Thursday, September 24, 2009

Underwater beauties

I was browsing through My Pictures folder; while taking a break from keyboard-tapping, black screen-staring work.
My photo collections are huge and chanced upon this particular folder.
These series of snaps - are so beautiful that I could see them on and on; such is the wonder of nature. So prefect., so mesmerizing.

I thought, I must share them so that all ya folks can enjoy these visuals and treat your eyes :-)
So here they are. Captured at Monterey Bay Aquarium, California

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kaapi Time

I was quite early to the airport last week. Reached very early as if I was going to fly international. I end up proving my stupidity time and again. Anyways, so obviously, to kill time, I browsed, read blogs, until my laptop battery started dying. Then did I realize I have a tummy too and it was groaning all the while...rats running inside :-D

There was a Barista near the gate where I was sitting. Ordered an Italian club sandwich and cappuccino. Sipping this cappuccino, couldn't help reminiscing about the desy and authentic KAAPI, a Tamil sobriquet for Coffee.

Just a few words about Kaapi here - also called as 'Degree Kaapi' or 'Filter Kaapi'. Its indigenous to South India for the way it is prepared, has better nutritional value since the milk quantity is more. The coffee beans are arabica, robusta, peaberry and malabar.

Preparing coffee, each morning, was a religious ritual in itself; especially in a traditional Iyengar household. Along with the holy chants, the bells and the aroma of incense sticks and camphor, were the clunk-clunk of the traditional coffee filter and the aroma of fresh coffee. The secret art of preparing coffee was a gift handed over by mother to daughter, to daughter-in-law so that the legacy was preserved.

My summer vacations were spent in Chennai each year as a kid. The humidity, the heat, the sultriness....all these could be pardoned for the idea of savoring coffee each morning and each evening. During my grandma's time, coffee beans were roasted along with chicory in a secret ratio, and then grounded, so the coffee powder was home-made. The coffee story in my time was a bit modern. Coffee was no more grounded at home, but bought ready-made from an equally traditional and authentic makers of coffee powder.

My perimma would wake up as early as 4 AM. I have no idea when the concoction would be prepared. We kids woke up to the chants of subrabatam and the aroma of fresh coffee. The coffee filter, a heavy brass one, inherited from her grandma; was a family legacy. It had 2 compartments, the bottom one which would hold the dripping thick decoction, the upper compartment with tiny holes at the bottom. The upper compartment would be slid into the bottom one, 4 heaped spoons of coffee powder would go into the upper chamber, a stemmed disc would be pressed onto it to balance, and then some magical quantity of boiling water. Magical because I never ever get what is the right quantity of water to be added to get that perfect decoction. As the water delicately kiss the granules and merges with the coffee powder, subtle aroma of coffee would explode, the edge of the compartment would be given three to four gentle and abrupt staccatos taps, then the lid tightly secured.

The decoction would slowly percolate and collect at the bottom chamber. This is a pre-preparation of coffee. This coffee filter occupied a prominent place in the kitchen. I would call it the sanctum sanatorium of the kitchen. It was always at the line of sight. The milk, thick and creamy with not a drop of water would be boiled and ready.

As we would try waking up from sleep, perimma would yell from the kitchen amidst chanting shlokas "Ezunthukko dee, palla techuttu vaa, kaapi tharraen!!" (Wake up girl, brush your teeth, will fetch coffee for you)

As we woke up and went away to finish our brushing, perimma would then start the second stage of coffee preparation. I would straight walk into the kitchen "Perimma, coffee tharela?"(Aunt, may I have my coffee). To which she would ask "Pallu thechutteya?"(Did you bursh?) And I would reply "Hmm perimma, coffee thaango"(Yes aunt, give me the coffee please). She would say "Idho di, aayidthu".(Yes dear, in a moment)

The hot milk would be poured until half full in a stainless steel tumbler which was heavy. No porcelain cups whatsoever, sort of alien that was. The decoction from the bottom container would be poured next until she was satisfied and thought that the mixture was appropriate and the colour perfect and the aroma just blended with the milk. Sugar added, she would then transfer this aromatic mixture to a wider cup(dabara), back and forth, until the sugar was mixed, the warmth just fine and the froth overflowing the tumbler. She wold then pour down a couple of drops into dabara, take a swallow, and make sure its as perfect as her earlier preparation.

