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Local Coffee Shop Conversation

Sitting in a local coffee shop, I am trying to connect the laptop to the inhouse (protected) wifi network.

A Waiter comes to take my order.

Me: “Can you please give me the wifi password?”

Waiter: “Same Password”

Considering I have only visited the place once before and I hadn’t asked for password that time, it is unlikely that I can refresh my memory for the password of the cafe.

Me: “Ugh! Pardon me.”

He: “Yes Ma’am, that is the password. ‘samepassword’, all small characters”

Me: <<Speechless>>

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A quote to start the year with

neil-gaimans-quotes-7

Neil Gaiman sure is a poignant person. Be wise and always be kind folks!

P.S: Have you read any works by Neil Gaiman? Do you recommend any?

A New Year

Another year passes by, leaving us with pride in what was achieved; disappointment in what we missed out and hopefulness in things ahead of us.

At the beginning of each year, I sit back and think about things that I need to achieve in the coming year. Even though, I don’t make concrete resolutions or take a quaterly/half-yearly stock of life; I always wish for a better year as compared to the last one.

The good folks at trifecta has asked me to make a resolution in three words. Three words it is then, for the year 2014:

“Make it count”

SONY DSC

The one thing I absolutely need to achieve this year is to make the hours in my day count. I find time a very scarce commodity and constantly worrying about how much less time I have left, is not doing me any good. What I need to do is to ensure that I use all the hours within my day productively. Instead of letting time take control of my life and overwhelm me; I need to make it count, no matter how less it seems to be.

What are your resolution for this year? Do you believe in making resolutions at the beginning of a year?

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Linked to Trifecta Challenge Week 99

Books I had been reading

First a shoutout to Grammarly because I checked out their website recently and I am really impressed by extend of effort they put into proofreading the text you submit. If you would like try, please sign up for their 7-day trail. The text is checked for an array of mistakes that creep up in our daily usage/writing. I use Grammarly for proofreading online because I am too scared of Grammar Nazis coming after me 🙂

The lady and the monk

The problem with having a ‘to-read’ list longer than a mile is you are constantly looking at your list to see which book you should buy next. I discovered ‘The lady and the monk’ during a lazy day of meandering around a small book store in India. I read the back cover and I felt the subject resonating with me. I love travel, reading about new cultures and the first hand account of the places I have never seen. Sometimes the impromptu buys make the best purchases and this book is a testament to it.

Ladyandthemonk

The lady and the monk tells the story of four seasons in Kyoto during the time Pico Iyer spent exploring the country. I couldn’t help but wonder the entire time how beautiful the country is. Cherry Blossom lined walkways contrasting with the comic book themed motels; the beautiful Japanese women; Japanese monks and monasteries. A country steeped in culture and history, and at the same time it is as high-tech and modern as it gets. The book provides an endearing gateway to the Japanese Culture when the author meets Sachiko, a vivacious, attractive and educated Japanese woman who is married to a Japanese “salaryman”. Her dreams are in constant conflict with the expectations from the society. She longs to go out and work and earn a living, however everyone including her mother is wary of her ambitions. The book also gives a glimpse into the nature of Japanese people and tells us who easy it is for us to misunderstand them. Their love for perfection most of the times, comes across as pretentious and conscientiousness. As Pico Iyer spends four seasons in the beautiful country, we are taken through a lyrical journey with elements of cross-cultural infatuation thrown in between. The book made me want to pack my bags and go stay in this beautiful country and explore their culture. Highly recommended.

The Shadow of the Wind

I read the first 50 words of this book in a blog and I immediately knew I had to pick up this book. The first 50 words went something like this.

I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.  It was the early summer of 1945, we walked through the streets of Barcelona…

The Shadow of the Wind

Now what I was forgetting was the fact that first 50 words doesn’t define the book. Quite truly, it didn’t. The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon tells the story of a boy who discoveries an ‘unknown’ book and how his search for more books by the author opens up a web of mysterious incidents, murder and treachery. He soon realises that his own life is inexplicably linked to the book and how he comes into terms with it forms the crux of the story. Now, my main gripe with his book is its language and execution. At 700 odd pages, it is a long book. Nevertheless you can breeze through the pages but it is a fast paced book. I kept reading thinking that the something interesting will be coming up with the next turn. Alas, nothing happened. The language is bare, the story is atmost ‘dramatic’. No real substance or words that stay in your mind.

