Food!

Posted November 30th, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Food, Personal
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This is a topic which is very close to my heart….closer to my stomach rather…FOOD!!! Let me tell you why i felt like writing this..Just now had a mail from Siddharth saying that the NYC gang has decided to treat the drivers (Seejo And Avneesh) and the finance manager ( who else but moi!!) .We get a chance to pick up any restaurant we want…I was actually thinking where to go when i realised that Seejo and I have exhausted all the restaurants around this place…

One thing common between Seejo and me is that we both love food..(very few things common between us anyway!!). Thats one of the reasons we get along fine!! Actually Seejo himself was quite amazed at the amount of food I devour..(eat is what he puts it as ,but i know gobble is what he means …! I thought i’ll bore you ppl with a desription of “taste of the world”!!!

First let me start with Italian..cos that is where Seejo took me on our first “date”…I loved Italian food primarily because it was dripping in cheese….Lasagna was great ..It has on cheesy layer after another and it just melted in the mouth. Italians also have a great way to make salads ..Their salad dressings too are quite tasty..

Next on the list is Mexican..Most indian students love Mexican food because it is the one which is closest to the Indian palate..It is spicy( well spicier than American food at least!) and most food is based on chapatti like base..They give it dofferent names though ..So you have chalupas,burritos ,tacos ,tortillas ..all of them are chappati like with stuffings of chicken/beef/beans etc..Mexicans eat a lot of beans anyway ..but give me apna frankie anytime!! what wouldn’t i give for a chicken frankie from outside NM!! The items on the menu are funny to pronounce anyway..THey ronounce the “J” as “H” so Jalapeno pepper is Halapeno pepper and baja beans is Baha Beans ..Tortillas are tortiyas and so on…anyway another important plus point in favour of the Mexican cuisine is that it is the cheapest..so it is the best!!:-) “sasta ani masta ”

Indian /Pakistani food ..I do not need to describe but it is the most expensive among all of the cuisines here and the worst thing is that all the curries taste the same at the restaurants here..The Pakistani restaurant has better food than the Indian one( run by a Maharashtrian couple)The ppl at “Maharaja” seem to make the same base for all their curries so it all tastes the same veg or non veg!! Note that this is on he basis of my 6 months stay in US and only sampling the cuisines offered by Charlottesville,

Chinese..Well you might think whats new in Chinese cuisine…we have that all the time but the menu in a Chinese restaurant seems very different from the one back home …Unlike the Singapore noodles and the hongkong noodles and the Manchurians and the Schezwan ..the things that dominate here are the sesame chicken ( my favourite) and General tso’s chicken etc..Chinese food is what has the widest variety ..and they use all possible meats..chicken pork,shrimp, beef ..(My selection is rather limited to chicken and beef!!) i really can’t stand sea food ..and pork is” uh huh well ok types”…The Chinese spring roll though is present and so is the wanton soup….Noodles are quite similar to whats there in India though ..although they have thin and thick noodles! but really bland and much much more oily!!

Most Japanese restaurants are similar to Chinese restaurants..most of them even share common dishes…But the star in Japanese restaurant is Sushi…which is raw fish (remember Aruna!!!) wrapped in a rice roll served with a kind of soy sauce ..There are varieties of sushi available some even have a veg sushi which has cucumber instead of meat…I was very unsure when i tried it but well it was not all that bad….

We went to the German restaurant mainly because of its name Schnitzel..remember Sound of music “schnitzel with noodles ..these are a few of my favouirte things..”Unfourtunately those will certainly not be one of my favoutire things atleast based on this restaurant….German food was quite like English food …seemed like chunks of raw meat with as less seasongings as possible!! But i had venison (deer meat) Which was quite hard actually …with a name like venison and deer meat i thought it would be soft but….deers are welcome for lions and tigers but definitely not for me..The food was quite bland although the waitresses were quite pretty..They were dressed in the Bavarian costume with checked skirt and high breasted blouse with ruffles on the front.!!

Thai food is obviously is spicy…And i loved it Its my favourite next to Indian food atleast for the present…Most of their preparations had coconut milk in it and we even got mangoes for dessert…Thai food has a lot of Tofu in it which is similar to paneer but is not paneer ..It is soyabean curd i think ( I am not sure what!!) Again what we mainly had was chicken and it certainly was spicy!!

