Come, fly with me


It is mid-2008 and since I am employed in the technology division of a leading American bank, I am acutely aware of the entire global financial industry deep in the throes of the entire sub-prime mortgage crisis. As if this wasn’t bad enough, my supervisor decides that it is a good time for me to get some onsite exposure and figures that I could get started off with transitioning the testing of a software application from the West Coast to Hyderabad where me and my team were located.

For somebody who had visited the northern parts of India (read northwards of Mumbai) only a couple of times and whose only claim to have travelled extensively would be a 7 day trip to Leh, Ladakh, this came as a bolt from the blue. Further, the fact that I was ‘newly married’ (it had been only around six odd months into my marriage then) and had to leave behind the Missus in a new city where she didn’t even know the local language, Telugu added to my palpations even more. But encouraged by her and by my supervisor, I consented and started off with the formalities such as the Visa, Tickets, Guesthouse bookings, etc.

A good 5-6 weeks after the decision was made, there I was at the old airport terminal at Begumpet, Hyderabad, passport and tickets in hand. The fairly lazy old Immigration Official there didn’t even seem to care that I was leaving the country and stamped my passport without any questions whatsoever. And in those days, airline companies were not progressive enough to keep passengers informed of delays in their flights and I therefore ended up at the waiting lounge of the airport a good 7 hrs (3 mandatory hrs + 4 delayed hrs) before the actual flight departure time.

Heathrow Environmental Protestors - 'This airport is filthy.'Now, anybody who has ever travelled from the Begumpet airport will attest to the fact that it is anything but a pleasant experience. However, the only saving grace was that the friendly janitor was allowing people to step into the mens’ rest room and smoke out of a window at its far end; for the small price of a ten rupee note or in the case of a few Americans, a dollar bill.

The flight itself was quite uneventful except that since it was my first long haul flight I had to actually consciously get my butt out of the somewhat comfortable seat and the nice in-flight entertainment system every once in a while and take a walk up and down the aisles, just to keep the blood flowing in the lower half of my body. However, things took a turn for the worse just before we descended into Frankfurt for the connecting flight. An announcement was made that the seven passengers who were travelling onwards to San Francisco would have to ensure that they de-planed from the back door of the aircraft to be specially whisked away to our connecting flight which was actually being held back due to the delay in the Hyd-Frankfurt leg. Nothing was mentioned about our luggage at all, and I assumed that it would inevitably fly with me to San Francisco. Oh, how wrong I was!!!flightdelay

The second leg of the journey was also quite uneventful except for a lovely cake which was served to a few passengers, courtesy the tenth anniversary of a couple who were actually seated bang next to me on the flight. So far so good. My troubles with this trip really began after I landed at SFO. By the time I got anywhere in the longish Immigration Queue to get my passport stamped and actually set foot on American soil, I heard my name being announced (actually mispronounced) over the PA system along with a few other Indian sounding names.

lostluggageAfter getting my passport stamped when I made my way to the airlines counter I was informed that my luggage had missed its flight and would be delivered to my local address 24+ hrs later when it would take the same flight to SFO from FRN. There I was, at least 13000+ kms away from home with just the clothes on my back and my travel documents in my satchel (or man-bag as it is called in the movie Hangover). Since this was my first international flight I wasn’t quite aware that luggage getting delayed, or even worse, lost in transit was quite common and travelers always needed to carry a spare set of clothes in their hand baggage. As with most other lessons in life I learnt this one also the hard way.

In any case the airlines compensated with a AmEx Travellers Cheque for USD 50 and also handed me a night kit consisting of a sweatshirt, boxer shorts, a toothbrush and a small tube of toothpaste, packed in a nice pouch as compensation for the missing luggage. There I was, stuck at SFO International Airport with just my travel documents, satchel and this pouch with spare clothes for the night. Thankfully, the weather wasn’t too nippy and I could manage with the jacket that I had worn.

'The train is late again. No need to worry, your ticket is valid for four days.'Making the most of this situation I decided to use public transport to complete the last leg of my journey from SFO to the small town of Concorde, California which was a good 65 miles away. After making preliminary enquiries at the Helpdesk at the airport and armed with a  Google Maps printout which they helpfully provided me with, I finally ended up using the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) Metro train from the airport to the Concorde station and then walked the last 5 mins to my guest house near the station.

