Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A rocking weekend

I've always wondered about humans who torture themselves by spending their vacations lying in a spa and sipping wine. Because to me a wonderful vacation means carrying 40 pounds for 25 miles in freezing cold waters of a dark narrow canyon. I get a particular satisfactory glow when I eat Luna bar that tastes like ear-wax combined with pig's excreta (just to set the record straight I might have eaten ear wax but never pig's excreta).

We hiked the Buckskin Gulch in Southern Utah this Thanksgiving weekend. The first semi-scary situation came when we were dropped off at the trail head by Susan the shuttle woman. It was godamn cold and after I had oversome the initial shock of freezing in a desert, I wailed, 'Aunty, please come back and take me!' My fellow hikers thought I was being obnoxious (as usual) and paid no heed to my sufferings. I pulled out chemical hand warmers from my backpack (to be used in emergencies only) and tore open the cover in a psychopathic frenzy while jumping up and down violently shaking my frozen fingers. All this before I had even started the hike.

We walked into the longest slot canyon in the world, the Buckskin Gulch. I truly believe that claim and I can't tell you how much mental preparation is required to make sure you dont get claustrophic and bury yourself in the canyon out of sheer panic that it might never end. It's tiringly long, achingly deep and extremely narrow. In places we had to remove our backpacks, inhale and squeeze sideways. Its also jawdropping surreal and extremely exquisite. The walls tell tales of erosion, flash floods and beauty. Its almost a spiritual experience. If you look hard, you can spot pertoglyphics (ancient rock art by Anasazi settlers). There are times when you can't see the sky through the 500 feet tall sandstone walls. Like ants carrying their food through long burrows inside the earth, we plodded on as every part of our body ached. Starts off with the calf muscles, moves over to your hips and then to the right shoulder. By the end of it, you are one big vessel of pain and it doesn't matter any more. You might as well get that rock and throw it on your left shoulder so that there is some equilibrium.
Apart from the sweet tango of pain, concerns were flash floods, claustrophobia, rocky terrain, boulders blocking the way, cold weather, walking in ice cold water (knee deep for 5 miles), and pooping in a bag (and bringing it back). To top it all, our stove decided to commit suicide on the first night itself. So we were doomed to eat our emergency food, the Luna bars! I am convinced the makers of Luna bars tested their product only on animals.

I am also convinced that I live for these moments.

Like the moment I got into the car after the hike and said, 'Turn on the heater, quick!'

The moment my hiking buddy says, 'I'll go into the shower first!' and I think of that extra fuel that could be used on him at this point.

The moment we saw a real meal after days of eating above mentioned Luna bars and bellowed at the waitress,' You forgot to add olives on this pizza!'

After hiking relentlessly for miles, the minute we all sat in the car, no one wanted to volunteer to get out and fill gas. It suddenly seemed like the most daunting task ever.

As you can tell, I couldn't have asked for a better vacation. Proof is in my limp.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Because Dreams Need Doing

I am hoping against hopes that I will be able to pull this off. Please click the below link and support in any way you can. Even if you spread the word, it would help


Thank you for your time (hopefully you gave more than that). Ask me if you have questions like 'Is 400 too little?' Please note, the online option will take minimum of $25, but you can definitely write a check for lower amounts.

Engineers Without Borders helps me realize many of my passions- mentoring, traveling, interacting with community, doing good and of course engineering. No profession unleashes the spirit of innovation like engineering. Few have such a direct and positive effect on people’s everyday lives.

Off on a practice hike in Utah this Thanksgiving and spending the flight time learning on how to breed fish.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Andy ko maro goli

Writers Strike has affected alpha-2.blogspot.com. Despair not folks, let's look at all the wonderful alpha moments from the past. (You still around?)

ReRun 1- When Alpha was wronged by short sighted evil parents

ReRun 2- When a particular party went Northeast.

ReRun 3- When Alpha was subject to third degree by people she called her own.

ReRun 4- When Alpha returned unscathed from a wedding that was not her own

ReRun 5- When Alpha's body parts were attacked by a Vietnamese conspiracy

(Didn't see how else to break the news that Andy was a lab mate who spoke to me when he wasn't guzzling diet coke from a 7 liter tank. So in essence I spoke to him twice in my life. I also need to mention that you had to take 140 steps back to not mistake Andy for a department store. He probably was a department store considering how much he could store inside him. He was a white-washed department store that would shine like an EXIT sign every time he came back from the sun panting and puffing with 3 double cheese burgers, huge french fries, 7-liter diet coke and say, 'Duh Alpha, I heard you worship cows in India. I hope you eat em after that!'

Oh well, sorry about the ending. It is bound to build your character.)

