Saturday, December 20, 2008

Snow stormed!!!

Yesterday, I was praying for it and today it came in all its billowing white glory. Everyone anticipated it to hit at around 11:00 in the morning. Like a true rock star, the storm kept it's audience waiting till the last possible second. Just when it was about to be pronounced a damp squib, at around 2:00 in the afternoon, the snow storm came tearing down.

I was caught in a flurry of my own, of work crying to be completed. The only updates I got were from people out on the road who kept calling me to get the hell out of office. I kept on working well past my normal end of day. Part of the reason was that I really did have enough work to do and part was that I wanted to hitch a cab ride through the peak of the snow storm. By the time I had finished my daily office chores it was already 6:30 in the evening. My seat does not look out on a window so I had missed the inaugaration of the storm. I stepped out of office to find every available surface covered with inches of snow. And the white fluff was still pounding down with the wind making a hoarse sound like it had caught a cold itself. No other colour would be tolerated in this world except snow white. 

My cab came along and I fulfilled my wish of driving/being driven through the white curtains of snow coming down. Snow plows were actively doing their jobs on the road and we drove slowly but safely back to my house. My cab driver was in the process of informing me of his 30 years experience in cab driving and snowy roads when he drove onto someone's snow blanketed lawns. Apparently he had mistaken it for a road (So much for his 'experience') and a sheepish apology later we were back on the right track.

I couldn't possibly let my snowy encounter end at that. Within minutes of dumping my office laptop at home, a friend and I geared up and walked out into the blizzard. A peg of rum just before starting on this mad caper helped a lot as the chilly wind blared into our ears, cars unintentionally slid all around us like Need For Speed racers us and we waded through knee high snow. The destination was another colleague's house a 30 minute walk away. The promise of hot 'pakoras' kept us going and the deserted look of all the snow packed streets were worth the walk. By the time we reached our host's house, both my friend and me were like walking snowmen. But my peculiar wish of punching my way through a major snow storm (not just whiling it away in the comfort of a heated home) was spectacularly fulfilled.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow storm!!

I've seen a snow storm before. When about 11 of us from RECK had set off for Shimla we had no inkling of it but by the time we got there, we were right in the middle of a raging snow storm. The wind howled around us and the flakes fell thick and heavy. Once on the ground they were like powdered velvet to the touch. And that was back in India.

Tomorrow it seems that we are in for a big big snow storm here in Massachusetts. My American pals are planning to head out of office at 11:00 in the morning to avoid this monster and some of them who drive more than an hour to come to office are skipping office altogether! Tomorrow being a Friday is a big bonus. If I were a resident American, I'd also use this grand excuse to curl up inside my home with the heat turned on and a cup of hot chocolate in my hands. Who'd be loony enough to want to make it to office on such a day except us weird foreigners!

And today afternoon, I was party to three seperate conversations in which the central topic of conversation was the storm. There was a buzz in the air just like the day before the Presidential election. Americans I've found are obsessed with weather and most of them carry at least a week's weather forecast in their heads. This snow storm it seems is serious enough to ensure that the Governor of Massachusetts asked his staff to stay put at home tomorrow. Folks in my office discussed it with such gravity that they might as well be discussing someone's impending funeral. "Mountains of snow" is a term that I heard a million times today to my great delight!

Me, I am thrilled to bits. There is a extreme level of expectation from this storm which I've never had for bad weather before. In India, our weathermen are such lousy predictors that they are never able to forewarn us about anything! Thunderstorms come onto us with their overpowering chorus and car wash service like a pleasant or unpleasant surprise depending on whether you are returning from office or heading there. Here the beast of weather is a familiar one. Everyone knows that it is coming and prepares accordingly. It kills the unpredictability that we Indians so prize and also stokes up an unrealistic hope that everything will be buried in snow and people will be stuck in their houses for days. I know Massachusetts is hardly Alaska so I must make do with whatever measly snow we get! But the hype around this storm has got to my mind too much. I am getting out my gloves and woolen cap. It had better live up to all the bad things that are being said about it!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The past

What is about history that makes it so boring in textbooks and so interesting on TV? My mom was my history teacher at my school for quite some time and in all fairness to her, she did manage to breathe life into those black and white images and cold, dry dates to some extent. The history that I read in school still forms the backbone of my understanding of our past. But those facts and figures never caught my fancy like the wonderful documentaries on the Discovery Channel and its knowledge spouting brethren on the tube. 

