Goodbye 1800 JPA

Posted July 27th, 2002 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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season summerToday is moving day. After 2 years of staying in Apt # 52 , my lease ends. I have spent the last couple of days packing my clothes, my books, my knickknacks. In the course of two years my room had become a comfortable place to be. Every item had its own place, some by choice and some by chance. As each item gets packed away my room slowly is getting a bare look. All my wall hangings, posters,  key- chains and mementoes of the various places I have visited are packed away in a suitcase. My wardrobe is empty, the clothes are already in suitcases. The biggest challenge was to pack my books. Two cardboard cartons, a suitcase and an airbag are filled with books. Suddenly the room, which was cosy and homely, looks bare and cold .

It was my first house: MY house…and now its time to say good bye. I’ll be staying here just for a few more days while I complete my Masters.

Hmmmmm….

seasonfallI guess I am having a writer’s block….I wrote this 2 hours ago and now can’t think of anything else to write….Probably comes from the fact that I have written 90 pages of my thesis in the past couple of weeks. There is nothing that stems your imaginations and arrests your creativity as much as a piece of scientific literature…Measure your words ,re-read them, re-word them, re- arrange them…till the whole thing looks impersonal and something that another person has written.

Or it is the lack of topic to write on. My daily routine has simplified….Lab does not take up much of my time…All I do is write the thesis and train a new student to take over my work when I am done. And I swim every evening….One of the changes associated with a roommate who is a guy. Much more exercise….I swim at least thrice a week, have played golf, done canoeing and kayaking. I also see a lot of movies. With both Atha and me having the ability to enjoy any crappy hindi movie , we watch a fillum every night. Its almost always Hindi till Subha puts her feet down and then we watch an English movie….And we have these long late night chats…Atha, Subha and I or sometimes just Atha and I about everything in the world…..

seasonwinterI know I am having a lazy lazy life…..I have a feeling it is the calm before the storm though.. There are just 24 days left for my thesis defense and then I am sure everything is going to happen in a fast forward mode…Can’t wait for the climax…

I guess it is time for you guys to write in and let me know how you are doing…..

Books

· The Inner courtyard : Collection of stories by Indian women authors · The left hand side of darkness : Ursula LeGuin. ( I have never read much sci-fiction….however I think its time to start. Am really enjoying this one)

Movies

· Devdas .. grand sets, beautifully choreographed dances, two beautiful actresses……It was not that bad as I thougt it would be. I was expecting another Ashoka but the director was wise enough to limit Shahrukh’s scenes which I thought made the movie bearable
· The Vagina Monologues ( The girl at Blockbuster told me “It’s a great show….makes you feel oh so good that you are a woman”. She was right…I loved it

· Run Lola Run : German movie…a sort of Sliding Doors like story….

Bunch of hindi movies ( Kya Dil ne kaha, Shaheed, Badhai ho badhai, Hum Kise se kam nahi) each one worse than the last.

Websites

Just a bunch of Bollywood movie sites I check in occasionally for reviews and gossip.

· http://www.screenindia.com Updates every Friday….
· www.upperstall.com …..Infrequently updated
· www.b4utv.com……lots of gossip
. www.rediff.com/entertai/enthome.htm…great old memories page

Oye Ohio

Posted July 15th, 2002 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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I have a new roommate…Surajit Atha.My new roommate has an old friend. K.D.The new roommate’s old friend has a roommate,Tehseen. And this new roommate’s old friend’s roommate has finished her graduation and has not found a job. Tired of living on credit ,she decided to go back home. Understandably KD and Atha wanted to have a “last” trip together. Several destinations were discussed and discarded before we finally hit on OHIO. Having already finished seeing all the states adjoining Virginia so far…we are venturing farther and farther out. Atha,by means of tempting,ordering and cajoling manage to get Subha and me excited enough and I roped in Seejo and Seejo roped in his friend and by the time we started we were a huge party.

Ohio is a 7 hour journey by road. We started on Friday night,picked up Ashu and Seejo on the way and drove till Akron,OH.  Ninad, ( my D.J S classmate) stays there in a HUGE house with 4 of his friends so we crashlanded at his place for the night. The main attraction in Ohio was an African Wildlife safari. When we planned it we were not sure how good it would prove to be and were apprehensive that it would just be an attraction for tiny tots.However it was quite worth a trip to Ohio.

