Wednesday, August 27, 2008

What to do if you see a bear? ahhh.. Leave... :)

What to do if you see a bear?
ahhh.. Leave... :)

Wawayanda lake and state park, I read about it on a wall advertisement in the Newark Airport and then always wanted to go there. Later on I found out that a 20 mile section of the Appalachian Trail (AT) passes through the park. This trail is something I have been wanting to explore for a long long time. So now it was 'two birds with an arrow' outing for me. After several of my plans brought no luck over most part of summer, I saw a light of hope when Girish was coming to NJ and showed interest in trekking. And so it happened.
We started very early in the morning - 9:00 AM and reached by the time it was just about getting hot. We started immediately and kept a speed of about 5 mph. It was decided that we will walk as much as we can till lunch time and then after lunch, Girish and Shubha will go back. I am mentioning this because many people asked after seeing pics - whatever happened to Girish and Shubha?
Till lunch everything went smoothly. We were on track and were on map as well. Ganesh had made the arrangements for food and he had done a good job - although he did it for satisfying his tummy rather than for doing a good job. So he "took care" of the food. While we were eating a rather jolly older gentleman passed us. He greeted us and we spoke for about 2 min. We offered him food and water but he insisted that he had to cover a lot of distance and moved on. We finished our lunch and Girish and Shubha left.
The task ahead was simple - follow the map, see the 2-3 vista points, and return on the other side of the lake. We saw the fist vista point, which wasnt so cool, but we had hopes for the rest of the points. We then crossed a small wall and guessed that we had entered wilder area of the forest. The forest wasnt much dense, but spotting the dots to follow the trail was becoming increasingly difficult. We reached a beautiful pond, which wasnt really visible until we got really close. We spent some time near the lake and moved on.

Kamzar Pond

It was after 3 PM by now and we had covered quite some distance. Still, the most hyped vista point was nowhere near. We walked and walked and came across foot prints, which looked like they were bear prints. There were also nails and bear hair nearby to support our guesses.
Bear Foot

We were now in much denser zone and could hardly see anything beyond few feet. After some time, our path crossed with the same gentleman we met in the morning. He was panting and looked a little serious. We asked him what was the matter? He took a second to answer, smiled and said that he saw a female bear. I was like how on earth do you know it was a female? May be he read that question on my face, because he said that it was a she because of the size. Female bears are smaller than males, like it is for many species. We were like, OK, male or female, who cares? I mean in bears. We looked at each other and it was then understood that there was no way that we could have made the journey back on the same path we had come from. So, we now have to move forward, but how? Actually, it would have been great idea, if we had returned, but there wont be an adventure and neither would I be typing this blog :) Anyways, so now what? I asked that uncle, what to do if you see a bear? He was like, "Ahh, leave!" Everyone laughed. I went Grrrrrrrrr.... What leave? Where to leave? Walk out slowly? What to do? What NOT to do? OK, let me make it simple. What did YOU do? He said, "Nothing, she went her way and I decided to come back." Hmmmmm..
So, four of use decided not to turn back. First thing we did was that we got ourself four thick sticks, just in case. We continued, shouting and speeding. Ganesh said he wanted to walk up front, so that if a bear comes then it will go for him. FYI: Ganesh is fattest in the group. We all knew that if a bear did show up then it will definitely go for him. They also know a good deal when they see it, the wild animals you know - less work more pay. Who wouldnt want it? We heard foot steps and no voices, so we got cautious. As it is any and all noises were making us all ears and this was clearly someone walking. Could this be the wandering bear? That too it was a female, who are very protective of their cubs. We waited and waited. They were humans. Two of them, father and son. They came closer and spoke to us. After Hi, Hello they asked where we were from? Shishir answered, "Lake Wawayanda." We didnt know whether to laugh or what. But, I guess he was too concerned with bears to think straight at the time. Father guy said, "No I mean, are you from India? I said, "Yes." He laughed, "Ohh! How very nice. Raj Kapoor." I was like what??? of all the people in India you know Raj Kapoor? But anyways, I like Raj Kapoor, so yeeeeee. He then said that they were from Israel and asked if I knew about it.I said, "Yeah, sure!" and then we went separate ways. Before we could get back to worrying about bears he sang from back, "Ichak Dana Bichak Dana Dane Upar Dana." OMG, I was ROTFLOL. We all were, although, I did not think Ganesh really understood why we were laughing. He is from Chennai, I dont think I need to say anything more. Back to track, now why would he remember this song of all the awesome old hindi songs? Now I had to return the favor somehow and show that Indians know about other world as well. I yelled, "Zohaaaan!" It cant get more lame than that. And yes, in the sprit of spreading the joy, we told them that there is a wild bear nearby - you should have seen their faces. It was important to warn them, but the main reason we told them was for the weird comfort that you get in finding that there are more people just as screwed up as you are.
Anyways, by now we had exhausted most of our food stock and more importantly, water. It was very hot, we were sweating like crazy and there was no water left. Ganesh went crazy. He took of his shirt and started walking topless. All I cold see was hundreds of pounds of meat jumping around. Definitely, we were gonna attract bears and God knows what all animals. But, there is usually no point in telling Ganesh, when he is hungry or when he is driving. It doesnt register in his brain. But Gahesh wasnt the only one having trouble. Shishir was having difficulty in breathing. There was something wrong there, either it was too humid, misty, pollens, or we were too tired, or may be all of these, I couldnt figure out, but it really was hard to breath. Shishir was lagging behind considerably and Prashanth and Ganesh were running. I was caught in between trying to coordinate. Moving on, we crossed the small wall again. It was now much clearer and we were going up and up. Somehow we reached a point where there was log book.
People had written that AWESOME vista point was 0.6 miles.

