I leave in the afternoon for a location that shall remain unnamed. All I can say is I’m dressing warm. I’m pretty paranoid about saying stuff online that might be in someway linked to my professional identity. The US is not India; one wrong move without realizing it, and you can be the target of a lawsuit. So as is usual, the folks who sign off my paycheck shall remain anonymous on this blog.
Oh, it snowed today. My first proper snow. There was a couple of inches on Christmas Eve when I visited my cousin in Dallas two years ago, but that melted rather quickly. I was however stricken by a most horrible bout of inflamed sinuses that I couldn’t bear to step out. I just opened my window and made a tiny snowman out of the five inches of snow on my window sill. And guess what, it’s just like the frost that covered the freezers of the ’90s.
I have been stuck in the most horrible location. High rent, matchbox-sized accommodation, and kitchen space with no place to unpack the meagre set of utensils you have accumulated over three years. And a shark of a woman who rented this space to me. All I can say is I’m superglad she is in India and I never had to meet her face to face. Sample this.. one day me and the other subleasee come home to no Internet. I didn’t bother much beyond checking the router and modem and checking if everything is plugged in; I had a series of phonecalls to make to family and friends I hadn’t talked much to. But the following morning, I was at the end of my tether. Asked the other girl if she knew who the ISP was. She said she didn’t know. So after a lot of number-getting from Tuna Fish, I called every ISP Tuna could think of, to ask if they provided Internet to our house. Finally, it turned out that our Internet had been turned off as the bills were not paid. Oh, well, how much could it be… I asked for the bill so that I could make a payment. I was quoted an astronomical amount which I assumed was in Zimbabwean currency. But no, no such luck. When I asked the other girl about it, she said how could that be, the Shark has been taking money from all of us every month to pay for the Internet. Turns out, the Shark hadn’t done so for three months. When we called her, she was firm in saying she had paid. After a lot of cold glares, I woke up the following morning to the bills paid.
Thankfully, I soon found another place to move to, with significantly lower rent and larger space and heck, larger closet space. And a room that can house both a table and a bed, unlike where I’m living now. Such a relief.
I’ve started yet another fulltime job. I’ve rather liked my time there till now. And that’s all I shall say about it here.
I work in Midtown Manhattan. That’s home to some of the most awesome restaurants I’ve eaten at till now. The Indian food tastes Indian. The Mongolian food is amazing. You find vegan Korean food, how amazing is that! Oh, and a fully vegetarian Indian restaurant! The Mexican is not bad, and the Italian is simply subtle as it should be. The street vendors have simply amazing falafel-on-rice. Why, even something as lame as the tofu sandwiches at the delis here are amazing. This seems to be the best place to be vegetarian. Or foodie.
I’m also quite impressed by how easy Manhattan is to navigate around. And how busy the subway is at all hours. Even the folks busking seem amazing at their music. Some of them are unimaginably bad, but most of those I’ve heard for a few minutes at Grand Central and Times Square are really good. Their music is a good start to the day, be it gangsta rap or smooth jazz.
I’ve also gotten quite interested in improvisational comedy or Improv. The sort of stuff Whose Line Is It Anyway is all about…. you’re given a random suggestion, mostly from the audience and you and the others on stage just make a scene up as you go along. Also because Tina Fey started off as an improv’er. I’ve found quite a few spaces with tons of free and cheap improv and standup shows. The one closest to where I work is The Pit (People’s Improv Theater). I hang around there as much as I can and watch everything I can. They also have quite a fine bar slash coffee shop. The folks are friendly and the bartenders and staff are rather fun. They also have improv jams. So many different people come for those, and take part, from fourteen-year-old fresh-faced children to pervy senior citizens to really funny Pam Anderson lookalikes to a Lankan couple visiting from Beijing.
