Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Light to dark to light

Yes I can see the Milky Way. And it looks rather like someone's tossed a bucketful of glitter high into the sky that got stuck there. Ever so often though, one would come unstuck, and a shooting star would streak across, in a tearing hurry to disappear.
But it takes a little getting used to. Stepping out into the black moonless night has the regular blinding effect. It's a fairly large open deck, with nothing that can trip you or knee-cap you for a fair distance all around, still I end up rooted to one spot for a bit, till slowly the tinier stars come into focus. Eventually the light from the distant chase boat seems too much.
I've never quite gotten the hang of wishing for stuff when I see a shooting star. The first thing crossing my mind is, without fail, 'WHOA!'. Then, (if and) when someone reminds me, I end up with 'What are the odds of that coming true /:)'. And finally, 'Ah, it's probably too late now anyway :-<'.
Feeling: a little sheepish
Listening to: Matchbox Twenty - Unwell

Sunday, 29 January 2006

Twinkle twinkle

Hundreds, possibly thousands, millions, billions of stars. All clustered in a sky absolutely unblemished by the tiniest of coulds. Inky black speckled with bright diamonds shining far far away! And in between these, the tinier, almost insubstantial ones much farther away than imagination can fathom, filling up the void in a haze of pinpricks of white.
And looking over the railing on the deck there were a few frothing ripples from the ship's bow cutting through the calm water. Spectacular stuff like this make life so totally worth all the rest of the shit.
Current mood: glad
Listening to: Daniel Powter - Bad day

Thursday, 26 January 2006

My name is...

Have been reading The Namesake, and couldn't help but notice how Gogol absolutely refuses to become Nikhil to me!
Oh, perhaps I'd failed to mention that in the end I couldn't leave it behind. Thankfully! :) Oh I also brought Manticore of course, as well as Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist :D. And the way the trip is shaping up, no regrets.
Found out today that I have to roll over to the opposite shift, i.e. 18 hr shift tomorrow and then back to midday - midnight ...
Feeling: a lil sleepy..
Listening to: Placebo - Pure morning

Wednesday, 25 January 2006

Holy Yangon!

I'm back! On my ship that is. After all the drama over the luggage limitation, I found out at the airport that I'd overdone the tight packing and my two bags weighed in a full kilo under the stipulated limit :(. What made it worse is the knowlegde that other members of the crew happily landed up with luggage weighing upto 12 kilos and didn't have to leave anything ashore!! Life is so unfair :((.
Anyway, to get to the point. I was expecting nothing different from my usual visits to cities during crew change: one night, walk around a little bit, which wouldn't be all that exciting since airports and airport hotels are situated in the most boring bits of almost every city. However, a late stroke of brilliance ended in a brief but fascinating visit to Myanmar's largest and most celebrated pagoda: the Shwedagon Pagoda, and boy, is it big!!! And golden like nothing I've ever seen before. There is this immense conical temple in the centre of the gigantic marble floored quadrangle! And all around it there are beautiful structures, golden, white, red, yellow! All this with the innumerable images of the Buddha enshrined within them cast a wonderful spell upon the onlooker!
Of course the spell might also have a little bit on the fact that the lower part of the central stupa is plated with 8688 solid gold bars, the upper part with another 13153! The tip of the stupa, so high that it threatens to touch the sky, is set with 5448 diamonds, 2317 rubies, sapphires and other gems, 1065 golden bells, and at the very top, a single 76-carat diamond!! But then all that I came to know only later :).

Still rather in awe of Shwedagon the next morning, I embarked upon my first ever helicopter flight! The most radical difference, as might be obvious to anyone with half a working mind, is in the takeoff. There's no long taxi-ing, no violent thrust of the powerful jets being brought to full power, no sudden upward surge. Instead, what there is, is a violent shuddering as the overhead rotor slowly builds up to max speed, a slight tentative roll along the runway, and then one is simply spirited off the ground. I actually had to look out of the window to reassure myself that we were indeed airborne! And at the end of the hour-long flight I finally saw the ship the way I've seen it in so many pictures: from high above! Quite a wonderful crew change actually, in the end..

