Like Duck to Water, thats how I have taken to life :). This blog is the saga of love and adventures of a small duck in a large water body called LIFE....

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Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Encore :(


Just one more day, I wished I could be there
When the visit to loved ones was at its end
Why does the heart always long for an encore
Of if not a day, if not an hour, only a second?

Just one more embrace, I wished I could have,
Maybe then the open wound would not hurt as much.
Why does the heart always long for an encore
Of if not an embrace, if not a hug, only a touch?

Just one more visual, my eyes wished to see,
As I walked far and further away with forced limps.
Why does the heart always long for an encore
Of if not a visual, if not a view, only a glimpse?

Just one more tear drop fell without any compulsion,
Sadness engulfed me and my heart felt oh so sore.
Pain is one thing the heart certainly doesn't long for
Nevertheless for tears, its encore, encore and encore..

P.S. For those who did not guess from the tone of the poem, yes, I am back in US and right now, not very happy about it...

Listening to: "Hume tumse pyar kitna" by Kishore Kumar

"Suna Gum Judai Ka Uthate Hai Log
Jaane Zindagi Kaise Bitate Hai Log
Din Bhi Yaha To Lage Baras Ke Samaan
Hume Intezar Kitna Yeh Hum Nahi Jaante
Magar Jee Nahi Sakte Tumhare Bina"

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Ek Delhi ko dekha tho aisa laga :-D

Yup, this is part 2 of my original "Ek Chennai ko dekha tho aisa laga..." post. Its been more than an year since I went for a visa stamping to Chennai. This is sort of a rehash of the same, only this time I went to Delhi for my L1 work permit and Sri for his H1.

It all started a long time ago, (well, not that long :-p), when we decided that we'll get our visas stamped in India rather than going out to Mexico or Canada. Which was why our trip got delayed again, again and again :-p. Finally, when Sri shifted his job and got his work permit transferred, we decided that we had to visit India and that was when we had to have our visas stamped. One good thing was that as an Indian citizen resident in US, we had the advantage of going to any of the 4 US consulates in India. We looked for appointments, but sadly, the earliest available was May 2nd 2006 in the New Delhi consulate. So, very obviously, the whole trip to India was planned such that we could finish the stamping as a first priority :).

And so, just after a day of landing in good, old, beloved Bangalore (:-D), we were off on a flight (again!!!) to Delhi on 1st May 2006 noon. God!! I had been on so many flights recently that I dreamt of flights and airports whenever I slept :-p. Anyways, this time we took a Sahara flight and yup, they served us lunch again :-D, though thankfuly, it was oil-free this time :).

Delhi airport was a rude shock! Its literally like an air-conditioned railway station. Bad stench, flies, stained seats, yuck!! I am not comparing it to international airports but Bangalore airport is oh-so-much-better man :). But I guess things should improve with the airport privatization. The heat outside was very bad (above 46 degree celcius!!!), but somehow we did manage to crawl into a pre-paid taxi and ride on to our hotel in SouthEx, which is very near to the US embassy in Delhi.

The infamous jet lag prevailed in both of us, so we were flat as soon as we reached the hotel room. By the time we got up, it was time for dinner already. We went out and roamed quite a bit, finding no restaurants whatsoever except a MacDonalds. Look at our luck :-p. But the US MacDonalds doesn't have a Veggie burger which we finally ended up having for dinner. Wonder whether they'll ever try to market it in US..

On the D-day, we both got ready early (were looking very smart in suits :-D), had breakfast at the hotel and left for the embassy at about 8:30 AM itself, though the appointment was at 9:45 AM. We reached the embassy at about 9 AM and I was wondering whether they would allow us inside (as in Chennai last year, they had allowed me only 15 min before the actual appointment time). But here they did. After showing our appointment print-outs and first round of security checks, we stood in the non-immigrant queue. The heat was still bearable, thankfully, as the sun was still low in the sky.

We both had a single appointment, so went to the first counter together. The first counter has Indians who do a preliminary check of your documents. Sri was wearing his sun glasses and was rudely remonstrated by the guy in the counter!! Wearing sun glasses was not right as they cannot see the comparison between the photo and the real person, but the guy could have been polite :-p. Well, nevertheless we were polite and smiled and apologized :-p. He also asked us to enter local addresses and proceed. And so the first hurdle was crossed :-D.

Next we faced another round of security checks and were let in into the room where we would be taking our visa interview together. But before the actual interview, we did have to give our index fingerprints which is a standard procedure. We had no trouble at all in the same and later were guided to the visa interview queue.

