Shilpa is getting married on the 20th of January 2006. Vikram is really one lucky guy to get a wife like her. You can look all over for a long time but I doubt you will find anybody as caring or generous as S. Go wish her folks - she deserves the best of everything in the world!!

There are quite a few close friends of mine who have become not so close ever since they got married. I have promised S with bodily injury if she starts the stand-offish "maami" act with me once she becomes a parineeta (married woman). But knowing S, I somehow suspect that rather than her friends, Vikram is the one one who should be concerned about being ignored ;-)!

Shilpa, here's wishing you a long, wonderful, happy, successful and blissful married life :-D! You rock, girl!

Monday, January 09, 2006

And the flavor is ....

This weekend I was busy being the social bee. Throw in the India shopping and other winding-up-before-leaving-on-vacation stuff and I barely had time to breath. It's Monday morning now and I am still in the same dazed, sleep-deprived state that I was in on Friday evening. But I had a lot of fun in between, so I really ain't complaining!

Anyways, one of the get-togethers involved belatedly celebrating the birthday of a friend, S. Four of us, K, S, M and me, were supposed to meet up. K had bought a cake as a suprise for S.

When K told me about it, I asked him what kind of cake it was (I am a sucker for chocolate cakes, especially Black Forest - yummmm). To my disappointment, K said it wasn't a chocolate cake. He had wanted something different. So he had bought a "different" cake with "peaches on the top and mustard on the bottom".

My eyes popped! "Mustard on the bottom?" I asked, "Are you sure?". K confidently replied that that's what the sales-lady had said and he happily added that it should taste different from the usual cakes. I somewhat doubtfully agreed that if the cake really had peaches and mustard in it, it really would have one hell of an interesting taste.

So we met up the other two, had a nice dinner and finally it was time for the cake-cutting. The cake looked extremely delicious. S blew the candles, cut the cake and passed it around. There were oohs and aahs of appreciation as we gulped it down. Then M and S asked what kind of cake it was. K once again went "peaches on top and mustard on bottom." M and S looked bewildered for a moment and then burst into laughter. They both chorused "Custard on the bottom, you idiot, not mustard!!"

I laughed like a crazy woman for nearly 5 minutes after that. In fact, I am laughing right now :-D.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Yeh jo des hai mera

When I landed in the US for the first time, I was fine for a couple of weeks. No sign of homesickness or depression. After all there were so many new and exciting things to see, observe and experience. New place, new people, new culture, new everything! And, as I have mentioned many times before, my apartment mates were totally awesome people who went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and settled in. So, though I missed my parents, my sister, my extended family and of course, good old Chennai, I was doing pretty okay. Hey, I could make it through the two years of my master's program!

Then one day, I came back a little early from school and there was no one else home yet. All of a sudden, without any warning, homesickness hit. The more I tried to curb it, the more depressed and lonely I felt. I did not want to call home - one thing I learnt from my hostel stay is never to call your parents when you are away from home and feeling depressed. The thing is, while you get over the depression soon after the talk is done, your parents take over your worrying and they worry for a looong time. Parents, bless them, are like that!

So I called up a friend, S, instead. S advised me to start planning for my first trip back to India. It did not really matter when I actually would make the trip, just planning would make me feel better. It seemed like a silly idea - I had landed from India just a couple of weeks ago, and I already should plan about my first trip back home? Anyways, I followed S's suggestion, and guess what, in some weird way, just planning about a India-visit calmed me down! I think it was the feeling of doing something about my homesickness!

Forward to ten months later. It was summer and I decided that it was high time to make a trip back home. After deliberation, December was set as the chosen month. Somebody had told me when I initially arrived that going back to India for the first time ever after staying in the US is one of the pleasantest experiences ever. They were so right. Just the thought of going back to Chennai brought a smile to my lips. The Fall quarter that year was one of my toughest quarters during the whole of my study in Davis. But I bore it all with equanimity - I was going home :-)! Everything was planned out - my research advisor agreed upon my vacation days, I sorted out my grading duties with my TA profs, my course instructor agreed to let me take the exam early.

The day I got my airline tickets in hand, I felt like I had got the tickets to paradise. In between all this excitement, of course, there was all the India Shopping to be done. I made the list of all gift recepients and then spent a lot of time thinking over what to get for everyone. Another friend of mine, A, was also making her first India trip. Together we shopped, shopped and shopped. By walk, by bus, by car - wherever we went, we were sure to come back with additions to our India shopping bounty. By some coincidence, though we had bought our tickets at different times, A and I were on the same flight till Hong Kong. Then she would take the connections to Hyderabad and I would take the ones to Chennai.

Finally the great D-day arrived. Our friends helped us with our huge suitcases. And we boarded the airporter. We were on our way! The flight journey was a normal, extremely long trip to India. But of course, I did not notice the passage of time. In another 30 hours I would be home. Then another 24 horus. Then another 10 hours. Time just flew. Then 2 hours. And finally, I was in Chennai!!! When I got out of the airport, there was my family, my cousins, my relatives - a whole bunch of people had come to receive me. I felt like a celebrity :-)! Home sweet home!

The one month of stay in India just flew by. Coming back to the US was misery. For a month after my return, I wondered what on earth I was doing in the US. If I had any sense whatsoever I should just rush back home again. Of course, as the months went by, that feeling slowly slipped into the background. Till it was time to plan another trip back home ...

All these fond memories are coming back because I am going on vacation to India next week :-). Ever since I contacted the travel agent, the days are just flying by. The countdown has begun - only 10 days to go :-D! Chennai, here I come!