The cuisine which i found most similar to Indian was Vietnamese though…Most of their food has a peanut in it or tamarind which is quite similar to South Indian preparations They even had a salad dressing which tasted like pepper rasam!! Their noodles was vermicelli and the chicken curry tasted like the Kerala chicken curry…But its rather impossible to prnounce the names of the dishes ..what we do is like we want one no.120 and one of #56 and two # 544 and one #767 for dessert and that will be all! :-) And they even had a chicken dish which was sort of like kababs!!

Brazilian food tasted differnt than all other cuisnes ..We had chicken stuffed with crab with creamy sauce and it was delicious ..I really could not say that it tasted like so and so or soemthing all i say is that it was GOOD!!! Greek food sounds like greek too ,.what i had was gyros which was croissant like thing stuffed with cheese and chicken…As i said Cheese and chicken is my daily diet!!!

Now to the food of America….The major component of the food is salad which i love. Each salad comes with various types of salad dressings …Mostly when i eat American cuisine i start off with the main course have a course of salads eat the dessert and end with salad again…And my mom says i don’t eat food!!!!The actual food is generally sausages or chicken fried or something stuck between bagels (something like buns)or buns!…Remember how all the books used to rave about mashed potatos I thought it was some recipe but all they do is just boil the potatoes and mash them!! then they have a dish called gravy ..which is nothing but gray with no dishes the Americans certainly are crazy ppl!!!

But the eating expereince I most enjoyed was Ethiopian food. You are seated around a low table and the server gets you one large plate with a large dosa like bread called “injera”and all the dishes are served on that plate. All of you eat from the same plate with your hands ..Similar to the Bohri style of eating. African food has some similarity to Indian cuisine too. They even have a triangular shaped appetizer filled with potatoes and peas called sambusas. The main food …the bread was like a thick dosa and they had different varieties of dal in their vegetarian section. And i must mention the excellent mutton curry that they had.

I could go and and on when it comes to food, so I better stop here.

New York City!!

Posted November 27th, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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I thought I’ll describe the BIG APPLE to you!! If I described Washington DC as Like Delhi, NYC was undoubtedly like Bombay…The ambience of the city was so much like Mumbai that I felt immediately at home….But I think I am putting the cart before the horse…. We started at 11 p.m. on Friday night… The van was a 15 seater van .By the time we picked up everybody it was almost 12 ..We were just about to say “NYC HERE WE COME” when some smart fellow reminded us that we needed our passports/driving license to enter any bar…”ofcourse how can you miss the swinging night life in NYC…and you say you want to got to NY?. Seemed like a valid point to me so Seejo had to turn all the way back home so that Neelima and I could collect our passports… The start itself was quite disappointing ..We were only half an hour on our way..The music still had not reached full blast and our singing had not yet peaked..but the the holiday mood seemed to have rattled Seejo’s normally calm composure…The van’s speedometer touched 80mph…and lo and behold there were the cops..It was really funny at first for me ‘cos this was the first time the guy was speeding in his life…there was nothing to do but pull over and wait for the cops..to emerge from their van..They were polite to begin with ..We wished each other a good day and exchanged how have you beens…Then very politely asked us whether we knew why we had been stopped. Seejo, unfortunately, was in no mood for guessing games so out came the answer at the first guess..”we were speeding a little ” ,he says blandly..The cop didn’t like the choice of the adjective..”A little Hmmmmm.?.his eyebrows are raised…? You were touching 86 mph? ,We did not think that that deserved any answer so we sat silent..The cop then decided to check on the rest of the occupants in the car..asked if there were any minors…and very sweetly asked Seejo to appear in court one day…Seejo was disappointed..”here goes my first parking ticket? he thought..No no he asked “whats the fine?” The cop decided it was the time for a few lessons on speeding and proceeded to give a fine homily on the effects of speeding in as he put it in “such a vehicle”..and he ended with a ” the fine depends on the judge .you might even get a few days in jail”.Stunned silence from all of us