So, we aren't the only morons after all.

We were really happy to have found at least something and Ganesh made drum of his tummy and started playing tamil classical. He wouldnt let me photograph him though, fearing that I would show it to girls. What a weirdo.

Dhakichiki Dhakichiki!

Anyways, so 0.6 miles - very nice. We went in the direction that arrow pointed. What we did not know was that moron who wrote 0.6 miles had failed physics class in which they teach to measure distance. We walked for almost an hour and still nothing. This walk was along the edge of the mountain and was pretty difficult. Finally we saw something and jumped with joy. We somehow reached to a place where we could sit and enjoy the view. It wasnt the best mountain view I had ever seen, but considering the circumstances, it was damn good.

What we thought was the vista point.

In the mean while, the trail that we were supposed to be on had completely gone missing. We checked the maps and decided that we should take another trail which would take us back quickly. There was no such trail. We called Girish and checked if he could turn around and pick us up if we reach some road or some noticeable point. But he had gone too far by then and had other business to attend to than turning back.

Man, we are lost.

So now what? We took some trail which we thought would be shortest and continued. After walking for half an hour we reached another vista point. Now we realized that what we though was vista point wasnt the one we were after. After a five minute discussion (most of which was cursing the guy who wrote that 0.6 miles - I wonder if it was 6.0 and that guy was dyslexic - you know Tom Cruise, Ishan Awasthi Taare Zameen Pe).

What actually was the vista point.

We had very little time to enjoy here as it was gonna be dark soon and that bear would simply love that. We took some random trail and went on and on. After an hour and a half it was now over 7 hours that we were on the trek. Everyone was damn tired and could hardly feel our legs. Just when we thought we wont make it - we heard some vehicles. This filled some life in our legs and we speeded in that direction. Although, there was ambiguity which way the sound came from as we all pointed in different directions. We somehow reached an artificial beach. We decided to relax there for some time only to notice that it was a members only place. Rest was not on our cards. We approached a 'member' and asked him for directions to Lake Wawayanda entrance, hoping that its not more than few miles. To our utmost delight and great surprise, it was only half a mile. We were now totally confused. There was no way that we could have been so close considering that trail. that we were following. I still have no idea how the hell that happened. Crawling and pushing somehow we reached the lake and crashed. We had survived everything - the walk, the forest, the trek, and most importantly the bear, although we saw none. But hey, we could have right?

NO More!

After some time, we ate a little at the beach food cart and played soccer until we were kicked out from there. We came home and I ordered 2 compasses for next time, if at all there is one. I also decided to go for iPhone 3G - as if it was gonna help find the way. It was enough trekking for an year and we have decided to do the next trek to mount washington (it is the only trek on east coast that is accessible by car - all the way ;))
I hope you enjoyed it. Lets see when I get my next adventure and next blog :)