The tumbler would then be placed inside the dabara and handed it over to us. We would then transfer part of the piping hot coffee into the dabara and savor the delicious beverage. This was the best punch ever to kick start your day!!

Just reminiscing these things while holding a cappuccino, only to realise it was lukewarm now :-|

Anyways Filter Kaapi anyone?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Insignia in America


There are a couple of things which is worth sharing here before I actually set foot on US of A

First, I was really really really in awe of one particular thing in Changi. :-D Guess what??

The loo!! Yeah you guys read it right. The loo. It was so clean, not a corpuscle of dirt. I was feeling bad to be stepping into them for it might leave a dirt mark, it was so speck less clean

The next thing was unfortunately for me, prior to my flight for over a month; I had been watching NatGeo's Air crash Investigations. Each episode re-built the case, the crash and its aftermath. Hehehehehe, what a nice way to be preparing for your maiden air journey!
Co-incidentally, I was seated by the wings. Whenever the flight landed, I could see the flap of the wings raise up to allow air to pass through. A couple of times, it was dreadful as I thought the flight developed a technical snag and we are going to crash!!. :-S

Can you imagine my nervousness? Yeah right!! You all can laugh out loud now.

With all such drama, I landed at SFO at 12:30 PM, that would be 12 AM in India, my sleep time. I was tired, very sleepy. Immigration took about 20-30 minutes. The officer at the immigration was very gracious, full of smiles, inviting, with a "Enjoy your stay". I just got reminded of the immigration farewell I got back in Bangalore. This episode was uneventful, I grabbed my luggage and set out. I was to take a cab to my hotel which was in a different city. I had no idea where that city was, how far it was and how long the journey would be. I was supposed to go to Sunnyvale, and I also was aware of San Jose - both are different cities, I was of the opinion that both are one and the same - such was my knowledge.

Anyways, as I walked out, I was in the same condition as an alien would be on earth!! I did not know where to hail a cab. I thought, just keep walking on the road, hire an empty running taxi, as we do in India :-D. I cant stop laughing as I remember all those thoughts that were popping up at that time. OK, the thing was, there was not even one generous soul who had already travelled outside India to countries such as these to be educating about certain much needed stuff as these.

I took my baggage cart and was loitering. An attendant asked me what I was looking for. I said I was looking for a cab. She told me that there were airport shuttles available. I said it was OK and that I was looking for a taxi. She then smiled and asked if my company would take care of the expenses. I smiled back and said yes. I later realised why she recommended me a shuttle service. She showed me where I could hire a cab. I walked just across the road, oblivious to the rules. A security guard just came on time, told me I cant walk on the road like that :-), he helped me with my cart and asked me to wait while he would find me a cab. So there I was, waiting in queue for taxi, got one after 5 minutes and started to Sunnyvale.

I found quite early that the cabbie did not know where he was supposed to drop me!!! What the heck! I got so nervous. Everything was happening so fast. I was taking in the new country that I have just entered, the wide and clean roads, flyovers criss-crossing like snakes, queer thing called as ramp, people following traffic rules, no men and women loitering on the road, no crowd, no bus stops, no dogs and cows on the roads, no litter, no name it and you wont find it!!

I was sleepy, nervous, excited and overwhelmed. I wanted to laugh, but more than that I wanted to cry at the situation I was in. Yeah, coming back, I figured out that the cabbie did not relate to the address I had with me. All I had was my hotel reservation mail, which had an address and along with it,route map. Aah, a route map. So I struck a deal with the cabbie. I told him that I would give him the directions and he has to follow it to reach my destination. I would call this as the most foolish guts I could have ever had - being a navigator on my first ever journey in an alien land!! How much more sarcastic can this get?

I have still preserved that sheet with me, the hotel reservation and the route map. Souvenir you see! Thought of scanning it and uploading them here :-D

Hmm, so I was reading from that piece of paper, the directions to my never-seen destination. I wont even know if I have reached the right place!! Yup, so it was a dull voice muttering as if woken from a deep slumber - Take US-101 S towards San Jose, go along for 28 miles, take the Lawrence Expressway Exit for 0.3 miles, right on E Duane and left on Stewart. This is what I literally read. The driver followed it religiously and I was relieved bit by bit as I was reading these names on the sign board.