The place had a zoo kind of thing initially with a lot of exotic animals like the kangaroo, some wild monkeys, ocelots and warthogs and anteaters. The safari actually as a drive through were we drive through a mile or so in our cars and the animals are roaming wild.

We could also feed the animals with a packet of food provided by the safari authorities. As soon as we entered the safari area .A huge eland (taller than our car) sauntered towards us. It was pretty amazing soon we were surrounded by llamas,elands and varieties of deer. We could roll our windows down and feed the animals while they slobbered all over our car. I fed some deers and enjoyed watching them jostle each other for the food. Next set of animlas ere the more exotic ones. zebras,camels giraffes and ostriches. It was pretty neat to watch ostriches and giraffes stick their long necks thru the window of the car to stare and at you and eat the food right off oyur hands. Tremendous experieelandnce for sure.

We then went to a mystery spot in Ohio which “defies” gravity. It was similar to the stuff in San Franciso. bt the San jose one was much better presented and preserved. Ended the day by swimming/plying in the beach off lake Erie. We drove back to Pittsburgh at night and landed at Vrushali’s place for the night. The next day that is Sunday we went to sight see Pittsburgh. It is a beautiful city. Two rivers meet and join to form a thrid river right in the middle of the city. Hence there are about 435 bridges which crisscross the city and have earned it the nam of City of Bridges. We could view the entire landscape from a point called the Dunesque Incline. I will put some photographs up soon….

Reached home late night at 2 am.

Best of Times…..Worst of Times

Posted May 26th, 2002 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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I don’t want to write what I did this week for the simple reason that I didn’t do anything other than routine chores. So I am going to talk about something else. This weekend is a long weekend here because on Monday the Americans celebrate Memorial Day. Memorial day is a day when Americans honor the people who died fighting the Civil war. I am not sure whether now the  ’honored’ people have extended to being war victims. Long weekends hold special charm for the Americans. Not that they don’t for Indians but we have so many more holidays. What I find funny about American holidays is that they shift around?..

What I mean is that most holidays, other than Christmas, New Years and July 4, always are celebrated on a Friday or a Monday so that there is a long weekend. So Memorial Day is not celebrated on 27 May but on the last Monday in the month of May!  But sometimes they take things too far.Like Washington’s Birthday is celebrated on 3rd Monday in February. It really doesn’t matter whether that actually falls on 22 February, which was his real birthday! But they changed the day to President?s day and continue to celebrate it ???

Well Indian festivals also change days but then they don’t follow such a logical approach? Remember the frustration when you realized that Diwali or Holi falls on a Sunday. Although American holidays are far less fun (other than the clearance sales held by the major super stores) they are far better structured.

And that gives me a topic for this email:

In one of the mails I had written when I first came to US I had listed the TOP 5 things I hate and love about America?.

That was when I just came to America and my favorite things consisted of the availability of fruit juice and the fact that there is unlimited Internet and automatic doors that open in front of you.  The things I deplored was the lack of newspapers and absence of mumbaiyya slang. Now that I am a veteran in America here is a fresh list

TOP 5 things I like about America

1.         Ease in travelling from one state to another. And the fact that you can afford it on even your student salary. And the fact  that you can even consider travelling to Europe.

2.            Research . You do feel that most of the work is unique and directly applicable to people.

3.             Food! Different cuisines aaccesible and affordable ( lets not consider the pounds that come along with it!)

4.            Attitude of people here . People are generally pleasant to you. Who doesn?t like a friendly smile? I like the fact that people  here treat all workers with respect. Like the waitors or the plumber or the bus drivers. How many of us wish our B.E.S.T driver a good day and thank you ( I guess they would yell at you saying ?bas zyaada shanpana nako karu?). I admire the don’t care attitude of the people here and the fact that they can switch anything from hairstyles to careers to life partners at any time.