- @sh

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Yo, give me your iPod Ni…r (N-word)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Procrastination is a very bad thing and if only that was not enough, it’s also addictive. I was supposed to grade and return the student assignments last Thursday. I kept putting it for later for some or the other reason and now it was high time because on Monday morning my professor picks them up. It was hot outside so I decided to follow the PATH + Newark city subway route, which has been kind of my routine since I returned from India. I got on the 13:50 subway at Newark Penn station to Warren Street station. I made it a point to get on the front most car of the train, as that is nearest to the exit at the Warren Street station. My station is just 3 stops and about 8 min away. The train, as expected, was not very crowded. Two black guys got on the train at the next stop (Washington Street) and sat pretty much in front of me. It was a very normal thing as the Newark area is full of African-Americans. I got down at Warren Street station and started walking out of the station. As expected, I was the first one to get out and hence was the first on the first stairway, which then leads to two different stairways one on the right and one on the left. I took the one on the right and was on the 6th or 7th step, when I heard someone. I was listening to the song “Govind Jay Jay” by Kula Shaker, so didn’t hear clearly what that holler was about. (It is not even my favorite song; I do not know why I replayed it as I got down the subway.) I turned back and saw those two black guys on the landing (place between the two stairways). One of the two was taller, who said, “Yo, come here man.” I chose to ignore him and kept climbing the steps. Both the black guys followed me. I was now on the street. There were only 2-3 cars. I never like it crowded anywhere, but that time I hoped there were at least 1000 cars. The guys were walking very close to me, though they were behind. Again the taller guy called up, “Yo man.” I kept walking and walking and turned on to Warren Street. To my horror, there was no one in the sight there. Now the taller guy came even closer and pulled out the earphone from my right ear. He said, “Yo, give me your iPod Nigger, give it to me.” Why the hell did he call me Nigger? Do I look like one? Is it because I haven’t shaved? And why on earth my iPod? Does he have any idea how hard (?) I have worked for the iPod or my Mac, or even my cell phone for that matter. (Although, the cell phone was free after rebate ☺) Bottom line, I did not want to give him any of my possessions. While thinking all this, I looked or rather glanced at him as I continued walking and put the plug back on. In a couple of seconds, he hit me in the face (on my right ear) from behind. Instantaneously, many things happened. My ear went numb (I thought I was going to be deaf or left-ear like that guy in Italian Job), I remembered all the incidents of robberies nearby the campus that I had read in emails about went floating around my eyes, and at the same time I took that hit as a GO (gun fire) for the race and ran with all my strength. The taller guy followed me quickly. I had the backpack on me with the laptop and everything, but still he could not catch me. God, I must have run really fast or may me all the running and work out for last 3 weeks helped. I kept running and running and was now practically on campus (Refer to the Map below) as I ran along the edge of it. All this time, while I was running, I could see that guy running just behind me from the corner of my eye. But, when I passed the stadium (Building 16) and the Tiernan hall (Building 22), he gave up. I still kept running until I reached the college-town shuttle stop (to the left of Building 9) from where the public safety (Building 19) is visible.

I paused for a while thinking if I should go to the department or to the public safety. I opted for public safety, when then I thought was the right thing to do. I went in and told them what happened. They acted fast and sent out a sergeant to look for the culprits. On his way out the sergeant only asked me what they were wearing and how old they were. I was asked to sit down and then was questioned by the officers one by one. While I was sitting there, my roommate called me up. He was in Patel Cash and Carry, Journal Square. He probably wanted to ask me what vegetables and other things to get from there. But, little did he know that I was in no mood for vegetables then. As soon as I hung up, four black officers asked me how those guys looked like. I looked at them, paused a bit, and then said, “They were both black juveniles, 15-20, if I have to guess.” Damn it, I remembered the word juvenile, but did not remember African-American. But, to my relief, they did not look offended, but were concerned about me. One who looked like the senior most of them asked me, if I can identify those black guys? Those guys sat in front of me in the subway, so I was sure I could identify them, or so I thought. I said, “Yes, I can.” Big mistake as it turned out later on. He asked me to describe them and I did. “Tall, black, one with curly long hair, and the other with small hair.” I said. The officer replied, “You mean short hair?” Small – short like it makes any difference. I said, “Yes, short hair, I am sorry. One of them was wearing white T-shirt and the SHORT hair one was wearing red T-Shirt” The officer asked, “What kind of pants were they wearing?” I said, “I did not look at their pants.” Everyone laughed. I did not quite understand if they laughed at my answer or to the fact that the description pretty much matched any kid on the block. Anyhow, they took me to Newark Police Robbery department. There they showed me 4017 photos (6 per page – 670 pages in all) of juvenile black kids, who they had on their records. 4017 juveniles? What all the black kids in Newark are on the list? They all looked so much alike that after going through first 50 pages, I was VERY sure that now I couldn’t identify the ones who tried to rob me even if they were in front of me. I went on hitting next looking meaninglessly at the photos that showed up. Outside, one of the detectives was making fun of the NJIT police. I heard him saying that NJIT policemen make big deal out of tiny matters and his collogue laughed and said that that’s all they get to handle anyway. It was very uncomfortable sitting there – total waste of time – I so wanted to get out. Finally, that detective came in and asked if there was any luck with the identification. I was on page 450+. I said, “No.” He claimed, if I didn’t find it by now then probably I wouldn’t find it at all. He must have known what happens in such identification dramas. I had no desire to sit there anyway, so I nodded in agreement. He escorted me out and then the NJIT sergeant picked me up and dropped me off at the department.
Sergeant said that they will follow up with this and will call me in case they get any leads. Honestly, I did not think they would ever find these guys. I did not care either; I was only happy that nothing really happened to me. I did neither get hurt nor did I lose anything. It was funny how everything happened so fast. I always thought that I would panic or freak out if such a thing as mugging would ever happen to me. But, I did not panic. I don’t exactly remember how I felt. There was so less time even to react that feeling would perhaps have needed longer encounter. Everyone kept telling me that it was very smart of me to have run and that I was very lucky. I can agree to neither. If I was really lucky then why should this even happen to me? (I guess they just tell that to console people) Also, I was definitely not smart or anything. I did not even think about what was going on while it was all happening. I reacted on pure instinct and faith in something that helped me not to freak out and to act fast. If I were in the place of those black guys, I would have robbed myself thrice in that time. I do not know why that guy did not grab me while we were at the station or why he could not catch me when he was nearly 6 feet tall. I guess they both were new in the mugging business or may be they just saw the opportunity and tried to make most of it and failed due to lack of experience. Or may be I actually was lucky as worst could have happened. In any case, I really thank God that nothing happened to me. I was totally OK, but still there was no way I would have gotten any work done. I went home and decided to write this blog, while everything was a fresh memory and while listening to Govind Jay Jay – one of my favorite songs now.