My hands down favourites were documentaries on South American civilizations. With their forgotten pyramids overgrown by tropical forests, fierce vengeful gods and a penchant for human sacrifice, they were infinitely interesting. Ancient Egypt and it's scheming ruling dynasties came in a close second. World War 2 and the madness of Hitler's plans were an interesting topic too. You never realize that history was dotted with so many colourful personalities until you've watched his/her "Biography" on the History Channel. 

Not that I depend only upon TV to appreciate history. I love the ambience of any old place be it a palace or a name of historical significance. A peaceloving man for most purposes, the only persons I'd really like to line up and shoot dead are the morons who draw their ill fated lover's name with chalk on the aging walls of our great historical monuments. They had better not let me catch them in the act of vandalizing our past if they wanted their love story to have a happy ending. Most of all, when I look at the follies of humans in the past and see a re-run of it scheduled for the future, I wonder when and if we will learn.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The future

What will the future be like? Different stories and movies tell of different fates. Will we have flying cars and teleportation? Or will it be a planet of ruins with fires burning all around and mobs of starving people scrapping for the last bits of oxygen and food? Thought reading machines are as much likely to be a reality in the future and colonies of clones. The possibilities are endless, sometimes terrifying, sometimes tantalising. The human race does not deserve to end on this tiny speck on the vastness of the universe. We are capable of going so much farther, rule the universe one day like we do the earth. But again will we allow ourselves to see that glorious stage when the universe will literally be our playground or will we wipe ourselves out over petty notions of nationality and religion long before it. I am an optimist for today and I get a warm fuzzy feeling if I turn the clock forward to the time to come.

It's an awesome feeling to have just thinking what our future might hold. Floating cities in the sky and on water, that 70% more real estate for us to build our living spaces on. Spaceships heading out to a neighbouring galaxy just like a bus going from Bombay to Pune. The earth could be like a city locality long past its prime where only the unlucky got left behind. Artists and poets of the future would express their nostalgia about the good ol' days when we all lived as one planet little knowing the animosity that we bear for each other today. Buildings, contraptions and robots that defy the sometimes limited imagination capability of a today's human beings would be a dime a dozen. Immersive interactive 3D entertainment and radical new sports like air-boarding would be the trends of the day much like I-Pods and their ilk are today. Food would be likely be a luxury of the rich as an alternative set of nutrition pills would serve the needs of the not so well-to-do people. Pop one in and be all set for the day. No one has seen the future and don't believe any astrologers who claim to have done so. We will continue to be our silly, sentimental selves for as long as we exist as a species so there goes the factor of predictability right out of the window. The only thing certain about the future is that it will be what we make of it, a brave new world so within our combined grasp.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lady Liberty

I boarded a cruise which went around Manhattan island explaining every shape that lined the 3 rivers which enclosed it. The buildings that we came across and the 19 bridges that we sailed under during the tour were all familiar names seen in some movie long ago, read in a faintly remembered story or had some specific presence in pop culture. There was the Queensborough Bridge from the Spiderman movie climax. Then there was the Empire State building of King Kong fame which post 9/11 regained it's tallest status on the island of Manhattan.The boat also took us past the UN Headquarters where the world met to decide what it should really be doing and forgot all about their resolutions as soon as they walked out. But the first sight on our 3 hour cruise was what had brought us on this ride.

A very unique shade of green, the silhouette visible from far standing proud above Ellis Island stood the Statue of Liberty. Her rather stern face and the flame in her hand are the most cliched image of America possible. Even after being 5 months old in America, it was the first time I really felt that reality. For a hundred years, boats spilling over with fresh immigrants made their way into the New York - New Jersey harbour past this stately lady. For them and for many millions after them, America represented the land of opportunity far away from their troubled home-lands. And right in front of them as they cast their first nervous glances on the place that held their future was the perfect embodiment of the big and beautiful dream of America.