I too join in. I like the anonymity of it all, being in a city where hardly anyone knows me, and can be anyone I want, make as weird jokes as I like fully knowing no one will remember me two acts hence. I like just blending in and having fun, irrespective of how the emcee trips over my name, irrespective of all the other brown men (haven’t found any brown women) play only Achmed-type roles far as I’ve seen. Half my time on stage, I can’t think of what to say, and the remaining half, I’m too amazed by the kickass stuff the others come up with, that I’m giggling hard. I find my pun-type jokes are more suited for being read than heard, but maybe I should try phrasing them better.
There was this rather weird incident last night at the Improv Open Jam. There were two professionals who were sort of driving the whole thing and guiding us along, and doing a rather good job. There were quite a lot of group skits that were getting done, most if not all of it really funny. After all of us were done, there were still a few minutes left. So they started this game, where two people start on a scene, preferably doing something with exaggerated actions, when one of the others on stage says ‘Freeze’, when the two in the scene freeze, and then that person takes over the pose of one of the frozen folk, and continues the scene, hopefully with something completely different.
A Pam Anderson-lookalike woman got stuck in a position where there was another player standing behind her, his arms around her waist. And everyone began saying ‘Freeze’, taking over the other player’s position, not really attempting to change position all that much. It was just a little uncomfortable until this lecherous old man came onto the scene. Within a few seconds, the professionals realized he was being a jerk, and froze him, and asked me to take his place. Just as I was attempting to switch to a position facing the lady, I got frozen out. Thankfully the game ended soon. Ick. Gross.
I need to check out the Magnet Theater and Upright Citizens Brigade as well. I’d love to try classes for improv. They are sort of pricey, but not totally unaffordably so. There are quite a few free classes, too.
There’s plenty more to do. Especially if you have some sort of disposable income. But even otherwise, there’s plenty of free stuff that happens. There’s so much that goes on in New York City. It is truly a wonderful place to live in. The people aren’t as stylish on average compared to Southern California. The pollution and weather are downright horrible. But NYC has soul oozing out of its every bit. I hated this place when I landed here, but I think I’ll grow to like it.
I always love the anonymity that comes with a new place, before I slot myself into doing only certain things and develop mental blocks against some things and people. I love this initial stage where I’m just drifting along. But I’d also love to find one place for the next year or so at the very least and feel comfortable enough to buy heavy furniture…. that gives some sort of mental peace and a feeling of settling down. I’d love to find my own house which I don’t have to share with anyone except maybe close family and friends when they come a-visitin’, when I won’t have to ask roommates for permission to have people over, or when I don’t have to worry about all my kitchen accidents because I’ll clean up eventually anyway.
It’s also great to work with people who know the same Reddit memes as you do, and who also share the passion for the same technologies as you do. It’s even better to be able to learn from brilliant people, be it by asking them questions or even just listening in on their conversations with each other.
I have big plans professionally, and also with my personal and social lives, and about the whole work-life balance thing. If there was one thing gradschool taught me, it is about how important it is to live a little so that you don’t lose perspective on life.
I miss friends from my old life. Everything fun feels like it would have been that much better had this or that person been enjoying it with me. When I pass by a random bar or a restaurant, I want to just whip out my phone and call a friend and say “Maga, ee jaaga sakkathagidiyansatte, bartiya?”… but that will take a while longer, probably.
I don’t feel much nostalgia for my past. I don’t frankly care anymore. You know all those people who told you your undergrad days are the best ever days of your life? They are dead wrong. Life only gets way better. With a little more money and experience, it’s hard to believe things don’t get better. Backpacking never turned less fun with a few extra bucks. Drinking sessions don’t get any less crazy with better quality non-hangover-inducing alcohol, that you can drink all night even if you have a meeting with the team the next morning. True, you don’t have the wide variety of experiences you shared in the hostel, but you also don’t have to put up with heavy metal playing in the next room the night before an exam. The people your age start dressing way better and more elegant, and suddenly become easier on the eyes. It’s harder to find friends, but the ones you have already are tried-and-tested in giving their lives for you. There’s some sort of respect people give you as an adult, and they respect your time and space more. The heartbreaks become easier to tolerate because you aren’t anymore dating the jerks you dated in college; you’re seeing men and women mostly capable of rational thought, not boys and girls who have weird ideas about the opposite sex and delusions about themselves.