- @sh

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

God Bless America

God Bless America!

A few days back, I met one of my old friends. This is his story - a story of a Rohit and a Monica, as he told me. Not a story exactly, if you look at it, it's more like an incident that happened that day, the day before the final exam.

(Since I have read Chetan Bhagat recently, would try in his style to narrate the story as if Rohit is telling…)

I am an exceptionally qualified Ph. D. student at a reputed US university with full scholarship and Teaching Assistantship. I have been in USA for almost three years now. Everything that a smart bachelor would do in this land of opportunities, I think I have done it all. Well … at least I used to think so. The tags like ‘Brilliant’, ‘Intelligent’ come with inherent short-comings. Same is true for me. I am the one who likes to solve any difficulty that any student may come up with.

Obviously, I am very popular among all my students … at times other students as well! A few times, the students from other sections of the same course keep an eye on my office hours.

The day was a Thursday, also a reading day. Officially, I did not have any office hours to keep. Alas! So was my fate that on persistent request from all the students, professor asked me to keep the hours opens for those who may request for an appointment. Poor me, I had to send an email to both the classes saying that I am open to meet people with appointment. Within an hour I got 12 emails and equal number of phone calls asking for appointment. A packed session was waiting for me.

Little frustrated, I called everyone at 2:00 PM and rushed to school expecting a long queue at the office door. As expected, most of the students had common issues. It took little less than just 2 hours to finish off everything. Sometimes, it does happen – I get free time. I chose a bottle of Pepsi as my companion and settled on the chair. There was someone else as well about to enter in the frame, but the time has not yet come.

Like any other free guy with internet connection, I thought of orkuting, or chatting for a while, before heading home. Perhaps the things were pretty much pre-decided by God that day. My buddy Ashish also was not there. He is generally online to bug me every now and then. The day fixed with someone else …! Hence he was not there.

He tried buzzing him on yahoo, MSN, and GTalk, but no response. I was thinking about some innovative curse to type, and the phone rang. It was an unfamiliar, but local number. I decided to pick up. It was a girl in my class. As an inherent quality of brilliant boy, I did not know her name; neither did I recognize the voice. She told me that she got my cell number through a fellow classmate! Yeah … dating with ABCD can make you reveal some vital details! ;-) This time it was my contact number. The girl pleaded to come in with her problems and I agreed (inherent kindness … you know!).

Within half an hour she appeared. I knew the girl. Her name was Monica. It was addition to my database. She was stunningly beautiful. She was rich in everything that attracts guys' attention. She had started to show up only towards the end of semester and had come over on all of my last four office hours. Not surprisingly, she was always accompanied by a different guy/s every time I saw her. Perhaps it was first time I saw her alone.

Dear me, little did I know that it was only the beginning. Monica was visibly upset. She sounded low as well. She was extremely worried about her grades on the course. I pulled her performance chart and noticed that she had missed quite a few classes as well as assignments. There was little that could have been done to improve her grade at this eleventh hour, or that's what my kind mind thought. Monica had different opinion about the matter. She asked some simple questions and I gave one line answers:

She: Who posts the Grades?

I: I do.