Two lessons learnt from this experience:

1. Just because everyone is loving a book doesn’t mean you will love it. Quite contrary, mass appeal books are not always to be trusted with reviews.

2. First 50 words doesn’t define a book !

Sixpence House: Lost in a Town of Books

I was truly fascinated by the subject when I first heard about this book. Hay-on-Wye, often described as “the town of books“, is a small market town and community in Powys, Wales. It has 40 bookstores, and if you can’t find what you want in one of them, you can fork over 50 pence and visit the field behind the town castle, where thousands more long-forgotten books languish under a sprawling tarp. The story follows Paul Collins as he abandons the hilly SanFrancisco and move his family to Hay where he tries to organise the American literature section in one of the many used-book stores, his attempts to buy an affordable house that is not falling apart and his struggle to make peace with the life in Hay. The book is spruced up with Collin’s witty and funny observations on many book titles and the village life of Hay.

sixpence

Did the concept of actually having a town where bookstores outnumber the other shops fascinate you too? You should pick up this book then.

What have you been reading lately?

Of Montreal, a travel plan and passport that almost never came

One fine afternoon, two girls ponder over the idea of going to Montreal over the labor day weekend. It is an extended four day weekend and Montreal is not quite far away from NewYork actually makes them feel it is a fabulous idea.

But as usual, life takes over; the girls get busy with work, clocking in 14-16 hours a day and some other incidents in their life dampens their spirit. They don’t discuss about it for a long time.

Exactly one month before the labor day holidays, when life took the semblance of something ‘normal’, they start talking about Montreal again. They both love travelling; however the fact that they both have Indian Passports doesn’t make it easy. You need a visa to get to Canada from USA. The plethora of documents that a Canadian visa application requires makes things quite difficult. They somehow amass all the documents and apply for a visitor visa. The timeline in the Canadian immigration website says 3 weeks and by now it is exactly three weeks to the date they fly out. What is life if you are not optimistic, right?!

They didn’t have to wait for a long time and within 10 days, they hear back from the embassy that their visa is approved and tells them to send across the passport to the embassy. Overjoyed, both of them mail across their passports to the embassy. Then the things take an interesting turn.

5 days before the departure:

Girl1 receives the passport by mail in NewYork. It was a Saturday and she is relieved because she is supposed to travel to Baltimore the next day and work from there for that week. She is flying to Montreal directly from Baltimore. So had it not been for that last day, she may have had to redirect the passport by mail to Baltimore.

Girl2 feels happy for her friend and thinks that her passport will be delivered on the next working day, i.e. Monday.

3 days before the departure:

Girl2 tries to track the mail, but the USPS website says that no information is available for this package. Girl1 consoles her friend that the tracking details of her package were not updated until late in the day and opines that it should be delivered that day itself.

Girl1 reaches her room after work at 9PM and is surprised to see that no package is delivered to her today.

2 days before the departure:

Girl2 starts panicking about the non-delivery of the passport. A couple of frantic telephone calls are made. Embassy only has an automated response and trying to get some information from a related office also goes in vain. They give her an email id used by the embassy and she quickly sends an email requesting a status on her passport delivery. But she never gets a response back.The tracking of the mail gives the same response as the previous day “no information is available for this package” a.k.a no delivery is initiated for the return envelope. Girl2  is beginning to wonder whether her passport may not be delivered and her travel plans may have to be cancelled. However, she decides to make one final attempt and directly go to the embassy the next day.

1 day before the departure:

Girl2 goes to the embassy in NewYork early morning and tries to explain the situation. She is not allowed to enter the embassy because they don’t entertain these kinds of requests. She is told that all the enquiries should be made to particular email id. She immediately emails into that id. She is further directed to a visa application centre six blocks down the lane. The visa application centre informs her that since she applied online and send the passport directly to embassy, they can’t do anything in this matter. Embassy emails back that nowadays, the processing time once they get the passport is about two weeks. Girl2 emails back mentioning she has a flight tomorrow and if the process can be expedited in any manner, it would be helpful.