Well that over we proceeded on our way…The talk then mainly revolved around cops and speeding tickets and jali laws..an hour or so later decided enough was enough and we started –what we play on all picnics–anthakshari…We slept a bit, chatted a little and before we knew it was New Jersey metro station at 5.30 in the morning.. It was cold and the temperature was around -2 ..After we spent some time freshening up…we boarded a train to New York Penn station..Had breakfast at Burger king …and caught another bus to NYC down town… Our first destination was NYC Liberty island…Believe it or not the place seemed to me like gateway of India..It had some kind of a fort or something overlooking the sea..from where you could catch a boat to go to the Liberty Island (like elephanta caves) Hawkers were there on the roadside selling imported watches and stuff…..and a few beggars too ( I swear seeing those beggars made me feel very nice…,America ke bhikari!!!!)The queues were long and it was almost an hour when we boarded the boat that took us to liberty island..The statue of Liberty is Green in color not white as you might have thought It is hollow on the inside ..The copper sheets were designed and shipped over from France and then reassembled in America..You can actually see that it was cut…and joint…From Liberty island we could see Ellis Island which was actually the immigration center for America..In the 1850’s -1890 ppl used to come to America by boat ,pass Statue of liberty and land at Ellis Island where they were given Citizenship or turned away. Just 2% of the entire ppl who came were turned away… From statue of Liberty our next destination was World Trade centre….We passed Wall Street ,Woolworth Building ,Macys ( it was an entire block!)and several other “known” buldings on our way…NYC by the way is so familiar!!!

On top of the world is what they call the ride to the top of the WTC ..and it really is amazing..From the 108 floor we could see the entire view of NYC..and it was spectacular..I could see the Manhattan bridge ,the Brooklyn Bridge ,Bronx,Brooklyn …I really wanted to go to Brooklyn but the moment I voiced this idea,, the responses ranges from ” are you crazy?,”do you want to be killed?…to blank stares.. PPL I must say have no sense of adventure…!!! By the time we finished the WTC it was past 4 and we were all hungry and cold and tired..What to do next was the question ? An Indian restaurant topped the list of choices…so we headed to a place called Jackson heights…If I told you NYC was like India then Jackson heights was -India,,The moment we came out of the suburban railway station the sights and smells seemed so familiar ..there was the familiar stench of urine at the railway platform, pan stalls ,all the ppl around seemed Indians…(may have been Pakistanis and Bangladeshis ) there were rows and rows of stores selling sarees, salwar kameezes were on display, Indian jewelry stores, sabji mandi…restaurants even a computer training center..Those in India may not really understand what we felt but all those who are here will surely guess how excited we were….All of us was like wow…ppl honking ,talking hindi..for 2 delicious minutes we were all back home…. Anyway we went to an restaurant ..the waiters spoke Hindi!!! I immedietly thought of apna shagun ka waiters!! They had the same uniform…!!!Stuffed ourself with food,,,Amazingly each item tasted different …It was buffet with atlest 12 different kinds of bhajis (veg and non veg) lassi, mangoes(!!!) gulab jamun,raita chutneys…(drool drool drool)..

After which we al l had pan and were too tired to walk… Anyway back to Times Square, NYC to see the dazzling New York at night.it was just 6.30 but it was already so dark that it seemed way into the night. Times square is exactly how they picturize New York …Tons of dazzling neon signs, ppl rushing about…cabs honking …wow!! We walked through Broadway street. it is this big street which has a lot of theatres ..There was Les miserables going on in one…Kiss me Kate in another, Dr.Jekyll and Mr.Hyde in yet another, I was staring open mouthed. Another funny thing I felt about Broadway was there were to types of cars in front of any theatre, either ordinary yellow New York cabs or streeeetttcccch limos…!!! New York streets are so much like Bombay ..Incredibly there were roadside hawkers selling chana,(only they also had cashewnuts to sell too), candyfloss, etc…Of course I bought some.. Siddharth and I kept muttering to each other so much like bbay..When we passed times square ( it was oh! Dadar) ,near Liberty Island( it was this is Gateway) and near the WTC it was (..FORT!!) We then went to the Rockefeller centre and saw the open air ice skating rink…Took a look around the nearby Chrysler building, St.Peters( I think) cathedral…and would you believe it there was a tangawala asking whether we wanted a ride (Nariman point Siddharth and I chorused!!!!) center is a incredibly huge building since most of the city was already in the festive season and decorated for Christmas it all looked very pretty…

During this time a few adventurous guys among us decided seeing such places are not enough ..it was time for action !! So they sped away to see a strip bar..before you ask”why didn?t you go?? The answer is I didn?t know they were going…or try keep me away!!!!… Our last stop for the day was the empire state building. It has this golden top, which looked marvelous at night..I think what I ?ll always like of NYC is the way the Empire State building looked… By this time we were all tired and those who had to drive ( Avneesh and Seejo were already looking askance at any new plans ..kept reminding us that they had to drive ) totally vetoed a night club( Blow all our pass port collection in vain!!)…So we headed back…back to New York Penn station and then to New Jersey. A lot of amusing things happened on the way like ,,,Ppl kept losing themselves in he train ,got off the wrong platforms, the cold winds that made us chilly ,static electricity due to the cold weather and lots of small things…We started back at 1 in the night ,the drive was rather uneventful because most of us slept peacefully…Reached back home at 7.45!! All in all it was really good…Kept thinking of the fact ?Oh I have been to New York!!? Now its time to put my head down and study…don’t plan to lift my head or sleep for the next 15 days….

