Sunday, June 29, 2008

Silence

I find myself seeking silent moments a lot more these days. When I first joined college, I longed for noise because it distracted me from my home sickness. Now, I enjoy 'living the moment', observing the surroundings, in silence.

Yesterday, I was watching that great comedy, Andaaz Apna Apna, with my friends but about half an hour into the movie I went outside and just stood looking at the mess that is my apartment complex. Hardly the best environment, but I enjoyed being on my own for a while.

Silence can be nice.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Cleanliness is so over-rated

I did not have any homework today and I got off work sooner than usual. So, I decided to head to Wal-Mart with my room-mates in order to do some food shopping and also get supplies to clean our disgusting bath room.

It felt odd trying to buy supplies for the apartment. The responsible room-mate has gone back home for the summer and so I had to unfortunately take up the mantle. We entered Wal-Mart and immediately started quarrelling about what we should buy first. One wanted to buy vegetables because he wanted to start cooking. Not only was that hogwash (he has never cooked in his life), he also claimed that he wanted to make his own sandwich starting tomorrow. The only problem was that he was searching for lettuce in the cabbage section.

I then asked him to get a pack of toilet paper and he asks me if they have the 'baby soft' kind. At this point, I realized how mature these guys made me seem. I somehow managed to maintain an inspiring calm amidst the chaos (the two guys started arguing about the American army, defense, blah, blah). Before we finished our shopping trip, we bought a mop, disinfectant and scrubbing stuff to clean the disgusting bathroom.

I've never cleaned a bathroom before, and so tonight was a harsh wake up call to adulthood. From now on, I've got to clean toilets, bath tubs, sinks... being an adult isn't as awesome as it's made out to be. The situation in the bathroom was so horrible I had to wear gloves and slippers and then attack it with Clorox and bleach. We also threw in some ammonia in there for good measure and all of a sudden, 'baby soft' starts crying out that the pungent smell of ammonia will kill us all. In high school, I dropped a bottle of ammonia in the Chemistry lab and no one died (I did have to stand outside and think about the mistake I made, though). My other room-mate, meanwhile, did not feel like cleaning the dishes because of the 'possibility' of fungus in the sink.

Right now, the smell of Ammonia is partially compensated by the Febreze that I sprayed with zealous vigour. The apartment smells like a wet towel that has been left out for a day and then dipped in a bowl of ammonia and peach. Ah, the price I have to pay for a clean apartment.

Update: I googled 'inhaling clorox' and found out that it is indeed harmful. I also saw this on Yahoo Answers: "
dont inhale it again i heard of this lady who died because she accidently mixed 2 wrong things together..better safe than sorry"

I slept in the living room last night.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Week In England & Paris (Part 2)

To read Part 1, click here.

Next it was off to Manchester, or so I thought. My sister had made this awesome itinerary for the whole trip but sometimes, things don't always go to plan. We reached the station, which was a 10 minute walk from the dorm, with 10 minutes to spare. Then my sister realized that had she left her id at home and without that we wouldn't be able to take the train. Now, I've always prided my potential to one day run a marathon and so I decided to run to the dorm and back with the id so that we could catch the train. I ran across the street, jumped over a fence, scurried through a park, jumped over another fence and reached the dorm in 3 minutes. I then took a couple of minutes to find the ID and ran back out of the dorm. 4 minutes to go and I was all pumped up.

50 metres down the road and I start to cough. It was 10 degrees celcius, and my legs were fighting a fierce battle with my brain. I slowly climbed the fence, trudged across the park, almost fell off the next fence and then walked towards the station. I now had 1 minute to catch the train and my sister took the ID from me and ran to the platform. I made a final effort to run but I found out that I had lost the will to even walk. The train soon vanished from sight as did my hopes of ever running a marathon of any kind.


Anyway, after I was able to catch my breath, I decided to head to the Lord's Cricket Ground. There are only two sights that have ever given me goose bumps. The first one was when I saw the Taj Mahal at night, and the second one was when I looked out from the dressing room balcony at Lord's, on to the hallowed grass that has meant so much to everyone who has had the privilege of walking on it. It was one of the best moments of the trip and I owe it all to the train that we missed earlier that day.


