Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Off to a flying start!!!

Its been a long time since my last post however here I am back. I lot has transpired over the last two months- my visa interview, my masters thesis defence, senti farewells at IISc, the interview for the Goa Scholars scholarship… and I can’t really believe that I am already in the USA. It happened so fast that I couldn’t even have a farewell get-together with friends in Goa. Guys I will make up for that when I am back .  For various reasons, economical included, domestic travel by air was never possible so here I was on my first travel by air, which had to be international ;-)… it turned out to be quite an experience.

The clouds on my way to Doha... can see the air plane wing in one of the corners
I was scheduled to leave from Goa at 4:30 AM on the 3rd of August and to be frank I was packing until I got to the airport. At the airport, they told me to lighten my bags by 7 kilos. I had the option to either empty some books or some of the homemade goodies my mother had prepared… you could guess what I did ;-). I next got to know that my flight has been delayed by two hours and hence I would miss my connecting flight at Doha… I was given the option of going upto Doha and then spending the day at a hotel there and then moving on to the US the next day. This was not an option so I tried to haggle a way out of this predicament. By now my entire family was inside the airport ( I had thought that they had left … I guess they knew my first trip would not be uneventful). I had a small mini-conference with my mom and dad and we decided that I should tell them that I have a conference to attend and a days delay would be just too useless. My itenary was finally changed to a new route which would get me to the US at the same time as the original one. I somehow managed not to cry in the final moments as I parted from my family, this time they went back.

View of Houston moments before landing
I then had to wait in the lobby for almost 2 hours, it was raining heavily outside. At 6:30 we were finally led to the plane. This was the first time I saw the inside of Dabolim airport and it somehow felt big however when I landed at Doha, I realized how miniscule the airport at Dabolim is!

This was my first experience on a plane - the first experience happens only once - so I video recorded the take—off! What an feeling! Absolutely loved the way we hit the skies, to see the coast below and behind and then the clouds. I had been looking forward for this moment for a long time and here it was manifesting itself before  me. I was lucky to have got the window seat and despite being dead tired I decided to stay awake and watch the sky outside. This was one of the few moments when the clouds and may be the ‘sky’ was beneath me! The view of the coastline of Quatar was beautiful… beyond the coast the only things visible were buildings, straight roads and the dry dessert! Not a tree in sight. 

The route my flight took from Doha to Houston
The transit at Doha was smooth and in no time I was on my flight to Houston. I would be flying for almost 15 hours straight this time which is why probably many faces seemed bored and worried. I was neither bored nor worried, I even felt fresh, after all it was my first long distance flight and I had to make the best of the experience. After fiddling with my chair for quite sometime I figured out how to get the LCD screen adjusted, how to push back the seat, how to open the tray holder and so on. The tray holder would fit into the arm-rest in a true James Bond style ;-). So much for the seat… then the food, it was kinda good. A full three course meal served twice (about 5 hours apart). Most of the journey was then spent watching movies—I watched Dhobhi ghat, Fast five and Kungfu Panda 2. There was a screen which showed the route the flight was taking and periodically updating our position. It is well known ( I guess) that flight routes are chosen along great circles passing through the source and the destination. This route then flattened out on a map is then is not a straight line but a curve (like a semicircle). It was interesting to know that we flew over Iraq, most of western Europe, England, Greenland, Canada and then entered the US from the north.

The tail of the plane I flew in from Doha to Houston ;-)
The first thing that is obviously noticed once one enters the US is the size of almost anything. Its huge! Talk about anything… the airport, the restrooms, the trolleys, the queues and even the people! My previous notions of being fat were completely shattered! On my flight from Houston to Miami, there was this guy sitting in front of me with his leg hanging from above the seat… I went in front to check what was up with him, it turned out that it was his hand! Don’t get me wrong though, not everybody is obese but the frequency of finding someone extremely obese is exceptionally high as compared to that in India… I landed in Miami at 11:30 PM local time, on the 3rd of August. The other thing that one notices immediately is the amount of screening one has to go through at the immigration depot at the airport... it is quite a tense moment until the immigration officer says ' Welcome to the USA!' :-).

