About Me

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If I can just give to the world more than I take from it, I will be a very happy man. For there is no greater joy in life than to give. Motto : Live, Laugh and Love. You can follow me on Twitter too . My handle is @Raja_Sw.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Enriching experiences, thanks to family and friends

As I type this out, I am acutely aware of the fact that the last post on my blog is dated July last year. That’s over six months ago – and in the blogosphere, that means unofficial blog RIP. There are plenty of blogs out there which have met with this fate, so my blog would have been in pretty good company.

It may still be. Yes, even as I am typing this out, I am not sure I will be posting it to the blog. I did make a start with a new post a few months back but it proved to be a false start The post was in an advanced stage of completion but, inexplicably, I stopped at the eight-yard mark. I could just not bring myself to go that ninth yard. What’s more, I just deleted it immediately, so it is lost forever. So be it!

I probably owe my readers (all three of them, if you allow me to inflate the numbers a bit!) an explanation.

The main reason for this blog being inactive for so long is not for want of material. Given my reasonably eclectic interests (ok, I know they are not really eclectic but I wanted to use this word at least once on my blog :-)) AND my penchant for expressing my opinion without reservation AND my travel to India (which is ALWAYS content-candy for any writer with or without pedigree), I should have churned out at least ONE post in the last six months.

But no, I could just not bring myself to do it. No, it was not lack of material, it was just lack of motivation. Plain and simple as that. I have just not been able to muster the motivation required to put my thoughts down and post them on this blog.

Today, I am making another attempt at this. Let’s hope this post goes the whole nine yards.

Like I said, there’s no dearth of material once I get into the mood, so I need to think of what to pick for this particular post. And I cannot help feeling it is only fair (if for continuity reasons) that I talk a bit about what’s been happening in my life since I last posted here. (Sort of "poochho na kaise maine rain bitaayi"). :-)

I am under no illusions that anybody’s particularly interested – and it does seem oh-so-narcissistic – but I did get feedback once from one of my friends/readers that he (yes, it was a he, *sigh*) got an update about my well-being only from my blog. So at least for his sake, assuming he hasn’t given up yet on me or my blog, I’m going to talk a bit about what I’ve been upto.

That should actually make this a very brief post – because I haven’t been upto much. :-)

The month of August is already a distant memory and come (mid) September, I was off to India. I returned late-November and, within a couple of weeks, was off to the US. Got back on New Year’s day and am now thinking in terms of what next. Probably another trip to India?

I could end my post here with just this but I would like to talk about my trips too.

No, I am not going to talk about how fantastic the Grand Canyon was (and it WAS awesome!) or how cosy a city Boston is (and it IS cosy!) but about what I liked the MOST about my trips.

I have long held the view that there are loads and loads of beautiful places on this earth. Whether created by nature or by mankind, there’s beauty everywhere. You’ve just got to look at pictures that people upload onto the net after their travels, or read travelogues, to get a sense of amazing places to visit on this planet.

Like most people, I do like travelling to new places to get a feel for what that place’s sights and sounds are like, what its culture or history or people have to offer.

But I will admit that there is one thing I place higher than travel in my priorities – and that is spending time with family and friends.

Now if I could combine both, meaning I get to meet family and/or friends AND we travel together someplace, THAT, to me would be my best combination. But short of that, if I HAD to pick between family/friends on one hand and travel on another, I’d go with family/friends.

Having said that, I can fully understand another person having a different priority than me (especially in today’s skyped-world where you do get to “see” and “meet” family/friends online so easily). But to me, I REALLY treasure the time I spend “physically” with my family/friends.

The reason I’ve gone to great lengths to talk about this is because THIS was the highlight of both my recent trips – to India and to the US.

Usually when I fly to India, I land directly in my home city, Bangalore. There is no direct Amsterdam-Bangalore flight yet, so I need to make one stop somewhere enroute anyway. This is usually Paris or London or Frankfurt or Dubai (all of which have direct flights to Bangalore). The alternative is to fly into Mumbai or Delhi and take a connecting domestic flight to Bangalore. I have done ALL of these combinations (yes, I’ve travelled to India SO many times over the years!) but I soon settled on the “change flight outside India and land straight in Bangalore” as my preferred option. It takes less time overall (the flight connections in Europe are very decently scheduled), plus, you just check in your luggage in Amsterdam (Schiphol) and collect it in Bangalore.

