Friday, April 27, 2007

All for a cuppa..!!

It is spring time here in Scarborough. The country side is colorful, green.. it is beautiful. Every leaf, every wisp of grass has freshness stored in it. Summers are approaching and the tourist season is about to start.
But why do I feel we are rrreally away from summers. In the morning when I start for office, it is misty and windy, yes it is cold. During the lunch time when I step out of the office, a force of wind hits me, its bright but there is cold wind.. yes it is cold. In the evening when I step out of the bus, wind blows against me and tries to push me a step back. I fight and put all my energy and strength to walk till my hotel. As I enter the reception, it feels nice and cosy. Yes it is cold outside. When I cook in my kitchen, I am scared of blowing off the fire alarm, so I slide open my window just about a little, and then immediately switch on my heater. I sleep with a blanket under me and one over me. So by now I am sure I would have made a point here, yes it is cold.
Now in this cold, what does a person like me want, hot cup of tea to sip whenever possible. I somehow do not enjoy the tea in the office, so I am a total coffee (Clipper Arabian Coffee :-) ) person in the office. But I have somewhere started missing my tea. I used to have at least 3 cups in a day back home. So here I go hunting for loose tea. I want to prepare my kind of tea. I want to buy ginger as well but decide to buy it after buying tea first. Loose tea is not readily available here, all you get are tea bags. I go on searching everywhere. This is the fourth convenience store I am in hunting for a packet of loose tea. I scan the tea section and no luck here as well. This is the biggest store in town. I could not find what I wanted in Indian store, and if I don’t find it here in Tesco, it is unlikely I get it anywhere. I am about to leave from here when I decide to just ask and do a final check. I ask a store-help there about what I want. He knows they get one brand of loose tea here, and he remembers putting it on the tea shelf. We rush there again, he moves some tea packs in front, which buyers would have moved, and here is my sack of gold!!!! I see Twinings Assam tea here, the same that I drink back home. Yeyyyy!!! I thank that guy some ten times and then I rush to the grocery section to pick up some ginger. I can smell the aroma of my ginger tea back in my room. As I move to the billing counter I realize that I have only 2 sachets of sugar left at home, and now that I have this tea, it should be a good idea to buy some sugar as well. I go and get a bag of sugar as well. While picking the sugar bag, my eyes fall on the cracker biscuits. Oh! It looks like it is my day all the way. I pick up a pack of crackers, the best to go with tea, pay and march to my hotel. There is some excitement, I am looking forward to be in my room and prepare tea for myself.
I lock the door behind me, throw my laptop on the sofa, no hurry to change, I go to the kitchen and put the pan with a cup of water on the heater. Will it be more fun if I change into pyjamas, will put on some music, and savor my tea with biscuits! Yes, looks like! I rush to my room, quickly change in 20 seconds and get back to kitchen. I finish making tea, my cup and saucer are ready with a tea spoon in the saucer, and two crackers too on the side. Just have to pour it in, and get deployed in my sofa. It can not get better, it smells so divine. But how do I filter it. I look for a strainer in the cupboard. There is none. I look it on the overhead shelf, no it is not there too. Ok may be in the all plastics tub.. no! What!!!! I don’t have a strainer here!! I curse this place, they can not provide a strainer in the rooms, people can prepare tea. But my eye falls on the tea bags there. Who needs strainers here anyway! I am not willing to give up, but yes now some lines are etching up on my forehead. Can not give up after reaching till here! I scan through the entire kitchen, all the equipments big and small to see if I can get something that can be used as a workaround. There is a grater..may be not, it is too thick for tea grains. I am getting desperate now. I finally get a super idea!! I am proud of myself. There is a new pack of tissues in the kitchen. I take four of them together, fold them threefold and open up in a cone, a true chemistry student, I have not forgotten the filter paper experiments yet. :-) Almost there! I put it on the cup and hold it with one hand, and with the other I start pouring the tea in. It is working, yes it is working! I am excited, half cup, almost there, should be through any moment now. The excitement starts getting back, the frown line starts easing away! Its three-fourth full, now the conical part of my filter is a little inside the cup and hence a little inside the tea, I finish pouring the tea. When I lift my other hand to take the paper out, the conical part, with 50% of the 4 sheets, becomes soggy, and falls inside. Oops! I immediately pick up the teaspoon, and try to fish it out. But it has opened up inside and is divided into some 16 small pieces. I try taking out some but it is getting worse. And my tea is getting colder. Remember it is very cold here, hot things get cold in seconds. I am still struggling and my tea is getting colder. I am getting frustrated, but the damn paper bits refuse to come out. I think about a remedy and the only one that comes to my mind is I will sip it slowly, some of it will sediment down, and some will get filtered inside my mouth. I take the first sip……and it tastes like paper.
After throwing it and washing all the dishes involved in the process, putting back the kitchen in order, I go and sink in my sofa with a can of diet-coke and the two crackers. It has been four days now, I have looked for a strainer at all near-by stores. No luck so far! Will go to the town centre on Saturday and will look in all shops there.

