Friday, April 24, 2009

Couchsurfing!

Couchsurfing. Come again, I said when I heard of it for the first time. Couch..... surfing? Weird name. But well, that's best way to describe it. So this is this awesome idea which lets you meet, and stay with, complete strangers in a strange and unknown city. That's it. There's no catch, there's no punchline. And neither is this some new, weird way to hook up. it's not about dating. At all. It's just about surfing. Couches.

I had a look at the site, and was intrigued. This seemed very interesting. My Eurotrip (ok, Summer Internship) gave me the perfect chance to try this out. I came here, and somewhat developed cold feet. Stay in a strangers house for a night? Meet a random stranger just like that? I balked at the idea, and decided to 'not take a chance' and book into a hostel on the night I was going to be Vienna. But then I reached Vienna, and after half a day of trooping around in the sun and wondering what made me think of the loony idea of traveling alone in a city where I did not even understand the road signs, and where each beautiful monument made me go... hmm... nice... now what do I do with that?... and I thought of shaking things up a bit. I remembered the CS site, and decided to give it a shot. It was a long shot that somebody would respond so quickly, but having nothing to lose, I dropped a few messages to some interesting profiles, with the confidence that I would never hear from them.

I wandered around in the evening, looking for some place where I could decipher what went into the food so that I did not eat something which I did not want to, namely meat, sat in the underground and decided to get off at a random station, and spent the evening on the banks of the Danube. I came back, and to my surprise, I had a reply and a phone number. A call next afternoon and a few messages fixed things up, though I was still rather skeptical of the whole thing. But then what followed blew me away, it was an experience which was simply awesome.
And now I am in love with this concept. I think it's not just a fantastic idea, but very doable. I can hear the usual arguments - it's ok in Europe, it's ok for a guy, it's ok just for coffee, and such blah. But I say, for a moment, open up your mind and trust a person. Just for a little while. Maybe you can ask him or her to have a reservation in a hotel as a backup, and meet up over coffee to see how it goes. Why not? Sure, it would be a tad strange to tell a chap to buzz off after being with him for a few hours, but hey, if not that, you'd have stayed the same old you, closed and scared and not wanting to meet anybody. Maybe you can call a friend over to stay with you when the visitor is going to come, maybe when you stay with somebody, you stay with somebody of the same sex (which somehow does not make me feel any more relieved, though ;) ), there are a hundred things you could do. The CS site also has a reference system where previous surfers and hosts rate how their experience was. Yes, it's not risk free, but then what in life is? Bad things happen, irrespective of what you do, at times, but does that mean we close ourselves up completely? I mean you could take all this care and be safe and then get mowed down by a car the next day (which is quite possible for me in Europe, with my unerring tendency of going to the extreme left of the road each time I turn when riding my bicycle, and consequently landing up right in front of some rather startled motorist who is too freaked out to even be angry at me).
So then, I am game for this. Time will tell if that's a wise thing to do, but maybe I'll trust the collective wisdom of several hundred thousand people who use the website. And disregard that of some people who told me I was stupid to go to a city all alone without knowing anybody or anything. Maybe, I'll just let go and see what happens!

Why it is a big deal...

Now, my reaction to all of this might seem to be a bit overboard. But then, what are the odds that one will ever end up having this sort of experience? When you meet a complete stranger, and have a fantastic conversation, and end up having a great evening, in a place far away from home, where you know no one, and are all alone. When you see a city the way it's supposed to be seen, unlike a typical tourist, running around and seeing strange edifices and articles, forgetting the last after seeing the next. Yes, I spent half a day from the mere 2 that I was in Vienna doing nothing but taking a walk along a river, but so what? I'd seen half a dozen of the typical tourist spots the day before, but had come away without feeling a thing - I mean, sure, they were beautiful, but so what, what do I do with that - half of Europe is beautiful that way. But that evening on the banks of the Donau - that I'll remember for a long time, as an experience which is indeed rare in a world in which we've learnt to be always wary and watch out for somebody - anybody - whom we don't know.

