LA

I had promised myself to update my blog every two days (during this trip) but I haven’t been able to stay true to that, thanks to the disappointing (see crappy) internet that my hotel provided. I write this as we make our way to Sandiego from LA.

The US can never seem to do anything right (pun!) The massacre of the metric system is something I find quite difficult to get used to. I believe that the use of the non-metric system is just a ploy to sharpen our mental arithmetic skills. When the GPS announces, “In 300 feet, turn right,” I find myself frantically calculating : 300 into 30 gives 9000 cm, divided by 100 gives 90m. So, we need to turn right in 90m! Oops. We already drove past the exit. It’s a good thing I’m not driving. But, it’s a clever trick. If you don’t calculate quickly enough, you’ll miss or take the wrong exit and will have to drive a few miles, oops, I mean kilometres, extra.

Coming back to the trip. Los Angeles! The City of Angels. (It should’ve been called the City of Smog.) It is apparently the second largest county after New York. Coming to the next example why the US is so wonky. We’re all used to a  hierarchy consisting of cities within the state and neighbourhoods within the city. Over here, there are several cities within a county which is one of many within the state. It is a little confusing because you can drive a few miles (kilometres! I meant kilometres!) and find yourself in a new city! Pretty strange, right? That’s not all. Los Angeles is a city AS WELL AS a county. So is San Mateo, for that matter. Los Angeles county has about 88 cities, if I remember correctly. They include Beverly Hills, Brentwood, North Hollywood, West Hollywood, you get the drift.

The first place we visited in LA was Universal Studios. I don’t want to give out any spoilers so I’ll keep the descriptions very brief. The themed rides were fantastic. The crowd was thick so we obviously couldn’t go on every ride. We went for The Mummy, Jurassic Park and Transformers 3D. A word of advice : if you choose to go to the Horror House, please make sure your nails are short and blunt. I know that my reputation would have you believing that I was the scratcher but I was sadly outwitted by my mum who was screaming throughout and ended up whacking poor Chucky.

All said and done, US is the most organized country I have ever visited. There’s a screen put up at various locations at Universal Studios that informs visitors of the approximate waiting time for the different rides. Not only are the timings accurate, the area outside the rides where people queue up has been designed so intelligently that the line is ALWAYS moving and it takes you through several rooms that are decorated according to the theme of the ride. I waited for 75 minutes for the 10 minute Transformers ride. It was worth it! It’s not just that, everything here seems carefully calculated. All houses are square and box-like, all roads seem to be designed at right angles to each other and even the greenery appears planned. It could have given off a very ‘pseudo’ vibe but for some reason, it doesn’t. Not to me anyway.

P.S. If you go to Universal Studios, don’t forget to go for the Studio Tour! It’s full of surprises. ‘Nuff said.

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Settling In

It’s been two days and the time difference is still baffling. With relatives in Dubai, India and various parts of the US, communicating with them involves a careful coordination of the various time zones. Other than that, I’ve fallen in love with California! Sunrise at 6 a.m. and sunset at 9 p.m. Greenery all around. The cool breeze coupled with warm sunshine. A wonderful summer indeed!

The last two days have been about exploring places nearby. My brother had to work so Mum and I took to walking around looking for interesting shops. The first place we went to was Hillsdale Mall (I think that’s what it’s called). Malls here are very different. There are different shops within the mall complex like the usual malls I’ve seen. But, there are also separate (and HUGE) complexes next to it such as Macy’s! The next stop was Barnes and Noble!!!!! ‘Nuff said.

Mum and I decided to walk back home after we were done. After asking a woman for directions (and witnessing her horror as we proceeded to tell her that we were walking back – “But it’s at least a fifteen minute walk?!!”), we made our way confidently. We reached in twenty minutes flat and basked in glory at our command over the geography of this new area, only to get lost for fifteen minutes within the apartment complex! Who knew this complex would have TWO swimming pools?!

That evening, my brother took us to a place with a breathtaking view of the bay area. It was unfortunately too sunny to take photos but the view was captivating. A photograph would never be able to do justice, anyway!