Monday, April 23, 2007

And was it embarrassing..!!

Saturdays at Wipro meant fun, especially in the initial few semesters. It was difficult to understand how and why we transformed ourselves into college students overnight when even the venue for classes was the same as office. Saturday was fun. But over the semesters it started getting irritating, frustrating and repulsive. Well this story is about a time when we were in the third semester, just the beginning of third actually.
Whenever we went to the loo, we used to play a very stupid, very funny game. Game(!).. Anyway..!! To understand it completely, you must know how the loos are built and then I would throw some insight into the game. Ok, so as you enter, there is a wash area with three basins and a mirror spanning across the three wash-basins. And on the other side, opposite to the mirror are four restrooms. From outside, if the doors are locked, the restroom is sealed from head to toe, but inside the walls separating the four are from maybe ear to toe. But still is high enough and more from a safety perspective. Behind the commodes is an elevated platform where you can keep your belongings when you are inside.
So now is the turn to understand our unique game (!). We were a group of four friends (all girls mind you). And whenever one of us was inside, the other would get in the next room if it was unoccupied, stand up on the elevated platform(behind the commode) somehow, the gap between the separator wall and ceiling was still too high, and the intention was definitely not too see the person on the other side. Ya, so stand on that platform, and throw out your hand from the gap to the other side and shout heyyyy!!! Heyy!!! The idea was to psyche the person in the next room, and the mission of psyching the other person was always accomplished. We didn’t do it all the time to avoid building monotony.
So here I was on one fateful Saturday, when shrestha went inside one of the doors, and I immediately went in the next, quickly climbed up the platform and started shouting heyyy!! Heyy!! Shrestha went on screaming, and I laughed. After 20 seconds when I wanted to get down, I turned, still standing on that platform, there was someone at the door. This was a junior of ours. Her eyes fixed on me, jaws dropped completely, she stood frozen. I froze too. Shucks!!! I forgot to lock it!!! And what the hell were the other two doing outside, couldn’t they save me from this embarrassment. Not knowing what to do, she finally came back to life and took a deep breath and said Sssorrrryy!!!, still very still and eyes still on me. I, equally dumbfounded if not more, managed an “its (breath) hhhOk”. Breathing was difficult at this time, where was my inhaler, I needed it right now! Well she took two more seconds and stepped backwards, and then went in one of the other two .. well now three unoccupied ones. I climbed down, never to climb up here ever again. I was embarrassed beyond words. And the other three monkeys were laughing hysterically when I came out. I hated them. I was wondering what she would be thinking about what I was doing! I didn’t know her too well, so there was no question of explaining. Oh! That was embarrassing!!
Shalvini is a friend now, and I have explained the entire story. I feel better after doing so.

Strength of a Woman..!!

I have kept a lot to myself, and shared a lot with my friends. May be there is always a lot happening around me, or may be in me as well. And may be that’s the reason why a talkative person like me, always surrounded by many, has not shared some of my thoughts that have always come back to me and made me sit back, and reflect on life, not everybody’s, just my own.
I know what impression everyone had of me before, and I am glad that is changing. It has been a slow reckoning for others, but somewhere that has begun. No I have not changed a great deal, I am still the same what I was. There were moments when I just hated to be, I knew I wasn’t bad, but I also knew that I was not good enough in other’s mind. It used to disturb me a lot. Doesn’t do any more. And this would not have been possible had it not been for my Mum. She never lectured me as such but in subtle words, innumerable times did she say, a woman needs to be patient and strong. Her action spoke louder than her words. Everyone, big and small, in the family vents out the volcano on her, she just takes it, she doesn’t complain too much, she supposedly doesn’t cry too, just that her nose goes red. And she gets back to normal life very soon, and always has nice things to say about life. I get my strength looking at her.
I was so pleasantly surprised, and happy beyond words when Bua called to say she was talking to Amma and they were talking about me, and she said they thought Raina is a very nice person, and thoughtful too. I have not heard too many praises about myself within the family, it satisfied some hope somewhere buried in me for years.
Mikku sent a message, something similar, in his words, very affectionate. It is a cherished memory too.
People have noticed everybody around, but one person that always got missed, always gets missed... I love you Mummy!!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Silence is Gold!!