An Evening in Vienna

We sat on the grass, inches away from the crystal clear waters of the Donau. The sun descended towards the horizon on the other side, playing with the clouds, turning the water in front of us into liquid gold. A large goose drifted towards us, in the hope of getting a last tidbit before nightfall. Cars whizzed by on the bridge, far enough not to ruin the scene, yet close enough to remind us that we were in the middle of the city. The towering skyscrapers of the business end of the town dazzled in the evening light, seeming incongruent with the rest of the place, yet reminding us that we were in a city, and a large one at that.


It all started with me standing outside Alt Donau station at 5 past 4 pm, wondering whether the girl who had agreed to meet me was going to stand me up, when Barbara came in in a rush out of the exit. I think I rather surprised her by offering to shake hands rather than the usual European cheek to cheek greeting which she was shaping up to do, which I must confess I still find a bit weird. I mean I guess there's nothing wrong with it, it's just that I find it a bit too intimate to do with strangers or friends whom I am not close to (still the quiessential Indian at heart ;)). A few hesitant questions and we were off. Thankfully, she was a fairly talkative person (and I mean that in a good way!), which made things much easier, for yours truly tends to be somewhat shy when around strangers, especially if they are of the female kind. She told me that she was going to show me 'Old Donau', which is what Alt Donau meant, and that we had to walk a fair bit. I was game, though how I was going to do the walk a fair bit part after running a half marathon earlier in the day was worth pondering over. Anyway, I could hardly refuse to walk when she'd so graciously offered to show me the place, so I went along.

It was one of those experiences which leave you wondering how nice life can be at times. I mean, here I was, wandering all alone in a strange city where I did not know the language, and there comes along this girl who takes out what must be the ultimate leisure time of the week - sunday afternoon - to show a stranger around, without having any idea who or how he was, and trusting him to not make her rue the fact that she did so.

So we talked and talked, and found out that there was so much in common that we had, our views towards consumerism, and capitalism, and food miles and dropping groundwater levels, and so many other things about the world, the environment, climate change and stuff. We walked to this nice little cafe a kilometer or so down the river. And then we walked back, and met up with 2 of her friends from portugal, and over some fresh beer, discussed everything from Vienna, Portugal, marriages and relationships in India, elephants and how we didn't quite ride them all the time, to how I had flown to Europe on a flying carpet, and how I had to leave my elephant back home because I couldn't get a carpet large enough for both of us, or rather, considering my size, for the elephant. In the meanwhile, Barbara proceeded to roll her hand-made cigarettes, which was a show in itself, and smoked them one after the other. Somehow I found the smoke from these things quite less unpalatable to those nasty looking productionized ones. The beer was great too, I don't know why we tend to put up with the crap that we usually drink in the name of beer. There was absolutely none of that disgusting smell which tends to put me off the thing here, and it was actually a very nice drink, something which I never thought I would say about beer!

After beer, I realized that I had forgotten by German - English dictionary back in the cafe, so we proceeded to walk back to the place again, and on the way back decided that the grass was too green and the light too beautiful to not enjoy it leisurely by the water, and proceeded to do just that.

The sun set at it's usual-for-here late hour of 8.30ish, and we walked back to the station. A few stops later, it was time for her to go. Just as I was getting over with thanking her, she placed a hand on my shoulder, did the cheek-to-cheek, somewhat startling me, said 'This is how we do it here!', stepped out, and vanished into the crowd.

Running!

I started running in January this year, more out of interest in seeing how far I could go than anything else. I'd always wanted to run a marathon, but any attempts to do anything like running always ended up with me hobbling for a few days, courtesy my left knee. I decided to give it yet another shot this January, when, after measuring the distance on the IIMK football ground, I proceeded to do 52 rounds, or 10 kms non-stop, something which left me quite amused and thrilled to be frank. Of course, I was dead after that, but I made it a habit, running alternate evenings. I never had any set targets for running a marathon - or a half one -, running for the joy of it rather than anything else. A 16 run in jan end and a 19 km one in the first week of feb convinced me that I could give it a shot, though the 19 km one was an absolute nightmare in terms of the pain I endured to do it.