The next day was when I realized how much of a *beep* jet lag could be. Nevertheless, I managed to pull myself out of bed so that we could go to Dollar Tree, the place where anything and everything costs just a dollar. This place has always been somewhat of a joke in our family. My grandmother is known to spend most of her time in Dollar shops, unearthing all kinds of junk that she deems to be infinitely valuable. IT WAS AWESOME. (I guess we know who I take after, in the family.) From starry-eyed goggles to chart paper to cool clips to books to glow sticks… I could go on and on! I’m definitely coming back here!!

San Mateo couldn’t be more different from Dubai. With the exception of a few office buildings, you won’t find any mall or house or apartment complex taller than a few storeys. For every skyscraper in Dubai, you’ll find a patch of trees here. The only downside I can find is how lonely you can feel. Don’t get me wrong, this is a cheerful place with great weather throughout the year. But if you don’t own a car, you’re pretty much trapped. The public transport system is terrible and places are spread all over.  I suppose being a student in the US would entail a different experience. Colleges tend to have all amenities nearby so you never have to travel far for anything. Which is why no one fully understands how lonely this country can be until they’re on their own. So far, I’m loving it!

That’s it for now!

Cheers!

Day Zero

I haven’t been doing a very good job of updating this blog but I’m going to blame that on the dreaded ‘Third Year of Engineering’, which I’m finally done with!!!

Coming to the meaning of the title of this post. As I write this, I’m sitting in a flight that’s on its way to Chicago. It’s a 15 hour flight, I think? And I have another flight to catch from Chicago to reach San Francisco. I’ve travelled a lot and I’ve been to many places but this is the longest journey I’ve ever been on!
I’ve been waiting for a trip like this all my life. There are so many reasons for this :

1. I’ve lived in multiple cities and if it’s taught me anything, it’s the importance of globalization. No one’s job is ever restricted to the country they work in anymore.

2. Taking that thought forward, USA has always been known for creativity, innovation and all those buzz words you’ll find in every youngster’s CV. As a student, what appeals to me most is the way the country tackles education. More freedom, more choice, more flexibility. Education in India, in my opinion, is overrated and disillusioning. I’m hoping my trip to Stanford is inspiring enough to reverse the effect of 11 years of the Indian curriculum.

3. SHOPPING. I’ve hated shopping for as long as I can remember, with the exception of those fortnightly trips to Ikea. Will USA change my attitude towards shopping? Only time will tell!

4. Universal Studios. Period.

5. “…with the palm trees. And more palm trees.” I wonder how many of you will get the reference!

Well, that’s about it for now! The plan is to update my blog every… Actually, I’d rather not make any promises I might not be able to keep.

Cheers!

P.S. The pilot loved my Captain America t-shirt!

The Ultimate Weapon

Shakespearean tragedies revolved around a single character with many admirable qualities. Simply put, he was a hero. However, all of Shakespeare’s heroes had a single flaw which led to their inevitable downfall. Take Macbeth for example. He was the army general for King Duncan and possessed almost superhuman strength and skill on the battlefield. It was his “vaulting ambition” that led him to commit regicide in order to ascend the throne. His reign of terror finally resulted in a civil war which brought about his downfall, but only after he lost everything dear to him.

In my opinion, Death Note has always had a slight Shakespearean touch to it. For those of you who don’t know, it is the story of an unusually intelligent 12th grader who obtains a special notebook(“Death Note”) which has the ability to kill anyone whose name is written into it, provided the writer pictures his face while writing down the name. The owner of the book, Light Yagami (“Kira”), wishes to use it to eliminate all criminals in order to create a perfect world. Meanwhile, the police force, headed by Light’s father and L, attempt to search for the identity of Kira to put an end to the ruthless killing.

Light Yagami could very well be a Shakespearean hero. He is extremely intelligent, good-looking and all his peers are in awe of him. He wishes to become a vigilante of sorts and kill anyone who has committed or is about to commit a crime. So what was his fatal flaw?

Light enjoyed the feeling of power associated with the Death Note. The feeling that no one could hurt him because all he had to do was write his enemy’s name in the book and the person would end up dead within seconds. He expected the people to worship Kira as the new God. Of course, there were many supporters. But the inevitable question was raised. Who gave Kira the right to play God? As the investigations progressed, Kira was forced to murder innocent people in order to cover his tracks. And that was when the cause stopped being noble.

