Friday, May 19, 2017

Finding love again

Been a while since I posted last. So much has happened and I have not written much. But I guess this is the side effect of the social media. Where we tend to express ourselves in bits and pieces. From a blog to a FB post to a tweet as the canvas shrinks so does our retention power. But that is besides the point.

Today, I complete 4 years since I left India. On May 20 2013, I landed in Singapore.  Visited USA in Oct 2014 and ended up moving to USA in Feb 2015. Lived in Singapore, Chicago, Tampa and now Charlotte (NC). Besides having visited so many places that every visit deserves it's own blog post.

Last few years have been a roller-coaster ride with family, work and the travel involved. I have loved every bit of the journey. However, some interesting changes have come about recently.

As life gets more and more monotonous with job and regular chores of life, we tend to lose sight of the bigger picture of living the life and living the wonderful moments life has to offer. As I came to Charlotte, I connected with my friend Usman from college days. He introduced me to playing tennis.

What started as just a means of moving more to stay fit soon turned to an almost daily high point. This I would say is the process of falling in love again.

Having been a pretty bad athlete all my life. I've played cricket ocassionally. I've had my moments on the cricket field and also in street cricket but studies and career commitments made it just an once in a while event. And being a lazy soul doesn't help. I always loved swimming. It helped me maintain a certain mobility. But again discipline takes lot of commitment and creating moments. Which I could not quite do to the best of my ability.

Coming back to tennis, I think trying a new sport at the age of 34 took some encouragement and coaching from Usman and his friends. Trying to transition the cricket technique to the tennis racket/court and above all not being embarrassed by certain ugly moments because of poor athleticism and technique. But a good support group gives the much needed impetus to doing anything new. I am very lucky that way.

What have I gained playing this new sport? I would say hell of a lot. Just running or swimming can help someone achieve a great degree of fitness if you are a self starter and monitor progress consistently. Or, you need a group to work with who is motivating and entertaining at the same time.

Biggest plus I see with a game like tennis is you can always measure your performance in terms of winning games, agility, stamina and strategy. Every player is different and every game demands a new approach to challenge/beat the opponent. When compared to a team game like cricket (which I still love) a struggling player is always at the mercy of captain. You get a chance to bat/bowl based on the game flow/your perceived ability. Many people do anything for love of the game. But I have limited time.

So in short, it has been amazing 3 months playing this new sport. It has been great to re discover my ability, passion and drive to try something new everyday. Especially when you tend to lose more as a beginner.

Challenge is to keep this love alive. Every love story tests the commitment of the parties involved. Hoping this one lasts longer than my knees/back.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Another interesting chapter

It's been quite a while since I made an update. Last when I wrote, I was at crossroads trying to decide the whether to stay east or to move west. There were forces pulling me back to India, Singapore and some forces pulling me westwards to the US. The forces pulling me to the US were strongest and I moved to Chicago around end of February with my family.

After a lot of thought, I took up a journey about which I knew partly what to expect. But also with a number of uncertainties. But the journey has been worth it. First off, at work I joined yet another desi IT company working for yet another US based client in insurance space. It was not as difficult to find my way at the work place. It was mostly been there done that. But working in North America is a lot more tricky. There is no force asking you what to do. But, how you do and how you present it is what matters.

About the city, Chicago has been an amazing place. Over last 6 months, I never felt away from India. There are desis all around and everything a desi needs is not more than a mile away. I'd love to rename Chicagoland as Chicagopur or Chicagobad. Weatherwise, winters are terribly cold and temperatures of 0° F(-20° C) were very common when I arrived. Driving through the snow is an experience not to be missed. I thoroughly enjoyed. We got great help from Ruqu's aunt and other family friends. Words of caution, stay on lanes. Keep the gap and never ever brake hard.

We stayed at Des Plaines(aka desi plaines). Life revolved in and around the sub-urbs. Though, I must say Chicago is among the most beautiful downtown worldwide. I have not seen a lake as huge as lake Michigan and with such a prominent beach. It was completely worth experiencing the windy winter and summer around it.

How can we ignore the Devon ave. Known among the desi's as Diwaan. Almost any cuisine from sub-continent is right there.

Zuni enjoyed a couple of months in pre school. Preschooling, though not compulsary is a great way to keep kids engaged. Started rolling r's and caught up pretty quick on talking the American way as opposed to the nasal Singapore way.