Girl2 is finally coming into terms with the situation. She realizes that she will have to cancel the flight and hotel bookings today. She informs Girl1 of the situation and they send a thousand crying smilies to each other over IM. Girl2 tells Girl1 to go ahead with the plans and travel to Montreal; however Girl1 inspite of having done solo travel trips before, doesn’t want to go alone this time. They look at backup options. Many options are analysed, explored and information shared. Finally they decide that if nothing works out, they shouldn’t be worried because they are in NewYork after all and there is always something or other to do in the city. They console each other and both of them decide that flights will be cancelled once Girl2 reaches her room and confirms that there is no passport delivery yet.

10PM the night before departure:

After an exhausting day at work, Girl2 reaches home and sees that no package is delivered that day. She texts her friend again with quite a number of sad smilies.

She takes a bath to relax and opens up the laptop to cancel the flights and hotel. Hotel has already charged her for a day and the flight reschedule charges also seem high. She however decide to track the package one last time just for the heck of it.

She could hardly breathe for sometime when she sees that the package has left the embassy at 7.30PM that day and would be delivered by 12PM the next day. She immediately calls up her friend and they both keep up with hope that they may somehow make it to Montreal the next day. Girl2 does her laundry, packs her bags to ensure that lo behold, if she is actually going; she should atleast have some clean clothes.

On the departure day:

Girl2 gets to office at 7.30AM and the usual drill follows. Back to back meetings which are intercepted by frantic tracking of the package.  9AM, the website shows that the package is at the local post office and can be picked up at that point of time. The tight schedule at the office ensures that Girl2 can’t go to the post office in the morning and Girl1 tries to calm her friend down by saying that it will be delivered by noon.

12PM and the package is shown delivered at the address. Girl2 finally gets out of her meetings at 3PM and rushes to her room. She is giddy when she finds her passport with a fresh Canadian visa stamped. She picks up the luggage, drives to airport, drop off the car, takes the tram to the terminal and breezes through the security check for her flight at 6PM.

Going by my travel history, it is clear that Girl2 is me and my friend(Girl1) tells me that me getting into that flight is nothing but a miracle.

plane

While sitting 25000ft above sea level and writing this post, I can’t help but agree. This will be most unplanned trip I would have ever done. I usually have a list of things to check off in any place that I visit. I bought a Montreal guidebook long back, but never read it because I basically didn’t have time for it. The agenda had hence forth been decided as to eat, sleep, rest and roam around Montreal in between. We both needed a break and I am so glad Montreal is where it is going to be.

P.S: In the end, I believe what really worked was emailing the enquiry section with the email I got from the embassy. In case someone else faces the issue with Canadian Embassy in NewYork, please inbox me. I can provide you the email id of the enquiry session.

Five things Friday – The only mostly about movies

Writing a blog post after three months seems particularly odd. I feel rustic, but glad to get back into the flow. Life during the last three months had been a roller coaster ride with lots of travel and lots of hours spend at work; without leaving me a moment to stop by and take breath. June 2013 will go down in my life as the month when I traveled from USA – India – Europe – India – United States all within a period of 30 days. Phew, after a while, my body stopped trying to make sense of which timezone I am in and just go with the flow. A job in consulting means every new project is a different client, different set of people whom you work with and a new place. Invariably, you are supposed to make new friends; build good relationships; make impressions and prove yourself again and again. Challenging, yes. Boring, never. Now we have got the life updates out of the way, let’s go to five things friday.

1. Today morning, I came to know that Ben Affleck is replacing Christain Bale as batman in the new Superman-Batman feature by Warner Bros. It broke my heart. How can someone replace Christain Bale as the Batman? He as batman is one of the best cameos of a superhero I have witnessed on screen. This is coming from a girl who doesn’t like superhero movies to a large extend. But, I adore Christain Bale. However I believe the series of batman movies with Bale in the lead role became a huge success because of the excellent direction by Christopher Nolan. That is one filmmaker who is so brillant that everything he touches just turns gold. Since the latest Superman-Batman feature by WB will be directed by Zack Synder, I believe it gives me some respite that it won’t be a batman movie with Christopher Nolan as the director and someone other than Bale playing the lead cameo.