But I don't know what US-101 is, what freeway is, what an expressway is, what an exit is, and how long is a mile!! The one straight US-101 freeway was scary because I thought we were going on and on and on.

Just as we touched Stewart and I saw the sign of my hotel which was familiar, as I had seen a photo; was I, what to say, came back to life. The cabbie was a friendly African-American and he incidentally was in Delhi sometime back, he was all blah-blah about it which I didn't pay any heed to. I paid him without battling an eyelid 105$, though I quickly converted to INR and almost managed a faint.

The cabbie left my baggage at the reception and I informed the receptionist that I had a reservation. When she asked for my name and searched for it under reservations, she said "Oh, we don't have a reservation in your name!!" Oh would this ordeal have any end at all? Then whether she found it or she just gave me a room - I didn't bother to know. I got my room. Once I went in, I searched for instructions to make a local call. I called up my team lead's desk at office. He was already there; travelled before me about 2 months earlier, but he didn't come to receive me :-( Sob...sob....

Luckily for me, this time it was right, he was at his desk and he told that he would come to meet me in an hour's time. He was put up in the same hotel as me. He came by and took me to an Indian restaurant. Left hand drive, wearing seat belt, automatic cars was all new, very new to me and yes, the clear parking slots and people using the pedestrian walk button at the signal to cross the road, cars waiting well behind the yellow line to let people cross the road, people yielding to others going on the main road, no tail-gating, cars neatly driven one behind the other, no overtakes, no honks whatsoever, no kids and elders stretching out their hands outside the window, no bus with people standing on the foot board, no auto rickshaws, no huge trucks with overweight goods, no petty grocery shops, no street side vendors, no street hawkers selling at signals, no beggars on the roads :-D, not 'a thing' that I was accustomed to seeing.

At the restaurant, it was Dosa for me; for 5$. My currency converter started working and again I rolled my eyes. When would I stop converting? Its OK, its too early. I could not eat because it was around 3 PM which was devil's time in India, sleep time. I wasted the food and I could have died in guilt for wasting around 240 Rs worth of Dosa!! :-

Phew!! I just realised my post has got lengthier again. I am stopping it right away!!
My last portion would be regarding a couple of incidents that taught me life's lessons.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Long due - Humane Award

I was supposed to pass on the 'Humane' Award which was awarded to me by SG

I am honored to be receivng this. Also, its my first blog award.

I will pass this award to the following fellow bloggers:





Congrats people. You deserve it.

to everyone who want to have it, so you are requested to :
1. Accept and post the award on your blog.
2. Link to the person from whom you received it.
3. Pass the award to 5 other blogs that are worthy of this acknowledgment.
4. Let them know they’ve been

PS : I am supposed to give a thank you speech, isnt it..which I forgot. Thank you Neha for reminding me.
So here, I thank all my blogger friends who have been putting up with me, reading my rants, sharing their thoughts and passing on encouraging comments. Thanks all people :-)

PPS : A special THANK YOU to Gautam who has been my constant source of encouragement, appreciating everything I wrote, however senseless that was. Thanks Gautam :-)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Insignia goes to America

This post is lengthy. Hope its not a drag and leave you people yawning and bored. I wanted to mention what all I experienced. Read it at your own risk!

If you folks remember, I was comfortably and cozily seated by the window in Singapore airlines bound to Changi International Airport from 'Namma Bengaluru'(meaning "Our Bangalore" phrased in the local language lovingly)

Amidst the hustle and bustle, air hostess shoving in cabin baggage in the overhead compartment, preparing for the flight, people trying to settle down, I was in awe, nervous and scared. Now, as I said, this was my first time inside an airplane. Maybe I should have sailed to USA. I was at least familiar with the ship. My dad once took us to Chennai port and gave us a tour of a passenger ship. Anyways, I need to learn, and fast. So here I was, observing people around me, trying to understand what were all the procedures.