5.         Natural beauty. It?s a huge country and hence encompasses a lot of geographical freatures . Canyons, mountains, forests, lakes, beaches… 4 distinct seasons and each of them is beautiful, the freshness of Spring, the colors in Fall, the snow covered landscape in winter and the pleasant warmth in summer. Obvioulsy I hate not having the rains..but one can’t have it all , can they?

WORST 5

1.      Terrible public transportation other than in major cities. A car is a must and the fact that I have seen the weirdest of accidents here (deers and numerous upturned vehicles doesn?t really make me feel thrilled about driving)

2.            Attitude of the people here. Excessive formality .  Very few people would take kindly to a just a drop in visit. And this sort of formality extends to work as well.  I mean a lot of thing depends on your presentation. Your matter may be zilch but half the battle is won if you have sugar coated it enough. Of course it wouldn’t work for ever?!! Also most Americans are pretty self-centered. I mean the average American does not think anything beyond their country. It is as though the world begins and ends with the boundaries of America.

3.            Weekend night activity . Have to say it. I am sure this is not true of a big city but one thing I really really dislike is how the whole place looks deserted at night.  Yesterday night , Atha and I thought of going for a walk at night…Atha is normally a cautious person and warned me against it. But I was reckless and insisted saying that after all there were two of us. But a few steps later I realized that both pedestrian and vehicular traffic were so scarce and it was far better to retrace our steps back home. Even in a small place like Charlottesville, we have to be wary of muggings and shootings. And try getting a midnight snack or go to a decent restaurant after 10 pm. I can’t make up my mind on what to eat and my stomach can’t start producing sufficient gastric juices till its past 10 and by that time all the restaurants have a big CLOSED sign on their doorstep

4.         The do it yourself attitude. It might be ideal or whatever but give me my kachrewali-bai who takes my trash out and the maid/manservant who sweeps the house and the dhobi who washes and irons my clothes.

5.         I hate the sight of old ladies who seem to need help even to stand trying to push these huge carts alone at the stores or the feeble grandmothers waiting to greet you at Wal-Mart ???(but perhaps that is a good thing that they can be independent even at that age??)

Disclaimers

This is my observations after being in Charlottesville. People can agree or disagree.!!

Notice that I just mentioned what I like and dislike. I have tried not to compare the two countries ( other than the subconsious ones). I really didn?t want to say I like US because of its clean roads, when it is the same dirty bylanes that make me feel comfortable back home. I am not saying anything about the fact that I like the festivals at home and dislike its absence here. Or you can earn more money in US whilst you have your family in India. Those are obvious. Everybody knows that.

Books

·           Lincoln  : Gore Vidal

·           Ah! But your land is beautiful:  Alan Paton

Movies

·            Namumkin : Another Hrishikesh Mukherjee film.

.            Riding in Cars with Boys : Review …Bah!

Websites

·            http://www.holidayfestival.com/USA.html  :      Learn More about American holidays!!

·            http://rinkworks.com/said/                         :Totally terribly amazingly incredibly funny!

·            http://www.rinkworks.com/brainfood/discrete.shtml  : And something serious!!

The perfect abstract

Posted April 5th, 2002 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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I have been trying to write an abstract this week. Try as I might I couldn’t write a “conscise” “comprehensive” and “informative” one. After umpteen attempts I finally managed to write one which (I thought) had all the required information and sent it to Mark for verification, Mark promptly reworded the whole thing and sent back the comment that “write it more clearly, explain all steps and basically rewrite it” . So I sat there and made a list of ALL the steps of my algorithm and wrote it down. This time I very wisely decided that I’ll send Seejo a copy of my abstract for a dose of constructive criticism. A few minutes later I got a call from Seejo.. “Can you explain what exactly you have done in your algorithm . For a second I thought I sent him the old version. Checked that…No, it was the revised version.

Then I proceeded to explain to Seejo exactly what I was doing. It took me 19 minutes. I counted …it was my daytime cell phone minutes. Finally comprehension dawned on Seejo.  He reworked whatever he understood into the abstract and sent it back, so all I had to do was check for grammatical errors, link all the statements up, pepper it with the right technical words and send it to Mark. By this time, it looked pretty much like a classic American operating instructions set ( hold the jar in your left hand, Hold the can opener in your left…..) by the time I finished that but didn’t Mark say put it as much detail as you can…………??!!
I sent it off to  Mark with a flourish. 2 hours and no reply. Went and peeked at his door.