So then, first obstacle passed. Now for the biggie, the full marathon. That will take some doing, and some real work on my knees. I guess I can make it to the 30 km mark if the knee holds. As they say, when you reach 30, you hit the wall. I don't know how or when I'll reach 42, but it's going to be the same way as now.... enjoying it all the way :)


Running rocks! :)

Vienna Half Marathon 2009 :)

The hooter rang, or hooted, there was a big roar from the thousands of runners waiting in nervous anticipation, and the crowd started moving forward, one step at a time. The first dozen or so steps were but slow walking, as the multitudes in front took time to gather pace. A few gingerly taken strides at a faster pace, as everybody tried to find their natural pace and rhythm. The walk turned into a slow jog, and then, by the time we ascended the flyover, more or less everybody settled down into their optimum speeds.

I was still trying to find mine, all the nervous energy and excitement of my first half marathon was making me go much faster than was optimum, at this rate, I would tire out very quickly, around the 7-8 km mark. I had to check myself and concentrate. Within a few minutes though, I felt fine, going at a pace I felt was slightly under what I usually started off with, but a conservative approach made more sense when the distance I was aiming for today (21.1 km) was something I had never done, although I had come agonizingly close once, although with too much of a fight and risk of injury.

Around 10-15 minutes later though, I felt a slight pain in my chest, this meant that I was going at a pace faster than was sustainable. This was surprising, but there was no choice but to slow down further. The pain stayed for 10-15 more minutes, and disappeared after some deeper breathing and lessening of speed.

It felt great to running, in Vienna, of all places, in great weather, amongst thousands of similar running enthusiasts, cheered on by so many thousands of people on both sides of the streets. It was a festival, and it felt great to be a part of it.

I reached the 5 km mark in just under 30 minutes, which was my target, so I had underestimated my speed. This was just fine, I was feeling great, things were looking good. A splash of water on my face and some water to drink at the 5 km mark, and I felt good. The next 5 kms were also fairly easy, this was the time when I had settled into my rhythm and warmed up well. The 10 km mark came up soon, again, I was just under 30 minutes, good going, though I had targetted a 25 here. Some more water to drink and splash around a bit, some powerade, and on we went. 11 came quickly, but the next one took a while, and I was wondering whether I was slowing down dramatically or had missed one, when 13 came along. I was beginning to feel tired now, It had been an hour and 15 minutes since the start, and it was getting to me. My shoulders and thighs complained, and a slight something in my left knee reminded me of the injury I was just coming out of and which had kept me away from running for almost 2 months. I was beginning to feel a trace of pain there, and was desperately hoping it wouldn't flare up quickly and prevent a finish, or make it too much of an effort. A similar thing had happened the last time when I had done the much shorter IIMK - NIT Calicut run, and I could barely walk for a few days after that.

The 15 km mark came soon. More water and powerade and a banana this time. 16 and 17 were quite tough, as fatigue started settling in quickly. I was feeling really tired now, and had to struggle to keep going. 19 came along in 10 more minutes, and while taking a turn, I slowed down, only to feel a sharp stab of pain in my left knee. After hobbling 1-2 steps, I picked up pace again, and the pain vanished. I had to keep running to keep it away. But the end was near, 2 kms was doable even in the state I was in, and the new found confidence and joy of the realization that I was going to finish made me increase my pace. I went faster, and overtook several runners who were slowing down. 20 passed, and I forgot all pain and continued along. Soon, the exit came into view. A few large strides as I ran freely and without pacing myself, and I was through and done.