If you told me four years ago that I would be saying this or living this life, I wouldn’t have believed you. Things haven’t always gone my way since then, but I think I can safely say at this point that I have done quite well for myself, whether or not you compare the current me to the gawky kid that came out of NITK in 2008. I can say the same for most of my pals from college… everyone seems to have come into their own.
This turned out to be longer than I expected but guess what, I don’t have writer’s block anymore!
I’m moving to New York City. And after three years, Tuna Fish and I will be on the same timezone, and we’ll be in the same state for the first time since we started our first jobs after graduation.
I’ll be starting on a fulltime job real soon. From what they’ve told me and what I’ve read online, it seems to be a fulfilling workplace which will give me fun work to do and still manage to leave enough time for other fun stuff. And I’ll be by myself in a big city, and hope to find enough fun activities to fill my time. Then I have a 30-minute travel to and from work, for which I’ll in all probability be using public transport. I’m hoping big city life and crowded streets bring back the color to my cheeks, so what if it’s a smoky gray from all the pollution. And all this is supreme blogging fodder, so I’ll probably break the writer’s block that has plagued me since October.
I’ve had a lot of life-changing stuff happening to me in the months between summer and now. I hope to blog about some of the bloggable ones. There are plenty of untended drafts, and I’ll publish a few of them soon.
It’s late now and I need to sleep; I’ll be flying from the southwest tip of the US (well, nearly… just a couple of hours from the Mexican border) to the northeast (see title! translate from kannada!), and that’s going to be a long long flight for which I need to be well-rested. I find myself unable to sleep because of the overpowering waves of nostalgia washing over me, and the excitement that tomorrow and the weeks that follow will bring.
I couldn’t have gotten over the past few months without people here – My advisor Prof. Alex Ihler who’s supported me through my crazy travails and helped me do my first bit of solid research work, my pals Ishwar, Meghana and Shobhit who’ve made the past few months real fun for me, and my wonderful wonderful roommates Shanaz, Anu, Vidya and Shamita who’ve seriously been the nicest, funnest, most helpful bunch of people to live with. And of course, my aunts Uma and Usha who over the past couple of years have given me the solidest advice I’ve ever taken, my akka and athimber and darling nephews who’ve kept things so normal and fun for me. Folks who’ve always just been a call away when I’ve walked back from lab at odd hours, and who’ve calmed me down and given me perspective whenever it felt like things have gotten out of hand….. Bigshow, Karthik, Mohan, Abhilash, Logik.. and my gal pals who’ve just been an email away for fun gossip and serious talk and who I trust more than anything else.. Tuna, Shruthi, Swati, Pooney. And it’d be incomplete if I don’t mention the fun set of people that keep me sane… Merin, Siri, Zibsko, Ego, Suresh-sir, Quale.
Note: I’m writing this at darned 2am, with a 9am flight in the morning. If you’re gonna be mad about my not mentioning you here, I’m sorry for forgetting your name in a sleepy nostalgic stupor, but heck, if you really care that much, you’d give me a darned break for that.
And none of this would have even been fathomable if it weren’t for my parents. They’ve brought me up to be self-reliant, ambitious and determined. And they’ve supported me more than they could through every crazy thing I went through all this while so that I could be all of those things with little worries otherwise. There’s this old Mindry.in sketch where some guy is asked in a job interview about his philosophy towards work and he says ‘Mother is the first teacher’. While it seems obnoxious to quote mindry.in while talking about such a serious thing, I’m so at a loss for words, that it seems the only appropriate thing to say right now, when I feel my parents’ pride in me.
Alrighty. Next blogpost from the East Coast. I’ll whine about the weather, and soon begin to look down on the west coast’s informality, their weird food like avocados, and their utter lack of good public transport.
Over and out.