She: Do you think professor will find out if there was a mistake in posting the grades of a student?

I: That is less than likely.

She: So, if you post a B against my name, would that go unnoticed?

I: Why will I post B? From what I can see, you should be happy if you can get away with a D.

She: I know, but would she know if you post a B?

I: No, she wouldn't. But I am still not getting your point or even the reason for this discussion for that matter.

She: You are either too innocent or too smart. I like both these kind of people. I will come to the point. Should you decide to post a B or higher grade for me, I will do anything for you.

I was shocked; less for realizing, where this all is going, and more because with all my experience with girls, I did not see it coming. I could not imagine Monica will be this bold and direct. After all, in my opinion, she was very cute. And cute girls are not ‘that’ bold. So, just to be sure before reacting to her approach, I further asked:

I (with Smile): I do need many things to be got done, but I really doubt if you can be of any help to me in any of those matters.

(I really did not know cracking jokes could be dangerous)

She: You have no idea what I can and will do for this grade.

Saying this she removed her pull over.

This was now a clear signal # 2. But, I was still persistent. I thought, it's just too hot in here. Relax its nothing like what you think. It can't be. I hate my kindness!

I: I would study hard, if I were you.

She: It's too tough and too late for that. You tell me what do you want from me?

I: I don't know. What do you mean what I want? What will I ever want from you?

This was perhaps the dumbest or the smartest thing I had done in a long time.

She started to remove her T-shirt. How many times some girl removes her T-shirt in front of you without wearing anything under! It was the first time that some girl so much beautiful as Monica was stripping before or should I say for me. I was shaken to the core. Damn …!! Kindness… what kindness??? Heck! In a flash I imagined all the possible outcomes of this situation and was frozen to my chair by only feel of a few of them!

I still remember the night I walked into a strip club for the first and last time in my life. I remember that happy still embarrassed feeling when half a dozen strippers were asking me to go for a lap dance. Non-drinkers and non-smokers generally can’t even dream what I was getting there! I did not know I would experience the same feeling again.

At the same time I did and did not want her to go ahead. Come on yaar …! The world would have been lot better (or perhaps bitter), if there were not any small neck T-shirts! She could not take it off quickly. That sudden motion brought me back to my senses. The good boy awakened after little nap… perhaps a forced one! I moved and moved quickly. I stopped her and pulled the T-Shirt down. Yeah … I did! Now it was her turn to be surprised.

She: What are you doing?

I: (Same was the question in my mind too… what was I doing?) I should ask you what you are doing.

She: You know what I was doing. I want good grades at all cost.

I: What do you think you are? And what do you think I am a prick? Is this what a routine work for you? You should be ashamed of yourself. I think I should report you, but I won't do that. You look to be quite sensible and cultured girl. (Damn … I was lying!!) May be someone has given you some crazy guidance. This is not the solution at all.

She burst into tears. I continued. I was talking for 15 min before she could say a word. She begged for forgiveness and said that she would never repeat this every again. I think perhaps I even won’t speak for such a long time again! I asked if she will be all right leaving alone. She nodded and left. I let her go. I was still staring at her walking away figure. They say the silence could be killing! Ask me … every single particle there was unbearable. Too many scattered thoughts were hitting my head. I was happy and sorry at the same time.

So much advancement, so many facilities, so much freedom! This was what I had thought at least before leaving India. Where is it all going? Sometimes its tough to do the right thing, and this was definitely the toughest right thing I had ever done in my life. When I think back, it's hard for me to even believe what I did. No one would believe that I sent Monica back, (That too with a free philosophical lecture for 15 long minutes) that too, when she was trying pull off her T-shirt in front of me. I am not sure where got all this strength from. Perhaps those were the "Sanskar" I was polished with throughout my life that made all this happen, or the wonderful circle of friends I always had no matter where I went. It is often hard to imagine yourself doing something spot on when the going is tough and sudden, but when the situation demands, good hearted people do survive.

The exam went very smooth the next day. She was sitting in the front row. I avoided looking at her. I did not want to embarrass her, or perhaps myself. Monica did well on final and got an overall D. She came to thank me, but this time with two other guys from the class. Upon little enquiry I found out that the experience I had was not uncommon at all. Few of my Chinese Seniors had taken full advantage of the situation and were very proud of those particular evenings.