People were wearing seat belts. Let me confess, that thing called seat belt and that buckle was the most intriguing thing I ever saw. It was so complicated! After several futile attempts, I thought I managed to buckle up, alas! No! It was just a slide. At one point, I thought if I would just knot it away :-S Yeah, meanwhile, few people took out in-flight magazines and started reading, few ripped open the blanket and covered themselves. I was not sure of any of these things, what if I would be asked to pay for the blanket if I use it? Well, few folks went one step ahead and even used the socks that was neatly packed and placed it in their magazine holders. Prompted me to explore what all I had in my holder. There were socks and magazines. Soft pillow and blanket on my seat. Hmmmmmm.....

Meanwhile, my neighbor. I need to tell about her. She was an old lady, expressionless, confused soul. The moment I saw her, I knew how my long journey is going to be. This was it, I thought, this was it.

There was this video about flight safety instructions and precautions. Yups!! I figured out how to buckle the seat belt. The captain spoke the usual stuff and the flight took off. The take-off was the most scary moments of my life(until the landing, which I thought was more scarier!!). It was well past night, when I am supposed to be sleeping peacefully on my cozy bed and here I was, snugged in, realized the window seat was more of an utter inconvenience than pleasure. Where are those scenes I visualized? Not even fluffy clouds...

When my manager; about 3 months back, called me for a 1-1, it was then she told me that I would be required to 'travel'. I did not understand then, was a fresher just out of college; a mere 3 months into the organization and was required to 'travel'. I travel(read commute) everyday!! So whats this new stuff? She told it would be to the USA. The question that followed later was a bonkers.

'How far have you traveled alone? '

My mind was racing fast calculating the distance between my home to school, home to college and home to office. So which among the three was farthest? These were the only places where I travel alone.

I managed to swallow hard and said in a feeble voice 'Chennai' and looked away as fast as I can. I am a very poor liar.

'Oh, that's just next door!!'

:-S (Yeah right!!!)

Yeah, I was fiddling with the remote control cum phone, trying to figure out how they work. I checked the button controls beside my seat. Meal was served, I was prudent this time. I had opted for Asian Veg. But eating at such an unearthly hour was awkward.

I could feel the pressure build up in my ears. I had no idea if this was common, all I was concerned was if I developed some kind of sickness and that if these things were happening only with me. I asked a steward, a tall Singaporean, for ear buds. He went deaf ears, after much persistence, gave me ear plugs. Those things didn't help much. At 6:30 AM Singapore time, the flight landed. The landing was still more scarier than the take-off.

I was feeling really sleepy, dash of fresh air welcomed me once we disembarked from the flight. I had 2 hours for my flight to SFO from here. Thankfully, the gate was somewhere in the same terminal. I was overwhelmed at its size and the number of gates one terminal had. I was just thinking about the Bangalore airport, it was a dwarf.

There were signs all over, I safely managed to reach the gate. My mentor had wished me "Get lost!" before leaving from Bangalore. He told that I would never even reach SF, for I might get lost in Singapore itself. But thank heavens, unfortunately for him, I didn't get lost!!

I rechecked with the attendants there that I would not be needing a boarding pass, the one given to me at Bangalore was good enough till SFO. Once I made sure I was at the right gate, then did I think of even reliving and refreshing myself. Phew!!!

Rest of the flight journey was almost uneventful, now that I got a hang on flight fundoos - frozen meal, cream less coffee, pungent odour, wearing seat belt, zombie neighbor, air pressure, turbulence, dingy economy class window seat.............And the long 18 hour journey ahead........

There was just one amusing thing that deserves a mention here. At the transit in Seoul, we were asked to fill in the immigration form. Whoooaaa, few of the questions flustered me!! I in fact had a second thought to end my journey right there and return back. Questions like "Have you in possession of seeds, plants and such" or "Are you holding any items that you intend to sell in the United States" I did not understand why were these questions. One such disconcerting question was something like this - "Are you in possession of any living organisms, parasites" I don't remember the exact question. But it was something like it.

Oh my God!! An elderly couple too were bewildered and the lady's husband muttered - "We need to be careful. Look at these questions". Another elderly lady travelling alone wanted to use the restroom, she was using a walking stick and was in no position to carry her baggage with her. She approached this couple to look after her luggage and this man rudely rejected because these questions made everyone suspicious of each other!

I did take a lady's help in answering a couple of queries. But possessing parasites and such - I started thinking if any louse has been using my head as its abode without disturbing me. What would I do if I in deed harbored a louse?? Would they scan my hair at the port of entry and send me back?? Would they put me in jail?

