Sunday, February 21, 2010
Why do people lean onto the tracks to see if the train is approaching? It is going to come when it comes, leaning is not gonna make the train engineer make it run faster or feel bad for arriving late. Its just some things people do. You want to tell if the train is here, close your eyes and just stand at the platform. When you feel the wind suddenly picking up pace, almost a gust, thats when you know the train is here.
I have 24 minutes everyday from when my office lets out to when the 5:54 NJTransit trian leaves NY Penn station. I have to rush out of the office everyday if I have to catch the subway. It runs at every 6 minutes during the evening rush hour and 4 minutes during the morning. Yes,I have timed it. I try not to get all tied up about being late, because ,hey , you get there when you get there. Right? But going to the office and to a movie are the only two times I am hyper , alert and really flummoxed abt getting late. It irks me to no bounds when the people in the subway try to get in even when its fully packed. Its a true measure of the nature of the people of a city how they behave in the mass transit system, and let me tell you from what I have seen , theres no difference between NDC and NYC. This last Thursday, it was a true case of Hexagonal closed Packing . You can tell if you are late at the platform by the number of people waiting at the platform, naturally. It was overflowing. Apparently an A-express was cancelled. So we all waited. The next to come was a local C and suddenly I saw some ppl running further down the platform. I knew it must be some newyorker trick so I followed them and the train stopped way down the platform and I was right in front of the last car. I got in as did the whole platform. It was hell. and the door closed and opened several times with the engineer pleading ppl to stand back and wait for the next train. Finally we started moving. The next station was Spring St. If we couldnt fit in ppl at the last station why bother now , I thought .But there are always ppl getting off , silly. And again, ppl trying to wedge in as much as possible. I couldnt understand how where they fitting in. I looked over to the other side to see if there were ppl spilling over from the doors and windows like a priyadarshan movie, but no. Some ppl were actually taking a run and plopping into the mass of human meat. Like a bucket filled to the rim but still not overflowing from the drops that keep dripping into it. At the next station I wanted to actually put my arms across the door and stop ppl from getting in. Cant you see? We are full. No more!! The crowd thinned away as we got closer to NY Penn. And what happened just 2 stops before NY Penn?? The train stopped for some reason. My NJT train had already left , so I was no longer worried. So we all just stood there looking at each other, looking away when abt to be caught only to catch someone else who was staring at us, look away. I saw two ppl discussing a blueprint and I knew they were brothers of the same cloth. Civil Engineers. Why does it make me so giddy to know that they wield the same sword, the same shields?? Nearby a curly haired dude tries to read from the book , a old black lady is reading. She frowns at him and he looks away. A stop arrives. People get off. We rearrange ourselves. And now the curly haired dude is trying to decipher the blueprints. He even rubs his chin in mock wondering. The new cargo of ppl has with them a large black man who pleads with us to confess our sins and come under the lord's shadow, offering his own story to convey the power of JC. "I stole from my mother" "What answer would I give , when I die and the lord asks me , How is it that you were a lousy christian but an extraordinary crack head " "i was beyond redemption, but if I can see the light , hail the lord, so can you". The subway comes with its own brand of entertainment. I have actually seen this guy before peddling the same "wares". Have you wondered what would happen if two eccentrics were put in a ring and asked to have a go at it? Thats what happened the other time, when a drunk guy started loudly agreeing with everything the large dude was saying, putting him off and then leading to a loud argument resulting in the large guy getting off at the next station. The drunk guy beamed triumphantly.
My stop arrives and I get off. I have 15 minutes till the next train. All around me food tempts me, calling out to me, weilding a magnetic pull on my wallet. I give in and grab a white slice and join the scores staring at the info screen , waiting to know which platform are they docking my train. I get on.The train enters the tunnel soon after and you cant tell when its out because its dark outside when it comes out, as dark as the inside of the tunnel. It stops at Newark Penn, a station I have had a long relationship with. People cram in, among them Punit Kataria , Lavesh Gupta and Samir Dudani, complete with the french beard he has had since he was 9 years old, only its a trio of desis who remind me of them. Thats how Ms.Marple solved crime , you know. She was old and had met a lot of people in her life and could compare anyone to one of those people and predict how they would act and how they would have acted in a certain situation. I can tell they are consultants. Oh how some F1 students detest consultants, who arrive here on a direct H1B. I pretend to read but I am listening to their conversation. The ever eavesdropper. It gets boring after a while and I stop. I try to look at what the guy sitting next to me is holding. He has fell asleep with his wallet open displaying his train pass. He has some 20 $ bills, a few cards and why is he carrrying his SS card around. Dude , not safe. I reach Edison where the train spews out the last of the FOBs, the H1Bs, the ABCDs, the F1s and every other kind of desi including me. I put on my cap and my gloves and crush the snow as I walk to the other side. And I wait for my ride. Squash awaits and arrogant victory too.