“Mark,  did you get the abstract I sent you” .
“Yes, I am working on it”
On his screen was a document with so many changes that I was tempted to run far away from Mark’s room.
“I think we have to rework this, although I know what you have done, it is not easy to understand”
Whew!! Now what?? Although I was sure he was grossly underestimating the intelligence of the average reader, it seemed a better idea to humor him. After all I needed it in exactly 24 hours.
In the meantime I also sent a copy of this to Pulkit for a “layman’s” point of view (oops!!!).
Pulkit came online shortly and pinged me to tell me “Wow! Deepa amazing paper…well written and I didn’t follow a thing!
It was time to make changes then!! I looked at the revisions Mark had made, added some of my own, and clarified all the doubts he asked and sent it back to him for a cursory check. Unfortunately I think I did a better job than I had bargained for. Came the summons to his office.
“Deepa, I didn’t realize you were doing blah blah blah…”
“But,Mark I told you that was the problem…”
“Yeah but you can’t submit an abstract with this data,why don’t you change your code to get the effects of the background blah blah blah…”
It was 8 pm. I had to modify my code, run it on atleast 4 data sets , rewrite the abstract all by next day morning!
Somehow I managed that……….no more abstract writings for me….
Thank you!!
For those who want to see what the final product looks like, here it is

Duke

Posted March 11th, 2002 by Deepa and filed in Travel
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This weekend was meant to be a relaxing weekend. Sit at home, see a couple of movies, catch up on reading etc. I reached home Friday at an unbelievably early time of 5 pm. Generally the junta reaches my place at around 9 pm which gave me 4 hours of free time to do whatever I want. Relaxing has become synonymous with a bathtub for me nowadays. So I filled in the bath tub ,picked up a book ( currently reading Gore Vidal.. he writes novels based on American history ….)and lay there soaking myself in warm water till Vrushali had an urgent need to answer natures call and banged on the bathroom door till I had no choice but to come out .

After that dressed in a salwar kameez…( a rare ocassion..) and was wondering whether to cook or not when Siddharth and Subha landed up at my place with a suggestion that we go down town. Unusually pleasant weather was the reason offered. Seejo reached from MD around that time and vociferously supported the idea.

Downtown was already lit and tables were placed outside the cafes indicating that spring was around the corner. We went to a small Mexican eatery ,sat outside and yakked away. The topic of discussion was “what would be the first thing to  save and buy if you had a job”. I said books,( ofcourse!) Subbu said ( Bose audio system),Siddharth voted for a projector, Vrushali for a sports car and Subha for a better car! Seejo by mutual consensus was out of the reckoning cos he already booked himself an Audi, furnished his flat and bought his audiovisual needs.

After dinner we headed home, Siddharth and I took a detour to the local Blockbuster to pick up a few video cassettes. Picking up a cassette with Siddharth is a tough task ,cos while I head for the comedy/musical/drama sections he opts for only one section-the martial art section. I must have watched scores of Jackie chan and Bruce Lee movies with him, discovered that Bruce Lee is a different person from Bruce Li and cooked up hundereds of excuses for not watching the latest Jet Li movie. Today however we compromised ..Let us look at the thriller section : Both of us wanted to watch a Hitchcock movie…but problemo..catering to that public waiting back home is difficult..Seejo had warned us “No black and white movies” .So we picked out a Cary Grant movie “To Catch a thief”.

Enjoyed the movie!

By the time we hit our beds it was past 2!

However Seejo got up early next morning….and decided that weekends are meant to be for traveling. I refused the bait saying I prefer to relax! But By the time I could convince him about the “joys of a relaxing weekend” he was already on the phone with Siddharth ( who was only too eager to leave C’ville ) Together they decided to go to West Virginia…I said No..I already was there less than a month ago….Ok then Duke (in North Carolina was the next suggestion). I refused again….its not an interesting enough place but by that time both of them had guilt tripped me into thinking that it would amount to a criminal offence if I wasted one perfectly nice day sitting at home. Then again there was the irresistible lure of driving on the interstate which was offered to me.