The series depicts the metamorphosis of his character from a bored, intelligent teenager to a ruthless, power-hungry adult beautifully. Although the concept is complete fiction, it manages to capture human emotions and thinking effectively which is why the show was loved by all who saw it.

I suppose the question is, why the seemingly random topic? Truth is, I noticed the Shakespearean parallelism only after I started writing about Light. The real reason I started writing about all this is because of the current situation in Delhi. In the light of recent events, I assume there are quite a lot of us who would like to possess the Death Note just so we could put those rapists to death without any trials or delays. In fact, not just them. All those useless, cheap men who have disrespected us in some way or the other. It might seem a harsh sentiment but why not?! I’m fed up of being stared at or touched “by accident” in the bus or in a crowded place.

If such a weapon actually existed, the challenge would be finding someone worthy enough of it. Someone who would know right from wrong under ALL circumstances. Someone who wouldn’t be swayed by power and greed. Hand over the Death Note to that person and we’re set. We’d have the world Light Yagami wanted to create.

Say K for Karaoke

I lived in Kuala Lumpur till the age of 10. It used to be a ritual for us(as a family) to head out to Paasar Malam (Night Market) every Thursday evening and pick up the usual vegetables, fruits etc. as well as a couple of VCDs. This time, we visited the VCD stall to pick up a copy of KKHH!

The movie wasn’t available yet but the video sequences of the songs were, so we bought that instead. To my delight, the lyrics flashed on the screen as the song played! (Though, lack of knowledge of the actual lyrics never stopped me. I would always improvise.) But something was amiss. Kumar Sanu seemed to have developed a rather peculiar accent. Also, his voice seemed rather thin. Wait a minute. That wasn’t Kumar Sanu at all!! It was his Malay counterpart!

We all had a rather good laugh at the poor Malay guy’s miserable attempt to imitate Kumar Sanu’s husky voice. This was my first encounter with karaoke. (It took me many years to finally realize that it wasn’t pronounced as “car-ou-kay”.)

The best part about karaoke is that anyone can do it! The worse you sing, the more fun it is!! In fact, I think karaoke’s really hard to enjoy if you try to sing well. I went with a bunch of friends for karaoke recently. Our host was quite a unique character. He seemed to like his own voice a little too much and was strangely partial to all songs with the word “kiss” in their lyrics. I guess he was just being an earnest salesman when he urged us all to a have a shot of vodka neat “for your voices to open up” but we definitely showed him the futility of his argument! We had a blast, singing songs ranging from Kishore Kumar to Greenday! Definitely a night to remember!

P.S. The lamer the song, the more fun it is to sing!

Best karaoke song : I’m A Barbie Girl

Worst karaoke song : Any romantic Rajesh Khanna song

Colour Mania!

Open your eyes and take in everything that you see
Look at all the colours, red, yellow, blue, & green!

A fifteen hour long power cut left me with not much to do during my unexpected afternoon off. I was lying in bed hoping to snatch a few hours of sleep when I made a rather interesting observation. 

I have a LOT of colourful things in my room!

 

 

 

 

 

 

My relationship with colour is sometimes seen as obsessive. Don’t believe me? Well, the gifts that I got for my seventeenth birthday included a seven-colour highlighter set, a set of 10 coloured pens, a purple hardcover notebook and a pack of post-its (6 colours!!). (Yes, stationery is yet another thing I’m crazy about).

I used to use the purple notebook for my 12th grade Biology notes and each page had ink of atleast FIVE different colours on it. For some reason, the more colourful the notes, the more excited I was about reading them. And Biology, though my favourite subject at the time, would leave me close to tears especially on the eve of the exam. Plenty of chapters left to finish meant plenty of hours of sleep lost. My motivation? A green uniball pen (of course!). For every chapter that I finished studying, I was allowed to draw ONE thing on my palm with the fabulous green pen. It might not mean much to you but it helped me survive Biology! Anyone who saw green on my hand knew that Divya Ramnath had been studying Biology the previous night. 