I am looking at the piece of paper that explained my duties and responsibilities for the fall semester as TA. One more full packed tough syllabus class, one more set of students. There are 3 girls named Monica in this class! What if every tough class leads to one Rohit – Monica incident? If the answer is yes, then God Bless America!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Snow Storm

Feb 12, 2006

Sunday morning 5:53 AM, I got up with the alarm making too much of buzzing...I wished it wasnt 6 yet or I had not have to go to work today, but not all wishes are meant to come true. I got up, got ready in no time. I had to catch 6:32 bus or would have had to walk 2 miles to the transfer location to catch 7:11 AM bus to my work place. I and Ganesh started at 6:25 AM. There was too much snow everywhere. We had to drag our feet to make way through snow. It was too early for the snow trucks to have cleaned the roads, besides Cross Street is not a main road. This was first ever snowstorm for Mr. Ganesh, so obviously, I had to lead the way. It was like David leading way for Goliath (u will understand this if you see Ganesh, he is true to his name in both size and shape) We hit the main road shortly, and fortunately, the bus was on time (so I thought, it turned out to be the previous bus which was late) I boarded the bus and Ganesh went on to train station.

Bus was moving really slow. The storm was very heavy. Thankfully, there wasn’t much wind. I reached the transfer station before time as there was no usual rush of passengers at every stop. For those who might think it’s a good thing to reach before time, try standing in snow and tell me. It was going to be long wait. I mean I was prepared to wait for 20 min or so, but the bus didn’t come for quite a long time. First of all, its very bad and also stupid to stand in snow. If you are walking, your feet are warm, but standing is worst. All the people who were waiting along with me were getting volatile. Everyone was shaking legs every now and then and also striking the ground or the door of the shop behind to get snow off their shoes. For someone, who has never stood or waited in snow, it would look like a bunch of morons made to stand in a straight line. Every 5 min, I was forced to remove the snow off my jacket because it wasn’t water resistant. Little did I know how big a mistake I was making? Buses were running only in the opposite direction. I started to doubt a bit now. Everyone else was also getting pissed now. Most people waiting were Mexican guys/gals who work at Liberty AP, so it was important for them to be there on time. This is the reason that NJT062 is never late. I crossed the highway and inquired about the bus service, but there also no one had a clue. Suddenly a bus came. It was a special bus. Driver stopped only to inform that the bus service is no longer running, damn! this is so frustrating. I asked him, where he was going? He said he is going from stop to stop to inform people who might be waiting. I asked him for a ride to Penn station, but it wasn’t one of those lucky days. He said, "he ain’t going thr"..OK so I have to walk what some 2 miles to Penn station, where I can hope to get a train to Harrison (Place where I stay)

I gathered some courage and took off. Almost instantly wind also became strong...I am amazed why the destination is always against was simply horrible. Thanks to this damn Daylight saving, there was still some time to sunrise. Visibility was nearly zero. Even if there was any, it was useless as the only direction I could look to was the ground...too heavy snow was bombarding from front. The battle had begun. It was highly stupid move to have decided to go to work. I wonder how these commitment, sincerity, keeping word etc grow over me when the conditions are extreme. I remember once going to tuition at 6:30 am after returning from a trip at 3:30 am, well, that was in FE. I am supposedly more mature today so did a bigger mistake..;) Continuing with the trend of the mistakes, I decided to call the boss to let him know that I can not come. All efforts so far were in vain. Till now, I have walked for 20 min and covered may be 200 m. I called up and spoke for 5 min, and many of the mistakes I had done started paying all together. My hand started paining too much, unbearable pain. I used left hand to warm the right one and left one also joined the right one in the pain. It got only tougher to walk. I saw one guy walking in the reverse direction, I mean walking towards his back, why didn’t this strike me before? I also did the same. Walking in the middle lane of Broad Way that too in reverse direction. Awesome! This was my second experience of such a pain, last time was in my first winter when I had removed my gloves in heavy snow to take Chhavi's photograph. (Chhavi is a very beautiful girl, very good friend of mine and batch mate from Stony Brook. Also, she is married now so guys don’t run too far ahead in your imagination) so, bottom line is the pain was unbearable that time too. I really HATE repeating mistakes. I seriously thought I won’t make it to Penn station ever and I saw Market street subway station. I ran to it, while praying that the door is not closed. It was open and I got in. Hands were paining too much, gloves were wet and use less. I couldn’t grip my own hands together. I could hardly rub them; it took me quite some time before the pain reduced. So, now I was back to my senses and looked around. I was in wrong side of the station. The train to Penn station comes on the opposite side. Now, what to do? I was too scared to go out and search for the station on the opposite side of the road. Frustratingly, these subway stations in Newark city are not connected under the road. While I was thinking this all, a train came and went to Penn station. There was no way of telling till when these trains will run. What to do? I made up my mind and crossed the track, jumped over the fence separating the 2 tracks and went to the other side. If a cop had seen me, I would probably be writing this email from a prison..;) j/k..the station was deserted and the next train came in 20 min. At last moment, one dumb Spanish guy was asking me if I can help him to buy a ticket. I couldn’t have missed the train for anything. He was standing in the door and I explained the driver that he doesn’t have a ticket. She let him in and said it would be most stupid to ask for a ticket at such a time and weather, damn! I wasted 60 cents. So, we reached Penn station in no time. I mean the train and me.

