Tuesday, December 19, 2017

The magical spell of Peru

Traveling solo had been on my to-do list for a long time. I have done it before, but those were more of a weekend trips. My first such sojourn was to Rome. I was on an internship in Germany and thanks to EuRail, I ended up in Rome one weekend. That followed with another weekend trip to Vienna and Salzburg. But this time, I wanted to go big. Earlier this year, I started planning for a solo trip to Alaska but some of my close friends were also interested in visiting Alaska, so we made a great summer vacation out of it. As summer approached its end, and colorful leaves started to paint the landscape in farther side of the country, I got busy making plans for another solo sojourn: this time in the land of the Amazonas, the Andes and the Incans. You get it right. I was planning to visit South America. 

South America is a huge continent and deciding which countries, or even cities, to visit is not an easy task, logistically speaking. Long story short, I decided on visiting only Peru. Then followed a lot of research on planning the itinerary. I decided to include three major pit-stops into my itinerary: a culinary stop in the capital city of Lima, an adventure into the deep of the northeastern Peruvian Amazonas and a historical perspective in heart of Inca civilization around Cusco. I was excited, thrilled and nervous at the same time.

From a relatively cooler California weather, I was headed straight into the sweltering hot and humid weather in the tropics of Amazon rain-forests. An early morning flight from Lima to Iquitos, followed by crossing Rio de Amazonas on a speed boat, I arrived in my jungle lodge, on Amazonian plain alongside one of the tributaries to the Amazon. My three days in the Amazon were packed with invigorating experiences- from meeting with the tribal people of the Amazonas to fishing piranhas and sighting pink dolphins; from photographing hundreds of species of birds and butterflies to little squirrel monkeys to gentle giants of the Amazonas; from local jungle fruits to delicious trouts. Icing on the cake was that the two other girls who were supposed to join my group didn’t show up, so I had a private tour into the wild. If I would like to take out anything from the entire into-the-wild experience, it would be the mosquitoes. Don't even ask about those tiny creatures.

From the deep jungles, I was headed to the highlands close to the eastern Andes. At over 11,000 ft. elevation, the city of Cusco boasts of being the heart of Incan empire, surrounded with so many important centers of Inca civilization. On one side, the salt mines of Maras welcome you with a mysterious natural wonder of salty stream at such high elevation, while on the other side you get engulfed in the awe-inspiring sights of 700 years old engineering masterpieces of terrace farms and still-functional aqueducts. Then there is the lost city of Incas: Machu Picchu. Incans made those famous Inca trails ranging from Colombia to Chile, but they hid in this majestic city of Machu Picchu for survival and destroyed the ways to find the city, when Spanish colonized Latin America. Fun fact: although, Dr. Bingham revealed this wondrous city to the world through his exploration in 1911, in the Latin American’s heart, he is considered more of a treasure hunter.

I spent six days soaking in the history of Incan empire and sinking in the Pisco sours. Although this part of the trip was over, I was more than excited to head back to the culinary capital of Latin America. Oh, and, I should mention, that before heading into the deep jungle, I already had a culinary stop in the capital city. Thanks to Netflix, and San Pellegrino, I knew about the places which brought Peruvian cuisine to the world map. My first stop was at Restaurante Central. Chef Virgilio Martinez’s awe inspiring 17-course Mater Elevations menu had blown my mind away. But, I had to take a stop at the king of Peruvian cuisine, Chef Gaston Acurio’s, who is rightfully credited for bringing Peruvian cuisine to the world map, restaurant Astrid & Gaston. I had done reservation for me but couple of my friends joined as well, and hosts at Astrid & Gaston were happy to accommodate us, even though the restaurant was fully packed. It had just raised the bar of hospitality. No wonder they were crowned with “Art of Hospitality” award during recent Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Talking about the food at these places will take up another blog post.