By the time we tried to call Atha ( who was already in Duke ( his best friend stays there))Subha, Vrushali, Neelima and Amit Naidu also decided to accompany us. Morning ablutions, sundry chores, and minimal breakfast later we were all set to leave by 1 am. Duke University was around 220 miles from University Of Virginia. Seejo drove for the initial 70 miles and then I drove for the next 70 miles or so. The roads were almost empty so it was not much of a problem. I had great difficulty initially to maintain my speed at a constant 70mph. It kept fluctuating from 60-80 mph and even dropped down to 50 when I had to take turns. But more about driving later…We reached KD (atha’s friend)’s residence at around 7.30. Sat for some time, chatted and since our lunch was negligible went off to an Indian restaurant to have dinner.

Now a little facts and figures about Duke!

Duke Universtiy,University of North Carolina,Chapel hill and NCSU are all situated within 30 miles of each other. All three are high ranked good universities. Together they also form one of the famous tech areas in East coast called Research Triangle Park.

We walked around the area around the main street for the UNC wallahs, went to this place called “international tea center” ,which atha descriped to me as a “non alcoholic pub”. It had a female in salwar kameez yelling( for lack of a better word) an ila Arun song. While people around cross legged around small tables and played games ( carrom, checkers) some were dancing in the aisle, yet others sitting on a mat drinking “chai”. I loved it. Seejo was grinning when we came out of the place. Says” I never thought I’ll see something similar to the Osho ashram in North Carolina!!!”.

Then for the “piyakkads” in our group we went to an alcoholic pub and sat around watching them guzzle 24 ounce glasses of beer!. Reached back at KDs place around midnight. I went upstairs to meet Anjum then ( Anjum is my class mate).We caught up on some old times, exchanged the latest news we knew about everyone…..

Then went down again and saw that the whole junta was watching Filhaal..

Slept at 2 am .Got up around 9. Formed a queue to finish using the bathroom and went for the Duke tour. Duke is famous for two things

the Duke Chapell:

Duke Hospital ( the best med school in America)

We went around the latter and inside the former and it was impressive. The tower of the duke Chapel stands 210 feet tall. It is made of grey stones .The interir has 73 ft tall celings and six stained-glass windows representing women of the Old Testament.

Next stop was Jordan Lake a huge lake 14,000 acres of water. There was a beach kind of place around the lake….and we sat there for some time playing Dumb charades etc ,clicked a few Patel snaps .

We started the drive form around 4 pm with me at the wheels. Driving is definitely not a fun experence especially when you have Seejo sitting next to you shouting instructions. Seejo ‘s idea of a good driver is one who wins the Grand Prix while at the same time setting records for cautious driving. And let us just face it …I am not a world class driver….yet!!

Anyway I did understand the thrill people get in overtaking cars and speeding and zipping through traffic.

The huge truckers which hurtled dowm the free way was scary and even more scarier was the idea that I had to overtake them! But I survived and so did my passengers.

Today is Monday morning

I am back at the lab…..pretending to work!

Lost my voice

Posted April 7th, 2001 by Deepa and filed in Personal
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I HAVE LOST MY VOICE…. A terrible cold coupled with an irritant sore throat and aided by a unreliable workload has seen to it that the “voice” that characterized Deepa has changed from a impressive intonation to subdued squeak or even worse a unbelievable silence. Having lost the power to convey my all important feelings to the general public I have resorted to the task of email writing .For the internet requires no vocal cords and even a sound card is not mandatory to receiving mails!! The days are no doubt full, it being the final month before I become a 50% graduate in the eyes of the American public. The Indian education board granted me that title long back and the few Indians that know me well have even doubted the wisdom of such an action. Assignments have piled up, projects demand complete dedication ,presentations claim a few hours of my time ,classes require attendance and I need a break!! Still the think that keeps me going is that there is little more than a month before I can go back home. So I allow myself a few delicious moments of dreaming about “Once I land in Bombay…..” Newswise a pathetic week for nothing major happened other than what I chronicled at the start of this mail… Advisor is in a better mood nowadays and now that I have convinced him that my clock runs according to a nocturnal rhythm has acceded to my request to work at night and I am spared the torture of labwork at daytime  save a few day time lab meetings which I bear for the sake of the money my advisor puts into my bank account once a fortnight.

