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What goes around comes around, 2012

The other day, me and some friends went to a restaurant for dinner. It was about closing time and the waitress was sweeping up the room, but greeted us with a smile and a “can I get you something?”. We proceeded to have a normal dinner-out. After dinner, I went to the local theatre to volunteer at the concessions stand for the late night show. Right as the movie was about to begin, the waitress who had earlier served me walked in, and then it was my turn to ask.. “can I get you something”? We both shared a laugh at the zero-ness of life. You know, what goes around comes around :).

Happy 2012 folks.


Pachydermal Issues

From WikipediaJust in case I had forgotten how life was back home, Kerala welcomed me with these two pieces of news both involving the state’s favourite animal, the elephant.

Now each temple in Kerala typically has at least one elephant to its name. Guruvayoor tops the list with 60 I think.  The said animals are kept nearby, washed and maintained by a mahout  ‘pappan’ and revered and loved by everyone in the town. In fact, we love them so much that in the monsoon season each lucky pachyderm gets an ayurvedic treatment to rest and relax its frayed nerves. After all, being pampered all year round is no joke. (I wonder if domesticated elephants in timber yards have heard about these job perks in temples, and whether they conside a switching careers).

1) So, anyway, back to the news. A temple near the town I’m from was preparing its three elephants for a ceremonial circumnambulation around the town. There was some delay in the start and one of the pachyderms got a lil restless, and gave his friend a poke. Said friend was not in a good mood, fell down and created a big ruckus. Needless to say the restless miscreant was chained up, and the priests tried to calm the upset one. In the meantime, the third pachyderm got fed up with his colleagues behaviour and decides he can do a pradakshina on his own. So this full grown male elephant all decked up in revelry marches out of the temple and into the middle of a bustling town. Did the people run for their lives? Was the police called? Nope. Apparently the pachyderm was so well-mannered in following all traffic rules through the busy streets.. nobody realized he was on his own. The unattended elephant walked 20 mins to his destination and it’s only then that the temple realized, oh look, he’s back!

2) The next piece of news was more entertaining. An elephant snuck out in the middle of the night from one of the temples and went missing. Now this is big news, an elephant is a matter of pride and lot of donations. How did it escape? Why did it run away? And more importantly, where does a 5000 kg, 10 ft tall mammal hide?! The locality around was searched by all but to no avail. Finally, two days later, some kids (in a cliched went-to-retrieve-a-ball story) found the pachyderm sitting in a shady grove of sugarcane fields, contently munching. AThe rumour is that the temple food disagreed with him but that’s the grapevine talking.

And there we have it. I’ve always been amazed at these elephants, especially during the times of the temple festivals (or Ultsavams or Poorams). Why a huge, 4 ton beast with 8 feet tusks allows to be dressed up with pretty nettipattams, bells, necklaces is beyond me. How it doesn’t go mad with the sound of the loud drums (thanks to the marars), with a thousand people all craning to get closer and feed it more bananas is a different matter altogether. Talk about patience! No wonder we love our state animal so much, who else would stand for such stuff.

Surviving your quarter-life crisis

:To all the twenty-somethings who have graduated from college and are not married. (If you’re married, look for advice columns on mid-life crisis. Your life’s half done.)

Quite a few of my friends in graduate school are on the verge of graduating, looking for jobs, filing OPTs and making career decisions. All of them are a little apprehensive, scared and unsure of what will happen once they do graduate.. and some wish they wouldn’t be graduating. Quite a few of my friends in graduate school are not graduating any time soon, looking at all the years they have left to spend in grad school before starting a career. All of them are a little apprehensive, scared and unsure of what will happen until they graduate.. and some wish they would be graduating right away, and moving on to the next stages of their lives.

To all my friends, welcome to your quarter-life crisis. Haven’t heard of this term before? (Lucky you). Check out the blog by Unknown here: http://www.cds.caltech.edu/~shane/text/quarterlifecrisis.html

Back? If the text on that bleak, black screen seemed to talk about you.. you’re on the right page. If it talks exactly what you are going through day in and day out.. get some help. Life isn’t that bad. It’s just swinging very wildly, happy moments and scary moments in succession. While it’s not always easy to be a perpetual monkey-on-crack,  I have phaith that we’ll deal with it and emerge a happier generation. So here goes my cynical, critical and sympathetic comments on surviving this stage of life, compiled from the net, from personal experience, and from being a granny.

  1. Vent out, but don’t whine. Yeah you don’t have a job, or a girlfriend, or a car or a combination of the lack of either of these. It’s ok, these things are a matter of time. Do I really have to listen to it every week??
  2. Don’t neglect health. Get enough sleep, relaxation, french-fries, exercise and alcohol. Well.. maybe you wanna cut down on the alcohol. Dont give up the fried food though!
  3. Live in denial. It keeps you young and immature, that’s what we’re aiming for folks! )I have a friend who recently celebrated his fifth 19th birthday. Be inspired.)
  4. This paper isn’t published yet, but acute quarter-life crisis is actually caused by the bug Growingup toosoonish. Chronic infections are caused by the bug Notgrowingup toosoonish. (I should at least get an Ignoble for this, ne?)
  5.  Blame the times. Apparently, it’s because of this fast-paced, competetive and high-expectation filled society that we’re suffering. Twenty somethings of our parents generation were more liberated, not as much in-debt and with better jobs. I’m not so sure about this one.. but it helps to blame something. Maybe I’ll blame global warming.

If you manage to do either of these self-asserted tips, let me know. If you managed to do something else to survive this stage, let me know. Fact of the matter is that the quarter-life crisis is just a fancy term for a few years of your life. Don’t give it any more thought than needed.. so get out, live your life.