So, this is enough of bragging about the amazing two weeks I had in Peru. It doesn’t end here. I will go back to venture into deeper Amazonas and to walk on the Inca trails. I will go back to hike the Dead Women’s Pass. I will go back to enjoy more of the culinary magic. Soon.

Friday, April 15, 2016

It is past 4 pm on a Friday evening. I am having existential crisis in broad day light. It’s been little over two and half years since I left grad school, and have been working for one of the industry leaders in Silicon Valley. Sounds like a dream coming true. But, I am yet to realize my dream coming true. I think I have been getting increasingly complacent with the comfortable life style with a good work-life balance a big-fat check every month can provide. Once in a while I head into the woods and to the mountains, to break this monotony. Sometimes I even get this self-realization kick in the back of my head, making me think what I am doing with my life towards where I want to be. Truth is, after so many years of excitement of coming to grad school, and getting out of it, having that faith that this is what I want to do, I had been moving forward. But, at some point, when I stay stagnant for a while, it starts to get itchy in my head. Like in the last years of grad school, I just wanted to get out of it as quickly as possible. All the excitements of being in academia had suddenly succumbed in front of the excitement of facing the real life challenges, entering into the deep waters of corporate work culture. And like these past two and half years of working even in a good learning environment, I feel like I am bored already. I need to break out of this monotony again. I need to rediscover myself. I need to redefine my path. I need to be myself again. Or maybe, I just need to head to the mountains for a while again. Adios. Have a good weekend (Although I hate this phrase. It sounds so depressing as if we are only living for the weekends).

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

कभी तो सोचता हूँ

कभी तो सोचता हूँ मैं भी
कि मेरा लक्ष्य क्या है?
पता नहीं, मेरा अस्तित्व भी
मझधार के किस ओर मंडरा रहा है?
या फिर, किसी पर-कटे परिंदे सा 
एक ऊंचाई पर बने रहने को फड़फड़ा रहा है?
क्या मैं सही राह पर भी हूँ?
या फिर दिशाहीन हो भटक रहा हूँ?

कितनों ने उंचाईयां छू ली 
और कितने ही संघर्ष में पिस भी गए 
मैं भी तो और उड़ना चाहता हूँ
पता नहीं, किस पंख की तलाश में हूँ?
कभी हौसले टूटते से लगते 
कि शायद टूट कर बिखर जाऊँगा 
सहम सा जाता हूँ शायद 
या, सचमुच किसी का इंतज़ार है, 
फिर कभी हौसले संभाल कर 
आसमां की तरफ एक-टक देखता हूँ 
शायद कोई तो सुराख मिले 
जो मैंने बनाया हो, अपनी मंजिल की ओर 
या फिर, बस चलता चला जा रहा हूँ?
उम्मीद में इतने कि अपनी मंजिल ढूंढ पाउँगा 
उम्मीद का भी क्या भरोसा 
कभी सच में टूट गयी तो?
क्या मैं मायूस हो कर कहीं,
सच में बिखर तो नहीं जाऊँगा?

फिर तो बस, एक ही ख्याल आता है
खुद पर भरोसा नहीं छोड़ूंगा कभी 
कुछ राह भटक गए भी तो क्या 
नए फिर हम ढूंढ लाएंगे 
हाँ, मानता हूँ संघर्ष होगा बहुत 
पर फिर, बहुत कुछ सीखा भी तो होगा मैंने 
एक नयी उम्मीद की धार मिलेगी
शायद उसी मझधार के बीचो-बीच
या फिर, शायद सच में पंख ढूंढ लाऊंगा 
और अपनी उड़ान पूरी कर पाउँगा 
यूँ हैं जिंदगी के मझधारों में संघर्ष करता
अक्सर ऐसा ही कुछ सोचता रहता हूँ मैं

