Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Coming California!!

We visited Phoenix for this long weekend (Memorial Day 2007). It was a helluva trip. Met up with one of my best friends, and one of Subhash's too :) Visited the Grand Canyon (there goes another one off my check-list;) ) and also crossed out Utah and Arizona from my states-to-visit list;)

Came home last night. Flight was landing in San Jose airport. Suddenly I thought of the time when I did this first. A little more than a couple years ago (Jan 2005) I was landing here for the first time. I was that not-seen-California-yet-but-HATE-it-already WI person. You hear so much of California, how the people here brag about the good weather they enjoy, the DESI atmosphere (ahem, one hotel/Indian store per street is DESI all the way) etc etc. They were in my eyes, the last ones to wake up and the last ones to sleep (well, how can you help being on PST/PDT, they say), always gave off an air of complacency and pride about being part of California. I hated them, hated them all, vain people.

I still remember how when I landed, I was shocked to see that you actually WALK from the flight to the gate (last night there was an air-bridge). So much pride about being in good weather!!! And the first thing that caught my attention, sheer number of people, so populous it looked, my my!

I have flown into San Jose, about a dozen times since then, but I never thought about that first time. Last night I did. Because for the first time, it felt like coming home:) I was back in the Silicon Valley, which didn't feel like a far-off land anymore. This place has truly been the symbol of good times for me in the US and I was coming home to it :) From other far-off lands!

I feel that attitude I had years ago about California, in others now. Towards me. But I don't worry. Because perfect or otherwise, this is home, for now at least:) I still hate the traffic and hate the cost of living here, but well, its home all the same.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Truly mixed, those feelings...

Ever since we got our second car, which is for the past couple weeks, I couldn't stop wondering about how much life can change for better or for worse.

Last September I went to Madison. Re-visiting campus for recruiting. That was when I actually began this thought process. Not less than three years ago, I was desperate, for a job, for a light at the end of the tunnel, for a break! I remember how we used to stand in line at the career fair booths hoping to get that most needed break. Now here I am, doing exactly the opposite. Handing out jobs!

When I went to Madison this time, I was determined to do everything student-style. I didn't hire a car. I took the Van Galder from O'Hare (Chicago) to Madison. Within the city I used the good old, very lovable, Madison Metro to move around. I took time and went and visited my ex-colleagues @ GE in Madison where I was an intern. It used to be a good 30-45 mins ride by bus (compared to a mere 10 mins by car), but I did it and was happy that I did. It helped re-live memories and places and situations a lot more reality-like than if I would have taken a car.

Those were dark days. Literally and figuratively. Dark @ 4 pm (damn those WI winters, yuck!), an empty home to go back to, bleak life, no life rather, always a hanging worry about the future..gaaaaaaaaa!! Student life was full of worries about funding. My BIG TEN Univ cost a grand 12K a semester, if I didn't find funding, I had no idea where that money would come from. I still remember how I used to stand at the grocery store aisle and pore over everything in there to look for the least-expensive stuff. Spending 20 bucks on groceries was painful. 20 bucks on anything was painful. At the end of three semesters, I did manage a 1-year internship @ GE but then there was the impending graduation and the worry about what-next. It was hopeless. I was looking and looking and not finding anything. I was determined to stick to my area, which made it all the more difficult. I got a break in early 2004, but that was short-lived. I found out that what was offered as a full-time position "informally" had to be taken back. And then the real struggle began. Hunt and hunt and hunt for jobs. At one point it got to a stage where I had almost a nil on all my finances, and was semi-prepared to head back home to India.

Then I got the real break. Somehow my erstwhile manager, managed (its a play on words) to pull me in with a contracting position and I began a fresh lease on this luck. But the 8 months that this lasted, it was a case of "Here today, maybe will be gone tomorrow", everyday worry about if I will have my job or not the next day. At one point, I was ready to abandon everything, my area, my interests, anything, so long as I found a job that I could fall-back on, so I didn't have to worry about money...

It was partly timing, mainly ill-luck maybe. Industry was slow, jobs were few, graduates were many, demand-supply equations were all overturned in imbalance.

Then the H1-B melodrama. I was on my OPT and my H1-B had to be processed. The company that was contracting me was not willing to get it done so I had to seek out someone who was willing to and then let them contract me to this other contracting company and then they would contract to the main employer. Yeah whatever. It was one hell of a time. Hitting an all-time low on self-esteem I managed to chug along those nightmarish 12 months of my life. Finally in true drama-style, my H1-B arrived, just on the eve of my OPT expiration! My god!

And then started my ride upwards. H1-B arrived today, OPT expired tomorrow, I had an interview lined up day-after. And I have never looked back since then. Even today, it gives me the shudders to think of those days, bleak and dark and hopeless. (And I thank god for sunny California!) And every time I have a tryst with anything that relates to those days, I think, and thank and feel grateful. Above all else, for that one real-good friend, who saw me through all this and stood tall as my tower of strength, never lost faith in me, never let me give-up, and never gave-up on me. The biggest break I ever got in my life is that, he is today, the best half of me:)

So, when I think back (which somehow, I am doing a lot these days), I feel, WOW!

I never want to remember those times, but I hope I never forget those days. They truly taught me to cherish what I have today:) To value what I have and not worry about what I don't/can't. I never want to see those places again, but whenever I do go back, I am happy, happy that its over, at least for now. Happy that I lived through it to survive it.

Mixed feelings....indeed..

Friday, May 11, 2007

Fascinated by the older centuries

After a long time, I had a breather @ work. I read up on some politics we were discussing on 1970s India during lunch. Inspired that I got this far, I did what I do when I am in the mood for some India:) Read up on our History. I never understand how I got through High School not liking this subject at all and loathing it for the huge amounts that you had to read (rather learn by-heart). Anything I read on history was always a mess. I could never get the dates right, never. I would put Aurangazeb bang in the middle of the Chola kings (actually maybe they did rule at the same time? Heck, I don't remember:( ) I gained an immense expertise at memorizing without understanding mainly due to History lessons. Its the fault of those guys who wrote the text books you know. Too much into young brains...tsk..tsk..tsk..

Now that I have a bigger mind (hopefully its grown in sheer size since I was 10!!) I like reading about the history of India. We all talk about our culture, but I want to see it as a movie, start to finish. What happened, how were the lifestyles (gosh! I think I will become an anthropologist!!), what did they do to spend time, how did they come about making great discoveries, how did they progress through the centuries to become one of the greatest civilizations.

They say you live seven lives. I wish I really had 7 lives, one in the Indus-Valley era, one in the Vedic Era, one in which I would have been subject to King Asoka, one in the great Vijayanagara empire, one in pre-colonial India, one just post Independence (I guess that is too late to have a 6th life when I have a 7th life starting in the late 20 century;) ). But well, what is the harm in dreaming. And I wish I could remember vividly all the details from those lives of mine. But I guess if I did, I would be too nostalgic and keep wanting to go back to my 1st or 2nd life;) And I would absolutely probably hate the shallow life of the 21st century? Or maybe I would have loved how we can go half-way across the globe in 22 hours flat and marvel at the strides we have made since my 1st life;)

Maybe...its all running amuck in my mind right now. I wish I had a time machine. I would love to go back to the times when we had kings and experience what it would be like...aaaaa...I need to go home and watch a B&W Telugu movie now....soemthing about the great Vijayanagara Samrajyam:)

Finding solace in Tollywood...and NTR of course!