It was from one sport's spiritual home to another, as I walked about a mile and a half from the metro station to get to the All England Tennis Club. It wasn't as special as the Lord's tour, but still was well worth the walk and the entry fee. They were just setting up for Wimbledon and so most of the courts did not have nets, and the Center Court was closed off due to construction.


There was only one thing left to do in my London Tourist Spot Check List and that was walking across Abbey Road, Beatles' shtyle.


Later that day was the Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea, and I really wanted to see Man U kick Chelsea’s ass. So I walked around till I found a pub that wasn’t packed and then parked myself in front of the TV. Something that I hadn’t really thought through before heading to the pub was that Chelsea is a London based team and so there wouldn’t be many Man U fans around. There were two Red Devils supporters that night in the pub – me and another guy who seemed to support Man U just to spite his friends who were Chelsea fans. It was still fun though, to see the Chelsea fans curse out loud when Ronaldo scored the first goal but the best part was when Terry missed the penalty at the end. The pub went completely silent and when Anelka missed the penalty that gave Man U the game, I jumped up in the air in delight. As I began my descent, the world around me suddenly seemed to slow down – I saw the Chelsea fans looking despondent initially but then their looks changed to anger as they saw me descend from my flight of delight. I was out of the pub and back in my sister’s dorm in a flash.


And now, the final destination of my trip - Paris! I reached the City of Lights, with absolutely no knowledge of French. Well, I could say bonjour but I had nothing to follow that with. Luckily my sister knew the most important sentence a tourist can know when in Paris, "parlez vous anglais? (Do you speak English?)".


We stayed in the Aloha Hostel, where we got an Indian room-mate from Manchester who hated Manchester United, and quite surprisingly the cook at the hostel happened to be from Chennai. Our first day there, we had to cancel our trip to Versailles because of a train strike. We, instead, took a tour of the Louvre, following which I was unable to walk.


There were so many brilliant paintings and statues everywhere that looking at the Mona Lisa did not exactly give me the thrill that I expected. The fact that it was facing the biggest painting in the Louvre did not help its cause either.




After recovering from the tour of the Louvre, we went to visit one of Paris’ more popular churches – the Sacre Coeur Basilique. We took a lift to get up to the top of the hill where the church is located, and I was greeted by a breathtaking view of the city of Paris. There was also a dude showing off his freestyle skills. Check out the video below:



The Eiffel Tower was our next destination. I had previously asked my sister what the big deal was about a tall statue made of iron and then I saw it. There were no more stupid questions from me.



The following day was our last day in Paris and the last day of my trip really, since I was heading back to Austin early the following morning. We had seen an advertisement for a four hour long free walking tour around the city, and since it was free we obviously had to do it. We later found out that it was free only if we did not want to tip the guide. Our guide, Narini, was brilliant – full of energy and it would have been criminal to not give her a generous trip. She took us all around the city – starting at the River Seine and ending at Les Invalides. We walked along the Champs-Élysées, almost got knocked down by the motorists while trying to take a picture of the Arc de Triomphe and heard a 500 year long history of Paris in 5 minutes.

As soon as the tour got over, we went over to the Notredame Cathedral, on my sister’s insistence. I had no real desire to check out the church, mostly due to my painfully aching legs. However, I was SO glad that I allowed my sister to drag me there because it was such a special experience. I was taken by the brilliant architecture of the cathedral and the silence, oh my god, the silence was so beautiful. The whole trip came together for me, at that moment. I had at times been grumpy, silent and might have definitely seemed unappreciative of the chance that I had been given to explore London and Paris. It was at that moment that I was thankful for the wonderful times I had had in the trip and also regretful for the times I gave the impression that I was not having fun – because I was.


Early the following day, I took the London metro for the last time as I got off at the airport. On arriving at Austin, I took the university shuttle and reached campus at about 5 pm. The sun was beating down at me, the campus was deserted and I had to walk up the slope that is Dean Keeton Street, with two heavy bags. But for some reason, I had a wry smile on my face.