Atlanta

Posted October 5th, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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To begin at the beginning…

The break was from Saturday-Tuesday..euphemistically called the Reading Holidays!! But as usual the break started by Friday afternoon…

Seejo and i went to have a Japanese dinner and i had my first taste of Sushi…It did taste nice but the idea of tasting raw fish was so bad that i began to feel queasy…what a waste of a fine meal,,,anyway Seejo dropped me and Vrushali to Jayasreechechi’s place that day evening..(he was on his way to Boston). My flight was the next day at 2.30 ….Got up late .dropped Vrushali at the airport ( she was off to Wisconsin Madison)..came back had a leisurely breakfast…( food always tastes better if somebody prepares it for you!) Dressed and went to the airport again …My flight was via New Jersey…and the first plane was such a small one…I believe there are no such small planes in India….had a seating capacity of less than 40!!! NewJersey airport was crazy….It was a totally new place and i had this luggage and i was in dread of losing my way about and being late for the flight…but anyway i had plenty of time to spare…. The next flight was real fun….I had the window seat and the flight was right in time for me to see the sunset….and was it beautiful…It really is amazing…if you look down you see a field of blue…with puffy white clouds stretching like a soft blanket and just at the horizon the sky changes its character and turns bright orange in colour…its amazing that the sky can look so warm at one point and so cool and serene at another and that too at the same time….well so much of my nature rambling….

Santhosh ettan was there to pick me up and we drove to yet another cousin’s house..and it was for the first time I saw what we think of as “America”.. After Charlottesville which is a sleepy little place and Washington which was more like a city of museums …Atlanta was one city with tall buildings and all lit up and really jazzy!! Did nothing much that day except gorge on home cooked food …baingan bharta …( had 6 chappattis!!) If my mails seem full of food please understand that Indian home cooked food is quite a rarity here..!! The next day got up early in the morning and drove to see yet another cousin ..this time at South Carolina….the drive was a 4 hour drive,,and it was tiring..Atlanta is no way as beautiful as Virginia….The fall colors here are so beautiful …in Atlanta the leaves are already shed and the trees look bare! The day passed off quickly and it would a good 8 hours of the day i was in a car!! Another funny thing here is that all major cities are full of chains ..what i means is that there is a chain of Macdonald and Pizza huts and not only eateries even grocery shops ,Walmart, Bed & Linen stores, Gas stations , everything is a chain…Its nice continuous link at first but then it gets monotonous to see the same set of shops ..same decor just shuffled about at every same town…changes the originality of the place a lot!

Monday was the day I went to see Atlanta….First we went to see Underground Atlanta…This is a shopping mall like area but it is underground and is one of the major attractions of Atlanta..Its nothing much and it reminded me of the long line of shops near Fountain where the mallu shopkeeprs sell smuggled items!! The major attractions was the Coke factory….the Coke being an all Atlanta product,..Its nice the way these ppl package these tours…First they showed us a documentary of how the coke got to its present state…showed all the s all over the world about Coke and …pretty great! There was even a glimpse of Hrithik Roshan selling Coke And the best part was then we could taste Coke and its allied products all over the world…There was Apricot Coke from Japan ( my favourite) and Lychee coke from Thailand ( a close second!) Watermelon from China , orange ,pineapple, ginger ,grape…just name it..it seems the most famous is Bitter Apertiff from Italy..easy to see why that was famous..tasted just like rum!!!

Afterwhich we went to see the CNN another Atlanta based organisation….That was fun too…Although the way they explained seemed like news gathering was a piece of cake!! THe building is a huge one and it houses all the divisions of CNN like their sports unit and the CNN web unit too ..Anyway the whole thing was quite interesting…saw many of the faces that appear on CNN …The day ended with a visit to the Indian store..You guys probably won?t guess how ?Indian? an Indian store can smell..anyway i went crazy seeing all what we could see in any store in India ..never thought i’d get ecstatic at the sight of Dabur Amla Kesh tel but there it is…and anyway most shops were stocked with sweets for Diwali…The next day saw me at the Atlanta airport and wonder of wonders I got a direct flight to DC.. Went back to Jayasreechechis place..ate again!!..caught the bus back to Charlottesville!! By the way I figured why they say in all the books that ppl do a lot of reading in planes…Well i did so myself Finished two Novels on the way to Atlanta and one on my way back….hows that for a reading holiday!!!