P.S.My throat definitely feels better now :)

My day

Posted March 8th, 2001 by Deepa and filed in Uncategorized
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Just to describe the day today…..
Didn’t wake up in the morning…cos didn’t go to sleep the previous night!! No earth shattering reason other than the fact that I had an exam and that too in Physiology. Which means cramming useless information into the brain and -I-hope-it-stays-there-till-next-day-morning. And it was a particularly bad topic -Endocrine Physiology which means it had twice the number of twisted names and even a smattering of biochemistry. Reached late for the exam (whats new?!!) but what luck..the room was full ..no place to sit so we (subbu and I) got to sit in another room…. with no supervison.  And so with a little bit of “share and care” attitude the exam went off peacefully..
Reached the lab with only one thought in mind…Finish off the next test ( I had another one yesterday too- a take home test!) and go home and sleep…It was a comparatively simple test so I figured well it may take me just an hour or so then I can go home…when …when,…when…Subbu comes in a scribbles a note..” Bahar aa ek minute ” it says. That’s how we pass messages so that others in the lab don’t know anything!! I frown at him but he insists…Once I am outside he grabs my arm and pulls me out of the building…all the time murmuring ” there is something I have to tell you ..its important..” yes go on I say rubbing my arm….”Bahut badi baat hai..main dip change maar raha hoon…(Which translated into UVA Grad speak means ..I am changing my major and shifting my department). I gawk at him open mouthed…Apparently he has got aid and a transfer to the EE department.
Subbu launches into a monologue on why he is doing ( hates this that and the other) how he did it ( secretly oh so secretly….) and when he will do it ( as soon as possible) and advisor’s reaction ( who cares a damn)!! I sit there staring at him ….all the while thinking (lucky lucky lucky devil!!) .It is a long conversation punctuated by a visit to he cafeteria and a slice of pizza. and bitching about others in the lab!! By the time I am back its time for the take home to be due…I scribble down the answers …simple stuff ..for once…
And I am just about to pack my bags when Mitali walks in. ..” we are taking images across the street ..it would be nice if you could join us”..Hmm..ok …I murmur giving her back DARK looks…”couldn’t she arrange it some other day…I grumble” and go off…. Well 2 images means 20 minutes or so and then I ‘ll be back home..But well how could it all go smoothly…First the comp complained of less disk space …then the cooler refused to cool the detector to the right temperature and finally the program just didn’t initialize …SO after a bit of fantastic troubleshooting ( Shut the whole damn thing and restart it again!!!) everything went off well…Shot a couple of X-rays and done done done at last
Reached home at 3
Oops I forgot to mention the reason for this rush earlier…I had invited the members of my International graduate women’s club home and promised them something Indian!!! It was already three…house in a mess..trash still full….sink overflowing with dirty vessels left over from some ancient day…my room scattered with papers after studying for the exam..Whew and just 2 hours to do it all and these videsis are so goddamn punctual!! Well when lots need to be done and there is no time to do it in….Call Seejo
Woke him up …and rattled off a list of instructions…while he stared at me bleary eyed…Before he knew what was happening he was already at the sink washing dishes…I gathered the trash and dragged it over to Seejos place,,,(keep it for the time being there…throw it later..i promise!!!) Kept the cooker to make dhoklas (tarla dalal ki jai!)..Ok ..Seejo done with the dishes ,,,well then you can make me some chicken!!!) While I made pav bhaji cleaned my house , shoved all my papers under the table…Well By this time Vrushali runs in Screaming” I GOT A CAR I GOT A CAR” Rushed out to see her new second hand car!! Mazda Protege ,,,Cool nice car…Refused the offer of the maiden ride ,,,,had to go back to the kitchen….Finally everything was set…Changed my dress and waited for the others.
Helga was the first one to come ( German female studying German literature and interested in philosophy) .As we waited for the others talked about India and Indian food and Indian dresses and she show my photos and then pleased her by applying a bindi on her forhead….”its soooo prettttty”…Ah well!!.Kareen was the next to come ( Singapore born Chinese MBA from UVA now working in her own start up with her professor husband) we ate food and talked about the rigors of academic life, and then topic changed to guys…
Helga was the one to start it….” I woke up one day and decided enough was enough I need a man in my life….so what do you do when you want a man ..and don’t know how to get one…you open the newspaper and search ( didn’t know there was such a column!) And she was telling about this guy whom she met…Kareen says that she is thankful she is married and doesn’t have to go through “is he right one for me “question anymore..I shut up wisely…no experience ..When Kareen asks me “are you going to have an arranged marriage” .What do I say” By this time Helga is intrigued by the thought of arranged marriages ” I explain the concept to her ..she stares at me open mouthed..
“Are you going to come back with man in June?” she enquires…ahhhhhhh
I am the youngest of them ..Helga is 34,kareen 30,Ruby 25 and me the baby at 23…”oh how come you are so young Helga asks…Well I didn’t enough time to grow.. I reply…
Ruby comes in by this time —we have almost finished the food—tasty they say–and the topic turns to roommates .Ruby is looking for a girl…”why a girl enquires Kareen…” Ruby says she is more comfortable if her roommate is a girl”… I murmur assent…”Kareen yells” oh you two are so traditional ..and conservative get out of that mindset..” Me traditional…me conservative..never thought so before
Helga goes into another anecdote of how she jumped out of bead one morning to answer the phone in her underwear ..while her roommate ( a guy) stood staring at her all the time.. Kareen comments “well ,if you are most comfortable in your underwear..perhaps you should share with a girl”
Then we comment on the health system in America compare it with Germany and Singapore and Taiwan…again had no idea what to say about the Indian health system!!
Its late by this time ( 8 o clock ) and they decide to leave ,..offer to wash dishes which I magnanimously waive away…Talk about how helping to wash dishes is an Asian /European concept ..Americans don’t offer to do it…
Anyway its 8.15 and they have all left…
Its just me and the dishes now…
Let the dishes go to hell….me off to bed
Dreamt about hitting Subbu with a jhadu on his head and smiling as he yells,,,

