Monday, October 19, 2009


The rot had set in by the time of my first semester exams in engineering. As gloriously unprepared as my study partners, I'd clamber to their rooms books and xeroxed notes in hand a day before the exam. Then as they pulled up their socks for a fight to the finish, maybe a night-out to ensure a decent figure on their report cards or at least pass marks, I'd feel sleepy... tremendously sleepy as if certain death awaited me if I did not give in to this emergency request from my body. And I'd fall asleep too, oblivious to the terrible fate that was sure to befall me at the examination hall next day. Virtuous friends (the few that I had) tried to instill in me a terror over my assuredly dark future but I was too far gone. This was the beginning of the end of my relationship with formal education. As the semesters came and went, I found the capacity of my brain to absorb new information dwindle down exponentially. When final year came around, everyone had a well defined plan for where their next educational step would be! Everyone that is, except me.

Anyone and everyone that I know within my age group has either wrapped a degree after graduation or is in the process of getting one whereas I dread the possibility of having to do one. It's impossible to conceptualize me doing a whole new degree as even 15 minutes of reading the most interesting novel today makes me killer drowsy, let alone the dry insipid stuff that would be part of any curriculum. The mere thought of having to pick up a course book again makes me all sweaty and sleepy at the same time, however that combination works. I wish I could put it down to laziness alone but I know of lazier people than me who have had the common sense to pursue what is turning to be an essential requirement for any kind of a career nowadays apart from the fact that it also means at least two more years of the fun life as a student. The really aggravating part for me is that they seem to having a great time doing it too. I secretly wish that they'd complain all the time about how tough the curriculum is or how bad the mess food is but all I get to see is glowing happy pictures on Facebook and Orkut as I burn to ashes on the inside. Even a few pointed questions pitched to them on chat sessions do not help and their answers seem to indicate that they have absolutely nothing to be unhappy about! How in the world can that be, I wonder? Classes, labs, subjects, exams - haven't they had enough of that already? Apparently, I am the only true dumbo who has fallen off this wonderful student life bandwagon and now am cursing it from the outside!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Maid of the Mist

The legend of the Maid of the Mist probably is completely baseless junk designed to give the millions of tourists visiting the Niagara Falls something to tell their grandchildren but it is an engaging story nonetheless. Like any other mythological story of note, the central subject of the story is an incredibly beautiful woman, in this case an American Indian one. Disillusioned at being forced to marry an old ugly man, she takes the ultimate step and canoes off into the raging waters of the Falls. She being the heroine of the tale does not perish like any normal being would have but instead is adopted by the king of the powerful Thunder Beings that live beneath the Falls. And they say that whenever you see a rainbow in the spray of the falls, it is her watchful spirit that is keeping an eye out for you.

It's actually really tough NOT to see the beautiful seven coloured apparitions that dance around the falls lending credence to my manufactured-for-tourists'-pleasure hypothesis on the origins of the story. This wild, exotic beauty is supposedly the Maid, the so-called Maid of the Mist - also the name adopted by the boats which venture to the base of the falls to help mortals come within inches of Nature's insane powers. The boat lurches in the wake of the millions of litres of blue water plunging into the Niagara Gorge from high up above and the thunderous sound is overwhelming to the point of being intimidating. A marketing man's tale it all may be, but the first impression of the Great Waters (as the native Iroquai used to call them) is still so gasp inspiring that the line between natural and supernatural goes very blurry for a while. It's a rare case where the final product easily outshines its advertising pitch.

Light ever so bright

Sometimes simplicity works as the best way to get the message across. That's one of the many reasons why I love the Ramayana. The Ramayana has it all laid out in a straightforward way, at least as possible in this complicated world. Rama = Good guy, Ravana = Bad guy and there are minimal shades of gray in this great epic unlike the infinitely more complicated Mahabharata which is peppered with flexible morals and opportunistic strikes from both sides which do not leave the best taste in the mouth. Above everything else, it gives us an excuse to celebrate what in my opinion is the most lively Indian festival of them all, a time when the night comes alive.

The sweets, the shopping hordes, the typical burnt odour of exhausted fireworks, the whistling rockets, the echoes from the 'sutli' bombs going off in the city's farthest neighbourhoods, the flashing multi-coloured bulbs and the diyas and the millions of shreds of paper strewn across the central courtyard next morning where firecrackers had once been - are essential to the Diwali experience and memory lane sees a major traffic jam on days like this. Even 7500 miles away, there is a bubbly kind of optimism on this day, as though something good is bound to happen. It is not a feeling shared by the majority of the people surrounding us here because for Americans it is just another day. It is actually snowing in Boston today, just a day after Diwali. Its impossible to imagine how much more different the scenario could be from back home. Yet calls and wishes circulate around the Indian junta to whom this day is of significance. It's a day for seeking hope, strength and joy in the knowledge that it takes only a little flame to chase away the most ominous darkness.

On the road

So this is the good life. On state highway 324 (co-incidentally my roll number from engineering) in the town of Tonawanda in upstate New York, there is a Super 8 motel. It's always quiet at night time except when the trains rumble through on the train track adjacent sending the entire building into convulsions. The hotel is sparsely occupied as winter approaches. The only guests it gets are folks headed for the Niagara Falls (about 15 miles north of here) and end of October is not the most popular time to give the Falls a dekko. The room that me and my parents have taken is in a quieter part of the hotel too where the sounds from the always-on TV at the front desk do not invade.

Here I am blogging away from the comfort of my bed after two stupendous days of checking out the sights and sounds of the Thundering Waters (as the Iroquai called them). The speckled green, orange, red and yellow brilliance of fall only add to the surreal atmosphere. I continue to remain awestruck by its majesty though this is my second visit to the Niagara. What the future holds is too difficult for me to predict but I fervently hope that it is more on these lines. A wonderful new place in the world to explore in the day, a secluded place to rest at night and restless dreams of the next magical day to come on this life on the road.