the wonderful world of veena.

30 March 2011

planes, trains and auto[rickshaws]. and a bus, too.

1271 kilometers [according to the India map in our room at the Boys' Home].  That is the distance from Surat to Bangalore.  It equates to approximately 790 miles, which is roughly a hundred miles more than the distance from Memphis to Orlando.  That's a drive that can be completed in less than a day in the US or anywhere in Europe, where there are good motorways and interstates.  But not in India.  Traveling can never be that easy here.  Instead, I had to take first a train, then a [delayed] flight, and then a bus and auto to traverse the distance.

First we had to get up at 4 to catch our train at 5.25.  I got to sleep for some time, but because that train reaches Bombay around 9.30, many people use it to commute into the city for work, so the compartments started getting crowded around 7.45, and there wasn't enough space to lie down any longer.*

Once we reached Andheri, we had to catch an auto to my great-aunt's house, which was also a bit of an adventure.  It took me about 15 minutes - and a few failed attempts on her part to catch an auto - to be finally convince her that we had to wait in line like everyone else.  Even while we were waiting, she kept trying to jump the queue and get random rogue rickshaw drivers to take us to her house.

I had a nice hot bath and a cup of tea with my aunt and then it was off to meet our dear lost boy Uday for lunch and drinks.  At a swanky 5-star hotel, no less.  Gotta love those corporate expense accounts.  We had a few drinks, a bit to eat, and caught up over the last few months.  We paid the bill and were walking out of the hotel when I got a message from the airline that my flight was delayed by an hour.  Back to the bar.  A few drinks later, we stumbled out and walked to the airport.  I checked in and made it through security check in all of 10 minutes and stood at the gate staring all around me wondering why there were no televisions showing the Sri Lanka - New Zealand semifinal match.  Then I spied a food court of sorts.  Up the stairs, the purchase of a bottle of water [let us never forget that hydration is sexy], and a seat next to some random guy to watch the match.  He turned out to be a 50-something Indian raised in Ajmer who then lived in Kenya and now resides in San Francisco.  I said my goodbye, told him to cheer on Sri Lanka, and sauntered down to my gate to board.  Except, oh yeah, flight was delayed another half an hour.  Back up the steps to watch a few more overs.

I slept nicely on the flight [Jack Daniels in the middle of the afternoon tends to have that effect], but woke up while we were circling around Bangalore -- we had to wait to land because of heavy air traffic.  Of course.  We finally landed, I got my bag, and found a shuttle that was going to Mysore Road.  So after all that, it was nearly 8 by the time we left the airport.  Not an ideal time to travel anywhere in this city, but especially not from one end to the other.  I hit Mysore Road around 9.40, walked to the nearest bus stop, managed to convince an auto driver to drop me for the meter price, and set foot in my house at 10pm, approximately 17.5 hours after leaving my aunt's house in Surat.

17.5 hours.  Always an adventure.

*one thing I have to commend Bombay travelers on.  Men will always get up to give a lady a seat, regardless of whether or not it is a designated ladies' seat.  And they'll beat up the men who don't get up.  I like men who respect women.  Thumbs-up, Bombay.  Maybe you can teach these Bangalore men a thing or two.

22 March 2011

riding the bus in bangalore.

Let me preface this post by mentioning that I do love riding the bus in Bangalore.  I love living in a city that has a [relatively] well-organized public transportation system.  I love that there is a bus stop around the corner from my house and that most of the places I go to in the city are easily accessible by bus.  I love that traveling by bus is cheap and that it means I don't have to deal with too many rickshaw drivers who hear my accent and immediately think they can rip me off.

But all that being said, there are quite a lot of things that annoy me when I'm on the bus.  They include - but certainly are not limited to - the following:

people who don't get up for pregnant women, ladies with babies, or very elderly people who visibly have trouble walking and/or standing.  I mean really, it's common courtesy.  whenever people get on who clearly need a seat, the people already sitting will stare out the window or pretend to be asleep so that they don't have to give up their seat.  inevitably I am the one who gets up.

men who sit in the ladies' seats.  I wouldn't be bothered if they were elderly men who needed the seat, but no, they're men in their late 20s to early 30s who are just fat and lazy.  there are clearly pictures of a woman drawn on the side paneling, and it clearly says "ladies" in both English and Kannada.  and yet they still don't get up when they see a woman get on the bus.  part of the problem is that many of the women won't stand up for themselves and ask the men to get up, which is why they don't see the problem with it.  but for any of you who know me, you know I'm not the kind to just sit back and keep my mouth shut.  no sir.  I get in their faces, and I refuse to move until they get up.  it's actually quite fun, just ask my interns.

people who push to get off the bus.  usually the people in front of you are also getting off at that stop.  there's no need to shove your girth in my back, I'm getting off as fast as I can while trying not to trample someone in the process.