There were very less number of people in front of us and hence in no time, one of the consulate officers called us. Again her name I know not, so I will refer to her as Ms. American :). The conversation that ensued is as follows:

Ms. American: Hello
Us both: Hi, Good morning!
Ms. American: One of your petition is for H1 and another for L1 is it?
Us both: Yes.
Ms. American: {refering to me} Yours is the L1 right?
Me: Yes.
Ms. American: So what kind of work are you doing in US?
Me: The same as I was doing here in India. {I provide a brief description of my work}. Also, since my husband was posted in US, I got an option of working there.
Ms. American: {refering to Sri} And what do you do sir?
Sri: {States his role}.
Ms. American: And what does that mean?
Sri: {Gives a brief description of his role and duties associated}.
Ms. American: {refering to me} I see here that you went to US on a H4. So did you get a job there?
Me: No, I was already on job here and went to us on H4. Later my L1 work permit was processed and I got my L1. Until I got my permit, I was on leave which was for about 1.5 months. (This was an expected question and I had the leave papers also ready, but she didn't ask for those :-D).
Ms. American: {refering to Sri} Was your visa refused anytime? Maybe once?
Sri: No, but I was asked some extra documents, maybe payslips one time. But it was a long time back {grins}.
Ms. American: Not that long back {smiles}. {Refers to me} You have had only one visa stamped?
Me: Yes.
Ms. American: {refering to Sri} Where did you get your Masters degree?
Sri: In Birla Institute of Technology, Ranchi.
Ms. American: Where are you staying in US currently?
Us both: Lexington, Kentucky.
Ms. American: Ok everything looks alright. I am going to keep all these. All the best to both of you in your careers {smiles}.
Us both: Thanks and good bye {smile}.

That was it!! Phew!! She didn't ask for any of the other documents that Sri had painfully put together. And we were out by 9:45 AM :-D. We both were grinning and gave hi-fives as we came out :). Went back to the hotel and called up both sets of parents to inform them the news :). Since our flight to Bangalore was after 8 PM in the night, Sri wanted to go sight-seeing. I wasn't really into it due to the heat. Also, since I didn't foresee the sight-seeing aspect, I had left the camera behind in Bangalore :(. After cribbing for sometime about the sad-no-camera situation, I finally agreed to go. We booked an air-conditioned Indica and checked out of the hotel.

Our first stop was the India Gate. It had been more than 8 years since I visited Delhi and I was stuck by how beautiful the monument is and how vast the grounds surrounding it are. Despite the fact that it was a Tuesday, the crowd thronged the place. The sun was terribly hot, yet we stayed there for sometime, roaming around the monument and reading some of the names of the soldiers who died in wars. Later we returned to the cool car to see the Rastrapathi bhavan, the Lok and Rajya Sabhas and the Parliament. Again, I chided myself for not bringing the camera along :(. Meanwhile, I was surprised at the similarity of the Government buildings of India and US. In Washington, the Washington monument is surrounded by the Official buildings, whereas in Delhi the India Gate is in the centre :). Wonder who copied who :-D.

It had already crossed noon and hence we headed towards AP bhavan to have a delicious Andhra style lunch. After lunch, we stopped at Paalika bazaar as I wanted to buy a marble masher, which has a bowl and a mashing rod and is useful for mashing elaichis etc. We didn't find what I wanted, but we did end up picking up some gifts for Sri's colleagues from the Cottage Emporium. Next we went to Jantar Mantar. The structures there are amazing and it seems one of them can measure the time, the accuracy being within half a second!! I wanted to know more but the information provided next to the structures just wasn't enough. Anyways, thank God, there's the internet :-p. I was able to satisfy some of my curiosity later through the Delhi Tourism website.

Next on the agenda was to see if our visa-stamped passports were available at a place mentioned in the US Consulate website. If they are available, you can collect them there itself for Rs. 50 each and avoid the hassles of courier services. Since we were leaving for Udupi almost immediately, we wanted to collect them. But sadly the passports hadn't yet arrived there in the shipping office at Nehru place and we were told that they will be available the next day, which was of no use to us. We were disappointed, but hey, we tried :-p. Since Nehru place is also the home to the famous Bahai Lotus temple, that became our next tourist destination.

One thing I forgot to mention was that, the previous day when we were about to land in Delhi, we were able to see the Lotus temple from the flight :). I remembered the temple as this very peaceful, beautiful place I had visited last time. The temple is still as beautiful but somehow the peace and quiet is gone. Despite being warned many times to be quiet and not make any noise inside the temple and to control their children, people were making some amount of noise which made the temple visit not quite nice. The crowd was also too big, maybe due to the summer vacation for the children. Some things and feelings cannot be helped, I guess..

Lastly we visited the Qutub Minar. I really wished for the umpteenth time that the Minar was open to public for climbing and that I could climb it, but the government has had to restrict the access to avoid further deterioration. We enjoyed the sights of the surrounding ruins and the Iron pillar. Just as we were about to leave, a sand storm hit the area. My God!! Dust everywhere, in eyes and in hair :-p. Its terrible when you are standing somewhere and are stuck because you just can't see anything and hence cannot move. Thankfully in matter of minutes (which actually seemed like an hour :-p), the winds subsided and we were able to return to the car. Heat and dust is an amazing combination. You should really try it sometime :-p.