Well, with these and many such crazy thoughts, I landed in the US of A!!

PS : Next coming up "Insignia in America"

Friday, September 4, 2009


I thought my next post would be 'Insignia goes to America'. But I got tagged again by Gayathriji. This one seems to be quite light. So here I am

1. Grab the book nearest to you, turn on page 18 and find line 4 - "Optimize your virtual machine I/O with adjustable volume, disk, file and block sizes" (A technical guide on server virtualization and enterprise storage) :-S
I am at work now and these are the materials I have around me!!

Stretch your left arm out as far as you can & catch air? – Shucks!!! I hit my hand against the left wall of my cube!!

What is the last thing you watched on TV? – Today morning, after getting my overdose of YSR, I tuned on to a music channel and I watched the song "Vizhi moodi yosithal" from Tamil movie Ayan. I like Surya and I love to hear to Karthik :-D

4. Without looking, guess what time it is? – 1:55 PM

Now look at the clock, what is the actual time? – 1:54 PM.....Wow!! I am so close!!

6. With the exception of the computer, what can you hear?- I am on my headphone right now hearing to a Telugu melody(one of cute song by Karthik again). But I can also hear some key tabs, and my colleague kicking his feet against my cube. I feel tremor...
I have to ask him to stop, he does this most times, maybe I need to tie his legs together!!.

7. When did you last step outside? What were you doing? – AT 9 AM, today morning, left for work.

8. Before you started this Q&As, what did you look at?- A couple of other blogs. And latest was Gayathri's, as I had to copy this tag.

What are you wearing?- Grrrrrr, dress of course! OK, enough of the PJ. My favorite pair of Jeans - stone cold wash, skinny and low hip, a maroon pull over with a beautiful bull dog on the front, pair of tiny ear studs, a ballerina white pumps...Phew!!! Enough is enough!!!, wont go into more detail.....Oh yeah, I forgot my watch today.

10. When did you last laugh? – 5 minutes back when my colleague came around and shared his training experience!

11. What is on the walls of the room you are in? – I am far away from the walls. The nearest one and probably the only one is painted red with a fire extinguisher attached at one end. Its all glass facade otherwise

12. Seen anything weird lately? – Yups!! An indifferent looking teeny-weeny pizza the size of an infant's palm offered at our office cafe.

What do you think of this quiz? I thought this was light, but its making me think!! which I find it tough with this time of the day after a heavy lunch and music playing on in parallel.

14. What is the last film you saw? - Kaminaey!!...I faw it twife!! Hahahaha Yeah in the movie hall.
Aife aife,....kaife kaife......I really loved the "Fpiderman.......Fpiderman............." act

15. If you became a multimillionaire overnight, what would you buy?- A BMW 3 series coupe - Sporty. This is the first thing that always comes on my mind!! Don't know why :-| Remaining money, there will be loads right? BMW 3 series can be acquired for about 30-40 lakhs, yeah remaining money, I don't know what I'll do. I'll hire one money manager as I am very poor in managing it.

Tell me something about you that I dunno!- Horror movies make me laugh!! They seem funny to me. I am not scared of reptiles and I am the official 'banish-executive' of lizards, cockroaches at my home.

If you could change one thing about the world, regardless of guilt or politics, what would you do?- Want to eliminate illiteracy, this would get into the crux of all the issues.

Do you like to Dance?- Yeah, I do dance most times, while walking, while at home. There's always some music playing in my mind all the time.....I guess whatever limb shaking and hip shaking I do is well enough to be called a dance!!

19. Imagine your first child is a girl, what do you call her?- Hehehehe :-P I always liked the name "Ahalya'. So that's what it would be. But hope the kid likes it.

20. Imagine your first child is a boy, what do you call him?- Oh never thought about this yet!! Hmm, it will be 'Abhi'+something I think

21. Would you ever consider living abroad?Naeyyyyyyyy! Each time I have lived outside Bangalore; even for a couple of months, it was somewhat empty-empty, sad-sad. So no living outside Bangalore, forget about living outside India!!