people who crowd around the door when they're not getting off at the next stop.  and then they give you dirty looks when you have to shove through them to get off.  true story: while getting off at the arch tonight, I stomped on someone's foot, and I'm pretty sure I elbowed someone else.  but they weren't even attempting to make room for me to pass, so I had to make room.

people - mostly ladies - who don't realize their size.  now, I know I'm not exactly skinny.  but I do feel like I have a very good idea of the size of my body and how much space it should take up.  I know what spots I can and cannot fit in to.  I have literally been pushed out of a place in which I was standing because some lady thought she could squeeze into the miniscule space between myself and another lady.  I hate to break it to you aunty, but you're not as skinny as you used to be.

people with annoyingly loud ringtones who let their phones ring and ring and ring.  I am not begrudging anyone their mobile phone.  even though I don't really like to talk on mine in public [or really at all], I try my best not to judge others who are constantly on their mobiles the entire day.  but some of these people on the bus have really loud, really obnoxious ringtones, and when their phones start to ring, they'll pull it out of wherever they keep it, look at the display for a moment, and then replace it in its original place.  WITHOUT PUTTING IT ON SILENT.

ladies who push and shove and, at times, crawl over you to beat you to an open seat.  yes, this actually happened to me.  one lady literally tried to crawl on top of me when a seat opened up next to where I was standing.  I told Prakash that if I ever get like that, it's time for me to stop taking the bus.

there's more, but I figure that's enough for now.  never a boring day on a bangalore city bus.

18 March 2011

random rambles.

1.  Nilah turned 6 months old yesterday!  She's getting so big, and she's so much fun to play with these days.
2.  I have a long weekend coming up on the 1st of April and want to get out of town -- suggestions?
3.  April 1st is also when the Clinton School sends out their letters.  These next two weeks are going to crawl.
4.  I'm aching to watch March Madness.  The World Cup is a good distraction, but it's not quite the same.
5.  I finally finished The Little Friend [Donna Tartt].  Quite different from what I was expecting.  Trying to figure out what to read next.
6.  This hot hot heat is going to drive me mad very soon.
7.  After having eaten at the Taco Bell in Koramangala a few times, I'm growing to like it.  The Volcano-Range [complete with red chillies!] Crunchwrap was particularly good.  But I still miss my Cheesy Gordita Crunch.
8.  Baylor Magazine is going to feature me as an alumni profile in an upcoming issue!
9.  This weekend is going to be devoted to scrubbing my house.  The dust here is ridiculous.
10.  I'm in the mood to do something crafty.  Maybe I'll convince Prakash to paint pottery tomorrow night...

13 March 2011

march madness.

Oh yes, it's that time of year again.  Time for life to shut down from Thursday morning [I still don't count the play-in games, sorry] until the 4th of April.  Time for employees to call in "sick" to then spend their days sitting on their couches watching 12 straight hours of college basketball.  Time for March Madness.

The NCAA men's basketball tournament has been a staple in my life since I was a small child.  I still remember the ads with Coach K from the early 1990s - "Are you going to the Big Dance?"  "Yes I am"  And of course 1994 - when Arkansas won it all - is a year I'll never forget.  I remember sitting in the Jockey Club at Oaklawn watching games in between the races.  I remember my final year at Rhodes, sitting with Pete for nearly 48 hours watching the opening round.  When I originally came to Bangalore as an intern, I purposely scheduled my trip so that I was back in the US for the beginning of the tournament.

Missing the tournament these last few years has been tough.  I've been keeping up with all the goings-on online, but it's just not the same as being able to watch the buzzer beaters and the shock upsets live.  YouTube highlights just aren't the same when they're already a few hours old.

No, I haven't seen any games this season and so cannot accurately predict how it's all going to turn out.  But am I still going to fill out a bracket?  Of course I am - I'll fill out multiple ones, just like I do every year.  Am I likely to win?  Of course not.  But 10 straight years of being wrong has not yet stopped me.

So bring it on, March Madness.  Just because I'm not there doesn't mean I don't appreciate how awesome these next few weeks are.  And I'll be back next year.

[my only dilemma?  with no Arkansas in the brackets, who do I choose to go all the way?  hmm.]

09 March 2011


Do you believe in soulmates?

This is a question that has been on my mind for some time now, and lately it's come up in conversations with various people.  At dinner Tuesday night, Shalini and I said that we do not believe in the concept of soulmates, while Mukunda was adamant that he does.  [but then again, he also likes to watch romantic comedies, while I prefer Star Wars.  to each his own, I guess]

It came up again last night when I was talking to Prakash, and he stated as well that he believes in soulmates, while I again said that I do not.  To which he replied that when it's right, I'll believe in it.  [that lead to a whole other discussion, which I will not repeat on here]

I guess the concept of there being one "right" person for everyone, and the idea that the universe conspires to bring you two together at the "right" moment for both of you is a bit beyond me.  That's not to say that I don't believe in relationships and love and committment and marriage.  I do.  I have numerous friends who have been happily married for many years, and I can say with certainty that they will continue to be happily married for many years to come.  Do I envy their luck and their happiness?  Sometimes.  But do I believe that they have found their soulmates?  I really don't know.