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Little over a year ago…

I knew my body clock was disturbed, when I would go for a nap at 7 pm and wake up at 2 am like I was not going to sleep anymore for the night. I also knew that it will get back to normal soon. The worst part of waking up at such ungodly hours was that I would get hungry and there would be nothing in the kitchen. And, I would be confused, whether I should continue working or watch a movie or something on Netflix. Rather, I had decided to start writing this post, which I had been thinking of for a long while. And, today I’m picking up where I left it little over a year ago.
The time had come near to bid adieu to a place, which gave me home for past 4 years. Not to mention, there were many reasons to be nostalgic about this place, since the time I had landed in this once upon a time alien country. Life at the R-land, before coming here, had been wonderful with some of the most awesome people I met there over the years. There was a psychological effect printed into my neurons that I was going to miss R-land dearly here. My close ones do notice a weird character in me that I don’t miss my home as much I miss my friends. Probably, because I have always believed that friends are the family I chose to be with. It was hard on that side, when I had just landed in this alien country. Waiting for roughly 8 hours to catch my next connection to Columbus, I was even a little scared to get out and get a feel of the windy city. Thankfully, I had a good friend from R-land with me. We were going to attend the same graduate program at the same university. So, that made things a little easier.
We landed at a-little past 11:30 pm in Columbus, waiting to get picked up by our American host for the next couple of days. Even then, I was a little scared what if she forgot. Waiting outside the arrivals at the airport, when rest of the people had already gotten their rides/cabs, was scary. Then, I decided to get inside the airport just to have a quick look if there was anybody left at all in there. Of course, our flight was the last one to land for the night. I saw a lady waiting near the luggage pick-up section and just out of curiosity I went to ask her if she was waiting for two students from India. And, there she was, our host for the next few days, until we find a place to put up. That was a touching and a warm welcome in this so called alien land, to a couple of complete strangers, whom they had never even exchanged emails with.
And, then began a new life: a life which provided me with invaluable lessons both, on the academic as well as personal front. I met some of the most awesome people who would in turn become my few close friends. I even lost some supposedly once close friends. Yeah, people come and go, but life moves on. We studied hard and partied even harder.
The kickass birthday parties, the first winter break when folks from R-land were visiting us, the ATM incident, the “is-it-so-soft” curiosity of one of our friends, the late night clubbing and then devouring gyros from the only open gyro place after 2 am, and that clubbing night when, according to them, I had shouted “go away” at the two girls who tried to dance with me, (which I can assure you I had not :P, but the story is still being told the same), the holy-dips in the fishy-waters in “Put-in Bay” or the mirror-lake, the festivity celebrations, the rock-the-house-floor dance and cookout house parties where once in a blue-moon we even made our “wildest” (pun intended) friends shake their legs, the google-hangout sessions with our old friends in different corners of the planet, and some fortunate gatherings here and there, and, amidst these memorable moments four years had just gone by. I was packing my bags to embark on a new journey in the western side of the country. I am not sure, if I was more nostalgic to leave the place which had been my home away from home and the people who were my family there, or more excited about moving to a place with which I fell in love with the first time I visited there. Then, it was time.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

पर, खुश हूँ मैं

क्यूँ दरारों की ज़रूरत थी,
कि अपने रास्ते अलग हो सकें?
होठों पर मुस्कराहट,
और आँखें नम थीं
कि यादों की गहराई में
हम खो सकें?
दिल के मासूम टुकड़ों से
पूछा ना कभी
कि लापरवाह इश्क़ की छाव में
तुम इतना क्यूँ इतरा रहे थे?
बेचारा, आने वाले
इम्तेहां से बेख़बर जो था।
क्यूँ छोड़ दिया उसी हाल पर
कि नादानियों से शाय़द सीख सके?

