Monday, June 28, 2004

Visa Interview

7:15 a.m. We were at the American Consulate, wondering if it had opened as yet. Surprisingly, upon arrival, the security personel outside gave us an inquisitive look and called us to his side. He took a look at the web appointment letter and let us into a small room with a big luggage scanner on one side. Another security personel in there was busy going through the documents of the guy preceeding us (happened to be from Kgp only). On first looks, it appeared as if he was the first guy for the day, but soon it was revealed that it wasn't so. When my turn came, he hurriedly scanned through my documents looking for any objectionable articles inside my folder, parallely asking if I got any electronic items, sealed envelopes, cigarette packets, matchbox and the like. The answer were strict "No"s. He complimented me with the good words "a good man" and asked me to walk through the body scanner. I don't know why but the alarm beeped. So, I was made to stand aside and he ran his personal handy scanner throughout my body. Unwantedly, this one beeped too at my left pocket, which turned out to be empty. He commented that the machine must have gone mad too and let me in. I had to push my way out through a rolling barrier and then entered the Consulate's main complex.

The office was a few steps ahead, and I saw three little kittens walking back and forth near the big door that leads into it. Perhaps some "life like vigilance bots" ;) I had to run through a second phase of security check, and then was led into a room where six other candidates were already seated. The seating arrangement was to be followed in a specific order so that the TTS Visa guy could find out who gets to go in first. At around 7:45, the TTS employee came in and dived straight to work. He called us one after the other, collected the stipulated amount and showed us the way into the interviewing room.

The Consulate has really big doors!!!

This other room had a more comfortable seating arrangement. But before one could dwell into it, s/he had to submit her/is documents and get everything cleared. As of course one could guess, there was a queue for that too. I was worried if my photograph had met all the given specifications. Fortunately it did and that meant no pain of going out and getting it done once again. The girl at the first counter - I don't know why everyone liked her so much. She was just another trendy young girl. Anyways!! I made myself comfortable at one of the chairs and waited for my turn. The old lady who everyone is so scared of had some problems starting her computer and was busy trying to sort it out with another girl (probably a technical adviser). The other Visa Officer was Indian but knew how to accent his voice. The story ran that he's the sought after VO for Kgpians.

An old man was difficult to make understand that he needed to show every single document of his bank proceedings. A person from Andul was being told that he can take an interpreter if he wishes. A farmer wrote his occupation as "Agriculture". A guy accompaniedby a young girl (I though she was his sister) turned out to be husband and wife. Two of the guys were sent to retake their photographs. A guy was rejected because his finacial evidence wasn't satisfactory. With all that (and lot more) happening at the same time, it wasn't long before my name was called from "Interview Booth 2". So, I got to face the Indian guy...great!! He did stumble while pronuncing my surname and before he could recover from it I was there in front of him, ready to face his questions.

VO: Good Morning Sir

Me: Good Morning

VO: So, why are you going to US?

Me: I am going for my doctorate studies in Computer Science at the Colorado State University.

VO: Why did you choose CSu?

Me: I based my selection on the faculty members associated with the university and the research activities going on under them. There is some good research going on there in my field of interest.

VO: What's your field?

Me: Evolutionary Computation

VO: Pardon!!

Me: Evolutionary Computation

VO: And what's that?

Me: Its a field in Computer Science where we design algorithms for optimization, and these are primarily inspired by some natural process, like evolution.

VO: Okay fine, nice! What are you doing now?

Me: I just completed my undergraduation from IIT Kharagpur.

VO: Can you show evidence of that?

Me: Yeah! (handed over the provisional certificate)

VO: Okay! Do you have your marksheet?

Me: Yes, this is my transcript (handing the transcript).

VO: In which semester did you take Computational Statistics?

Me: 8th

VO: And...umm...Measure Theory and Integration?

Me: Ummmmmm....7th!

VO: Okay fine. I am issuing you the Visa. This is your receipt. Good luck and have a nice trip. Thank you!

Me: Thank you Sir.

8:55 a.m. Everything happened as expected. I arranged my documents and found my way out of the Consulate. A minute's walk from the Consulate and I was at the WestSide - Pantaloons store where my friend was waiting to greet me with a smile. Both of us can start packing our bags now. He gave a high-five; I reciprocated. We started walking back to our hotel, and I couldn't locate any enthusiasm inside me!!!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Winds of Change

Often changes come in disguise. Without your knowing it rips open the truth in front of your bare eyes, and sooner than you can realize, the world around changes for good. Truth is bitter, because most of the time it defies you. Over time, all of us learn to accept our temporal senses, mould them as everyday facts and sooner or later they become a hardened conventionality - the truth. Until someone (could be you too) decides to question your senses, remould them to one's advantage, and present a justification that would override your lasting tenets. At times like this just remember that justifications are means to dump one's judgement over another. They are diplomatic tools to gain trust; or "the voice of a timid but determined imposter". The winds of change do not always blow in the same direction. So never give up on your beliefs, no matter how hard someone tries to convince you to do so. Some day the winds will be in your favor, and who knows, that day it might just drag along some unknown surprises to reinforce your "truth".

Sunday, June 13, 2004

The Journey Back

After the overdose of excitement at Manali, we were expecting a less tiresome journey back. The only flaw was that we didn’t know the way to make that happen. The bus to Chandigarh left at around 7 O’ clock in the evening. Before that, a strategically brilliant salesman kept the passengers on a note as he demonstrated his sale items - fruit juice extractors. The person was prepared with a well versed speech (much like a conjuror’s show), delivering it quite efficiently in his commanding voice. Very rarely can you see such marketing excellence in a door-to-door salesman.