Miami on my way up!

Miami from above...

My sister came to receive me at the airport. We walked around Miami beach then chatted by the poolside of our hotel and then finally went to sleep at 3AM. We flew to Ann Arbor, Michigan on the 4th of August. So here I was, finally in the US at my sister’s house… what a feeling it was! Will write more soon... it has been quite an adventure here :-).

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Pedal Yatra to Goa

Well the time is here until I finally have my final adventure at IISc executed (that leaves the Masters thesis defense, but that is hardly an adventure) . We will be cycling to Goa tomorrow morning (i.e. 3rd June). Those of you who wish to see us off (you wont get this opportunity very often) could come over to the Gymkhana at 3am ;-).

In a coffee shop in Kanchepuram, on our way to Chennai.
It has been quite a run up to this day. We finalized dates and then revised them and then revised them again and it would be revised yet again if I had not to get a VISA appointment fixed today morning.

All said and done, let me introduce my co-adventurer. After meeting a lot of hopefuls it has come down to just Ganesh and me. We have gone on almost all our cycle trails together. Our  cycling enthusiasm took root when Amita mentioned to Ganesh on chat that I was planning a trip to Goa on cycle... and Lo and behold Ganesh is here in IISc to discuss the prospect. After that first planning there was really no looking back. I researched and got myself a new funky bike (after convincing myself that it was worth the money given the fact that I might not have so much free time to spare anytime in the near future... time is money they say ;-)). We then planned a preliminary trip to Savantdurga where we wonderfully got lost... travelling 150kms instead of the intended 110kms and the last 40km being in the hot sun. We then cycled to Chennai over 28 hours... it was a cool trip where we cycled only in the nights. Recently we cycled to Nandi Hills where I climbed the hill in about 35mins and what a climb it was!

With Ganesh outside IMSc, Chennai. Mission completed ;-)
We had other small rides besides these. However the Goa trip is going to be mother of all the rides that we had so far. At 625kms, the distance sweeps the ground off ones feet and climbing the Western Ghats makes it even more daunting. What is there in a human if not the will to challenge and move beyond set limits... we plan to accomplish this feat solely on this philosophy.
Have we prepared ourselves well enough? Well no preparation is sufficient given that we will be at the mercy of nature during the next 6 days or so. However the Nandi climb was quite a trailer as to what we might encounter.

We have however taken necessary precautions. We will carry a first aid kit and a lot of supplies of food. Besides our cycles are equipped with lights and we will be wearing helmets. We will be wearing a reflector jerseys in the night and carry raincoats and suns creams to protect ourselves from the sun and the rain. We have been provided with a carrier and pannier bags which will transfer the load off our backs to the bicycle, by Pedals and Wheels, which is one of the most reliable cycle renting stores I have come across. Sachin, the proprietor of P&W wanted to join us but for some last minute appointments. But he did his part by helping and guiding us :-). dSo much for the preparation!

With kids at Ramakrishna Mutt... on our way to Chennai
Having said this, we hope that our enthusiasm in cycling transfers to a lot many people around. People usually tell me that "at that price you could have got a second hand motorbike" when I tell them the cost of my bicycle. This very philosophy we want to kill... The benefits of cycling are manifold. Firstly you get yourself into good shape (and with a good cycle commuting 20kms can be effortless) and then you save the world and your wallet by not spending unnecessarily on petrol.

I started planning for the Goa trip about a year and a half back. Since I had decided to apply to universities in the US for my PhD I had decided that I would leave Bangalore on cycle if I get into a PhD program. An early admit from the University of Maryland meant that I needed to stick to my promise with enough time at hand. I am not sure if I can complete it on a high but this post will remind me that I definitely left Bangalore on a high!!!
My cycle... Schwinn Sporterra Sport 2011 :-)

Pedal O Pedal on we cycle,
leaving the land of flowers,
on our bicycles.
Pedal O Pedal on we cycle,
O Pearl of the Orient,
behold our arrival!

