Saturday, May 29, 2010


Goodbye, Lah!

On a non-descript Thursday evening in Singapore, I'd finally managed to get my iPod synced. The pod, incidentally, had been a gift from the Company, when they'd organized a Treasure Hunt for us interns. No prizes for guessing who's team won. So it was on the way from one of my informal residences to my formal one that I finally plugged those precious earphones in, and turned on mankind's marvelous machine. And on a road some 1000 miles away from India, from a set of more than 1000 possible songs, it was the shehnai of Rahman's Ye Jo Des hai tera that found it's way to my ear drums. Co-incidence, I believe, is a simple yet effective term that people use to describe such incidents.

In less than 12 hours from now, I'll be leaving on a jet plane for home sweet home. Many a flutter is caused thinking of all that awaits. At the same time there is the familiar little pinch of regret that one has when a visiting cousin is departing after a long visit, when cherished meetings with bosom buddies draw to an end- to put it in verse, I feel a tad sad.

They say that if you look close enough, you might find a paradise on earth. I have a feeling I was pretty close to it when waiting for the sun to rise atop Mt. Batur, one of Bali's many active volcanoes. The climb up started at 3 am, in pitch darkness and a drizzle to top it off. There was many a time when I felt like one of the umpteen Hindi movie policemen of the 70s, chasing the villain in the rain through thick undergrowth as my flashlight tried to keep track of our guide. Sitting in the wooden shack that served as the base point for the sunrise-awaiting party, shivering slightly due to the sweat accumulated over the 2 hour climb, and holding a mug of hot coffee to do something about it- watching the sky turn from a dark grey to an opalescent crimson to a clear blue, as the sun managed to gradually weave its way out of the looming clouds, is a sight and an experience that I'd never want to forget. If this was the stairway to heaven, then the trek back came close to being a highway through hell. Have a look at the Facebook album of the same if you can. The eight hours alone made the trip a success and the fact that I was to see the sun set that evening surfing, or rather learning to surf, on a white sand beach was just to be a footnote.

My last day in office, there was genuine pinch as I said goodbye to so many wonderful people who'd made me feel at home for the past 7 weeks. There were pictures to be taken and post-it notes to be left, to wrap up all the tiny little details. As I exited the building for the last time, the spring in my step that had accompanied a similar moment during my last 2 internships, was notably absent.

I find myself waiting excitedly for the time that I'm back on home soil, among people I love and at the places I call home. For now though, I must say goodbye. Goodbye to the days of being a denizen in this delightful little world of Second Life. Goodbye to waiting for the 65 each morning, to the occasional realization that 15 minutes spent on the treadmill always seemed much longer than even 15 hours spent at the office, to window shopping for items that were beyond India Today's objects of desire, to making plans so often of visiting that pretty little neighbourhood church and watching the plans go awry each time. Goodbye to recharging the EZlink card, to admiring the futuristic skyline, to making mental notes of all the dishes I was going to include in my equatorial food series. Goodbye to all the people- the front-desk staff downstairs who would always be ready to greet with a smile, to the fellows at the food-court whose stalls I frequented, to the taxi-drivers who'd wish Udi and I luck on our many sojourns to Resorts World Sentosa and most of all to the 15 fellow interns, who were pleasant fellow-travelers on this memorable 2 month journey. Goodbye to this dynamic city located on the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula that kindly hosted Lefty for 8 precious weeks- Goodbye, Lah.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Fun times

Getting my internship location as Singapore was a godsend. Having Udi here at the same time was another and sometimes I'm confused regarding which the bigger one was. People for whom 'Wander-must' (and here I must pay my respects to Committed Shrey again) is more than a compulsion will agree with me when I say that having a travel-happy companion is a definite pre-requisite for any good trip. And the gentleman doing his internship here at NTU, before he heads out to U-Penn to prefix Dr. before his name is making sure we remain the kind of good times, alcoholic beverage notwithstanding.

The last weekend, we were supposed to go to Malaysia. Despite my being a lazybone, I'd gone to great lengths to ensure that I got my visa made on time, in such a way that none of my weekends would suffer. But some guy once wisely remarked- 'Old habits die hard' and he must be laughing away in his grave right now. In case it was a dame, then there's a spot six feet under giggles can be heard if you listen carefully. The point being that at 7.30 am, 8.00 am and 8.30 am on 7th May, Udi tried in vain to wake me up so that I could append my country count. Again. After the third time, he gave up. The weekend, however, turned out to be one of our better ones in the end.

