The feeling’s back. That of floating around in a different plane, wafting along from day to day, weekend to weekend, seeing weeks flow by, at an oddly slow pace, but feeling like a short time when viewed with hindsight. Happens when everyday is more or less the same I guess.

The evening I landed here and dragged my luggage in seems far away, even though it’s been only 4 weeks. The weekend I landed on the slopes of San Francisco and wriggled out happened just over 2 weeks ago, but feels like ages back. In between there was Seattle, my marker for the mid-point of the trip.

I guess I don’t know how to wrap my head around the days. I wonder if they are flowing by fast or are just not moving along. Bangalore and life in BMTC buses seems so far away, a different plane which I can’t believe I used to inhabit just a month back. Those struggles which were so real now assume a more romantic view. Some thought and I wonder if that seemed like an other plane of existence, meandering like this towards nowhere in particular.

At least there I was in the here and now, not worried about wanting to be someplace else. That, I will grant my city – I’ve never felt like I belonged elsewhere during my past year. The trip to Seattle was strange. It was like being back in a place I knew inside out, the streets, the turns, the shops, but strangely I knew I did not belong there anymore. Talking about it to my ex-colleague, she said she feels the same when she goes back to her hometown in Poland, and that Seattle was now home for her with her family and kids to bring up. How much roots you develop in each place I guess. End of the weekend I felt a tad nostalgic and a bit heavy about going back to San Jose. More than any nostalgia it was the good time I had that weekend that held me onto it I guess. Seattle will be my second home, but only as long as my dear cousin and host of friends are still there. Beyond that, there’s nothing more to bind me to it. I wonder if the same’ll hold towards Bangalore too after a few years or decades. Don’t think I have answers to that, yet!


Vacation mode…

Have always loved looking at the graph on the personal screen in aircrafts as the plane symbol approaches the oblique square around Bangalore, sometimes from the Arabian sea, sometimes from the Bay of Bengal. Never from above. It looks close after a long 5 hours spent in the flight sloshed and droopy eyed. But then the graph reminds me it’ll be another 2 hours to get on ground. And then time freezes.

This time however, there was no such thing. This was a tiny Boeing 737, with just a couple of 15″ screens dropping down from the top with an eerie squeal whenever whoever was in charge felt like it, and retreating with an equally eerie squeal. The screen did not display anything of interest, so I had to go purely by time. And then the flight landed with me looking out as usual for familiar surroundings. Unfortunately there were none. Having done lots of flights from the old HAL airport, the new Devanahalli one is still new to me and somehow am not too acclimatised to it. Maybe its just ‘distant’.

The immigration and customs took just 30 minutes. During this time I found myself convincing the customs guy that all I had in my checkin was a hard-drive and chocolates. He bought it without making me open the stuff up. Of course the real deal was in my carry-on – Two laptops, a DSLR and the rest of the gadgets.

The cab ride was 40 minutes long and I was home just over an hour after the flight landed. Pretty impressive considering the distance. The next day I was up early, and soon found myself scouting for sim cards. Was sad to note that there were no numbers beginning with 9 and had to settle for 7.

Walking back I realised that for some reason I did not feel like I had arrived somewhere. It was like I had never left. My world in Seattle of the last 3 years did not exist. I had been here all along. But then it slowly dawned on me that probably it had still to sink in that the world of Seattle no longer exists. I guess am still in the annual vacation mode, waiting to have fun, trying to forget Seattle. The real deal will come when I start working. But I know it’ll only be a matter of a few weeks before that world becomes the constant and everything else something that happened in the past, only to be evoked as sudden flashes and by familiar smells or songs.

Irony is, this is how I felt about Bangalore when I was in Seattle. But then, there is no such longing, just a silent smile as I try to convince myself that this is the real deal before giving up, deciding to go through the modes as they come.