I like to eat with my hands. If its Indian food , hands it is. Thats the only way to truly savour the dish. I cringe everytime I see an idli being dunked in sambar with a fork. That is so wrong. You have to prod it, cajole and coax the idli with your hands, tell it to make love with the sambar. Thats the only way to do it. No firangi instruments can bring out the true taste of Indian food. How can you eat a biriyani with just a fork? I have done it, but only under social duress and weak resolve. Are you telling me, that 4 pronged instrument can deftly include the perfect amount of raita,achar, crushed papad all in the same "nivala". You then ,Sir, are plain lying. I'd rather not go to an Indian Restaurant with a white person. Its just not going to work out. No people who know wouldn't call me a violent person or prone to anger. But you wanna see me flip out? I tell you if I ever see someone eat a Sadya with a spoon or fork, I swear to god, I am gonna go napalm on his ass.
Ok now being the master digresser that I am lets get to the issue of getting hands dirty. There are certain situations, where you would want your hands to maybe remain un-messy. Shaving for instance. I just cannot stand the gel and foam that you have to apply with your fingers on your face. You always end up using more than required and drop sods everywhere. What if there was a instrument that could help us lather better, it could be a small brush of some sort and the gel would be applied to one end and then you use it lather up your face. Smart rt? Lets call it the shaving brush. Wait a friggin second. There used to be just such a thing. And it worked perfectly. What happened? Somehow everyone decided that its just an antiquated redundancy. Didn't we. Now its gone and we cant find it. Lost in the annals of time. Tell me how is this moving forward, how is this progress.
Touchscreens are another thing that irk me. Can you imagine sitting all day with your hand raised in front of you like a zombie and touching and moving things on the screen ala the new touchscreen desktops from hp/lenovo. How inconvenient. I agree that the whole touchscreen technology can enhance the user experience manifold. But it shouldn't be on the screen but on my keyboard. Give me a keyboard which doubles up as a touchscreen and I will be a happy camper. You cant expect anyone to stand all day in the office and be like Tommy Cruise in Minority report. Not happening. Now maybe I haven't been watching TED as much as everyone else and what I may be saying might be no longer relevant but from my limited exposure to the touchscreen technology, this is what I deduce and feel.
Saturday, February 13, 2010
I am sure everyone thinks they have the best damn , strangest and quirkiest dreams ever. And they are right. We all do. Some dreams are just so compelling and thrilling that they could be movie plots. And we forget most of the details as soon as we wake up. That sucks doesn't it. The price of admission I guess. Well I think the one I had today was exciting cause it broke the fourth wall in a sense.
So its Tuesday Morning and I am at the train station with Teja and I find it oddly disturbing that the weekend just went by like that. I tell Teja that we must be in a dream because there is no way this Tuesday morning because I have no memory of the weekend. Where did my weekend go?? Teja tells that it is Tuesday morning even though he too doesn't remember the weekend. Then I show him my watch which says the time is 3:26 pm. Its the afternoon and we are standing at the train station thinking its morning, it has to be a dream. He agrees, and we find it strange that we are having the same dream. There are three other people at the station two girls who go to Rutgers and another one from my school who used to act in public service messages on doordarshan. She wants us to come with her parents on this hike that they are taking up a mountain that morning. We realize that the only way to escape this dream is to accompany her and do what her parents want otherwise we are going to be stuck in this time loop forever. There was lots more which I don't remember and a follow up dream where I tell some old lady about having this dream where I realize that I am in a dream. Then like all good things.. I woke up.
In India growing up , your life is intangibly intertwined with the lives of your neighbours. The people whose name you shout out in the evenings to come down and play cricket with or whom your mom has knitting parties with and whom your father stops you on the way back from the vegetable wallah to discuss the Mulla Periyar Dam issue with, while you pull restlessly at his arm, are all your neighbours. Sweets, green bananas, coconuts and packets of elaichi brought back from the "gaon" - a term used to refer to that part of your home state where your parents grew up and where all your cousins and aunts and uncles live and which by now has become a full fledged town - are invariably shared, car rides given, keys left with while you go out to play and even books and toys handed down from the older kids next door. We are one big community aren't we.