ख़ैर, छोड़ो
इक सुकून है बस इस बात का
कि तुम्हें इतने क़रीब से जाना
रास्ते अलग हुए तो क्या
यादों की रौशनी साथ है ना
उन्हीं मासूम दिल के टुकड़ों को 
जोड़ कर, फिर चल पड़ा हूँ मै
राह नयी है, साथ तुम भी तो नहीं हो
पर, खुश हूँ मैं
हसीं वादियों के बीच,
खुले आसमां के नीचे,
दरिया की कल-कल धारा कि गोद में,
उन यादों को दोहराऊंगा मैं
खुशियों से भरा एक अपना,
छोटा सा जहाँ, बनाऊंगा मैं। 

Monday, July 01, 2013

O' you nightingale eyes

O' You nightingale eyes
You saw me through
my weirdest replies

I wasn't shy
Or, maybe was I
I saw you smile
Couldn't look away for a while

You knew it right then
What my heart had spoken
I did not wanna accept
Neither I wanted any regret

Yes, I was confused
When you approached
I tried to look away
Then, I heard you say "Hey"
Through my pounding heart
You perhaps, got a reply

I tried to be calm
So brought up a smile
We went for a walk
Romance was our talk

The evening was bright
Under beautiful moon-light
As I held your hand
Felt if I could stop slipping of the sand

A thank you, from the heart
For taking the start
For breaking the ice
O' you nightingale eyes
You saw me through
my weirdest replies

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Then, I met you.

It all started one autumn. The summer just passed was full of loneliness and nostalgia. I wanted to be with someone who actually cared listen to me, and also cared to talk to me. Yes I have always had a few really good friends, but I think I wanted being someone special, or maybe I wanted to meet the one for me. Yes, I have always been hopeless romantic, just like any typical Piscean, floating on top of feelings/emotions. I am generally a good judge of people, and I take time to get to know people. But, when I started to know you, I wanted to know you more. I felt that the feelings were mutual. Although, it was just facebook/gtalk dating, we did spend hours chit-chatting, sitting thousands of miles away. Within just a week of knowing you, it was your 22nd birthday. I had known well enough about your likings that I wanted to get you a thoughtful present for your birthday, but my practical mind was saying that it would be too soon. There were a lot of common things between us, but there were so many differences too. You had been a great sports person, well acknowledged too, and I was barely good at any sports. I had developed a great fondness for you. I know it will be another act of hopeless romanticism but I am pretty sure I remember everything we talked about when we had our first phone conversation. You were hiding in the park beside your house from your parents, just to have a conversation with me. That made me feel important and I loved the feeling. Almost 7-8 weeks passed just like that and I grew fonder of having a conversation with you each passing day, sharing every details of my life with you and knowing bits and pieces of your life. You shared many of your secrets with me, because you trusted me so much. It felt awesome. I assure you, your secrets will always be safe with me. Then you went away for a week to visit some of your relatives, and it felt like the time had suddenly become slower. We couldn’t talk at all that week. I was eagerly waiting for the week to get over so that I could have a conversation with you. When you returned, I was so damn excited. I remember you saying once to me that you felt so lonely and empty and I wanted to say that I had been falling for you. But, my practical mind stopped me from doing that, saying that I haven’t even met you once and it would be utterly stupid of me. Didn’t I tell you I was hopelessly romantic? Yes, exactly that’s what I was talking about. I was visiting home in sometime and I wanted to meet you once. Meanwhile, we had some disagreements. And, for the first time you stopped talking to me. You were angry at me. It felt like thousands of sharp needles piercing my heart. I wanted to cry, but I couldn’t. My parents couldn’t figure out what had suddenly happened to my mood. I wrote an emotional poem for you. I don’t know if you ever read that, but it makes me teary-eyed even now, when I read it.

Then, I met you.

to be continued...

Friday, March 29, 2013

Birthday blues!