Slangs

Posted September 21st, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Not much to report from the Virginian Front..Was a particularly hectic week with horrible assignments (the prof finally said yeah they were too tough!!) But mails are supposed to be entertaining so this is the next topic i am going to write about…

As i said in my earlier mails one of the things i miss most about bbay is missing the local slang!! No jhols, no locha, no lafda and no raada here…!!! But thanks to the Indian community out here…I have managed to pick up a few other slangs…notably the IIT ones!!!! ok here goes..!! Barrons ishtyle

PSI-—pehchanne se inkaar—-kya yaar! main kitne der tak vahan khada tha…dono ne mujhe solid PSI mara..jaise mein hoon hi nahi!!

froos– short for frustrated..typical iit …the non iiitians generally say..frustu..seems like sab IIT ladke solid life se froos hai!!

Sutta…I didn’t know this before ..(How could i not!!) Cigarette!!

Peace hai...Not like war or something ..it generally means manageable…as in BMI bahut hi peace hai yaar.sab kiya hua hai,, par DSP ke liye solid fight maarna padta hai!

chummachaati..which i think i don’t need to explain!

halu: This one sure had me halu when i heard it fro the first time …it means confused .I guess the etymological derivation is from the English Word Hallucinated

Some pune slangs…used in Hindi..

Gochi...I hear that a million times from Vrushali..We never really used it though did we?! We preferred locha i guess!!

Gandaya hai…No no no its not that dirty as the name suggests..it means fassana ya mama banana.

First Visit to Washington DC

Posted September 1st, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Personal, Travel
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Just to describe this weekend! Classes began on Thursday and it was hectic..DSP was pathetic…this guy comes and starts writing all the formulas of FFT and DFT and convolution : everything Bijith ( my undergraduate signal processing prof) taught in the entire sem on the board and said just “i am sure you know all this”! Meri to fat gayi! Physio seems ok but unfortunately more to the BCS side of it and BMI lectures seem to be quite simple: although the pracs are not easy! We started Matlab today and Vrushali and I were the last ppl to leave the lab! and the worst thing is editing the whole stuff you have written!! anyway they promise to be tough and I am in for a rough time!!!

Seejo drove me to my cousin’s place at DC this weekend. He was visitng his cousins who stay nearby. That evening we (my cousins) went to see the Great Falls on the Maryland Virginia Border.A small waterfall like thing on the Potomac river …it looks very beautiful .. The next morning all of us ( my cousins and Seejo too) went to see Washington DC. Somehow DC reminded me of Delhi..May be all capitals are alike in some manner..Its full of monuments and memorials..Jefferson, Lincoln, Washington, Roosevelt, Vietnam war, Korean war etc etc…All of them are splendid and well maintained! And the walk by the Potomac river was really pleasant!  The problem was that it so difficult to get parking space that we had to walk a lot and we got really tired.. We saw the White house and capitol from far….and many of the federal offices!! Then Washington has a lot of museums,probably the best thing about it…we could just go to one! I think it would take a whole day to cover each one separately! WE went to the AIR and SPACE museum…where we saw the machine that landed on the moon, a piece of moon rock, the American aircraft in which the first American guy space-walked and some show something like the planetarium show (IMAX Theatre) although in this it has a 3-d effect ..we feel like we are falling off and something like that.

Anyway the best thing was when we were returning ..our car broke down right in the middle of the highway opposite the White house and it was stuck..we couldn’t even move it to one side,,,To top it all it started raining , the visibility was low and there were people zooming behind us at high speeds who had to break suddenly when they saw our vehicle stuck in the middle of the road…Kya gaali suna…itne saalon mein nahi suna woh sab eksaath! Finally we called 911( we did it!!!! I never thought I could ever get a chance to do that :) ) and the police came to the rescue in just a minute ..real quick ..they jumpstarted the car and then we could move it to the side!! and then came home in the cab.

Today morning my cousins dropped me home to Charlottesville…it was a cool trip!

TOP 10…

Posted August 30th, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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In tradition with all the countdowns here is a list of my top 5!!