There was a hot debate on. It was in the forum I have started frequenting recently, and which helps me keep connected. There were some interesting topics here, but the topic in context was something that has kind of initiated a battle of words and wits. I am not neutral in my thoughts about it, no non-alignment treaty, and actually was tempted to throw some of my thoughts in as well. But didn’t do so, and I am glad I didn’t. It would have made me explicable on my thoughts. If I am expressing my views, I could owe an explanation. I don’t want to be in a situation where the actual outcome is nothing but sparring becomes unmanageable, and may be a little rude as well. As mature adults we all know what is being talked about, and have right to our opinions. Two opinions can differ and still be correct. I respect opinions but rely on my judgment to form them, don’t expect everyone else to believe in them, and don’t want to be questioned a lot on that. Hence I would rather stay away from such topics, and not write into them.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

My first day in the foreign land..!!

There is chill in the air out here, it is my first day in Scarborough and I am on the streets already. All by myself, ready to explore the maximum and make the most of the Easter Monday which has gone thoroughly unnoticed so far in my life. I am walking aimlessly, following the road wherever it is going, and turn when it turns.
This place looks bright and cheerful, I see a dad racing with his two kids. The race is till the letter box as announced by the dad, and they run helter-skelter a distance which is less than 25 meters only to end in a scuffle as the kids were faster but still the dad claims he won. The reason for confusion, there was this “litter box” which was a meter ahead of the letter box, when he announced “letter box” they heard it as “litter box”. They are still fighting, I smile and move ahead.
I am at a junction where there is an “Orange” store and a “T-Mobile” store. This reminds me the wanderer that I have been the last an hour or so, I had some purpose in mind when I started. I need to buy some grocery, a mobile connection with some currency in my phone, and an adapter. My charger will not work in the English sockets. I get the phone connection, I buy a brand new nokia charger (10 £) over a brand new adapter (23 £), and somehow manage to call up Raj and Neeraja. I tried their number a number of times before realizing that it was Chennai’s code that I had prefixed in place of UK’s. Will be meeting them in sometime. I am browsing through the Brunswick mall when the aroma of freshly brewed coffee gets better of me. I follow the aroma and here’s the coffee shop at the heart of the mall. I realize I am hungry too. After all I am on the roads for almost 2 hours now without having anything since morning. I order for a plain croissant (vegetarians don’t have many choices, especially for breakfast when you don’t want to have a heavy sandwich loaded with cheese) with milky coffee and sugar.
I lunch at their hotel room where Neeraja has prepared some steaming hot food, which is spicy too..mmmm!! We eat and chat for sometime, about our bus timings, and the phone rate plans. Its soon going to be 4.30 and we have a movie to catch at Futurist Theatre at 5. We are watching Mr Bean’s holiday. We rush out of the house, Neeraja and Raj get themselves locked inside the phone-booth for next twenty minutes. Meanwhile I am standing at a point from where I can see the sea (you can see that from about anywhere in Scarborough except my room :( ). There are some kids on the skateboard doing stuff I have seen only on TV. There are some more kids playing football on artificial turf in an enclosure on the sea side. There is a group of young lads surfing, they are really good! And then there is this sweet romantic couple, the girl is smiling and giggling and playing in the water while the guy takes a minute to write SOI LOVES AMI, Soi writes the biggest he can. Ami is pleased with Soi’s herculean effort and gives him a biiiiig hug!!
Movie is ten minutes away and the counter is still closed. Raj try asking, she says it will open in a while. We come out, theatre is next to the sea. And that’s where all the stalls and the fun is. There are donkey rides for kids at the beach, bingos and roulettes at the play houses, ice-creams of the size of cones that can hold 2 bags of rice and in such varied sweet pastel colours. Everyone seems to be having the time of their lives. I also know this does not happen all the time, just that my first day here coincides with their best vacation time, that is the Easter, these all are tourists who are visiting the picturesque Scarborough!!
We watch Mr Bean’s holiday. A good movie but the lowest point of the day, now you can imagine my day so far.
By now my body is giving up, that’s perhaps what they call – jet lag. I want to sleep. Raj had convinced me I can buy grocery on my way back, the market is open till beyond 9. I take a leave and start my journey back. It indeed is a journey, I have to climb such steep slopes to reach where I stay, which is perhaps one of the highest points in this hilly area. I am panting on my way back but I need to go via the town centre. I need to pick up grocery remember! And here I reach town center huffing and puffing only to find deserted streets and closed shops. There are two three people at a vague distance. I start for my hotel from there. Wind is colder, and it is getting dark. Villa esplanade suddenly seems to be an eternity away. I walk endlessly, and finally I manage to reach my destination.
I am hungry, I am walking in the hotel with a surety that maggi is going to be my dinner. Aagh!! I don’t want to eat Maggie!! I infact don’t want to cook at all. As I unlock the reception door, I hear some music. It is coming from risker’s bar. I peep inside, alright! This is an open Mexican restaurant. I head straight for a table in the corner, which with everything else, also has a sea view. I get a lavish Mexican dinner, sumptuous and spicy. Umm I am loving it!! I walk up the stairs to my room, change my clothes and crash land..zzzz!!