Considering we'd just been robbed of a trip to KL, one would think that we'd have been pretty low. The omens to the weekend had also been unexpected and not of the best kind. Grim, but not the Grim grim. There had been a dinner the night before, organized for all interns from Joka and our sister institutions in India, who were interning at the fair equatorial city. It can best be described by twists and turns. A sumptuous spread greeted a hungry Lefty, the chicken and mutton were piled on to the small paper plate and a couple of bites later, it sunk in that the inverted commas in the chicken and mutton had a purpose after all- the "Chicken" was tofu and the "Mutton" was some other cheap and not-too-tasty masquerader. The organizers played the safe veg card in the end. A couple of moments earlier, one of the prettier girls in the room had asked me for my gmail id. I was somewhere between jumping with joy and the dot in my username when I saw that the paper that she was scribbling on had 2 names written already. "Networking session" now took a completely different meaning and I realized that there are still people in this world who take things more than a little seriously.

Coming back to the weekend, we started off with lunch at an Indian buffet that we'd noticed the week before. Nothing great, but unlimited quantities do give you a soft spot for any restaurant. Well-fed and happy, we let the geeks in us guide us to the Singapore Science Park. On arrival, we were greeted by several posters that told us that a Pixar exhibition was being held there. The geeks rejoiced and rushed in gleefully. The exhibition was marvelous. The interviews with John Lasseter and some of the other Pixar designers and coders were just a small part of it. There were original sketches of the now-familiar characters, copies of the designs considered before being finalized and what was called a colourstrip- a comic like sequence of the entire movie. There were also videos showing how their Renderman makes converts geeky code and lines into the smooth contours of the animated faces. Huge screens were showing both old Pixar clips- right from the 80s as well as movie scenes in a more primitive stage of animation than what we see on the screen. A good 2 hours were spent strolling around the area, reading the panels, checking out the sketches, watching videos and generally having a good time. We even managed to catch a bit of the Science park itself before leaving- sections on illusions, nanotech and maths. Rapu, I have a couple of Pixar postcards. Send me your address.

By now it was time for us to head to our usual place in Singapore- Resorts World Sentosa, also known as the Casino. The old lady at the entrance checking our passports gave a familiar smile welcoming me back and wished us luck. We got to the table and found Hero there already, having an uncharacteristic run of bad luck. We also managed to get a seat on the table pretty quickly and in no time, hardly-earned money was converted to chips. As usual, Miss Addicted was on one of the other tables, wearing grey again if I remember correctly. Soon Aunty turned up too, and our spirits got a lift- our own lady luck seemed to have arrived. We had a good run that day, and left for Aseem's place richer than we'd come. The plan was to go to a haunted house next, but we could never find the address. So it was to our initial plan that we reverted, and HRC got a new visitor in yours truly.

As soon as we entered, I saw a sign saying- Enigma playing live. It was a minute later that I realized that the Enigma in question was a local band. My spirits, not the alcoholic kind, did dampen for a moment, but even the local stuff turned out to be really great. A fantastic rendition of Sweet Child O' Mine was the highlight of the day. Somewhere along it, Udi and I finished our first LI Teas and ordered another set. The head banging had already begun, something that even the appreciative guitarist acknowledged. There was the other LI Tea and a Mojito after that. The next thing I can remember is Aseem telling me to get a move on as HRC was empty but for us. Sometime before that, I'd trudged to the shop and bought my first HRC tee as well. Somehow, I managed to get home, making sure along the way that tangible sings of Lefty remained in certain streets of Singapore for some time to come. Udi, I later found out, managed to hold his own till the next morning.

Two weekends now remain before I head back to India. A trip to what claims, and not without reason, to be a paradise on earth, is in the pipeline. There's loads of shopping to be done. And then there will be a Sunday in Bombay when I'll meet Boka and Vaibhav and with a little bit of luck, Midha, L.O.V.E., Tejo and Vinu (yes, he's still alive) as well. I've decided that Mahaquizzer will have to take a back seat again. A couple of days in Bombay, a couple of days at home and then, June mein hum phir se Joka aaye. Fun times are ending, but they're also about to begin.

PS- Still hoping to get an Equitorial Food Series started here.

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