5 Things i love about America!!

1)     The automatic doors! Absolutely the best thing! It really feels very welcoming and you feel really royal when doors open in front of you!

2)      The libraries..Till now all the authors i have given in Search have always returned me some answer!

3)      Fruits and Fruit juice ..plenty available and as cheap as drinking water!

4)     Of course the free internet..how can i miss that!

5)      Labs …really cool and everything available and soon! no wait period of 1 month!

5 things i hate about America

1)     no newspapers…yahan pe woh habitich nahi hai

2)     Have to have a car for roaming! and the roads are uphill downhill most of the places…so walking is tough!

3)     U go to a restaurant and try to find a non carbonized non alcoholic drink….no way!

4)     Everybody seems to be alone …its like each man for himself!

5)     No baambaiyya Hindi!!! no sick jokes …That’s bad

Shenandoah

Posted August 27th, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Personal, Travel
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This Friday evening the BME seniors had taken us to downtown to FRIDAYS AFTER 5..which means that there is a kind of open air fair ( a very small one!) with stalls selling knick-knacks and stuff..There were ppl playing the guitar at one corner and some guys were singing..basically as the Americans put it everybody does their own thing!!!

They were serving beer and pretty soon the whole place had an alcoholic smell to it..and then they had this big open air amphitheater…its kind of a like a bowl.. where the band plays in the deep end and ppl sit on the grass slopes on the side and drink beer and “just chill out”. I met another girl there from my own department ..An American called Linda aur usko bahut pakaaya. It was fun to talk with a “proper American” girl and she was telling me all about her brothers( she had two!) and her parents and hobbies ( it is swing dancing!…woh kya cheez hai bhai….its some east European dance !) and  it was fun! and then we discovered that she too wanted to study literature and then she started reciting a Robert Frost poem (Fire and Ice) and I continued and then we ended up reciting the whole thing together …Talk about international bonding!!

The next day was really nice that is Saturday…. we ( the band of desi at U.VA)ad  planned a picnic for the day…we went first to Natural bridge… As the name suggests it is a natural bridge made of limestone millions of years ago and being made too!! It is 515 feet high ( for those who are statistically inclined) and that is twice the height of the Niagara and it is AWESOME! Right at the top of it there is a natural etching which looks (or the Americans say it does) like a spread eagle…We strained our eyes trying to make out the shape and finally got it.!! Then there was a lost river there,,,jiska matlab we could hear it but no amount of digging and tracer studies could figure out its course…

This place was originally an American Indian place,,so as a tourist attraction they had some Indian tents and a few ppl dressed as Indians carving some stuff and making pottery! Animal skins decorated the place…Elks ,weasel ,skunk ,deer and they were so soft! The ( mock) Indians were really happy to see our group (the real Indians!!) or as they put it and they said “i really cannot use the word Indians in your presence cos you are the true Indians!!”

Sorry for the detour…now to move on we next went to the Blue Ridge mountains part of the Appalachian mountain ranges which extends upto Tennesse..and it is upto 3000 ft high ..The scene was beautiful..Virginia is supposed to be the most beautiful state in Us in terms of natural beauty and certainly the greenest..THe fall colors were not yet out ( it seems the leaves of each tree has a different shade ) but even now the leaves were in different hues so i could well imagine what a riot of color it would be in mid September ( we plan to go to another place to see the Fall colors then!) We stopped at a shady grassy spot to have our lunch :Sandwiches of ham and turkey with mayonnaise and peanut butter ,cool tomatoes(!) ,fresh butter and cheese and cola to wash it all with!!! ( just to give a touch of Enid Blyton to the whole thing!!!)

The view from the top was astounding…Mountains on one side ..and a valley on the other and the drive was full of hairpin curves it was almost like driving on the Lonavla ghats! Our next halt was the Sheranado lake …It was like those idyllic locations : a lake set in the middle of mountains..They had created an artificial beach out there…Unfortunately we didn’t know that earlier so none of us had got our swimming gear..The guys easily stripped to their undies and dived in and we were just watching the show(!) Vrushali had major enthu so she dived in with all her clothes but poor me was wearing white so couldn’t even do that !!

After which there was a long drive back home….and i spent the whole time actually entranced by the scenery …would you believe it i hardly spoke to Seejo!!

The English Countryside

Posted August 10th, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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ok here is the next edition of my travelogue…..

May be the tour of the countryside was worth all the trouble we went through! Just a few words about Cardiff though…..It is in Wales … (Great Britain of course comprises of England, Scotland, Wales ) It appears to be  kind of a hill station and is situated at around 31/2 hours drive away from London!