My parents have moved back to India, my sister is in London and I have no immediate family nearby, but I felt strangely cheerful. I looked up at the awesome university tower, picked up my two bags and started trudging up the slope, happy to be home.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Week In England & Paris (Part 1)

'Gracias', said the man standing in front of me at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport, mistaking me for Hispanic, as I returned the quarter that he had dropped on the floor. I let that slide without a reply as I was more involved with the thought of spending a week in London, Oxford, York and Paris. My sister studies in London, and since I had absolutely nothing to do, except for playing Winning 11 on the Playstation, I decided to take a trip to visit her. It was going to be my first ever trip to Europe and needless to say, I was excited.

I reached London, after a 10 hour flight where I got no sleep, and was greeted at the surprisingly underwhelming Heathrow airport by my sister. The thought of breakfast quickly vanished as I checked the price of a ' bagette', and so following my miserly instincts, I bought orange juice and got on to the train that would take me to my sister's dorm. London has a pretty efficient metro system, but the names of some of the lines and stations are quite funny. For example, you could take the 'Piccadilly' line to get to 'Cockfosters'.

Anyway, soon after I dumped my stuff at my sister's alarmingly small but comfy room, we went on an open top bus tour which was made even more special thanks to the cold and wet English weather, well complemented by my jetlag. I did, however, get to see some of the renowned sights of London - the Big Ben, the Buckingham Palace, the 'British Airways' London Eye, and of course the restaurant where the tickets to the Titanic (the ship, not the movie) were sold. The restaurant is surprisingly called 'The Texas Embassy'.

The next day, my sister and I woke up early to stand in line to get tickets for the incredibly popular musical, 'Wicked'. Wicked was, (pardon the lame attempt to act British) simply wicked. Brilliant special effects and a very clever story make it a must see. My jet lag got the better of me again and so I wasn't able to explore London after the show. I had to wake up early the following day because we had to catch a bus to Oxford.


I fell in love with Oxford - the beautiful architecture, the cafes and pubs that were full of life and just the history of the place was enough to captivate me. I went on a walking tour through the town as I learnt about the history behind the different colleges (there are 39 of them) at the university. And my sister's friend who studies there made awesome Indian food for us. I would love to go back to Oxford to do a study abroad, not that I'm not studying abroad right now, but still.
There was more travelling to do the next day as I took a train from King's Cross Station to York. I know what you're thinking and yes, I did try pushing a trolley through Platform 9 ¾… it didn't work. Anyway, I was in York for a day where Manasi gave me a tour of the city with the world's smallest window and the world's narrowest street. It also houses the street with the funniest name (Whip-ma-whop-ma). And I got another awesome home-made Indian dinner. The day ended with a Ghost tour where I was part of a group of little kids who seemed to shout out whenever the guide raised his voice. Kids get scared so easily, I mean I only shouted out like once...or twice.

I reached London in the afternoon the next day, and my sister met me at the station took me to Madam Tusaud’s Wax Museum. I had told my friends back in Austin that I was taller than Aishwarya Rai and below is photographic evidence.

Ash, Me and the Father-in-law

Tusaud’s was over priced, but was a lot of fun. Some of the likenesses were amazing (I mistook a wax photographer to be real and kept waiting for her to take her picture), but some were pretty poor (Jennifer Aniston is way hotter in real life).

See, Aniston looks like she's 50... I mean, I look hotter than her! (no snide comments please, let me have my moment)

So, next it was off to Manchester, or so I thought...

(to be continued)

'BCCI = Communist Party of China'

BCCI's recent antics have really, really annoyed me and this article by Mukul Kesavan, on Cricinfo, just sums it all up.

There was also an earlier news story on Cricinfo about how ICL players and the English county teams they play for will be disqualified from the Champions League. It's a shame that Modi is allowed to wield so much power. It truly has gone to his head.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

It's nice

I'm sitting in Starbucks, listening to the latest AR Rahman movie album, drinking a tall mocha frappucino while making use of the wireless connection that the nice Italian restaurant nearby has forgotten to secure. It's nice, the moment.