So that's that. Vienna Half Marathon 2009, 2:02:01, after 1 sleepless night crouched in an uncomfortable train compartment, and 3 pizza slices for lunch and dinner together on the previous day (couldn't find anything that I felt like eating). Not great, but not bad either :)

Friday, April 17, 2009

The weirdly suited guy

It's a funny thing to be wearing a suit and driving a bicycle. There I am, prim and proper, in full-fledged business formals, with a grey suit and a silk tie, riding on a mountain bike, with my trouser ends tucked into my socks to prevent them from getting caught in the chain. That would create 2 possibilities. The obvious one is that my trousers would tear, and the less obvious would be that I might fall. Now I don't know which one of these is worse; both would probably work out to be horrendously expensive. Pain and trauma from the fall does not even come into the picture, that would be small compared to the mental agony I would go through if I had to pay for either a new suit or get my head or hand or leg fixed. No, I am not being a cheapskate, it really is that expensive here!

Anyway, so there I go, driving along, and I get more than a fair share of stares and the occasional smile. I am sure I must be a funny sight! Well, at least I give passersby a reason to smile.

Attempts at cooking...

So I finally experimented with cooking here. It wasn’t successful in the conventional sense, in the sense that I did not quite end up with what the directions were meant to make me end up with. I’d bought raw pasta which I thought should be easy to make. There were directions on the packet, which I thought I’d translate and use. Theoretically, it all looked fine.

So I did translate the directions. Problem is, they made no sense to me. Obviously, translating individual words didn’t quite give it the meaning they wanted to convey. There was also an assortment of stuff with the pasta, including what looked like Tomato puree, some herbs and grated cheese, all in individual packets. The herbs and cheese I left alone, it felt like too much work to open them, use a bit, and pack them up again so that they wouldn’t go bad. The puree, I decided to use.

So from whatever little I understood from the instructions, and what was kind of obvious in order to make Pasta, I boiled the hell out of the Pasta. Getting bored standing there watching the thing happily making gargling sounds and threatening to spill out, I decided to throw in some tomatoes and carrots, and of course, the puree. 10 minutes of boiling later and when the pasta was threatening to get a wee bit too chummy with the base of the pan, I sampled a bit of it. It was still raw, so I poured in more water, and repeated the cycle. It was a tad better now, but tasted horrendously bland, so I decided to put in whatever I could get my hands on. A bit of salt, lots of chilli powder to give it some colour, a slab of butter for no discernible reason, loads of tomato sauce (the puree and chopped tomatoes seemed to have disappeared with the water), and 2 torn-to-shreds slices of slightly pungent Holland cheese. Some vigorous stirring and scrapping off the bottom of the pan later, I was ready to go.

It turned out to be fantastic. The cheese melted and formed a rich, thick sauce like thingy, enveloping the pasta strands. It was yummy, and was washed down excellently with the last pint of Apple soda that I had left. Finally, a kind of filling evening meal!

Music to my ears...

There’s this inexplicable joy that one feels when somebody speaks to you fluently in a language which you are good at, after a while. While almost everybody at work speaks good English, it is of course not spoken in the same way as somebody who’s spoken it as the primary language all his life speaks it. There’s this Irish chap here, a senior fellow, who’s been working here for several years now. He speaks excellent German – atleast from what I could deduce – but seemed to be much happy to speak English. Both of us kinda realized that we could speak English the way it’s spoken, and it felt great. I guess the high point was when, while departing, both of us said, exactly at the same time, ‘I’ll see you around’, something which a native German would almost never say, for it is as typically English a phrase (and by that I mean the language, not the people) as one could have, something which would make no sense in other languages.

The Dummy's Guide to using a Shopping Cart in Europe

A trip to the supermarket here is like trying to figure out what they wrote on the pyramids. Row after row of colourfully packaged stuff, with things on it which I cannot fathom. It takes a real effort to figure out what is what, and I am pretty much clueless about what is there in 90% of the place. I struggle and find what I need - most of the time - and leave, without bothering about the rest. I guess one of these days I am gonna give the supermarket staff something to talk about by opening the german - english dictionary in the middle of the aisle.