It's not necessarily something I've made up my mind about.  Maybe it's the cynic in me taking over.  Or maybe it's 3.15 in the morning and my brain is delirious.  Whatever the case may be, I'm intrigued to know what others think about the subject.

thoughts?  comments?  suggestions [such as sleep]?

07 March 2011

less than a month.

It is now officially less than a month until I find out whether or not I've been accepted to the Clinton School for this fall.  Once I finished the GRE, I did a fairly good job [in my astute opinion] of putting it out of my mind and concentrating on other things.  But now that it's down to less than a month, my mind is constantly racing.

What all will I need to do if I get accepted?  I need to find a place to live.  I need to get a job.  I haven't been in school for nearly 7 years - lots of things will have changed, what if I can't keep up?  I have to get back in the flow of classes and writing and projects.  Will I be able to balance school and work?  Re-acclimating to life in the US [at least I have lots of friends from Helena who are now living in Little Rock].

and on the flip-side:

What if I don't get in?  Where do I want to go, what do I want to do?  Job applications, finding a place to live.  Acclimating to a new city, meeting new people.  How long do I stay?  Do I apply to other grad programs, or do I start planning an immediate return to Bangalore?

I know I should just wait out the remaining 3 weeks before really worrying about all of this, because at least at that point I'll know one way or the other.  But anyone who knows me knows that I'm not exactly the greatest at sitting and waiting.  I'm trying to keep myself distracted, but there are too many hours spent alone on buses where these thoughts keep popping up.

So here we go.  These next few weeks are going to be interesting.  Keep those fingers - and maybe a few toes - crossed for me, won't you?

02 March 2011

concerts and cricket matches and dog bites, oh my!

I've been wanting to post something for a while now, but the past few weeks have been a bit crazy.

Bear came to visit!  She was only here for a week, so it was a mash-up of drinks, dinners, a few concerts, and lots of catching up.  And in the middle of her visit, Prakash came down with a crazy stomach virus and ended up in the hospital for a few days, so there was a lot of running around to be done.

While Ellie was here we got to see Lounge Piranha play at Hard Rock, and we got to see Something Relevant play at Fireflies, both of which I was excited about.  I hadn't seen LP play since last July, and Ellie had missed them at Fireflies last year, so I was glad she got to see them on this visit.  And we got into the show for free!  We all know I'm always a big fan of anything that's free.  Something Relevant had cancelled their last show in Bangalore because of the bandh, so I was glad to see them at Fireflies.  And having them come on at 4am was a really good way of ensuring I stayed awake the whole night.

The World Cup also began on the 19th, so there has been lots of cricket-watching happening lately.  There have been some good matches, including the India v England match last Sunday THAT I WAS AT.  Unfortunately Anthony Appa and I left a bit early, so we weren't around for the last half hour of the match, which was heart-stopping, but it was still a fun atmosphere.  I owe Manav big time for giving us those tickets.

The only downside of last Sunday was that when we returned to Chamarajpet Mushu the dog bit my leg.  It's hated me from the time it met me, and because it keeps barking and chasing me up the steps, I can't say I am a huge fan of it either.  It's torn the leg of my trousers before, but this time it actually found skin and left some teeth marks.  So on Monday I had to go to the doctor, which is an experience in itself.  I guess I'm too used to doctors in the US, but there's no concept of "bedside manner" here.  I went in, told the doctor what happened, she looked at it for about 5 seconds, and wrote a prescription for a rabies injection.  Then I myself (with Bern, who came to rescue, because I had no money) had to go to the adjacent medical shop, purchase the syringe and the serum (which would be unheard of in the US), and bring it back to the hospital for the nurse to administer the injection.  Then I spent the rest of the day in bed because I was running a fever.  It was the first day in three and a half years that I've missed work for being sick, and I did not like it one bit.

And in between we didn't have Internet at home, so I've been stealing Amai's laptop whenever I was at her house.  So things have all been a bit crazy around here.  I'm hoping the next few weeks will be a bit calm, because I have a lot of stuff around the house I want to get done.  We'll see.

It's also less than a month until I find out from the Clinton School whether or not I've been accepted.  I'm trying not to think about it too much, but I have a feeling once a few more weeks pass it's going to be all that's on my mind.  Eeks.

In other good news, my friend Jane is coming to intern with Peace Child for a month this summer!  She's coming for my last month in Bangalore, which will be good fun.  It'll be the first time one of my friends comes as an intern, so I'm looking forward to it.

Also, my position is officially open for applicants.  If any of you are not yet members of the Peace Child India group on Facebook and did not receive the message with the job description, you can email Amaidhi - india [at] peacechild [dot] org - for more details.

Now time to fold the laundry that has been piling up on my bed.  Hopefully I won't be another two weeks before getting around to another post.