This post was supposed to come a month ago, but you know, there is a saying "better late than never" :D. Ever since I was a kid, I had the fervor of excitement for birthdays. Although, I grew up with a different tradition of birthday celebrations at my home than cutting the cake etc., I liked the special attention given to me that day. I guess, every kid does, well, apart from Sheldon who wanted a Titanium Centrifuge on his birthday :P. Being from a highly spiritual family, my parents and grandparents believed in thanking god for the completion of one more year of existence. I also grew up quite spiritually oriented, but then I got introduced to science. And, beliefs changed for me. Well, this post is not going to be about those beliefs. Rather, I will try sharing some of my "special moment" experiences on my birthdays that I have had in the last few years.

Eight years ago, I was a Freshmen at ISM Dhanbad. And, then came my first birthday away from home and family. There, I got introduced to the idea of birthday-bumps. It felt like an amazing way to celebrate birthday, provided it was someone else's birthday. It scared the hell out of me, as my birthday came closer. To be true, there were two really big guys in our wing, who could literally lift me up single handedly and then the others could do the beating. Yes, that very idea scared the tiny little me. So, I came up with a plan :D. I asked one of my trusted friends to lock me up inside my own room. Even, the roommates got their share of birthday bumps, so I and my dear roommate, Sid, stayed locked up after dinner and spread the rumor around that I will be at my local guardian's place for the night. Somehow our plan got leaked and we had no idea about it. How could we have, we were locked up inside, and none of us had a cell phone back then. As the clock ticked 11:45 pm, we heard people gathering in front of our hostel room, and my facial expression was enough to convey Sid that people knew about our plan. It was good that our trusted-friend had slid the key back to us, after locking us in. 11:50, and first knock on the door, only to affirm our suspicion that they know we are inside. Repeated knocks and screams then followed to make us come out of our room, while inside we were just trying to breathe, without uttering a single word. From the whispers, I could easily figure out that there were at least 20 people outside. I would skip a heartbeat with the thought "what if the door fell down?". It went on and on for like an hour or so, intermittent knocks and shouting. And, then people got frustrated and left for their rooms. Next morning, everyone's expressions said, "Not fair, kid", and I would wanna say, "I never kicked anyone's ass, so no one should kick mine :P". Sigh. 

My next 4 birthdays were celebrated in our own R-land, and I knew that the old plan was not gonna work here. As the day came closer, I had started to accept that I will be getting birthday bumps this time. I and my roommate, both were quite skinny. Well, my roommate was quite taller than me so he looked even skinnier :P. At the stroke of midnight, on my birthday, people arrived in my room. Hugs and wishes followed and then, the deed. Yes, I was tiny so it was very easy for any two of them to lift me up, and I got my share of birthday bumps. The bad part about this celebration was that there were stories about people wearing their NCC boots especially for giving birthday bumps to their dearest friends. Well, my tiny skeleton made them spare me off NCC boots. It hurt a little, for a while. But, then, they lifted my roommate and he was getting his share of birthday bumps. One guy took out his flip-flop and started giving his share of bumps to him. Just as he went through first flap on his hips, it literally turned my roommate upside down. Everybody was literally rolling on the floor laughing on that sight. It became even easier to beat his tiny bums with those flip-flops :P. Then there were usual celebrations in hostel canteen and a treat in a restaurant. Second year onwards, I had shifted to another hostel with smaller group of friends. The tradition went on for next two years, without the beating part though.

The last birthday celebration in R-land had a lot of nostalgia added to it. For past three and half years, we had made some truly great friends, and the time was coming close to say it all a heartfelt goodbye. Well, I don't need to say what happens to saying goodbyes, if you start adding a little alcohol to it :P. Daaru-chapos were getting common way to celebrate someone getting a job or for someone's birthday or for any god-damn reason to spend some quality time together. I was mostly on the non-drinkers' side, having fun of the conversation and then, reminding everyone the next day what they did :P. So, it was my last birthday and there was a cake. And, then some daaru. And, then there was a rage against a Professor X. Let me back you up a little. We had classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and we tried to move the classes from Mondays and Fridays along with other classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but the Professor X didn't agree to move his classes, citing simple enough reason that he didn't want us to have long weekends for the whole semester. So, coming back to my birthday now. It was Thursday night and after having cake and some drink, we all had "some great fun" and went to sleep. Next morning, at 9 am sharp, kids had to go for Prof. X's class. And, the professor began telling a story putting his sarcastic smile on his face. It went on as, "Something funny happened last night. Somebody locked my apartment door from outside". Well, what else can I say. Apart from that, we had our legendary Goa trip few weeks later. And, that Goa trip will remain the best birthday gift I ever got. Thank you folks.
Birthday bumps on my 25th :-/