Mr. Ganesh works at Penn Station part time. I went to see if he has reached safe. ohh btw, I forgot to mention that in all that rush I had twisted my ankle and was paining strongly. Ganesh was shocked to see me or to see my state perhaps. The storm was getting heavier outside the station was deserted except for some cops and some morons like me, Ganesh, shop owners and few passengers. Ganesh made a cappuccino for me. It was so nice of him. “Wo pitehi jaan mein jaan aa gayi.” I couldn’t have written that in English with my limited skills. We called up few friends and found one friend trapped in college. I suggested that he should come to Penn station and we will go together. He came in some time, and we took the PATH to Harrison, which was fortunately still running with minor difficulty reached Harrison Avenue. Now, there was only Patterson street to be walked before I will hit 400 cross street, home sweet home. Back to basics, minor roads and streets are the last ones to be cleaned. There was knee high or deep whatever they say snow on the street. I was too scared to enter. 200 m in this much snow is too much. I was standing in the middle of street thinking what I should be doing and I was brought back to real world by a big honk. It was a snow cleaning truck. I don’t remember if I was ever so much happy to see one. I ran out of way and allowed the truck to go, it cleaned most part of the street as it passed, and I simply followed the path cleared by it. I called up Srikanth (my room mate) and asked him to come out with my camera. He followed the instructions brilliantly and was all ready when I reached cross street, which was yet to be cleared. After seeing me Srikanth decided that he should also have some snaps of his. He made me wait and went up to get dressed, so much for the snap in snow. He came back in few min with his would be better half, I mean GF miss Gunjan. They clicked my snaps and I clicked theirs.

Do let me know if you liked my experience...

Have a nice day ahead. I will have an ice day ahead..;)



Monday, March 06, 2006

Pune to Kolhapur

July 26. 2005
Hushhhh, finally reached Kolhapur.....

I have been to Pune and back several times so far, but no other trip has been as exciting, tiring, and memorial as this one....

The rain in Maharashtra this year has broken most of the previous records. Everyone suggested that I should start early in the day rather than in the night and reaching at an odd time.
I woke up at usual time got ready and caught the 9:30 AM Asiad bus.

Despite many warnings by weather departments and news in all news papers, there was no major sign of flood on the way. I was surprised that I was near Kolhapur in less than average time, when I was expecting it to be much more than usual. All my concerned friends, who called me up, were also both pleased and surprised to know that I was so lucky despite of so much rain all over MH. But, my luck was not meant to last long. Just 3 km away from Kop entrance the bus stopped. All the passengers thought it was routine small scale jam and nobody bothered to check, but when bus didn't move for 15 min everyone got concerned.
Few enthu people went to check and came back with the horrible news that the bridge is under water and the traffic can only pass from Kop and not to Kop. Most were still holding their hope and were patient.

In the next 2 Hr 15 min the bus made 15 m progress. Now everyone started getting volatile and few people left the bus in search of another ride. I was very hungry and was more than glad to see a hotel just on the opposite side of the road. Traffic was not at all moving and the driver was sleeping on the back seat. So, I went out to eat something...The luck was still not with me...The hotel was open but was half filled with flood water..

I didn't want to wet my shoes yet again as they had taken 6 days to dry after Gagangiri trip. (a hilly place, where I had hell of a time with my long time closest friends in rain, waterfall and all you can guess) I came back, took my camera and climbed the bridge which was under construction.

Many people were now walking on the bridge towards the city. I took some snaps. Interestingly many people on and below the bridge were purposefully stopping and giving me poses, the moment they noticed I was taking photos. They might have been under impression that I was a journalist (My get up suggested that I mean backpack, cool T-Shirt, Jeans, cap u know like those journalists) and must now be hoping that they will appear in some a special paper/magazine tomorrow..:D I was roaming on the bridge for some 45 min.
When I returned, I was shocked to see that my bus was empty except for the conductor and driver It was already getting dark and I didn't want to spend the night on the bus. I collected my luggage and took off. Climbing the ladder with a suitcase (more like a briefcase) and laptop bag was really a circus. I somehow managed it.

