Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Chilling in Goa!

My first weekend in India happened to be a long weekend. Decided to take a break from work and head to the lovely beaches of Goa. Anand and Pari, who happen to be much crazier than me, jumped at the idea. Hemant decided to dump his fiance for the weekend and join in. So the four of us got into Anand's Palio and headed out Friday afternoon.

The drive was great. Stayed overnight in Hubli and reached Goa around noon on Saturday. Checked into a neat little beach resort, and were on the beach within half an hour. From then on for the next three days are kind of hazy in memory. I remember always having a drink in hand. In the process somewhere, got a henna tattoo -- though it didn't turn out as I wanted it to. Water scooter and Banana boat was good, if short, fun. Turns out Pari gets hysterical if she is in deep water, even if she has a life jacket on :). I learnt the hard way that even small waves can be pretty powerful. We were body surfing, and I ended getting turned upside down by these two feet waves. Managed to stay up once finally :).

What can I say... the stay in India is already beginning to look up.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Getting a green card stamp

In the last month, I got my green card approved, my passport renewed from the Indian consulate in SF, the INS office in Seattle decided to close down and take a break of 10 days, INS moved to a new appointment-based system for getting the green card stamped, I managed to get my green card stamped and I am flying overseas for 2 months tomorrow. There were so many variables in this whole equation and almost everything went wrong like clockwork.

The great Indian bureaucrats sent me my new passport after 3 weeks of sitting on it (I had to call to "expedite" the process), and before the sense of elation for having made it through another obscure government office, I noticed, with a sinking feeling in my tummy, that the photo staring back from my passport was not mine. I even looked at the mirror to confirm that this guy, though Indian looking, could not be mistaken as me, or even me some years back. Thankfully they at least expedited the new passport second time around without me asking them. My new passport with my photo came back a week later.

Next, the INS office. Dutifully, I would show up on time (ungodly 7am) for the INS office, take conference calls while I stood in the line and be told close to the time my turn would come that they've run out of tokens. And one fine day they closed down for good because they were moving buildings and the new one wouldn't open for another 10 days. So, what do I do? I was leaving in about a week, so either I cancel my tickets, or I find another way. In Yakima, a small American town, 150 miles east of Seattle, lay the answer to my problems.

Al kindly offered to fly me there in his 4 seater. He, in turn, told me the stories about flying in Jeff's plane. Needless to say, we all have something to look forward to. Al even let me fly, despite my very rusty flying skills. I couldn't keep track of the altimeter, but found once again that I enjoy this shit. I hear they have a flying club in Bangalore. Or outside of Bangalore. Jakkur it's called. Maybe it's time to dust off my pilot's license and fly again!

Anyway, it took an hour to fly there, 20 minutes to find a car, 5 minutes to get the green card stamped, and another hour to fly back. So much for overhead. At the end of it, my passport now shows a permanent residence stamp that allows me legal entry to the US. Thank you, gods of immigration.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Getting ready to move

All my bags are packed... I leave on a jet plane in four days. My car finally is someone else's today. Moving is a pain. Moving across countries even more so. I am selling things I never intended to, and whatever I am not selling I might end up paying customs duty for just to get them to India! Oh well.

My rock climbing gear, bike jackets and squash stuff gets there early. So the first plan of action is to find a climbing wall, a motorbike and a squash club. Let's see how easy they are to find. Squash club, from what I hear so far, seems to be a sport for the stinking rich. Clubs ask for Rs. 10 lakhs as one time membership fee!!! That's almost $25,000. What kind of clubs are these? The quest is to find an affordable one.. or maybe to afford one of these clubs :). In any case, I hear these clubs have a 20 year waiting list. I'm sure I'll be able to afford this much in the next 20 years.

On that note, a large part of my memories from India are about standing in long lines. Train tickets, School admissions, results, banks, ration, driver's license, immigration, post office.... But 20 years to wait for entering a club? I can imagine the feeling of elation at the end of those 20 years, the first day in the club after waiting for it 20 years. I felt something similar when I got my green card after waiting for 5 years. But the two don't even compare, do they? Or maybe they do... it's just another club, isn't it?

And yes, all said and done, Jackie Chan rocks. :)

Monday, October 04, 2004

I hope, not goodbye to Biking!

As I get ready to come to India, I am offloading one of my prized possessions -- a beautiful Honda CBR 600F4. Those who read it as a bunch of numbers probably won't understand why I would waste any time writing a blog about it. Those who read it to mean a spiffy pair of wheels on road will know how you can get to love a bike so much. I am selling it off. :( I seriously, seriously thought about shipping it over, paying customs etc. and riding it in India. Will it be worth it? I mean, seriously, will I ever feel like I am riding a mean machine? Will I ever get to shift into the fourth in the streets of Bangalore? third?

That doesn't mean however that I won't have a bike in India, now does it? It is probably more fuel efficient, easier to park, easier to navigate through the traffic and more fun that a car in Bangalore. Question arises, how and where to find a cool pair of wheels...? Honda Splendour-blender are too low key. Need something that screams... I'm sure there is some of it in Bangalore... I hope there is still more now that we have a hit Bollywood movie that glamorizes bikers...