2. Speaking of movies, I watched Blue Jasmine by Woody Allen in the Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee last weekend. The mention of the theatre is important here because it is the most beautiful movie theatre I had ever been to. My love for independent movie threatres is not unprecedented. I love the old world charm and sheer exuberance. Oriental Theatre in Milwaukee was opened in 1927 as a movie palace. It is said to be the only theatre that incorporate East Asian art work. It features 2 minaret towers, 3 stained glass chandeliers, several hand drawn murals, 6 larger-than-life Buddhas, dozens of original draperies, 8 porcelain lions, and hundreds of elephants. It was so visually stunning that I doubt at times, I was ogling at the gold budhas inside the screening room instead of looking at the screen !

Oriental Theatre

Speaking of the movie itself, Blue Jasmine is thoroughly entertaining. Oh, how much I love Woody Allen movies and his hedonistic lady characters. Cate Blanchett plays the part of self-absorbent, extravagant and self-destructive lady to a tee. The entire movie is speckled with witty dialogues and uniquely developed characters. Sheer magic on the screen that only Woody Allen is capable of producing.

3. I finished the first season of Girls in a marathon-series-watching-session. I now understand what the hype is about. Lena Dunham and the gang of girls have created a series that is raw and true to life. 20-something girls who are confused, not knowing the shape their life is taking; finding their way out of the mess – sometimes that they created and sometimes that they find themselves to be in. Many a time, you watch it and wonder whether you too had been so lost in your early twenties? Maybe we all were. Maybe we all figured it out ourselves. Maybe we are all still figuring it out.

Girls

4. The summer is slipping away. The blistering heat season is over. The sky darkens faster in the evening and there is a slight chill in the air in the night. I am giddly waiting for the fall to arrive. It is my absolute favourite season in United States. The leaves change the colour, it is not too hot, neither too cool. You drink up pumpkin spice lattes and eat yummy pumpkin pies. It is the season to layer up and soak in all the beauty around you.

5. For as long as I can remember, I had been a coffee drinker. Lately, I had been swapping my cup of java for umpteen number of teas. Trying out new types of tea is my new leisure activity. So far, I have gone from earl grey to green tea to roobios tea to chamomile tea to chinese herbal tea to fruit flavored teas. I love the refreshing taste of light teas and had been enjoying a cup of tea after every meal of mine. I wanted something lighter during the night time and had been searching for a good night time tea. I chanced upon Allegro Peaceful Slumber tea in WholeFoods this week and had since been enjoying a cup of this before going to bed. Smooth chamomile with vanilla flavour accentuated by the scent of lavendar. If this doesn’t call out peace to you, then what will !

tea

I have also been eyeing fanciful teapots and tea sets for sometime now. I imagine myself conducting tea ceremonies in the near future, along with neatly cut out cucumber sandwiches and scones with jam. Haha, wishful thinking. Anyway, would you have some suggestions for me with respect to tea varieties that I can try? Please let me know. The teas currently in my to-try list are white, oolong and dandelion teas.

What have you been upto?

The choices that define us

They say you are defined by the choices you make in life.

Sometimes it is hard, really very hard. You spend hours analysing the options; you weigh the pros and cons, stack them against each other and if you are lucky, one option may far outweigh the other. When that is not the case, you are left feeling delusioned. You don’t know which is a right or wrong choice. You are in that scary place where you feel that the choice that you make may turn out detrimental in long term. The best you can do is choose one option and hope for the best. Believe that things work out in the end. Keep faith.

But are there right or wrong choices in life? Life doesn’t come with a reset switch by which you can go back in time; make a different choice and see for yourself how it turns out. You may have messed up at an entirely different aspect with that choice. Maybe there are no right or wrong choices in life. You have to make the most of what you are given. You just have to suck it up, be brave and trust your decision. That is why the note I received from universe today couldn’t have been more apt at this time.

Everyone’s scared, Girl.

Few carry on.

Keep calm,
The Universe