Goa  here we come!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sunday morning... wake up with Cricket

The sky was clear and the sun shone brightly... twenty four youngsters assembled together early today morning on the dusty gymkhana cricket field to test their mettle.
My hostel room was a cozy place, so by the time I was ready and reached the field our team had almost finished with a some bit of hard hitting with the bat. In my absence(favourably) we won the toss and decided to bat.

Dheeraj and Prahallad at the crease
As I was parking my bicycle I saw Prahallad getting caught out... but lucky for him and the rest of the team, it was a no- ball. At that time Prahallad and Dheeraj were at the crease and we saw some wonderful shots, with good use of power. The funny part was that we sought Santanu's services for the last ball of the innings and unfortunately he was at the runners end ;-)... Nonetheless he started our bowling attack with a wide ball, which, I assume was a deliberate good luck charm.
We put up a target of 94 runs in 12 overs... which is pretty formidable and the opponents dismal performance with the bat reaffirmed the fact.

In my opinion except for a few mis-fields, the field placement was excellent and the team seemed to gell pretty well. All the bowlers had one wicket to their credit with Arpan bagging two. Shubhamouy was the first to actually get somebody bowled, middle wicket!!!. Santanu, Dheeraj, Manoj, Arpan, Ramiz and Vikram did an excellent job with the ball. The fielding to was pretty tight with Prahallad, on the covers, saving quite a few shots and Sayan adding his part of experise. Tapan did a great job as the wicket-keeper,  Bapaditya made his presence felt when he replaced Shyam in the 7th over.
Captains briefing

As the game progressed the opponents realized that they were losing so there was this guy... who would call out for two runs even when one was not possible. We played against the 'Centre for atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences' - CAOS for short. They did stand up to their acronym, as towards the end there was just so much 'Chaos' between the wickets ;-).

The team was in great form... with everybody doing their bit to contribute to a spectacular finish. I had carried my copy of Hardy's ' A Mathematician's apology', just in case it got boring... but I was so engrossed in the match that at one point did not know where my bag was...
The team
There were very few spectators, a majority of the ladies were involved in the Saraswati puja I guesss( and hence their absence). Given the final outcome, the goddess of knowledge definitely seemed pleased with the fact that the math researchers were playing  ... She must have said  "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" .

Friday, February 11, 2011

For Cricket and a Cricket mad department

Back after a long time. With a purpose though. I had written a post on a cricket tournament that our departmental team had participated in last March or so. We are back into the tournament this time too, and hoping to strike big. So whats my role here? I will cover the event for the guys who actually miss the action. With students and ex-students of the department spread out all over the world I believe such an initiative is imperative. Having attached a philanthropic tag to my blabbering I should get down to business.

Today we are going to meet the team!!! The team comprises of the following ( I got this inside information from a reliable source, but not yet confirmed by the 'official' selectors) Ramiz, Dheeraj, Tapan, Sayan, Vikram, Santanu, Pranav, Arpan, Prahallad, Shubhamay, Sumit, Avijit and Bappaditya. Apparently we had some IPL style auctions where we bought players from the TIFR CAM franchise. Shyam and Manoj from TIFR have agreed to lend their expertise (this was a peculiar auction where the money comes after the results ;-)).  I should make mention of the coach, that is Saurav, amicably called 'dada' who has spent his evening fine-tuning the abundant talent in the department. If I have missed anybody else, who should have been mentioned out here... dont feel bad... I should make up for that in the next post... but please do inform me.

 Having done my bit of introducing, I hope you guys madly cheer them so that they can put a great show... and the rest of the department can find a fitting excuse to stay away from what they are supposed to be doing at IISc.

The first match is at 7:30 AM, 13th February (that is this coming Sunday). Hope to see you there ;-)