Germans seem to want everything in big quantities. Nothing is small, and when you buy something, you wonder how many weeks or months this would last you. But there is no choice in most cases. Even the trolleys are huge, I would fit in one easily.

The first few visits to the supermarkets were hilarious, and we ended up behaving a bit like village idiots. We couldn't figure out how to unchain the trolleys, so we ended up making a circus of the visit, with each of us carrying around a dozen items on us, and trying our best to prevent the jam jar from hitting terra firma. The shop attendant gave us a curious gaze when we reached the till, wondering what the hell was wrong with us. Enquiries with one fella resulted in the knowledge that we had to insert a 1 Euro coin in the trolley to pull it out. Now, we were in no mood to put in 1 Euro in trolleys, especially after seeing the prices of stuff, and hence proceeded to ignore the looks that we got when people saw us lugging ridiculous amounts of stuff. It reached a point where it was not possible to carry all of it around. So we thought of what seemed to be a rather brainy idea. We deposited all our stuff on a stool we found in an aisle. One of us guarded it, and the other went around looking for more stuff that we needed. Then, the other stood guard, and the, err, other went around. Needless to say, this also resulted in a fair number of funny looks from people.

In retrospect, I can't believe how dumb we were. I saw daylight on a visit yesterday, when I found myself lugging too many things again, and decided that enough was enough, and that I was getting a trolley, even if it was costing a Euro. After dumping the assortment of items that I had collected so far in an empty corner of the shop with the hope that some over-enthu shop attendant wouldn't find it and place it back, I went outside the shop, and watched a young girl put out a trolley. She got a bit freaked out I think, so I sauntered off and came back after she was safely inside the shop and did not need to fear me any more. A girl with scarlet hair was placing a trolley back, and I proceeded to ask her if she spoke English. A positive response encouraged me to ask her how I pulled a trolley out, a question which I believe rather surprised her. If she were Indian, I am sure she would have thought "Kahaan kahaan se aate hain yeh log..." (Translated as 'Where the hell do these people come from, not to know even this...'). Anyway, she kindly explained the system, and gave me a what-else look when I asked her if I got my Euro back when I put the trolley back. I then proceed to hand 2 50 cent coins to her and take the trolley before she put it back, and sauntered off inside the shop. Victory was mine!

I think there must have been some rather desperate folks who ran off with the trolleys and sold them for scrap or something. It made no sense to me, otherwise, to have such a system in a country where almost everybody abided with the law and people left bicycles on the streets without locking them at times.

Paris...

My first weekend in my internship turned out to be a long weekend. Now being a rather lazy sort of chap, a long weekend is something I naturally loved, but the prospect of spending one in a room which did not even have a ceiling fan for me to watch go around wasn't an idea which brought me much cheer. So I decided to visit Paris. With Keertida stationed there for her MBA, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to see Paris in a good way, and also for cheap :P


I reached Paris on Friday night after a stunning 4 hour train journey, which left me marveling at the technical progress and systematic nature of things here. The vistas were fantastic, the windows large and clear, and the weather great. 4 hours passed by in a jiffy. I had directions on how to get to the place she lived in, but I could make no sense out of them for the first 15 minutes. A visit to the information counter resulted in a sad shake of the head and a 'No English' remark. After wandering around in circles and getting exasperated, I approached a random stranger, who did not quite know what I should do, but knew where we could find somebody who did. With his huge bag in tow, he walked at a pace which made me run in order to keep up with him. We went all over the place again, but couldn't make much progress. Finally, he asked another random girl, who was busy smoking a cig. Finding that she spoke English, a quality that he lacked, he promptly deposited me in her care, and vanished before I could thank him. The girl apologetically asked me if I could wait till she finished her cig, which she proceeded to do in a state which made even me asphyxiate. After depositing the remains, she took me to another information counter, where we waited in a long line, before the attendant made me a ticket and drew lines on the metro map to explain what I should be doing. A quick round of thanks later, the girl vanished, and I proceeded to find my way. I had to ask another person, this time a young chap of African origin, who told me the way and shook hands in a hearty, happy manner and hopped into the train which had arrived as we were talking.