Just to describe the day today…..

Didn’t wake up in the morning…cos didn’t go to sleep the previous night!! No earth shattering reason other than the fact that I had an exam and that too in Physiology. Which means cramming useless information into the brain and -I-hope-it-stays-there-till-next-day-morning. And it was a particularly bad topic -Endocrine Physiology which means it had twice the number of twisted names and even a smattering of biochemistry. Reached late for the exam (whats new?!!) but what luck..the room was full ..no place to sit so we (subbu and I) got to sit in another room…. with no supervison.  And so with a little bit of “share and care” attitude the exam went off peacefully..

Reached the lab with only one thought in mind…Finish off the next test ( I had another one yesterday too- a take home test!) and go home and sleep…It was a comparatively simple test so I figured well it may take me just an hour or so then I can go home…when …when,…when…Subbu comes in a scribbles a note..” Bahar aa ek minute ” it says. That’s how we pass messages so that others in the lab don’t know anything!! I frown at him but he insists…Once I am outside he grabs my arm and pulls me out of the building…all the time murmuring ” there is something I have to tell you ..its important..” yes go on I say rubbing my arm….”Bahut badi baat hai..main dip change maar raha hoon…(Which translated into UVA Grad speak means ..I am changing my major and shifting my department). I gawk at him open mouthed…Apparently he has got aid and a transfer to the EE department.