The first thing I noticed when I got out of the plane was that the sky is really “blue”. It was a colour had not seen before! The drive was lovely…the lanes were narrow and on both sides there were this HUGE meadows in various shades of green stretching as far as the eye could see! There were just a few houses scattered here and there and they were exactly like the houses we used to draw back in first standard! An inverted “V” and then a square within which there are 4 small squares for windows and a small chimney. Most of the houses did have “Red-roofs”!!

All the road signs were in Welsh and English for example Cardiff in Welsh is CArdydd and the word lane is “llath”! The landscape didn’t vary much …Alternating shades of yellow and green could be seen! with grazing animals. I saw the Jersey cows (they are just a bit longer than Indian but they are somehow more elegant!)

Most houses had paddocks with horses in them and some even had the jumping bars for the horses. Also Welsh being the country of shepherds there were plenty of sheep!!! I could almost see what Enid Blyton wrote in her books about sheep in the hills and actually looked quite hard for a glimpse of the “shepherd!”. But you know the funny thing is that in the three hours that we had to get to London I didn’t see even a SINGLE person on the road..All the ppl were moving about in cars. Huge flock of sheep, herds of cows ,horses …even goats but no man!! The cars in England are somewhat conservative compared to the more jazzier American ones and smaller too…Many cars had bicylces taped on at the back!

Welsh is separated by England by a channel of water which our airhostess called the English Channel( i am not sure but I though that was between England and France!!) The best part is that travelling in England is very familiar …… road signs are as familiar as Andheri, Borivili or Dadar……I mean when you see Eton and Reading and Swindon you feel you are on familiar ground! i saw a part of the grounds of the Royal Ascot ( all I could make out was that it was huge!!) And i got such a thrill when we passed thru Bath!! Agreed the countryside hardly differed ( it didn’t throughout most of the journey ) but Bath was Bath!!! We passed through the counties of Wiltshire and the royal counties of Berkshire

The only “spot” that I really saw was the Windsor Castle. It looks just like the castle should look like,,,with moats and turrets and towers!! The Heathrow air port is a HUGE place …it takes a long time to get to the airport after getting in the main gate! Most of the bus drivers in England were sardarjis .with “dadi” and pagdi! The weather was very nice and pleasant except that it got a bit chilly at night ..It rained a bit in Wales but it seems it always does!

Something about the food ..the veggies would have had a real problem.. because here they mostly don’t bother to ask whether you want veg stuff! At the Sheraton all the veggies could have was a few boiled vegetables and asparagus soup! Even the non-veg was bland…I finally understood the importance they give to “carving ” the chicken …each piece was a huge chicken itself!! I could just manage a few bites!! And yes I had the “authentic English apple pie and it was delicious!!..

Thats all I saw of England…

Bubble Baths

Posted August 10th, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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Ok Ruby  this is for you….Unfortunately I couldn’t have a bubble bath at Sheraton…less time and weary limbs….but I had one once I reached Jayasree chechi’s place!! Just thought I’ll describe “my first bubble bath”!! ( you guys asked for a detailed mail and here you are ….!! don’t wince!)

The first thing I realized is that bubble baths are going to be a luxury not due to lack of time but lack of moolah! To get up a decent foam you half to empty like quite half the bottle of the soap solution and woh to apne ko parvedega nahi !! Anyway this time around Jayasree chechi did all the work of getting the lather …( I don’t know why the Americans haven’t invented a device to do that…you have to actually thrash about with your hands to whip up a decent lather!!….)Ok so there i was a few seconds later ..with my hair piled up ( as seen in all the movies, but not that elegant though!!) soaking blissfully in the tub..But I must say there is something about foam that makes one look quite sexy!!

Ok So there I was soaking away..with a book in my hand..unfortunately my cousin didn’t have “Elle” or the “Vogue” or some glamorous magazine so I had to make do with an “Archie comic” .what a pity!!  It kind of takes the charm away from the whole thing but AH! what cannot be cured must be endured….:-(

And yes one more thing was lacking ….the all important glass of wine!! Come what may …the next time I am going to make sure I have atleast a glass of orange juice with me….and the next time is going to be soon!!

I filched a couple of bottles of the bubble bath from the Sheraton!!

To the United States!