I walked on the bridge. Till this point things were still ok, although I had to jump n all a couple of times. But the real challenge started when the bridge ended. River water was all over the road; it was knee deep and was flowing at great speed. It was too tough to walk especially with the bag n all. To add to all this it started raining heavily. I can not explain how and how fast I put my laptop bag inside my jacket while standing in that knee deep water and without putting the suitcase down :D. If I had company and this thing was captured in a camera, surely it would have been a nominee for most funny videos.

I walked n walked n walked...I mean literally walked too long…finally, I saw that Well-Come to Kop arch with that Lokmat Daily advt. This arch never looked as pleasant. For the first time, I passed this arch on foot. I was very very happy to enter Kop and thought that I will get an auto rickshaw. haah...there were 50000 people at the corner of the city to watch flood. Watch flood my foot, try walking in it and you will see how cool it is. There was no rickshaw nothing...there were many many vehicles parked and many bike riders going alone...:(( noone agreed to give me a ride..I dunno what was written on my single person pitied on my haalat..
Some 20 feet ahead, there was a noticeable gap between the people walking towards the city. I went ahead to see that there was a huge snake in the middle of the road doing fusss fusss and the crowd was teasing it. I moved on and crossed Tawde hotel and Octroy Booth still no ride...finally I saw a City Bus, but it was so full that I couldn't even get in. I started walking again and walked for long long time. It was very dark with no street lights on. With the heavy rain and wet glasses, I could hardly spot an auto.

Finally auto stopped....I rushed to it only to see that it was already full. The driver insisted that I should adjust and get in..I had no other choice. I literally stood on the right side of the auto near the driver. It was horrible. Thankfully the other guy sitting on left got out and I got some place to sit. It was still too tough to sit while balancing myself and the laptop bag on my lap. At least twice I was about to fall down when the auto took sharp turn. Now, I was in the centre of the city and it was getting very difficult sitting like this. I said that's enough, got out of the auto paid him n caught another one. This stupid auto got screwed and didn't move.
I thought how so many irritating things can happen to me in such a short time. But nice part of all was..despite of all the tiredness, pain, and aching bones I was enjoying every moment of it. neways back to the story....I was standing near the auto, all irritated, and I spotted Mr. Sunil in his Maruti He offered me ride and finally after taking close to 11 hrs for a 5 hr journey, I reached home sweet home. Mom was waiting for me with hot n steaming food ready in great quantities. Moms somehow always know what the kid needs, well may not be always, but most of the times. So, I ate like anything and now typing this boring story for you ;)

With warm wishes, like the tea and pakodas I ate after being soaked,


Saturday, March 04, 2006

First Snowfall Experience

Dec 02, 2003

It snowed today. My first ever snowfall experience was really nice one. I came out of Chapin L – 1180 (My apt at SUNY, Stony Brook). It was a bright SUNY day, but I felt like the sun is there only as a show-piece, like his job was only to give light. Temperature was too low. Lowest I have ever experienced. I thought I will get the bus, but I saw the South Local going from 300m. Either, I wanted to walk all the way to department, or may be I didn’t feel like running after the bus, but I let the bus go.

I might have just passed the Chapin Bus-Stop, and I saw small white
drops falling slowly. I thought its fog, but it didn’t take me long to realize that it was actually snowing. By the time I crossed Nickol's Road, it started snowing heavily. This time, I happily let the North Local go and started walking through snow. I could hardly see anything out of 15 m radius. Temp was well below ZERO now, <-13 C as per> but heavy breeze was making it feel like -20. I and breeze were pushing each other as if it was struggle for survival. Wind was highly equipped with velocity and power, I hardly was. I was really angry at myself for not buying winter jacket last week-end, when I had the chance. My hands were dead even in the gloves. Fortunately, I was wearing two sweaters and a jacket, so I was still able to walk.

Everything was painted with white, trees, roads, buildings everything. I was fascinated by whiteness of this natural miracle. Nature has always surprised me beyond my imagination; snowfall was an add-on to it. It was really beautiful. I saw some of my friends dancing in snow next to CS department. Obviously, I joined them. We had fun for 15-20 minutes. After that, it was impossible to stand out.

I warmed myself inside CS building and then I continued walking and reached my department. I didn’t feel like going in, but I had to go. I entered my lab, turned my computer on. I had some work to do, but I didn’t, I couldn’t. I opened the window and peeped out. Now, I could hardly see anything. It was snowing too heavily. I came back to earth with Joane calling me for the test.

Nothing worth mentioning after that, except some really beautiful undergrad girls, who were looking at me hoping that I will help them out with the test, but again
I didn’t, I couldn’t ;)

I had to pay for all this adventure in terms of feverish feeling and usual symptoms of cough and cold. Hopefully, it wont trouble me more.

That is all for tonight. Until my next adventure, See u.

With lots of love and snow,