Nostalgia of leaving R-land was just getting over when I landed in the alien land of US of A. First birthday celebration was okay following similar tradition as college. I was still nostalgic about my last birthday celebration in R-land though.  I didn't know a lot of people back then, but slowly I have made some truly amazing friends here. Then I turned 25. Time passed by. This year, I had my last birthday celebration with these amazing folks. Yes, they will be friends for life. Yes, I will miss you guys a lot, wherever I will be. With all this nostalgia, I look forward to exploring the adventure of being in a new place pretty soon and begin a new phase of my life. Soon enough. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

शब्द खोये से क्यूँ हैं

शब्द खोये से क्यूँ हैं, 
शायद किसी की तलाश में हैं
जब कभी उस पार झाँकने की कोशिश करता हूँ मैं 
एहसास एक ऐसा झकझोर जाता है मुझे 
उन्हें सामने न देख कर 
कई टुकड़ों में बिखर जाता हूँ मैं

कई बार कोशिश की, 
यादों को शब्दों में पिरोने की
शायद, वापस जा सकूं, 
जहाँ अपने रास्ते अलग हुए थे 
कशिश वो सीने में आज भी है, 
शायद शब्द इसलिए कतरा रहे हैं 
इतना दर्द संभाल कर भी 
जीता रहा हूँ मैं इत्म्नान से 
शब्दों को डर है मेरे हौसले से 
शायद उन यादों के भंवर में 
एक बार फिर टूट कर बिखर जाऊँगा मैं ।

Monday, October 08, 2012

Growing up

In a few months, I will be turning 27 and I wonder almost everything about this age of transition from young to adult. The concept of growing up is still an enigma to me in many senses. There are some situations, where I really don’t want to grow up, for example my hopeless romanticism ;). I recently had a long distance crush on someone and I was stupidly so not ready to let go. But, then I grew up a bit ;). One of my friend had shared a status on Facebook when he turned 25, mentioning how we are not cool ones anymore to hang out with our college going friends; how we are not so grown up to even hang out with matured family oriented friends of ours; how our neighbors and distant relatives just see us as a potential groom for some distantly known girl they know of; blah, blah, blah. In all senses it conveyed a nuance of messiness in this age of transition I am going through and I kind of feel, well not a lot but, a pinch of it, too. There are times when I could feel a conflict between dying adolescence and a domineering maturity, be it about making a relationship decision or a career related decision, egotistically saying not to become irrational and stupid. There are times when I could feel I wish I had not grown up. Strangely enough, the ambitious one in me has grown up into a more complacent one, a more compromising one. The journey of growing up has taught me so much more and most importantly I have learned to choose what I want to become. We all go through this, I believe. We learn to hide things from close family members, we learn to make new friends, to come out of a bad break up, and we learn to make ways for our once closest friends to leave from our lives. Life keeps on surprising us every now and then, and yet, we feel that we understand life better. Yet, we love the life more, not only because what we are left with in our lives, but more because of the journey we have just been through. It brings out so many promises, promises of what else could come further down this journey, who else we could meet there and how would we change ourselves, for better or worse. None of us knows. And, that makes it more exciting. Yes, I agree we all miss our carefree childhood, but it’s these promises which keep us going. Yes, we do want to look back, once in a while, and it makes us nostalgic, and I especially try to gather up strength from that to shrug off that nostalgia, stand up and walk again. We grow up.