However I find that once you are a grown up there exists a certain formality when you interact with others which actually prevents you from getting close. It is this formality that actually makes it hard for you to find friends when you all grown up. The place where my family lives right now in Delhi is a fine example of the anti-community that is characteristic of the modern highly individual and independent lifestyle that we are forced to lead. Pandara Road is a government quarters with the best damn location in Delhi. Everything is near by. South Delhi, CP, India gate, central Delhi everything an M-13/440 away. This place was built by the British actually for their bureaucratic elite and still serves the same purpose. The ceilings are higher that 10 feet, the fans bulky and look like inverted pressure cookers and the doors all two leafed. It reeks of the Delhi of old and for that I love it. But there are hardly any people about. Where are the children playing in the parks, tip topping for their batting turns, where are the servant guys hanging on to their Babas, where are the teenagers returning from the mother dairy and promptly hitting the books, where is my damn colony experience?
Children play a remarkable role in bringing a community together. They don't need to break the ice,they know that all their brethren are thinking of, are cartoons and games just like them. They lack the hierarchies that adults seem to bracket themselves in and maybe it is this no show of children that is pulling Pandara Road back. Sure there are people trying to make this a community, with half hearted Diwali melas and association meetings being held but c'mon who are we kidding here. Its just not working out.
In America , I have lived across from a joint family of Mexicans , a trio of Chinese students and now undergrad exchange students. The Desi guys below my apartment are the most intriguing yet. They are, as my investigations and as even first impressions will suggest , a den of poets. They listen to old hindi songs and soulful tamil melodies of heartbreak and unrequited love. They smoke like steam engines and drink like fishes and when thats not enough they strum their guitars and sing along. And do they debate. My god the debates, you know its on serious issues of ending world hunger , the symbolism of Nights of Cabiria and the nihilstic turn of modern art(??) and while I strain to catch as many words of tamil I understand , the tone of the argument is always spirited and righteous. Unleash these Azhagiya Tamil maghans upon the world and we will have nothing short of a rebellion on our hands.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Living in New Brunswick/Highland Park , I have had to commute to Trenton and Newark before for internships. Commuting when school is not in session is the worst because of the awful bus schedule. Now I have to commute to NY everyday for work and surprisingly its not that bad.
Apart from getting up at ungodly hours and sitting in a car that just wont warm up, there aren't any major hiccups. I get the train from Edison in the morning, a station that is closer to Highland Park but for some reason none of the desi junta ever goes to. I guess thats because the Rutgers bus doesn't run thataway but it is much nearer and very convenient if you have someone to drop you off at the station. Edison and the two stations after it, Metuchen & Metropark are hot spots for working desis. Its crowded with desis and as the train approaches Metropark you can see the hordes crowding the platform. The funniest thing is people running from afar trying to catch the train. Even though this happens to me at the Edison station, I find it funnier when it happens to others. But I cant understand why they keep on running even though its plain obvious they are gonna miss it. I have actually waved at an uncle , after the doors closed right at his face. Haha! I love NJTransit. Its very convenient and comfortable. I mostly read. As does the rest of the train. I on a lowly paperback while several on their Kindles and Sony Readers.I gave up sleeping after once I missed Newark Penn and landed at NY Penn. Also internships have taught me the absolute necessity of sleeping on time. You have to get your 8 hours of shut eye or you end up drooping at work and feel the debilitating grip of the sandman.
Its annoying when your train gets queued up before entering the Tunnel to NYC. I would reach spot on time if it weren't for that 15 minute delay that is now happening very often. Its an endearing sight that greets you just as you emerge from the tunnel and witness the skyscrapers and the NewYorker building among others. Stepping out of the train I dash for the Subway as does everyone else. You have to actually swim through a a deluge of people headed the other way , exiting the station. In the evening this river flows upstream. Also in the evening you have people transfixed like flies, glaring at the LIRR updates. They are another roadblock you have to skip over. You have to navigate slowpokes and old people as you reach the subway. I take the A express and thats the best part of the commute. You get to see the NewYorkers!! Ah, those vibrant multicultural species. So many kinds and shapes and odors and hairstyles and clothes. The only thing common would be the ubiquitous white iPod earphones. Even when people are talking to each other they don't take it off. Its almost rude. Whats the other thing thats off? Just like in the DTC and several other mass Transit systems in cities all over the world, people love to huddle up near the doors. No one likes to go to the very end. Of course in the DTC it would literally be impossible to get out at your stop in time if you are way inside the mass of humanity, it is not so in the MTA. Why don't people just move in then?? Once I reach my stop , I have a direct entry to my building through the subway and that is that. Although its not the easiest or shortest commute it is not too tiring, however it does eat up 3 hours of my day, prompting me to think of shifting shop in the near future. Wouldn't it be a dream to live in NYC?