Subbu launches into a monologue on why he is doing ( hates this that and the other) how he did it ( secretly oh so secretly….) and when he will do it ( as soon as possible) and advisor’s reaction ( who cares a damn)!! I sit there staring at him ….all the while thinking (lucky lucky lucky devil!!) .It is a long conversation punctuated by a visit to he cafeteria and a slice of pizza. and bitching about others in the lab!! By the time I am back its time for the take home to be due…I scribble down the answers …simple stuff ..for once…

And I am just about to pack my bags when Mitali walks in. ..” we are taking images across the street ..it would be nice if you could join us”..Hmm..ok …I murmur giving her back DARK looks…”couldn’t she arrange it some other day…I grumble” and go off…. Well 2 images means 20 minutes or so and then I ‘ll be back home..But well how could it all go smoothly…First the comp complained of less disk space …then the cooler refused to cool the detector to the right temperature and finally the program just didn’t initialize …SO after a bit of fantastic troubleshooting ( Shut the whole damn thing and restart it again!!!) everything went off well…Shot a couple of X-rays and done done done at last

Reached home at 3

Oops I forgot to mention the reason for this rush earlier…I had invited the members of my International graduate women’s club home and promised them something Indian!!! It was already three…house in a mess..trash still full….sink overflowing with dirty vessels left over from some ancient day…my room scattered with papers after studying for the exam..Whew and just 2 hours to do it all and these videsis are so goddamn punctual!! Well when lots need to be done and there is no time to do it in….Call Seejo

Woke him up …and rattled off a list of instructions…while he stared at me bleary eyed…Before he knew what was happening he was already at the sink washing dishes…I gathered the trash and dragged it over to Seejos place,,,(keep it for the time being there…throw it later..i promise!!!) Kept the cooker to make dhoklas (tarla dalal ki jai!)..Ok ..Seejo done with the dishes ,,,well then you can make me some chicken!!!) While I made pav bhaji cleaned my house , shoved all my papers under the table…Well By this time Vrushali runs in Screaming” I GOT A CAR I GOT A CAR” Rushed out to see her new second hand car!! Mazda Protege ,,,Cool nice car…Refused the offer of the maiden ride ,,,,had to go back to the kitchen….Finally everything was set…Changed my dress and waited for the others.

Helga was the first one to come ( German female studying German literature and interested in philosophy) .As we waited for the others talked about India and Indian food and Indian dresses and she show my photos and then pleased her by applying a bindi on her forhead….”its soooo prettttty”…Ah well!!.Kareen was the next to come ( Singapore born Chinese MBA from UVA now working in her own start up with her professor husband) we ate food and talked about the rigors of academic life, and then topic changed to guys…

Helga was the one to start it….” I woke up one day and decided enough was enough I need a man in my life….so what do you do when you want a man ..and don’t know how to get one…you open the newspaper and search ( didn’t know there was such a column!) And she was telling about this guy whom she met…Kareen says that she is thankful she is married and doesn’t have to go through “is he right one for me “question anymore..I shut up wisely…no experience ..When Kareen asks me “are you going to have an arranged marriage” .What do I say” By this time Helga is intrigued by the thought of arranged marriages ” I explain the concept to her ..she stares at me open mouthed..

“Are you going to come back with man in June?” she enquires…ahhhhhhh

I am the youngest of them ..Helga is 34,kareen 30,Ruby 25 and me the baby at 23…”oh how come you are so young Helga asks…Well I didn’t enough time to grow.. I reply…

Ruby comes in by this time —we have almost finished the food—tasty they say–and the topic turns to roommates .Ruby is looking for a girl…”why a girl enquires Kareen…” Ruby says she is more comfortable if her roommate is a girl”… I murmur assent…”Kareen yells” oh you two are so traditional ..and conservative get out of that mindset..” Me traditional…me conservative..never thought so before

Helga goes into another anecdote of how she jumped out of bead one morning to answer the phone in her underwear ..while her roommate ( a guy) stood staring at her all the time.. Kareen comments “well ,if you are most comfortable in your underwear..perhaps you should share with a girl”

Then we comment on the health system in America compare it with Germany and Singapore and Taiwan…again had no idea what to say about the Indian health system!!

Its late by this time ( 8 o clock ) and they decide to leave ,..offer to wash dishes which I magnanimously waive away…Talk about how helping to wash dishes is an Asian /European concept ..Americans don’t offer to do it…

Anyway its 8.15 and they have all left…

Its just me and the dishes now…

Let the dishes go to hell….me off to bed

Dreamt about hitting Subbu with a jhadu on his head and smiling as he yells…..

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….

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