It was only when I finally got indoors, switched on the room heater and settled down did I realize that I had finally arrived at the US of A. All the Hollywood movies, the TV series, the conversations with cousins from there, the banter with colleagues who returned from onsite trips, wouldn’t have prepared me for this experience.

This, my friends, is just one of the stories from the time I had travelled the furthest from home.

I am sure you all have similar stories of your own, with lost luggage, misplaced passports, mistaken identities, bad weather, delayed flights, etc. Go ahead, share some of them in the comments section below.

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This post has been written for Project 365: A post a day where the idea is to publish at least one post a day based on the prompts provided. Today’s prompt was to share a story from the time when I traveled the furthest from home.

The Confession – Chapter 5 – Travel


Image courtesy : Google image search
Image courtesy : Google image search

This is the fifth part of a novella “The Confession”.

Read the rest of the novella here

[Chapter 1 – Memories]               

[Chapter 2 – Food]

[Chapter 3 – Books]

[Chapter 4 – Music]

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When Ram came home that night, he found what was left of one large Dominos Country Special cheese-burst pizza on the dining table and knew that David was somewhat back on track as far as him recovering his memories was concerned. This was because this particular pizza was one of David’s all time favorites and one cursory look at the leftover also clearly suggested the presence of extra onions and a lot of chilly flakes on the pizza just like he loved it.

He knocked on David’s bedroom door, slowly opened it and peeped inside. He found David dozing peacefully on his recliner, with a copy of the latest Newsweek on his chest. Not wanting to wake him up, when Ram started closing the door, David opened his eyes and smiled at him.

“Sorry bro, didn’t mean to wake you up. So, how was your day?” he asked.

Although David couldn’t quite remember the exact dynamics of their friendship yet, he had warmed up to the fact that Ram seemed to be quite a good friend of his. If anything Ram seemed to be trying as hard as he himself was to regain his memories and go back to living a normal life.

He called Ram into the room and asked him to sit on the bed. “I know I shouldn’t ask you this question, but bro, did you have any luck remembering anything at all?” asked Ram to which David just smiled and said nothing.

Taking the hint from his friend’s silence, Ram changed the subject.

“You know what dude, forget all this. It is December, the Christmas season, the time of year to be happy and jolly. Let’s do this, we have a long weekend coming up with Monday being Dec 25th and the office being closed on Dec 22nd due to the local elections here. Let’s do a road trip to Chennai to my folks’ place.

Ever since they came to know that you had an accident they have been worried sick about you. It’s just that they are not calling your phone as they don’t want to worry you in this situation, but you have no idea as to the number of calls that my parents are making every second hour to my phone man. And Priya, I haven’t seen her so worried in her life ever, not even during her board exams dude.”

“Priya” David interrupted.

“Oh sorry dude, you don’t remember her, do you? She is my younger sister, the little brat. She will be thrilled to see you safe and sound when we go there this weekend. So pack up dude, we will leave early tomorrow morning to avoid all the lorry traffic at Hosur and reach West Mambalam by lunch time. I will call Amma and ask her to make your favorite Semia Payasam and Masala Vadai for you tomorrow.”

Although David was not too thrilled at the prospect of introducing newer characters into his already confused mind, Ram’s infectious enthusiasm for the road trip rubbed off on him and he got up early the next day and the duo got into Ram’s Honda City and started driving down to Chennai.

On the way Ram started talking to him about all the road trips that they had done over the last few years. He talked about how they had braved the North Eastern monsoon rains in and around Tamil Nadu and had done a bike trip all the way from Chennai to Kanyakumari and also asked him to look for the picture in his iPad which he had packed in his backpack. And funnily enough, although David recognized himself and Ram in the pictures in the album on the iPad, he couldn’t remember any part of the bike ride itself. He didn’t mention this to Ram as he didn’t want to dampen the enthusiasm and the good mood in which he was right now.