On the other hand, life in US is a great deal of interesting challenges if you don't accept change. Life is particularly hard if you dont drive. Everything is a mile or two away and weather is not always helpful to venture outdoors. As a result, waistlines expand if nothing is done. I need to reverse this pattern and on an urgent basis.

Overall it has been very exciting 6 months and exciting times lined up as my assigbment has ended and have a new phase lined up in the south. I am writing this post as I am flying to NY, followed by Tampa FL.

I look ahead for a longer summer and a longer stay in this beach city. And look ahead to having a great time also post as much as I can whenever I find time. Especially look ahead to enjoy the endless amusement parks in Orlando and visits to my sister just 6 hours away in Atlanta GA.

Lots to see/do/write about and I will try my best read.write

Friday, November 28, 2014

On the move...Uncle Sam's backyard

Its been a long time since my last post. Things have changed a great deal since then. The Singapore phase was an amazing one and I am at crossroads again having to choose between a number of opportunities and each of them pulling me in multiple directions.

For starters, the project I took up for a new financial institution has come to an end and I have some opportunities calling me back to India and some opportunities pulling me to the lion city. While deciding between the lion/garden city, I decided to visit Uncle Sam who hosts my sister Kulsum's family.

On this sabbatical, I have been visiting some interesting places and meeting some interesting people I know from different phases of my life.

When I meet each one of them, it takes me back to the phase I was when they were with me. I connected with friends from middle school, high school, college and different phases of my professional career. Makes me look back how much things have changed and how much I have changed with time and yes explore this amazing country and its people. Now that I am exploring on my own, I miss Ruqaiya and Zunaira most of the times. But their absence also facilitates the flashbacks.

Being an Indian visiting USA for the first time, it amazes me how different life can be compared to back home. I've watched American TV,movies and worked with many customers from this part of the world but visiting this place is an experience one would cherish. Having lived in Bangalore, Kolkata, Atsugi(Japan) and Singapore and visited few other places I see each place is beautiful in its own way and has shaped up my thought process in a unique way.

What strikes me about USA is the low density of population in most places I've been and the diversity in terain but uniformity in planning. If you visit one American city, other cities are predictable but people, terain and weather is distinct.

Its a high consumption society, but I don't see a drastically different way of living here.

Based in Atlanta with my sister's family its been fun knowing my brother in law, her kids and her in-laws who Ive hardly connected with over the last 5 years. Ive connected with each of them like never before. Its been the best opportunity to socialize and explore.

So far, I visited Gatlinburg(mountain), Tampa/Orlando(Florida) and Charlotte(friends/uncle). Now I am on my way to San Fransisco to visit a cousin and uncle.

From what I have seen so far, I feel this is definitely a land of opportunity and also a land of diversity. However, it takes sometime getting used to this place. Especially driving, shopping and self help skills(not much labor at disposal) define how mucb you enjoy here.

Took me a while adjusting driving on other side of the road. Its the 1st country I visited, where we drive on the right. I still look over my left shoulder when backing the car and run to the passenger seat when I want to drive and vice versa.

Still I am getting to terms with the fact that a backyard in a home is not necessarily a luxury and the mile/gallon/lb measurement is keeping my mind working overtime.

While driving here, following the rules was the most difficult part especially having driven mostly in India.

Also I found people extremely friendly. Not what you hear from people who just visited this country once or twice.

In short my FOB(fresh off boat) diary so far has been very predictable for someone already visited this country and experiences have not been as outrageous as my earlier trysts in a foreign land. Maybe because of the luxury of a host taking me around. Perhaps I need to get out of my comfort zone in next few days to experience some unexpected adventure.

Talking about adventure, I was the last person to board the flight I am travelling on. I felt very important being called by name before the flight took off. But I know it was a result of a very silly mistake. I din't hop onto the right subway train though it was right in front of me and I lost 20 minutes as a result. But alls well that ends well.

I spent last month or so closer to the Atlantic ocean(east coast) and look forward to what the west coast(by pacofic ocean) has to offer. Looking forward for some fun.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Story continues

It has been more than a year in Singapore and lots has happened. Yet, I have been unable to put it on my blog. Call it a writers block or whatever, A lot has happened but was unable to blog. Perhaps, instant gratification of twitter/facebook got the better of my blog.