The bus lacked the "greenery" we expected; was rather full of children, with their moms and dads preaching over and over at every oppurtunity. At night, two dark figures at the front showed some movement. It happened to be a newly wed couple, trying to balance untimely desires and social decency. By early morning, we were in Chandigarh, got freshened up (in a ? * hotel, if any) and prepared for the next part of the journey.

Chandigarh is a well planned city. It did look so. We could have stayed there for a couple of hours and have a glance of the city. The train to Kgp was from Jalandhar at 8 O’ clock in the evening. However, we didn’t have much of an idea about the transportation to Jalandhar, and so, when the bus driver told us about a conveyance from the same service, we didn’t give second thoughts. The same bus that dropped us in Chandigarh now took us to another departure point, a couple of kilometers away. All we could see of Chandigarh was during this small ride only.

The bus to Jalandhar was AC ‘flavored’ and was almost full when we boarded it. The air inside was chilling and the few of us at the back couldn’t resist folding our arms to keep the body warm. Jalandhar was at two hours drive from Chandigarh. We dozed all the way, trying hard not to move past our stop. At 8 O’ clock in the morning we were in Jalandhar, thereafter dropped at the Cantontment area by a small "maxi cab". Once we located the railway station, it felt like a big acheivement worth celebrating. Even the roadside tea stall appeared like a paradise!!

This railway station was pretty small; 3 or 4 platforms in all. The second class waiting room was empty; the toilet was clean but didn’t take long to get messed up. Relief came when the caretaker at the AC W/R allowed us to use the toilet there. "Kuch chai paani de dena", he said. By eleven, all of us were done with the morning "rituals", and ready to take a ride to the actual city. Time was in plenty, enough for a movie and a stroll along the market area. We came back to the station and spent the late afternoon gossiping over a cup of tea, sugarcane juice and Tandoori chicken. The combination is not a highly sought after one. Fatigue started striking us by the end of it and all we wanted at that moment was some good sleep. To the contrary, a thirty six hour long journey awaited us. It started at ten minutes past eight.

Amritsar-Howrah Mail was a fun train. Our seats were already occupied by a young mummy with her baby, and two other persons (perhaps her husband and brother). I soon collapsed at the upper berth; don’t know how our guys managed to get rid of them. More drama followed on to the next day, and amidst all these, thirty six hours turned out to be quite eventful. Another night in the train and finally at Howrah station the next morning. Four of us were left for the final lap of the journey, from Howrah to Kgp.

Lunch happened at the railway canteen. After going through the train timings, the most recent one we could find was a local train. We didn’t have the patience to wait till Shatabdi leaves at 2 O’ clock, and so, the choice was clear. Local train rides are always tiresome, add to it all those preceeding sleepless nights. At 2:43 pm, we were at Kgp. I remember the time with such precision because we spent the last fifteen minutes of our journey watching every second tick its way to the time when the train entered the junction. Someone lost, someone won; above all these, we were home!!

At afternoon, we met at Cheddies, recollecting the events of the last ten days, with an occasional sip from a "glass of tea" that costs a ruppee and a half. Life can’t get more dynamic than this.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Lost and Found

I had been to Ish's place today. Everything felt so different. There was a time when I used to sweat everytime I stood at their doorstep, my voice would tremble as I spoke (prefered silence rather). There was this barrier of formalities that kept me bounded all the while. Today, I went there not as a friend of their daughter, but as myself. "I tried". And I found, surpisingly though, that a long lost "self" is back in me. I enjoyed the flavour of being myself, loving myself, and above all, staying within my own sweet world. Everything works fine in there. Talking to the family was like a swift whip, undivided and continuous. Humour was natural. Attitude was without fear. In the midst of all these, somewhere at some point, unwantedly, I wanted her back. A momentary rush of emotions I would say. The best part of all, I have learnt to explore the depths of my mind.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Being Unselfish

Certain things start happening late in life. Or may be, they need some kind of a thrusting force - a hospitable atmosphere - to get started. I have never felt the need to be close to Ish's family the way I feel now. As a matter of fact, I don't feel it as a need. I just want to. Inspite of knowing that it won't really serve any purpose, I want to stay close to these people. May be there're many more facets of human relationships that I need to get acquainted with. As long as I don't want to live with the fear of losing anything, I shouldn't be expecting anything too. I like the feeling that I still feel the same way for her family; it tells me that they weren't important to me just because they were there for Ish, but because they are good people to be with, disregard of Ish's presence or absence.

Old Age

Dad has become irritatingly impatient these days, all the time forcing his logic on us. At times, I find a laugh in the way he puts forward some of his opinions and conclusions. I wonder if its old age that makes a person loose his senses once in a while, or its just my dad. But, its a good way to spend my time in here.

Saturday, June 05, 2004


Being here always feels different, although I can no longer "smoke off" my freedom; or may be stealthily I can. I need to get started with my work before anything unforseen interferes with the schedule. The mind already feels trapped within the walls of conventionality. I don't think I would be able to live with this for long.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Day Before

Its finally time to bid farewell to Kgp. Packing has been a real pain. With some streaks of charity, the luggage has been heavily reduced. Besides, it seems these people are always on the lookout to ask for whatever they can lay their hands on. Surprisingly, what appears worthless to me (almost making its way to the junkyard), spice up their mind most. Once I noticed that, I changed the junkyard to a gifting outlet. Please help yourself!!

This place has become a whole lot sparse in the last couple of days. Life around already feels much changed; loneliness. I wonder what's in store out there in the "big black world". Its time to start walking home and prepare for the next phase.