However, when Ram wanted to take a break and asked David to take over driving for a while, when David held the steering wheel something was kindled inside him. As he started cruising at a decent speed of 90-100 kms on the wonderfully laid 8 lane highway between Hosur and Krishnagiri, the hum of the car, its gentle roll on the curves, the trees lining the highway, the 24 hr McDonald’s outlet just outside of Hosur town limits, all of these brought a warm feeling to David’s heart.

Was travelling down this road bringing back a flood of memories to him? Not really, but a few gears in his head started moving and a few pieces of the jigsaw puzzle seemed to be aligning themselves to fall in place shortly.

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This post has been written for the Write Tribe Festival of Words 2 where today’s prompt had to be about music.

vecchio libro con stilograficaThis is the fifth post in a novella “The confession” that I am writing trying to correlate the same to the Write Tribe Festival of Words 2.

Read the rest of the novella here

[Chapter 1 – Memories]               

[Chapter 2 – Food]

[Chapter 3 – Books]

[Chapter 4 – Music]

The Edge of Reason – Book Review


For some funny reason I really don’t remember what prompted me to decide to read this book and order it online. Having said that I personally believe that buying this book and actually ending up reading it and finishing it in one go (ie, without putting down the book to pick up another book to read) has benefited me in multiple ways.

(1) This book has rekindled the interest in reading books by the dozen yet again and I have started making a list of the next 5-6 books that I want to read

(2) This book has rekindled the spark of curiosity in me which I believe had died down over the course of the last few years

(3) This book not only makes me want to read more, but also write more which I am hoping will end up in generating more blog posts such as this one and make me more of a regular writer / blogger.

To get to the book itself, it deals with Cosmology which Wikipedia defines as the academic discipline that seeks to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order. Wow, while I know that is a heavy definition with big words, big concepts, suffice to say that most of my understanding of the origin of our Universe began and ended with The Big Bang Theory (not the TV series, but the actual cosmological concept). And guess what it turns out that most modern cosmology is indeed dominated by The Big Bang Theory.

This book, The Edge of Reason (called “The Edge of Physics: A Journey to Earth’s Extremes to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” outside of India) is part travelogue, part documentary-style writing which takes the author Anil Ananthaswamy from the tip of Mount Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano in Hawaii to deep mines in Minnesota, from Lake Baikal in Siberia to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, from the underground Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland to Mount Saraswathi in Ladakh. The author goes to these places to talk to the scientists, physicists, cosmologists and astronomers regarding to get more details regarding some of the experiments that they are conducting to answer questions regarding the origins of the universe.

While documenting his travels, the author describes in great detail the locations of these experiments, the rationale behind the choice of these varied locations, basic tenets of the experiments being conducted, descriptions of the questions that these experiments are trying to answer, as well as the history behind some of these questions themselves. This book manages to give us an insight into the brilliant minds of the physicists and cosmologists who asked these questions in the first place. In many ways, this book is a tribute to all those pioneer cosmologists who dared to ask the questions which nobody else asked, who dared to question the status-quo of existing theories regarding the origins of the universe, and some of the answers to the questions asked have the potential to radically change our existing knowledge regarding the cosmos itself.

It has to be agreed that this book requires a certain degree of knowledge of and interest in basic physics to be read. Also, the reader has to have the patience of actually slowing down, re-reading paragraphs and pages to put together complicated theories and concepts of cosmology. That being said, Anil Ananthaswamy manages to take the reader on a wonderful joyride around the world and also manages to paint quite a vivid picture of modern day cosmology. In fact, I would bet that more interest would be generated in this field if schools and colleges around the world made this book a part of their libraries and if possible, a part of their list of suggested readings in Physics.

A wonderful book which is a travelogue, cosmology reference guide (at a very basic level), introductory guide to some of the most profound ideas of cosmology and its propounders. A really good read.

Related links

Indiaplaza link to purchase the book in India

Flipkart link to purchase the book in India

Amazon link to purchase the book in the US

Name The edge of reason : Dispatches from the frontiers of cosmology
Author/s Anil Ananthaswamy
Publisher Penguin India
Year published 2010
ISBN 13 9780143066705
Goodreads link Link
Flipkart link Link
Amazon link Link