However, I felt like summarizing my thoughts on a flight back to Singapore from Bangalore after a short vacation. Especially the turbulence in this flight brings thoughts of what might have gone through the minds of those aboard mh370.

Anyway, life has been a roller coaster ride since I first arrived in Singapore on May 19th 2013. Coming on a deployment with an Indian Software services giant, I did not think my tryst with Singapore would be beyond 6 months. However, I felt a sense of stagnation doing same kind of work with the same  client for more than 4 years. An interesting offer came by and I decided to move on. 1st 6 months in Singapore were very challenging. Especially exploring a new place with a young family while almost working 24/7. But yes such experiences teach you a lot. Mainly adversity brings forth a raw humor within the team and the team spirit just takes off.

I enjoyed my 1st stint and it has left indelible footprints on my thought process.

Life in Singapore is very interesting especially for those who enjoy life outdoors. I have made the best of the public swimming pools to chill and flex my muscles and the public transport to explore this tiny island. But limited time and constraints that come with a family have made sure I do things keeping some constraints in mind.

Now that I am with a new financial instution representing another software services company, I feel more things change more they remain the same. I feel the need to diversify and choose an area of expertise to thrive. I have been very undecided on that front.

In between all these confusions on the career front, I have had some fun times. Especially the time when my brother in law Mohsin and my mom visited me in Singapore. Places like Sentosa(especially universal studios) and the central business district of Singapore make you feel no matter how much you explore, the city just keeps changing and entertaining you in so many ways. This post is small to pack all the info.

I look forward to the ride and being on the move and spirit to explore is what keeps you going.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Reporting from the lion city

Been a while since I wrote something interesting on my blog. Though I am pretty interested in sharing my thoughts and experiences on my blog, I feel not many events have happened that are blog worthy though everyday has been interesting. With the onset of twitter. There have been few stories and more blink and you miss events that have been reported. And with a tool like twitter, your life can be a running commentary without any effort to link the events to telling your story. Anyway...

For starters, I landed in Singapore on 19th May. I came here on an assignment with HCL technologies for one of their banking client. It has been a while since I travelled overseas for work. Five years to be precise and yes I am very much looking ahead for the experience on both personal and professional front.

Professionally, I feel it is a transitionary phase of my career. Having worked on several IT projects as a developer/lead I have gained some meaningful experience. But it has been unidirectional and there are so many angles to any IT implementation. It is a natural progression for me to work on IT projects at a phase with the end user/the customer. There are so many aspects to explore, learn and upgrade myself.

On the personal front, it will be for the first time that Ruqaiya and I will face the world on our own in a new place. Though, it is not such a big deal. It will be an interesting phase where we are better equipped to deal with challenges life throws at us.

My first two days were very interesting for me. I left Bangalore almost on the midnight between 18th and 19th May. 18th May was a bit busy as there was a wedding and lots of packing/shopping to complete. I don't remember the finer details but it was a day I had mixed feelings. I felt sad to leave my family behind. Especially my little sister Kulsum and her family. They are USA bound and it will be few years before I meet them next. I managed to meet Kulsum, Ehrar bhaiya and Samia for sometime. They were completely occupied with the wedding of Ehrar bhaiya's sister.

The journey started with a long drive to the airport. It was raining and the traffic was very torturous for me. On reaching the airport, I was asked to repack as the hand bagage was too heavy to be taken on the flight. I did some realignment and managed to get through.

The flight was ok. But I could not sleep at all. I spent sometime chatting with Mr.Shesha. He was sitting next to me. While talking to him I realized that he is a close friend on my teacher in university Mr. Manjunath Prasad. Also I enjoyed travelling in the Singapore airways flight. Especially after having travelled excessively on the no frills flights such as indigo.

On landing at changi international airport in Singapore I found it second to none. After having heard so much about the cleanliness and discipline of Singapore, I was pleasantly surprised about how well managed everything is out there. Absolutely no hassle right from landing to immigration to baggage claim. I spent a while at the airport, had my breakfast at the Mc Donalds. Then left to the East Lodge on Joo Chiat place. So far the East lodge has been the biggest disappointment in Singapore. It is a college hostel. It is not suitable to provide accommodation to corporates. But the silver lining to this dark cloud is that my roomie turned out to be an acquaintance from the HCL technologies cricket team practice (that I attended once in a while). He was very helpful to me when I landed. Gave me lofs of gyan about navigating through Singapore.

