Monday, October 12, 2009

And it rained...

My workplace here at my client's facilities is significantly different from my office back home. There are no glistening steel and glass towers with central Air Conditioning and row upon row of sleek computers catering to the widest variety of information technology projects possible. Here it seems that the office and its Dilbert grey cubicles are built around whatever space there remained after the primary purpose of manufacturing medical implants had been served. The Air Conditioning has a mind of its own and if you are seated under a vent, you'd better have an extra layer of warm clothing to ward off the sniffles. The stretches of cubicles are often rudely interrupted by big generator rooms and testing labs, reminders that the real stuff was being built right below us; not just in a factory far far away. And it is also an isolated environment where it is impossible to tell what kind of a day it is outside. In India, one peek through the glass that made up 100% of our outer walls would tell us the story of rain or shine outside. Even within the controlled environment of the office, you were free to imagine how you would feel outside. Here the only meteorological activity you can ever detect within its insulated environment is the rain. The water clattering down on the roof overhead and the occasional rumble of thunder is the only din that gives a clue to the events going on on the other side of shelter.

It's been a rainy summer and fall this year in New England. The trend was maintained this Thursday too as the rain started making good on its promises of the dark gloomy morning just after I entered office. With it were washed away any nobly feeble intentions of focusing on the tasks I had at hand. Rain puts me in that mood all too frequently. Occasions for great learning and detailed career plans have been regularly dissolved in the soft pitter-patter of raindrops or soaked beyond recovery in the rage of a tropical storm.

The tear drops from heaven sometimes gloom inducing, mostly glee spawning represent the coming together of some of the most vivid of memories for me. Tracing back to kindergarten and primary school, the rains would be excuses for floating paper boats down make-shift streams that the downpour had created and the funny squelching noises shoes would make once subjected to underwater testing in the deepest splashable puddles around. By middle school, expectations were upped a little bit as heartfelt prayers were uttered to make the approaching thunder storm severe enough for the school to be called off. A day off would naturally imply community video gaming and that glorious combination of all of God's gifts called roof-top cricket in the rain with all friends who lived within shouting distance.

High school meant that classes were too important to be put aside no matter what. Yet as teenagers condemned to listen to the teachers' instructions with the windows closed and the tube-lights on, when nature's intoxicating play of beauty and power was on display past the shutters there were two storms. One that raged outside and the other that churned inside our hormone fuelled rebellious hearts. Engineering college added a sheen of patience to this rebellion of youth as the walk from class to the hotel necessitated a thorough drenching in the pouring rain to be offset by the pleasures of a shared smoke and a cup of tea under the fast food shanties that were our primary place of congregation. As a working guy, a cloudy day and a faint drizzle in Calcutta made my daily motorcycle commute to and from work an exquisite pleasure, an uncertainty fraught adventure on Calcutta's treacherous roads.

All those thoughts bubbling up through to my consciousness and folks expect me to work? For the sake of propriety, work I did last Thursday even as I could hear the rain beating down overhead, but am I to blame if a significant part of me was out there where the rest of me also wanted to be.

Duck tales

Today was a day set aside for one of the cheesier touristy things to be done around Boston. Normally you'd have to kill me and put a "smile on my face" ala the Joker before I'd participate in those done-to-death visitor activities in the nature of clicking pictures of lifting the Taj Mahal by the tip of its spire. But with my parents around, I had to give them the famous Duck Tour of Boston. Our con'duck'tor (Yeah yeah really really witty pun) was a guy plucked out of the jazzy 70s with an Afro hairdo, flashy white suit, mega sized shades and zebra striped shoes who had christened himself Danny Disco. Whenever he'd give the command "Let's hear it for Danny Disco" over his frequently used microphone, the 36 odd tourists he was carrying went "Quack! Quack!" in unison. Corny as it sounds, it caught on even amongst cynics like me like a viral infection.

Ducks for the uninitiated are a nickname for DUKWs, amphibious vehicles of World War 2 vintage which had seen their glory days carrying American troops onto the beaches of Normandy on D-Day and in various other campaigns that ultimately led to an Allied victory. These days they are driven by costumed comics who ferry bemused tourists around the rude but proud city of Boston (Even NYC has borrowed the idea now). The idea is to run around the city in this weird contraption garnering the maximum possible attention before plunging into the Charles and miraculously stay afloat as it chugs noisily in between the sleek speedboats and classy sailboats that strut their stuff on the Charles normally. I even got a chance to drive this boat on wheels once we were on the water for about 10 minutes. Apparently you don't even need a license to drive a boat in Massachusetts just as long as the boat itself is registered with the state. This meant that I was all smiles at this unique prospect but it also meant that I steered clear of all other boats on the river by at least 50 feet. Licensed drivers in Boston are bad enough, who knows what kind of demolition derby fanatics were at the wheels of the boats that were all around me!

All things considered, Danny Disco did manage to keep us entertained throughout the 80 minute duration of our trip and that this Sunday was a bright and sunny one helped matters a lot. Boston is a city with a soul and always a joy to amble about in. The "quacking" orders had been taken to heart and the old lady sitting behind me kept quacking in defiance as we drove through posh Newbury street past classic Porsches and Roll Royces. There was an official gag on the Duck driver to initiate quacks on the super exclusive Newbury street, a shopping area lined with designer boutiques for the most well heeled denizens of Boston but his passengers had no such restriction. They exercised their "quacking" rights fully in a re-affirmation of the freedom of speech. There were a few smiles from the street below and some frowns but the Duck riders couldn't care less. The Allied forces may have sold out their faithful armoury to commercial interests but the "Old Gloria" (That was our Duck's name) was now engaged in a new kind of battle.