22. What do you want GOD to say to you when you reach the pearly gates? – Yo!! lady...Give me a High 5!!
Later, I and GOD will go on a Loooooooooong drive. I will let him drive so that I can enjoy the scenery.

And I am tagging


PS : You better take this up guys!! Else when I meet GOD, I will influence him to punish ya' all by saying that you all committed an unpardonable sin by not taking up this tag!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Insignia on the way to America

My mind rewinds these particular series of incidents that happened with me; and this recollection happens quite frequently. Thinking about it even now, sends a chill down my spine. I cant believe I managed to survive those ordeal. But yeah, there must be some invisible supernatural guiding force or my utterly blind courage that led me through them. When we are so foolish, we get that gut courage that has never existed in us. This incident occurred 3 years back in June 2006.

Right from the beginning, things were shocking and over-whelming. OK, I have never boarded an aircraft prior to that day. It was jittery. It was not that I didn't get a chance to fly. I did get, but each time I preferred the more economical mode of transport. My senior manager at office was amused when he heard to what I said. I went to meet him to get his signature for my travel expense report; reading my expense report, he found that I took a bus to Chennai for my Visa interview. I saved the organization about 80% of the probable travel expenditure!

Forget boarding a plane, I had never ventured anywhere near an airport. So everything was new. Adding on to that, I had to travel solo. My manager called me and pleasantly wished a "Bon Voyage". I did not have anyone to receive me in USA. But I behaved as if everything was alright. Perfect!!!

Then came the day. My airline was Singapore Airlines, scheduled to depart around 12:30 AM. My folks accompanied me to the Bangalore airport. The first stupid behavior of mine was when a cute lady asked me to fill up some form. Oops, I didn't have a pen. A friend of mine went to a store and bought a pen. I filled the form out. All these things with my 50+ kg of luggage, my cabin suitcase, laptop and a vanity bag; as I was supposed to stay in USA for at least 3 months.

Once nearing immigration counter, visitors were not allowed entry. I could not manage my luggage anymore. I was using the cart, yet it was really uncomfortable, the cart was pulling me in all directions but not in the direction I want it to go. I know that thing played a dirty prank on me, so that I looked foolish for others.


So here I was, struggling my way upstairs to the baggage check area and then to the immigration. An attender who works in the airport saw my battle with the baggage, all this while my folks were still looking at the combat I was involved in through the glass partition. OK, this guy approached me in the sweetest manner possible, as if trying to show a gentlemanly behavior towards a lady and asked me if he could help. I was so naive, happily accepted his HELP. He shoved my nearly falling baggage properly to the cart and took it forward 5 feet, threw them on to the conveyor for the baggage check.

Well, is anyone so angelic? He asked me for money. All I had was 500 INR and others in $ and TCs. I had that 500 Rs to be used in case of emergency. It was meant to be held so that I could use it in case I had to make a phone call or to hire a taxi after I return back to India. I gave him a 100 Rs note. I thought he will give back some change. He just pocketed it and when I asked him, he said "Its OK madam!". I was like, could not believe it. I asked him to give me half the amount. He just walked away :-( My first bad experience.

Checked in the baggage, went to the immigration counter. A stern looking officer scanned my passport. It was as if I have committed a treason against my country!! He harshly asked me if I had my office ID and asked me to display it. I obediently showed my office ID and my invite letter. You see, it were my looks. I looked like a school girl, and was showing signs of nervousness.

Immigration check was done, screening was done, I waited for about an hour before I boarded the plane. Always had the habit of rushing to board a bus, and always been familiar with the idea of First Come First Serve. But I was one among the last few to be allowed to board the plane. Economy class you see. I didn't have an iota of idea. Was excited to see how a flight would like it, was pleased when the hostesses welcomed each one. I was waiting to occupy my seat. Guess what? I opted for Window seat!! Seat by the window is what you wanted as a kid, why kid? As an adult too. Isn't it nice to see the ever morphing scenery as we travel? Insignia had the same idea. To watch scenery while flying on a plane!!! How I wish someone was there to advise?

Real fun waits here for Insignia once inside the aircraft and later.....Poor thing, had no idea what all was waiting for her........

PS : I did not want to dig my own grave once for all by revealing all my funny misadventures in just one post. Let me do it in installments. So next is 'Insignia goes to America'...Watch out for it...Coming soon!