This time, I flew into Mumbai instead. The reason was that I wanted to meet a schoolmate friend of mine who happens to live in Mumbai now. We’d lost contact with each other and, as fate (or a Bollywood script) would have it, just a few days before I booked my flight to India he suddenly got into contact with me, totally out of the blue, leaving a comment on my blog! (So my blog has been of SOME value at least!).

Anyway, the moment I learnt that he was based in Mumbai, I booked my flight to Mumbai, making sure I’d land on a Sunday (a holiday for him) and that too at a not-inconvenient hour (about 11.00 in the morning). I know he wouldn’t mind if I’d landed at 2.00 a.m at his place but I hate putting other people (however close they are) to any sort of inconvenience, so Sunday morning 11.00 a.m it was.

My flight to Bangalore was at about 7.00 p.m that evening, so we got a few hours together to catch up. You never have enough time on such occasions but I am glad for whatever time we did get together because it was absolutely fantastic. I also got to meet his wife for the first time and had an excellent lunch at his place.

In Bangalore, I got to catch up with another friend of mine who had moved to Bangalore only recently from Pune. He is an extremely interesting guy, with very wide-ranging interests that he can talk about (and one can listen to) for hours.

We had not met for about 6 years and only recently re-established contact
through social networking. It was another very memorable experience, what with meeting his wife and two kids too. Again here I got the feeling that
time just flies when you are having a great time.

Then, on this India trip of mine, I went to Nagpur. Yes, Nagpur. In Central India. Now even hardcore Nagpuris (is that how people of Nagpur are called?) will admit that Nagpur would rarely find its place on any tourist’s itinerary. Having visited the place now, I do think this is a bit unfair because it does have a certain charm that could appeal to a certain type of person. Me.

Nagpur reminded me a lot of the town close to where I grew up in Eastern India. The same laidback attitude, the same friendly people, the same type of railway station and downtown atmosphere – and I daresay, without meaning to offend Nagpuris, the same type of potholes in roads too in many places.

Well, I went to Nagpur for one reason and one reason alone. To meet a couple of my friends. One of them, A, lives in Nagpur, the other, R , lives in the UK but happened to be in Nagpur at that time to spend time with his and his wife’s family (both Nagpur-based).

The three of us had never met each other though we’d known each other for over five years! What had brought us together was our biggest common interest – cricket. All of us display varying degrees of madness when it comes to cricket – and our forum has seen countless discussions between us as we’ve lived the topsy-turvy life of an Indian cricket fan.

Additionally all of us are very much into old Hindi songs – A has his own blog where he posts gems of yesteryear (many forgotten with the passage of time) every single day.

I stayed with R and his family and we met up with A one evening. I know I am repeating my adjectives here but I will stay with “memorable” to describe that evening.

While in Nagpur, I also made new friends because R’s wife had invited her closest friend over from Mumbai to Nagpur that same extended weekend. So she, her husband and kid also landed up.

It was one big party! We had SO much fun, it can only be experienced, it cannot be described. I believe, in order to have fun in a group, you need like-minded people. Even one person can spoil the fun if he/she does not feel comfortable in the group (this could lead to other group members ending up feeling uncomfortable too).

In our case, we were all the masti type, so there were no inhibitions or formalities. We did lots of sightseeing in and around Nagpur, we had a picnic at a lovely lake, we played antakshari, we played lots of housie, we gorged on food and ice creams. I had a lovely time with the kids too – all I can say is that we spent 3-4 days together but it all went way too soon for everybody.

These will remain among the best moments of my India trip this time, of course in addition to all the time I spent with family. I will always cherish every minute that I get to spend with my family - just having them around is a blessing in itself.

I now realize that I missed out on meeting some friends that I wish I had met. I most certainly have to correct that the next time I am in India.

Coming to the US trip, it was to me also all about meeting family and friends. If I’d see anything of the US, it would be nice – but if I’d just meet people I want to meet and see NOTHING of the country, that would be just fine with me too.