On reaching the lodge,  for some reason I din't feel even a bit sleepy. I was itching to go out and explore Singapore in a day. I gave a call to my friend Dilbagh in Tampines. I went around Tampines and had lunch in a desi stall. The Indian food in Malaysia is something unique. Has some special items that are not available in India. Infact, Malaysia, Singapore is a land of cultural fusion. The fusion makes the place unique. On the surface the uniqueness is not apparent but more you explore more interesting it gets. I introduced Dilbagh to Murtabak. That's a special snack. Resulting from this fusion culture. It reminded Dilbagh of a Kolkata snack called Mughlai. A combination of eggs, paratha and meat. For details one may do a bit of research or visit this part of the world.

After lunch, Dilbagh helped me get my sim card and activate a data/talk plan. Then I said bye to dilbagh and went to meet a prospective room mate Keerthi. He happened to be from the same locality back home as me. World now seamed a very small place.

After meeting Keerthi, I called Afroze (my friend from Kolkata days 2005-06). He was a bit occupied. Then my cell got discharged. We lost contact. Also I caught up on some sleep in a massaging chair placed for display at Tampines mall. Then I went to the masjid at Kempangan near East lodge. I prayed and also rested a while. On waking up I called Afroze. He called me to Little India. Where he had been for his grocery shopping. I spent sometime with hiw family at Mustafa centre and had my dinner with them. After the outing thei dropped me back at East lodge.

I came back late night and crashed like there's no tomorrow.

Today, I got up and went to the HCL office at 10 am. Went to axa building by MRT. got my induction done and explored the Marina bay financial centre. It's an amazing place to both visit and work but its bloody expensive.

I did some exploration on the food front. Had Malaysian and Indonesian food for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It was an adventure for my taste buds. Now I'm back home after some wandering around the Singapore streets but not able to sleep because of the critical assignment (updating my blog). Now that my thoughts and I've exhausted myself looks like I better go and sleep. Shall update more events on this trip as they happen. Bye till then.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Interesting changes coming up

Been a while since my last update. I update my blog either when there is a significant change in my career, personal life or to share a travel experience. For starters, I am done with my project for the last 3.5 years.

Yes, WIN is now transitioned to another resource. I get mixed feelings when I think about my last project. Feel sad that it does not belong to me any more. Feel happy that I am out of my comfort zone. I am now going to explore some new situations professionally. This is another project with the same client. I will be handling the operations from overseas. Working directly with the customer will have its challenges but that will give me more opportunities.

Now that this is my last weekend in Bangalore for next few months, I am trying to spend some time with family and reflect to what are the gaps I need to fill so that my skills stay relevant in the long run. I am looking at some interesting learning opportunities on the functional as well as technical side. There is so much to explore and do and the time just does not suffice. I am really excited about the upcoming events and pray that the best happens.

While I am waiting to move to a new location and a new project, my sister Kulsum is coming to India on a 2 month vacation. Feel sad that I'll get to spend only a week with her after 2 years. However, it was by chance that my travel got delayed by a week because of negligience of someone in the visa processing department of my company. With so many moving parts in the bigger machinery, there are some positives and some negatives. I am loooking in hope that the journey ahead will be fun.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Energized and back in business

After my visit to Pondicherry on the east coast a couple of months back, I decided to take my next vacation to Goa on the west coast in the third week of February. This time with a bigger group. Including Mom, my sister Mariam, her son Faisal, my wife Ruqaiya and daughter Zunaira. Dad dropped out a week before the travel and we changed the plan from a road trip to flying to and from Goa.

This was my third visit to Goa.Last visit being 11 years back. Lots has changed since. Last time I was still in college. Now I'm a professional and a family man. Dynamics of travel and holidaying  changes once you have a family.

Our vacation began on the early morning(3 30 am) of 19th Feb. We took the 0630 flight from Bangalore to Goa. The drive to the airport was an experience I can't forget. The driver was one of the craziest Cabbie I've ever seen. He drove like he had an F1 pole position at stake. More I asked him to go slow and take it easy, the faster he went. It was not a good feeling having my daughter on my lap. When we got down, the driver said that he thought I was asking him to go faster and kept speeding up. He was not that good in speaking kannada. Probably he knew only one word for slow and I used all other synonyms for the word slow. Still I feel he was just ripping for the thrills and came up with an excuse.