A few minutes later, I stood at the exit of Cite Universitaire, wondering what to do now. Keertida was not quite there as she'd said, and the public telephone seemed to accept only calling cards. Thanking my stars on my decision to get a mobile, even though it was a tad heavy on the pocket, I called her, wondering if I had enough balance to make an international call while roaming. There seems to be some strange system here though, calling locally within a country while roaming seems to be cheaper than calling it when you are in your home network. Anyway, it was a rather relieved keertida who took the call, having wondered for over an hour as to where I had vanished, and an even more relieved me, in the knowledge that I wouldn't have to spend the night on a park bench after all.


I later found out that Parisians are known for being snooty and unhelpful, but the experiences I had with 3 people - one of which was definite snooty material, being young, female and undeniably and completely hot - went quite against that, making me feel happy again. Maybe we tend to get a wee bit too cynical at times...

More about the Paris trip later :)

Danke Schön!

Germans seem to be rather generous. So much that I doubt I would get the same sort of generosity in India. There was I, in the Subway in town, asking for the whereabouts of a payphone after a meal. The shop attendant asked me if I wanted to call India - I guess I look as Indian as anybody could - and then offered me his cell phone for me to take a call. I was a bit surprised and turned down his offer, which left him rather flabbergasted. It's not a tiny amount, 2 Euros, for a call to India, and the readiness to help, even when it cost him felt really good.
A similar incident happened in the loo in Mannheim station, where I was switching trains on my way to Paris for the Easter weekend. It was a paid loo, and half a Euro did not seem like too high a price to relieve myself in the state I was in, so I decided to use it. Now the machine accepted only coins of 50, 20 and 10 cents, and I had one 20, 2 tens and a whole lot of small change smaller than 10. The fella I had asked for help to use the machine saw that I was short of a 10 Euro coin, and promptly handed me one, and started walking off after giving me a hearty smile. He seemed rather surprised to see me run after him and hand over a 5 cent coin, and then again after a few moments, another 5 cent one.
I don't know, but I can't seem to come to terms with this. It's a great feeling to find people ready to help somebody who doesn't come from their land, doesn't look anything like them, and doesn't even speak their language.

First Impressions..

Weinheim is a small town, and the proportion of non-whites here is rather small. Apart from us (there's this chap from IIM B who's also interning here), and the couple of other asians we've seen, and a few people of apparently Turkish origin who run a few of the eating joints here, there are very few people of other races. So seeing a non-white person seems to be a rare sight here. I wouldn't for a moment say that people on the streets look down at us or are racist, but there is a definite way in which they look at us. It's not a mean, why-are-you-here look, just a confused what-do-I-do-now kinda gaze. They look at you and suddenly look away, or look through you, both of which can be rather disconcerting. It isn't that they are unfriendly either, for I have ventured to talk to a few people on the streets, for some or the other form of help, and they have always been extremely polite and helpful and friendly, even when I talk to them in a language with which they are not comfortable at all.
So it's a bit strange, and you end up being confused too about what to do. If I smile, they give me a hearty smile back, but otherwise they just leave it at that. I guess I should break the ice with a few Guten Tags!

Germany Ahoy!