Goodbye Seattle…

When I moved here at the start of the winter of 2007 I had no clue I would live here for 3 years. I didn’t know anyone really well. There were a bunch of classmates living around of whom I was in touch with just 2 and willing to get in touch with one more. So that makes 3 people I knew. I got disoriented by the crazy weather. It was rainy and cold. Work sucked. The buses did not run during weekends. Basic shops were far away.

To give you an idea, one morning I got out of my apartment wearing just one sweater over the usual jeans and t-shirt. I saw the bus was getting close and had to run a good 200m to get to the stop. I ran as fast as I could, not stopping to catch my breath and made it. I could feel my body heating up but the weather was so weird that there was no sweat. After a few minutes I felt like I wanted to lie down on the bus seats and my mind convinced itself that that was a great idea. So I did it. Soon I realised I was suffocating and wanted some natural air. When the bus came to a halt at a slightly more major bus stand I got down and went and sat in a bench.

The cool air was refreshing initially but soon I started feeling cold and wanted to lie down again. I lay down on the bench and felt the world swirling and swimming around me. One of those waiting at the stop asked if he should call 911. I had no clue what was happening to me and gave him the go ahead. He called, but his bus came and he got in after letting me know that an ambulance would be around soon. 10 minutes later nothing came, but I saw the same bus number am supposed to take stop by. I got in only to realise that it was headed back in the opposite direction. I decided to go home, put on another sweater and then headed back only to realise that there had been no need for me to run with the bus. There was a bus stop 10 feet away in the other direction!

Just an anectode to give you an idea of how things were the first few months. Over a period of time a routine followed, there was work for five days and then there were weekends which I just hoped got over soon. Sometimes friends dropped by, mostly Sundar or a cousin, but mostly was at home reading a book, watching something on netflix or writing blog posts. There was no furniture in the living room for the first few months, so pretty much holed up in my bedroom. At work, I just ambled along, no clear idea of what to do. The technology, the field, testing, all new and my confidence at its lowest. What kept me going was my education loan and my desperate run to close it out.

Somehow from that point I couldn’t imagine coming into my situation this year. Travelling out every few weeks, rest of the time booked playing cricket, a team which I worked with Mehkri and the captain to build over the last 2 years. Number of books read this year dropped down and so did the number of posts on my blog. Hikes, poker nights, casino outings, movies kept the weekends flowing to the point where I had to declare am not doing anything some weekends and stay at home.

Most importantly the last few weeks have shown me that more than a city I leave behind a lot of friends. And that’s what am going to miss the most I guess. Sometimes they are colleagues I have lunch with at work, not seeing them after work. But you hear one of them say it meant a lot those times when they could take time off work and talk about life or cricket and it kind of makes me feel happy. The whole year has been a goodbye America march for me ticking off places and things to see and do from my list, planning it all down to the moment when I announced my resignation to my manager.

The goodbyes that followed, I guess, I wasn’t prepared for. There was one moment where a colleague came up, gave me a couple of tight hugs and left with just “Stay in touch!”. A dear cousin gave me a box of chocolates and said “that’s got exactly the number of chocolates as the number of days left. Eat one every day and feel sad at least a bit that you are leaving us”. The captain kept the call up for keeping me here, saying there’s no one to bowl with him in the middle overs and to handle the team. Wanted to tell him that people move all the time, but then I figured I might as well enjoy it. On the work front my team manager (my manager’s manager) capped it with “Your biggest contribution was not that you left some tool or code, but that I see your work in everyone else’s. You’ve been a mentor for almost everyone in the whole team in different ways.”

I feel happy about going back, but then there is also this joy in knowing that there are so many people who’ll miss me one way or the other. Feel glad that I’ve meant something for so many in such a short time. Had absolutely no idea that was me.

To all those friends, cousins and ex-colleagues: Goodbye folks! You made this place great for me, I know for sure I’ll miss you all!