We arrived in Goa at 730 in the morning. Having been there about a decade back the airport looked different. The airport was way below expectation considering Goa is a global holiday destination. The airport looked more like a bus stand. It reminded me of how Bangalore airport looked Atleast 15 years back. Hope to see a better airport in Goa, next time I'm there. During my last visit I remember the motor bike taxis that were very common. I dint see any of them in this visit. Another thing that caught my eye was presence of Russians. So many of them that there were Russian signboards on restaurants and shops.

After arrival we headed to the club Mahindra resort located by the Varca beach. It is a picturesque setting especially for those who are looking for a family holiday in Goa. We reached the resort well before the checkin time. We spent the time exploring the resort and resting in the lounge. After we checked in around 1 PM, we had some lunch and rested for a short while.All of us went to the beach around 5 30 PM to see the sunset. It was a breathtaking evening. The sea breeze and the waves in the backdrop of the setting sun just invites you to jump in. I could not resist myself. Zuni, Faisal and the ladies were happy to chill by the sea but I could not resist myself. I just walked into the sea. I enjoyed the waves hitting me on my chest. After a while swam also. Though I swim pretty well, the salt water has kept me off swimming in the sea. But this time was different. I could not resist swimming. It was a beautiful evening That turned dramatic when I dropped my cell phone while returning from the beech. On reaching the room I was devastated but I called my phone and nobody picked. After several attempts a couple answered my call. They returned the phone to me near the beech. They deserve a special thanks. After this dramatic event we ate some of the instant food that we had packed from home.

Next morning started very early. I got up by fajr. Played for a while with Zuni and went to the beach around 8 30. It was a very beautiful morning. I ran on the beech and swam alternatively. Kept thinking about my childhood. When my dad had been very protective about me. I din't try as many adventures then as I do now. Swimming in the sea, in my mind is one of the most pleasurable experiences and one who hasn't experienced it has missed out on something very beautiful. Following this great outing, we had a heavy breakfast in the restaurant. Nothing compliments a swim like a heavy meal soon after.

That evening again, we were all by the sea. Kids played in the sand for a while. When I was enjoying the waves. But something shocking happened. Zuni started walking with me towards the sea. She started running into the water. Ruqaiya and myself tried our best to keep her back but she kept fighting her way ahead. We were forced go carry her back to the room. This is when I realized why my dad was so protective. But I feel too much protection or freedom are both dangerous in their own way. Challenge for any parent is to balance between ther two extremes. When I look back I feel my dad did a great job in our upbringing.

On the following day, I took Faisal to the swimming pool. Initially he was very scared of water. But soon he overcame his hydrophobia and started enjoying his outing in the water. I'd say this was on1of the highlights of this trip. Kids learned to look beyond their cartoons and malls for fun. No childhood is complete without exposure to natural environment like the sea etc.

Day 3 was more relaxed compared to the previous two days. Spent decent amount of time swimming and taking kids out in the play area. Mariam and I went to the Varca village to buy some grocery. Varca is nothing like a village. You get anything that you might find in the best supermarket in Bangalore. That's the best part of a holiday destination. It has all the amenities without the hustle and bustle of a city.

The final day being a Friday, We got up early. Spent sometime by the beach. And I swam for sometime with Faisal. We checked out around 11 and spent the day in the resort till evening. Meanwhile I took a cab to Margao for the Friday prayers. Though Margao is the second best city of Goa after Panaji, it looked like a sleepy old town. I found an interesting mughlai restaurant called 'Shahi Durbar' where I had my lunch. It tasted pretty good. I packed lunch for the others waiting for me back in the resort. The parathas and kababs were eaten later that evening in the airport.  They tasted much better than I expected. On 22nd of Feb we left Goa with memories we will cherish for sometime to come.

Though this trip was completely on a single beach/resort it was a refreshing getaway. Dynamics of travelling changes a lot once you are a parent but travel/holidays can be made beautiful inspite of the constraints. Such holidays help you break the monotony and reconnect with the nature and the child within you. You comeback to your monotonous life energized and more focussed.

Now that I'm back at work, there are some changes happening around me and I'm looking forward to dealing with them with a new zest. Look forward to some interesting developments on professional front and wishing for many more vacations in days to come.