My mind works a little strangely at times. It attaches a colour to everything. For instance, I associate the number 3 with a yellowish-green. In fact, this doesn’t apply to just letters or numbers or objects. It applies to people too. My Mum’s Peach, my Dad’s Steel Grey and my brother’s Dark Blue.

I realize that I probably seem like some sort of weirdo right now. Well, you aren’t wrong. Who else would buy four pairs of shoelaces only to realize (after buying them) that she doesn’t have shoes in the first place?!

I believe we all have our share of oddities and eccentricities whether we tend to hide them or flaunt them. They make us who we are. Unique. And that can’t be a bad thing right?

P.S. : Does anyone recognize the song that I’ve used in the first two lines of this post?

Mischief Managed!

It was May ’98. My cousin from the US had sent over a rather interesting looking book with my dad. The book that would make me give up Enid Blyton for good, he said. After admiring the beautifully embossed golden print on the cover of the book for nearly ten minutes, I finally opened it and dived into the first chapter.

But I didn’t make it past the first page! The cover had me imagining so many wonderful things and I was hugely disappointed by the unnecessary elaborate description of some silly cat. So I tossed the book aside and forgot about it.

Eight Months Later.

I had just finished the St. Clare’s series. Tears streaming down my face, I declared that no other series could ever be as wonderful. After raiding the bookshelves for something else to read, I ended up with the one book that I had failed to finish. Maybe it was the enigmatic golden winged object that caught my attention this time. So once again, I sat down with the book.

And you know, it wasn’t that bad after all. Talking snakes are cool. So are giants with pink umbrellas! By the time I reached Platform nine-and-three-quarters, I was hooked. It was fascinating. The unpredictability and strangeness of it all, and yet the nagging feeling that it was all absolutely true. And so, my journey with Harry Potter began with the departure of the magnificent Hogwarts Express!

Needless to say, I loved every second of every minute that I spent reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. But the odd part is that I didn’t realize it was part of a series. Even though You-Know-Who wasn’t vanquished in this book, it really didn’t bother me. My three heroes were alive and well and happy.

One Year Later.

After a series of rather confusing incidents, I ended up with the next two parts of the series! Once again, I was mesmerized by the twists and turns that the series seemed to be taking!

Till now, I was the only one in school who seemed to have read the Harry Potter series. It started gathering a lot of buzz only when news of the movie got out. Once the movie was out, Harry Potter was all anyone could talk about! While everyone was busy hunting me down to borrow the first three books, I was doing some searching myself. For the fourth book! All the effort finally paid off. I finally found someone who had it! The father of a classmate of mine had a copy and he was rather amused when I begged him to lend it to me.

The quest to finish Book 4 lasted exactly a week and it left me sobbing by the end of it. I had read about murder and deaths in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books but these characters were always so… one-dimensional. There’s not much that you can learn about a single character (among many) in a 180-page book that is enough to make you feel bad when he/she is killed. But Cedric Diggory. The perfect son. Quidditch star. Intelligent. Kind.

Goblet of Fire was the book that made me realize that this wasn’t the typical Good vs Evil story in which Good triumphs over Evil and all the good people end up happy and safe at the end of it.

I guess that’s the reason why Harry Potter became such a revolution. The maturity of the readers grew alongside the maturity of the characters. And this made the journey feel so real. Especially for me. I remember the disappointment I felt when I didn’t receive a letter from Hogwarts on my eleventh birthday!

The next three books were, in short, MIND-BLOWING. Where to begin? What to say? It’s odd but I’m suddenly tongue-tied now.

I guess you’re probably wondering why I’ve posted something so random instead of a ‘Hi! I finally entered the blogosphere’ type of post. I’ve always hated writing as much as I’ve loved to read. And it just felt right to enter the fabulous world of blogging (or so I’m told) with a post about the books that changed my life. The books that made a person who’s always hated to write want to pick up a pen (virtual, of course) and write about it.

So, here goes. Welcome to my blog – the place you’ll find lots of tidbits about Harry Potter and other random stuff. Hope you enjoy it!

I solemnly swear to update this blog as regularly as possible.

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P.S. May you find mischief and laughter wherever you go, Fred Weasley. We miss you.