Life does tend to surprise you. also pleasantly at times. I remember deciding to take my passport along when I was packing for joining IIMK, and I told myself, right, sure, you'll need that. Very, very sarcastically, of course! A foreign summers is rare, especially in a 'lower' IIM ( L/I/K ), and I do not have an exceptional profile, so the odds were low. But then...
So here I am, and it's been a week so far. A crazy but fun week. Most of my posts til May end will be about the European experience. I wish I could add photos, but I have severely restricted net access, so it's just text for now...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Hrmmmph

It's as if the fella up there is just waiting for me to make some statements, so that he can go ahead and make me contradict them and look like a bit of an ass, or at least, make myself feel like one. I wrote that piece on flying and traveling by trains not a fortnight ago, and since them, I've taken 3 flights, and am about to take another one in a matter of hours. Some folks who, in spite of being regular readers of my blog, choose to stay friends with me - may god bless them :P - wouldn't let the irony of things escape me, with the effect that I have to get into this huge thing of explaining why I have been flying around like a bloody prince for a week or so. It's all completely justified and necessary, yet, it feels a bit weird to be flying around so much. I realized how much I was doing it when I couldn't care less today between choosing a window seat or an aisle one, something which usually is a no-brainer for me.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Half done :|

And we're done. After 4 crazy exam days, the toughest bunch of papers I've written ever, we were done, done with first year. I'd looked forward to doing my MBA, to the incredible life that you can have at these places, to 2 solid years of fun and frolic interspersed with a bit of studies.. Most business schools have an amazing culture, and it's an absolutely crazily fun world. There are incidents good, bad and ugly, but then that is life, and there's no better place than a b school to give you a better microcosm of it. After waiting for it for so long, suddenly, half of it was over. It had been a long year and yet a very short one, one filled with countless memories of fun and awesome moments and memories which I would cherish for life and yet it had whooshed past us at breakneck speed. We entered a term with the knowledge that the first 2 or 3 weeks would be bliss, and sure, they were, but before we knew, there were over. A few more slightly work heavy weeks and then exams, and then back to the cycle. 2 such cycles and you go home, where the week or so that you have there passes by at an even faster rate, and you land up in campus again to start things all over again. It's tough to believe that half of this is already over.

Summers was going to be exciting, in a new part of the world, but I would miss campus like hell, especially the care-free aspect of it. Summers would be good from another point of view too, it would make me realize the value of campus life even more, especially given my tendency of taking it for granted by getting too used to it. In campus, you always have this incredible support system for you, especially in first year, when the seniors are there to guide you through almost anything that business school life can throw at you. Doubtless, this would be one of the big things I'd miss during summers.

I packed my bags with a heavy heart, although the rush with which I had to pack them made things easier. The sun started setting in the western skies, and cast its usual orange glow onto the sea of coconut plantations which extended till the horizon. I would be leaving this room for good, and getting an 'upgrade' to one a floor higher, though the view would be a bit blocked by a leafy tree which stood right in front. It was a tree quite popular with a pair of tree-pies, and whether their noisy chirping turned out to be something I looked forward to or tolerated due to a lack of alternatives would remain to be seen. A mad dash with my half a ton of luggage towards the bus waiting to leave for Bangalore from our Harvard steps meant that I forgot to cast a last look at the amphitheatre, now prettily decked up in yellow lights. I descended the steps and looked back, and my first morning here came back to me, when I'd stood at the same spot and looked in awe at the majestic north tower standing tall over the wide, lazy steps next to the admin building and library. It all felt so long ago, and yet I remembered it as if it had happened just yesterday. What a year it had been!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bludgeoned!

Pre-exam week rushed by, as usual, with loads of assignments and submission work. Term end is like that, in the last few days when you'd like to catch up with what had been taught in class for the exams, you invariably have to put in all your time for submission work. Exam week was even crazier because of an incredibly heavy workload in terms of classes. There had been a lot of cancellation of classes over the duration of the term, and they all invariably ended up in the last few days for lack of any alternative. In between, I had to rush to Cochin and Chennai for the visa application for summers. The hectic schedule really got to me, and I ended up with a horrible cold and a fever right on the day before the exam.

There's only one way to describe the exam, and there's nothing more apt than the picture below। I was in this state during almost all papers, and I'll leave out a verbal description. As they say, a picture says a thousand words!