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gori tera gaon bada pyara

Just like everyone else (except of course Sonia Gandhi), I arrived in America to do my masters. Yuck, not really. I wasn’t a part of any kinky slave trade. Rephrasing, I came to the United States to study like the throngs of other Tam Brams. I saw more eligible bachelors in Gainesville, Florida, than I ever saw in Tamil Nadu. I tidied up my horoscope and brought out the best jasmine strand and waited to be wooed by the ultimate pick-up line, ‘Which college did you pass out of?’

But alas, the desi boys were busy savoring the culture and trying hard to fit in. The same eligible bachelors spent majority of their waking day walking in slow motion, gawking at American couples making out (from a safe distance of 2 feet). Slow motion became motionless when a particular fair lady came bouncing along in what could be construed as a ‘shimmy’ in India. Most of our boys suffered from acute eyeball-to-lowball syndrome. Every endowed female of the Caucasian clan could only avert her gaze so much 'coz wherever she looked, she saw a Desi staring at her popping cleavage. She would have to smile if there was eye-contact, thus pushing our brethren into the deep abyss of sleepless nights and lone activities. Lord was to be praised if even one guy had his window facing the apartment swimming pool. Some brave ones would venture into the pool only to drown in estacy of being in the same body of water as the body of blonde and eventually be saved by his trunks turning into sails. This happened for much of the first semester. As you might have guessed, my jasmine flower strand just withered away in abject despair. I started to question my decision to come to the United States.

By second semester, a few rude shocks shook our men to reality:
1. The girls didn't care much for the 3 inch thick glasses, VIP designer frenchies and open mouths.
2. The girls didn’t make idli-sambar
3. They didn’t smell like their mom
4. They couldn’t integrate or for that matter differentiate
5. They owed a lot of themselves to their surgeon.
6. They weren’t female. (Some guys were lucky not to reach that point of discovery)

(Oh well, other than #1, everything was a manifestation of my imagination combined with natural flair for over-emphasizing.)

Just when the desi guys frantically turned to their mothers for procuring the vendakka curry recipe that would definitely impress me, I met Andy.

Stay tuned.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Falling in Love

On a fateful day, many years ago (precisely 2) while visiting Pittsburgh briefly for a friend’s engagement ceremony at the Venkateshwara temple, I recall gasping at the lush green forests and delightful countryside of Pittsburgh. ‘What a tranquil place, I could definitely live here!’ I gushed while digging into the puliyogre rice that could be procured at your whim for just two bucks.

Note to Self: Never wish for something when you are hungry. It might just come true.

Before I knew it, hubby gave me a choice. ‘Cleveland or Pittsburgh?’


I like multiple choices that don’t make me go through the actual process of choosing. Apparently Chicago was not an option.

‘Does Cleveland have run down steel mills?’

Thanks to that important criterion, we moved to Pittsburgh. The rolling hills, resort-like apartment, unparalleled greenery, Andy Wharhol, Mount Washington, Oakland, Shadyside, Pamela’s Kitchen, Steelers, Strip District on Saturdays, Falling Water, the sandstones cliffs... everything Pittsburgh, everything that could have normally blown my mind away seemed to turn my nose up till I could feel mucus in my throat. Not even the puliyogre made me warm up to Pittsburgh! Pittsburgh to me would remain forever cold and I had made a steely resolve that nothing would make me love this place, not even my in-laws visit!

But like every relationship that starts with skepticism and hate, there is always a glimmer of hope that the two of you will never have anything to do with each other after a year.

‘My company hasn’t got rid of me yet,’ hubby breaks the news gently while handing me a ‘Things to shop around in Pittsburgh’ book as a peace offering.

But then something did happen that made me fall in love with…hold you breath… Pittsburgh. Fall. (Yes, the new shoes too.)

I was wonderstruck by nature’s partiality to Pittsburgh when it came to performing her greatest show. In Pittsburgh, she uses all her passion coloring the leaves. In Pittsburgh, she enthralls and entices and uses the mountains as her infinite canvas. I was done for, infatuated and giddy… Exclaiming in glee at every tree, gasping for breath at every bend. Almost rear-ended a few cars gaping at the colored hills that would make the driver in front actually forgive me. Glad I didn’t test that theory.

It was a torrid affair and lasted for less than a month for Winter coldly walked into the scene and stole the Pittsburgh I loved.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Happy Deepavaleen!

May the flickering lights of your neighbors TV blaring with the Steelers game bring you cheer. May the shivering breeze wafting into your home as you try to open the windows to let the curry smell drift out greet your heart with warmth. May the almost bare trees shower you with the love of the remaining leaves that hang on for their dear lives. May the Halloween trick-or-treaters not digress Goddess Lakshmi to fight the Frankenstein instead of entering your home. May you eat crackers that come with soup to remind you of the ones that emit noise and light. May your new jeans bring you as much excitement as a new silk saree. May the jack-o-lantern brighten your porch. May you have your fill of Halloween left-overs (Reeses- peanut-butter-cups) instead of laddoos and burfis. May you meet and greet all your friends today in scrapbooks and walls.

Happy Diwali to you all out there!