A Blacksburg Life

My previous post prompted these thoughts in my head: What is it about Blacksburg that’s so endearing? We don’t even have a regular sized movie theatre, the town’s population of 50,000 becomes less than half during the breaks, winters are cold and last till April.. and yet, I defend Blacksburg. Why?

I meet new students who have been here a few months and most of them say the same thing: What do you do in Blacksburg? Study, for one. Your courses, projects and lab shouldn’t tempt asking such questions, unless you’re an MBA student :D. But really, would you guys rather study in a huge city where the rent would be twice as high, getting to college would take you at least 30 mins and where you would be lost within the multitude of humanity on the streets? Here BTransit gets you to campus in 10 mins. Here, you can see a montain on the horizon in every direction. Each season is vivid and distinct, and the months pass by in a wink. For a college town, Blacksburg’s pretty decent you know. Ah, I do wish we had a bigger metropolis nearby though.. the fact that the closest city (D.C or Richmond) is 4 hrs away doesn’t help.

Blacksburg in the Summer or '08

More than a decade ago I had written an essay about Bangalore that went along the same lines. We moved to that city when it was still called ‘Retiree’s Paradise’, but I found nothing to like compared to others I had lived in. My essay was a long tirade complaining about it’s various aspects. A cousin of mine who grew up had defended Bangalore then. And right now the tables have turned, I myself could write a long essay exalting my dear singara Bangalore.  Places grow on you I guess. Places you live long enough, where you associate some part of your identity to, or call home. A place small enough for you to not get lost in the crowd, unlike a larger city that may overwhelm you. I don’t say stay here forever, but wherever you go from here, Blacksburg will be a place you belonged.

So that’s why we like this town. It’s a first home to so many of us students who have left the cities where we grew up and wound up here. I like this place, ’cause our only theatre Lyric isn’t even regular sized, the town’s population is only 50,000 which becomes less than half during the breaks, every season is distinct, vivid and winter only lasts till April.. :).

15 things you should do before you say there isn’t anything to do in Blacksburg

I love this dear town, and yes, I know.. it’s barely a town. But you’d be surprised at how much there is to do around here, if one can just step out a little. I’m leaving out the obvious things like, spend an evening at the Duckpond, hike the Cascades, watch the stars from the Drillfield etc etc. This is just an attempt to point out the different things you should try out if living in the lil town of Blacksburg for a couple of years.

  1. Watch a movie at the Lyric. Opened in 1930’s (the tapestries are still the same old ones), Lyric is a non-profit theatre (Read: $4 tickets, plus free popcorn on some nights) that always shows interesting movies and classics.
  2. Even better, volunteer at the Lyric. For around 30 mins of selling tickets, or manning the snacks bar, you get movie passes, snacks and the joy of helping out.
  3. Become a member of the Blacksburg public library. Don’t know where that is? Find out!
  4. Visit the YMCA thrift store, you’ll always find something eclectic. Their book fair in October is a great place to pick up used books as well. There are oppurtunities to volunteer with them as well.
  5. See the annual Blackburg Holiday parade downtown. Even with the nasty December weather.. downtown is a pleasing sight to see with decorated lights, food stalls, free hot chocolate, the huge christmas tree and the parade passing through. Walk through Farmer’s market occassionally to get to know of other events.
  6. Participate in the Big Event in April. ” VT’s largest service event with thousands of students completing hundreds of community service projects throughout Blacksburg, Christiansburg and the New River Valley.”
  7. Ride the Hokie Express all the way around. Do you know where it’s time check is, hmm..?
  8. Ice skate at the Hand-in-Hand park. Not really that essential. Drive yourself to Roanoke and ice-skate at the community civic centre if you want a nicer rink.
  9. Visit Roanoke sometime. More than just the airport, the greyhound terminus and Tazaa.
  10. Experience at least one symphony, concert, ballet, skit or theatre at the Henderson Hall.
  11. Art fan? Visit the local galleries downtown. Sports fan? Swim, run, exercise, play racquetball, squash, basketball or badminton at the War memorial gym (Schiffert can count too).
  12. Participate in Diwali! Yes, you must must must.. at least once :). Ask anyone who has participated in Diwali, spending every ounce of free time and energy in the Fall semester to put together this show. Sure, they’ll complain.. but I doubt anyone regrets it.
  13. Visit the golf course on south main street that has a very nice valley view-point. I didn’t get a link for this one, but it is a nice place to get a good view of the neighbouring mountain ridges.
  14. Drive to Mountain lake. Not much else you can do there but enjoy the view sadly. I’m told there’s a lifesize chessboard, so that should be something. And hey, maybe some remnants of Dirty Dancing.
  15. (Added on behalf of my friend, when I asked for more tips) Graduate.


This list may increase further, at which point I’ll title the post ” 20 things you should do before you say there isn’t anything to do in Blacksburg”. I’m still thinking as of now. Suggest some if you may.

Allow me to boast

Vangibath! That odd looking plate of which the cook in our college canteen would always make so well.. is conquered. And this time, no vangibath mixes/powders were used either. All-from-scratch. I know, I’m awesome :D. After a lazy Monday at work, I surprisingly find motivation to make dinner. A very thorough and good recipe from Sailu’s kitchen and some awesome music helped me along the way. So what if I burnt my mixie, cut my finger (and proceeded to pinch salt using the same), ruined my blue sweater, roasted already roasted peanuts and ran away when the mustard begin to splutter? It’s conquered, done with. A crispy papad along with the steamy rice and I’m back in that college canteen.. just this time, not wondering however do they make this thing :). 

Check out the recipe sometime if you can.

The thing about Religion

Eskimo: “If I did not know about God and sin, would I go to hell?”

Priest: “No, not if you did not know.”

Eskimo: “Then why did you tell me?”

-Annie Dillard


The thing about Religion is that.. unless you point it out, it isn’t there.