I'm at a cybercafe in the Mumbai/Bombay Airport where access to the net is pretty cheap Rs. 60/hour ($1.25/hour). It's quite fast too - hope my dad could get a connection like this at home. It'll take some time but I'm sure they'll get it. Once my home in Calcutta/Kolkata has broadband connection then I can use something like Vonage to call them everyday at local phone charges and not international. Can't wait till that day.
So my flight was delayed as I expected. Had it been on time, I'd be in the plane already. Now I fly off at 11:20am. I checked in all my luggage and will hopefully disembark at the Newark, NJ Airport at 8:25pm tonight via Paris. Kinda sucks that I don't get to check out the Paris airport as the plane just sits on the runway for refuelling. My plane lands at 8:25pm and my connecting flight departs at 8:10pm. So unless I pull off some James Bond 007 moves and transfer from one plane to another mid-air, I'm definitely going to miss my connecting flights to Tampa via Atlanta. AirIndia here in Mumbai said that since it's their fault that the flight's being delayed, they will make sure that I get a decent accomodation and proper connecting flights to my destination.
For some stupendous reason there is no flight from Newark NJ to Tampa FL airports after 10pm tonight till 8am tomorrow. I was ready to get on a 11pm flight if available but they could only reserve me for two 8am flights. My reservation isn't confirmed either but hopefully by the time I'm in Newark tonight, they'll have it partially figured out. The journey that was supposed to take less than 24 hours is now gonna be longer than 36 hours but I'll get to sleep in a hotel overnight in NJ now.
I'll call my aunt/uncle in NJ to see if they wanna visit but I wonder if they can make it all the way to Newark airport on such a short notice. Anyways, I'll prolly be so tired after two long flights and the immigration checks etc. that I'll want to sleep till 6am tomorrow. I have my US Visa on my passport and I'm crossing my fingers that there are no problems.
I had a great time here with my family after almost three years of separation. Now I'm ready to face the new challenges at my work and career. While it's great living in US, there is one major drawback - you slowly forget everything you aspired to be; India reinforces your primal aspirations. Life in US is like slowly dissolving in a warm feel-good quicksand of acid - you don't know you're melting away molecule-by-molecule. India is a quick slap on the back that reminds you that you need to hold your breath, flap your arms, and get the hell out of the quicksand. In other words, before I left India for the US, I had a very keen interest in furthering my academic career and studying till my hair is grey. After getting a job, getting a car, finding a nice apartment, the fire within slowly dies down. One becomes lax about fulfilling the original dreams.
And just one 15-day trip to India drilled the whole academic-career thing back into my head. And not just the academic, the desire to work harder and smarter is stronger now more than ever. I want to make the systems my company needs and I want to make them smart, robust (I know, cliched), and scalable (I know, very much cliched). I want to be twice or thrice as productive as I was in the last few months. Hell I was barely productive in the last two weeks before I left for India because I was soooooooooooo stressed out about the outcome of my visa interview. But thankfully, I got the visa and now I have to accomplish what I desperately need to. There's new ideas to be thought of, there's new systems to be created, and there's a lot more effort to be put into every segment of my life.
One thing I would have regretted had I not got my visa is that I did not travel enough. I sit at home on weekends doing minor chores or idling away in front of the TV when I could be out, seeing the country. Seeing the world's not an easy thing on an Indian passport but I can damn well go around the US at least once a month. Off the top of my head, I need to go to Boston, Washington, NY, California, Vegas, and once again to Salt Lake City. I have a friend or two in each of these places that I need to visit. I think now I'll try to save up each month and look out for specials and cheap tickets online from Tampa to all of these places and god knows where else - after all there's a Fark party somewhere every weekend.
Having the thoughts about India vs. US fresh in my mind, I want to write a long 'blog entry or essay about the differences and similarities in the economy, culture, and the social environment in both the places. I know, there's probably a thousand books on this subject but I bet each of them mentions that every Indian has an elephant/cow/snake in his house and every couple in US fights till they divorce. Both are gross generalizations though hold some amount of truth. Indians do worship the cow and Americans do divorce a lot more than rest of the world. But we don't have a family cow in Kolkata and over 75% of my US friends' parents are still together or were very close till one of them passed away. What I mean by the differences are minor but relevant things on how they see the same events/things differently - divorce is a sad event in US but it's a traumatic and often life-ending event in India. Divorcees get to remarry in US but rarely in India. At restaurants, 5% is a big tip in India and 15% is a small or mediocre one in US.
And yet, the people are the same. My friends in US love me as much as the ones in India. That is something I find very hard to believe. I still can't believe my friends Vishal & Chetan stood out in the rain/sun for hours in 2000 when I first went to the US Consulate in Kolkata to get my student visa. And I still can't believe Arthur drove all the way from NJ to FL with me to help me settle down in Florida with almost all of my luggage from NJ. People amaze me sometimes.
Oh and on a closing note, CONGRATSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS to my sister for her TV Interview on Tazaa TV Kolkata last week! I don't know why she kept attributing her success and knowledge to me - I didn't teach her anything - she learnt it all herself! And yet on TV she kept saying I was her idol and taught her everything. I'd say the major credit goes to my parents and only partially to me.