That was Delhi for us. We left for the airport immediately and had to wait for a couple of hours for our Air Deccan flight in the sad (again) airport. It was the time for our jet lag to set in and so we both slept in the plane without even a single blink. By the time we reached Bangalore, it was about 11 PM and that was it.

The only thing we missed is the Taj Mahal. Agra is about 2.5 hours from Delhi and there was no way we could have seen it as we had not planned for it. It would have been our first visit together there, but, well, there's always another time. Had it been this time, I'd have regretted it my whole life that I didn't have a camera with me ;-). Looks like all the things are well-planned by someone way above us ;-) :-D.

Friday, May 05, 2006

This happens only in...

See the troubles that poor me has to go through to write something on my blog :-p. I am writing this from a cyber cafe in Udupi and yup I reached safe and sound for a great reunion :))). I am going through the happiest moments of my life right now. Err, except the fact that the heat is so much that I'm sweating profusely all over the keyboard, sheeesh!!

Just thought I'll post a few observations on the trip back to India ;-).

1) We left early on Friday April 28th 2006 as we had to catch a flight from Cincinnati to New Jersey. Cincinnati itself is 1.5 hours away!! So Sri went to pick up a rental car he had booked. Since we had luggage (luggage is an understatement :-p) and no car was suiting our purpose, we got a free upgradation to a mini van!! This surely happens only in America :-D.

2) Ok we got checked in Cincinnati airport and our luggage was sent away :(. They checked it all the way to Bangalore :)). I think this too happens only in America, though me not sure ;-).

3) We climbed the plane and it went till the runway. Just when we thought everything was smooth, the flight halted and we were told there would be a delay of 1.5 hours. The pilot spoke in very low tones (which I thought was deliberate) and I couldn't hear the reason :-p. As for this, you can certainly guess where this happens :-p.

4) We reached Newark and we still had about 3 hours to go for the Air India flight :-p. We went to the counter and were issued boarding passes. It was only later we came to know that my seat was in one row and Sriram's was in another. Well, cursing the lady didn't help at all, but another girl travelling alone helped us by giving up her seat. Thanks lady, whoever you are. And as for the other lady, I wished I could strangle her :-p. Looks like this happens only in Air India!!

5) On aboard Air India flight which left thankfully on time, looks like the only job of the air hosts and hostesses is to feed the passengers. Totally from New Jersey to Bombay, we were fed 2 lunches and 2 dinners full of oil-rich food. It was almost as a witch fattening children for her dinner ;-). Not that I'm not grateful and this, I'm sure happens in all international flights :-D.

6) One of the saddest parts of the flight was the stop-over in Paris. We thought we'll be allowed some time in the airport though the stop-over time was only 1.5 hours. But sadly, they kept us in the plane!! And this was while the cleaning crew cleaned the plane over. I half expected the vacuum to be run over us too :-p. One lesson learnt was that we need some time in a stop-over to stretch our legs and freshen up. And I'm confused where this happens. So I'll leave the choice to you. Your choices are:

a) Only in Air India
b) Only in Paris (as the plane was in Paris at that point of time)
c) In America (as the plane was from America)
d) In India (Going there ;-) :-D)
e) All of the above :-D.

7) Landing in Bombay was one of the best feelings of my life. It was great to feel the balmy air again ;-). As soon as we were out, there were people shouting Hyderabad, Bangalore, Cochin and Chennai :-D. This was to direct people to the connecting flights :-D. Hehehehe. This happens only in India bhai :-D.

8) We were crowded into one place (where we were actually supposed to form queues). After about 15 min or so, suddenly, one lady said that people going to Riyadh had to shift into another line and poeple to Hyderabad had to join our line. One guy shouted that he had been standing in the wrong queue for 15 min and couldn't these people have informed us earlier? Sri and me were laughing at all this and I said to him that I missed all these things in America :-D. Boy, I really did ;-) :).Well, where else can such things happen? :).

9) I have another reason to hate the lady who issued our boarding passses at Newark. She issued passes to the flight from Bombay to Bangalore too. And screwed up again!! One of the seat numbers issued, didn't have a seat on the plane!! God!! After some stress and fuss, we settled down in 2 seats as, thankfully, the flight was not full and there were extra seats available. This was an Air India flight again and I have strong reasons to believe that this happens only in Air India :-p.

10) After landing in Bangalore (my excitement was feverish by this time), we cleared immigration without too much effort. The luggage arrival was a bit late, though the plane was on time. The customs was a breeze thanks to the Rs.100 + $1 note given to a guy ;-) :-D. Poor guy begged for a dollar note :-D. Corruption is everywhere but this happens only in ....

After crossing the customs the first people we saw were our parents. The smiles, the hugs, the tears wow, I can't describe them. And it was 4 AM in the April 30th morning. Parents and sibling coming to receive you at totally odd hours, yup, you guessed it right, this happens only in INDIA :-D.