I started on the East Coast. In Boston, to be precise. I have a couple of friends there, G and B, and, although my plans had to change due to unexpected developments when I was there, I had a really lovely time with them.

This was my first visit to Boston and I fell instantly in love with the place. It is a very cosy city, one of the oldest in the US and has a lot of European charm about it. It is also not very crowded - and I quite like that (says the guy who comes from Bangalore!). Boston also happens to have an excellent metro network called the “T”. I loved travelling by it.

The weather in Boston was, for a large part, pleasant - certainly considering the time of year and the comparable weather conditions in Europe, where flights were being cancelled at that time due to excessively snowy conditions.

But, inspite of all the fun I had walking the streets of Boston, I would still say the best time I had was the time I spent with my friends. One of them has the cutest dog on earth, the other has the cutest two-year old kid on earth. :-)

I got to meet B’s wife for the first time – she is also from Bangalore and is really nice. Although it was not planned as such, I ended up staying at their place – and felt really comfortable. I know B also from the same cricket forum referred to earlier – he is another of those crazy “muppets” there, supporting BCCI all the time. (Btw, we always refer to the Indian cricket team as BCCI, the organization that runs cricket in India, and never as the Indian cricket team. There is history behind this).

Anyway I got to watch some cricket at B’s place (India-SA Test series, the Ashes series), I got to watch some movies of a more modern generation ;-) (like “Life in a Metro”) and did some other fun stuff too.

Then onto the West Coast, in LA where I met my two nieces and a nephew, who’d come together to spend the Christmas holidays. It was awesome meeting them, especially because this was the first time I was meeting them outside their “home” environment in India. I will keep this narrative short because if I start describing this, it will take me all night. Let me just say we had a fantastic time, doing an LA-Vegas -Grand Canyon road trip. My nephew and one of the nieces were both very keen on driving, so I did not even get to touch the steering wheel.

My main job on the trip turned out to be responsibility for arranging the music. That greatly suited me because it gave me a chance to play my Bollywood all-time classics of the 1950s and 1960s in the car – something that the rest gamely went along with, albeit occasionally with gritted teeth.

We also made a trip northwards, close to San Francisco, where I met up with one of my cousins. She’s been married more than fifteen years and this was the first time I got to meet her husband! Somehow their visits to India never coincided with mine, so it just turned out to be this way. I’d heard a lot of good things about him before I met him – and I can safely say that they are all true. They also have the most lovely kids you can imagine.

We had loads of fun at their place, playing a whole lot of games and eating a lot of food too. Not to forget the coffee, considering my cousin’s husband is quite a coffee buff.

I also got to meet a very close friend of mine who lives just about 30 min from my cousin’s place. I was meeting her and her family after exactly 14 years – and it was like “yesterday” when we were catching up. We had a lovely dinner at their place, their son has grown into a tall (if typically shy) teenager. I did not get to meet her daughter that evening (she was at a sleepover) but I did get to talk to her the next day on the phone. Again, when I said goodbye that evening to my friend, I felt that time had just flown by and we’d hardly had much time with each other.

But that’s how it felt all the time, throughout my trips to India and the US. The time I spent with my family and friends always seemed to go by too quickly. That is obviously just an illusion and I must say I am extremely thankful and glad for the time I DID get to spend with all of them.

Maybe I am just growing old (my nieces and nephew will nod readily in agreement) but I am beginning to miss people I love and care for, a lot.

Which probably also explains why my best memories of the last few months are not what I saw or did but WHO I spent time with. Considering I spend a lot of time just by myself (and I really do not have a problem with that - it is a matter of choice!), when I DO meet family and friends, it feels really good.

I now need to catch up with my friends back here in Holland. And maybe soon start planning my next trip to India (story of my life! :-) ).

And hey, I DID manage to complete and post this. The whole nine yards – yaaay!


Nandini Vishwanath said...

I counted awesome once ;) Memorable seemed more like the adjective you used.

Miss you, Raja Mama. A lot.

Random thoughts said...

Good to see you are back Raja. Hopefully this time you will stay ;-)

Bharath Hemachandran said...

Will always remember the time you spent at home with us Raja.

It was great fun :). We should do it again soon! Perhaps Bangalore next time!