Posted August 9th, 2000 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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The start itself was horribly jinxed. The flight was postponed to the next day and I had to rebook my tickets on the previous day’s flight ( which was also luckily delayed by a day!!)The confusion was apparent at the airport cos there were horribly long queues for every thing. The immigration check took us nearly 2 hours. So all in all by the time i finished checking in the baggage ,completed the formalities and had the security check done I had barely 20  minutes left before the scheduled start of the flight ( and this too because I was in the business class line for checking in : courtesy a friend’s uncle). Anyway there were loads of ppl left even when I had finished so it was evident the flight would be delayed. .  ..Anyway by the time all the passengers were seated it was already 1.45 am (the scheduled time of departure was 12.45am) But problemo again……Some extra baggage got loaded or something and by the time all that was cleared and the flight took off it was 4.30 am By this time I was certain I would miss my connecting flight .so I relaxed and sat back and tried to enjoy!!! The journey itself was quite boring and I slept thru most of it.
We reached Heathrow at 9 am ( London time) . I had a glimmer of hope that I may even make my connecting flight but no way they were bent upon making this a memorable trip!! There was some fog at Heathrow and therefore the they couldn’t land the plane. So we landed instead at Cardiff International airport at Wales. which was a small airport even by Indian standards. But there was more to come … The pilots had completed their allocated quota of airtime and so couldn’t fly us back to Heathrow. So there we were stuck in the goddamn plane ,,,bahar bhi nahi ja sakte the!! Cardiff was such a small airport ..they didn’t even have enough buses to ferry us across to the airport .. To get all the passengers took them 2 hours!! It was 9.35 when we landed and 11.15 when we reached the airport! Then we had to undergo a long process to get a transit visa. The flight was full and staff at Cardiff inadequate so a five minute task actually took them two hours to complete So three more hours of waiting in a never ending queue…

NOTE: If this mail seems full of queues be assured it was so I spent more time standing in queues than the actual flying time and I thought queues in India were bad!!)

By this time I had ganged up with a group of Indian students so the talk was familiar the jokes were plenty and we all collectively cursed the BA authorities who had abandoned us!! But then came the rudest shock. We were supposed to collect our baggage and transport it ourselves to Heathrow!!! Most of us had three bags weighing a total of nearly 100 kgs so you can imagine the agony we went through. So there was another long queue to collect the bags and there we were waiting again for the bus to take us to Heathrow, They required seven buses and of course the first-class travelers got the first preference! It was 2 pm by the time the buses came and after loading that luggage (WHEW!!!!!) and getting settled it was nearly 3.30 pm by the time we started to London…

This was actually the highlight of the trip cos i got an excellent tour of the entire English countryside For those interested in a description please reply with a blank mail with subscribe as the subject . You will get periodic descriptions of Life in America as an added bonus!! The journey was around 3 hours and we reached Heathrow at 7 pm Suitcases nikaala aur khade hai qatar mein to get tickets for our onward journey . By this time the seasoned travelers had become wise to the situation . They knew exactly what had to be done …IT was of course we students who were treated us second class citizens. Moreover we were impeded by all that baggage ..Lugging 100 kgs up and down is no mean task I tell you!!! Anyway I got my tickets confirmed by the next days flight …the same one I was supposed to catch :but a day later! By this time It was 10 pm . Then back with bag and baggage to Hotel Sheraton to spend the night . We had to wait ( of course!!!!) for an hour in the chilly English weather at night for an hour for the bus to arrive–we were a group of 20 odd students–by this time we were ravenous the last food we had was in the plane at 8.30 a.m. in the morning. Now the best part there was no direct bus to the Hotel …So load bags get off midway unload them all and reload them again!( by the way almost all the bus drivers in England were Sardarjis with long flowing manes!!) The food at Sheraton was ….well……… English!! The hospitality at the Hotel was bad….. Some say it is because of the racial discrimination but I think it was because were staying courtesy BA ..there were not even porters and we had to carry the luggage ourselves to the rooms!

Anyway the bed looked welcoming…The sleep was erratic cos we students do not qualify for services like wake up call ….the receptionist didn’t even bother to pick up the telephone!!! so I had to wake up a couple of times in the night to check the time! We checked out at 6 am and were back the same way to the airport !!Actually the next few minutes were the most scary part …Till then I had all these students but suddenly I was all on my own ,…new place ..no confirmed tickets and all these formalities! and no idea what to do next! Well!!! when there is nothing there are queues…so checked in baggage and went thru the entire process of security checks et al and boarded the plane! The rest of the journey was uneventful ..Jayasree chechi and Jay had come to receive me so it was fine.