A slight change of scenery…

So yes, I’ve been writing for a while about a longing and a need to do something for a change. So change it is that I’ve embraced. Well technically its less of a change and more of a return to something I’ve known and done before. But something tells me its going to be less of a homecoming and more of a big change in perspective for me.

Well, enough spinning webs and talking in riddles. So I finally found the courage to do something that I’ve always wanted to do and the timing is just about right, or so it seems. I accepted an offer for a position based out of good ole Bangalore. My time in the US of A comes to an end. Am never one to rule things out and the company being based out of San Jose, there might be some traveling for short periods in future.

So the plan is to leave Seattle on the 22nd Dec and I’ll be off to Melbourne for a 2 week vacation before heading to the hometown on the 7th of Jan in the new decade.

So what was my experience in Seattle like? Well that might be a whole new post, but for now it should suffice to say that it was a mixed bag. And I like mixed bags. It keeps the cynic in me happy while also being happy about the positives. The place was almost mystical with its lakes and snow-capped mountains around it and I sure did like the laid-back nature of life here. I loved Mt. Rainier and am really going to miss it. The weather is a whole different story though. I hated being cold almost all the year except for a few days here and there in summer. It is generally the feeling that comes to mind when I think of Seattle.

I kind of feel I would never have cut it in the bay area. I find that place soulless (Sorry folks who live there). New York, maybe. I liked being there for the 4 days I was there. But somehow life seemed pretty complicated for some reason there. But I guess I have no regrets about having lived in Seattle. It had its ups and downs, but I guess I liked it for what it was. But just that I never saw this place or the US as the place where I’ll settle down and spend the rest of my lifetime. And when it came down to the decision, I realised the question before me was not whether I should return, but whether I should stay on. End of the day, there was nothing that was compelling me to stay. I know I’ll miss many things, but eventually its about what I’ll gain by going back.

So, wish me good luck folks!

A summer…

They say there are two weeks in August when there is no rain in Seattle. They also say that it rains a lot in winter and there is snow a few times. This year has stood the Seattle weather history on its head. There was no snow. The winter was fairly tolerable with good weekends with some sunshine and reasonable weather. The summer, on the other hand has been a letdown.

August is supposed to be the hottest part of the year. Last year saw temperatures soar into the late 30s and tip into the 40s. People ran panic-stricken. Stores ran out of fans and a/cs. It was like the end of the world. “OMG, I can’t take the heat” they screamed. I watched amused as the town went crazy.

This is the same town where huge traffic jams erupt when there is a mild snowfall as people try to scramble home as they don’t know how to drive in the snow. This is also the same town where huge traffic jams erupt when the intensity of rain increases beyond the drizzle, simply because someone panicked and slammed into someone else bringing the whole system of the 3-4 highways to a standstill in a delightful chain reaction. This also happens to be the town where huge traffic jams erupt when the Sun comes out, just because everyone decides they have to go out somewhere and pull out their cars and huge trucks into the 3-4 highways and within moments end up in a huge traffic jam and promptly pull up the windows and turn on the a/cs. But yes, you get the idea. But considering that it is almost always cloudy with no rain/sunshine/snow here, traffic jams happen for an entirely different reason. The roads are dug up for something or the other. Sometimes for widening to avoid the jams, but mostly for God knows why! It’s almost as if BWSSB, BSNL and KPTCL were studied by the folks over here on foreign jaunts over there.

Anyway, coming to the topic, August is supposed to be the hottest part of the year. But this year it has been more coat-friendly. Every time I’ve forgotten my jacket, the city has sent me chilly reminders. A cricket match last weekend was played wearing beanies and sweaters, and the time when my team batted was spent shivering in the mild drizzle. But the Sun coming out has also meant chilly days in the shades with a pleasant warmth in the Sun, like Bangalore winters. Despite the really pleasant weather of such days, the heart longs for a day of sweltering heat spent guzzling down some buttermilk with some ginger and curry leaves for flavour. Doesn’t help that the office A/C usually acts up to give chilly work hours.