Current Mood: quite happy actually!
Listening to: U2 - All because of you

Sunday, 22 January 2006

Making up

Enough now. Enough cribbing about Kolkata. This city, with all it's dirt and smoke, traffic jams and overpopulated suburbs, stinking garbage dumps and potholed expressways, still does have it's own charm and beauty!
The Oberoi Grand
Today I had decided that I'd stay in and concentrate on how to fit in at least one more book into the allotted 10 kgs, and a long overdue haircut (self-administered of course). However, having found out that my agent had refused to pay for my ticket, I had to drag myself out, absolutely unwillingly, for one final trip on the metro. As luck would have it, the airline office was just off the only metro station I had never been to before, Chandni Chowk.
Esplanade: quintessential Calcutta
Thankfully, I managed to get my ticket at last, after double, no, triple verification of my passport, visa, guarantee letter and a secondary ID, and headed to the nearby Esplanade. Something about the city skyline against the deep crimson of sunset pulled me away from the metro station. I found myself walking rather aimlessly along the wide roads of south-central Kolkata. Not that aimlessly actually. From the Esplanade, one can see three rather remarkable features of the Kolkata skyline: Shahid Minar, the four stupendous floodlight columns of the Eden Gardens and the Vidyasagar Setu (2nd Hoogly Bridge), and I was gravitating towards each of these in turn.
Shahid Minar
Eden was sadly dark, floodlights dead. And by the time I reached the banks of the Hoogly, a good 40-minute walk later, the lights were beginning to twinkle from across the expanse of inky water. Huge black shapes metamorphosing into barges, tiny ferries with lanterns precariously hanging on their masts, an unending streeam of cars with their headlamps flickering across over the bridge, but all mercifully out of earshot. Only the silent river flowing slowly by, and the city churning with it's usual business, leaving this little bit of pavement by the river in peace. Until of course the local went thundering by along the tracks barely 10 metres away :). What did sadden me a little though, was the total absense of lights on the unmistakable iron superstructure of Rabindra Setu (Howrah Bridge). Ah well, something to look forward to when I get back from the ship!
Vidyasagar Setu (or rather, a part thereof :D)

Feeling: thankful
Listening to: Coldplay - Yellow

Friday, 20 January 2006

Crew change blues

All it's supposed to be, is a bunch of people getting onto the ship, and the ones who've been slogging their asses off for the last six weeks, getting off it and going home. If only things were that simple :-<.

It all started with my logistics coordinator forgetting that I'm supposed to go onboard. By the time he did realise, I was already rather late in applying for my relevant visa (for Myanmar in this case). In between fulfilling requirements for another visa, running around for doctor's appointments, getting X-ray'd, dealing with a jittery visa agent and a seemingly clueless office support system, I was beginning to despair of getting the visa on time. Then of course there was a fair amount of confusion about what that 'on time' time was in the first place.
Eventually I did manage to get both, my visa and my final flight details to Yangon. But this wasn't the end.
Sikorsky S76A++: that's what I'm supposed to trust my life to...
For the first time in my short offshore career I'm to crew change via chopper! That sounds rather exciting doesn't it? It sure did to me!! Till I was informed that due to various constraints (most of which I do not even pretend to understand) I can carry no more that 10 kilos of luggage on board. To make matters worse, there is no allowance for the fact that I have to lug around the company laptop which by itself weighs a hefty 3 kilos :(. So now I'm looking at a rather irritating proposition: live out 6 wks on 7 kgs of clothes etc. The saddest part of the whole deal is that there's absolutely no way I can carry more than one book with me :((. To think I'd gone and bought myself 4 for the trip, and had actually started with 2!! Faced with the dilemma of choosing between The Namesake ( - Jhumpa Lahiri) and The Manticore's Secret ( - Samit Basu), I eventually picked the latter. Life on the ship does get a little depressing at times. I'd rather have a book in the lighter vein... What all important, life-altering, future-defining choices, hair clipper, or a couple of extra tees? Shaving kit, or my pack of CDs? AARGH!! X-(

If all this wasn't enough I found out today, after arguing for a good half hour with some shockingly dumb people at the CCU I-A counter, that my ticket hasn't been paid for yet! So now I'm just praying that I manage to somehow get to Yangon on schedule, and not end up like this...

Listening to: Cake - Comfort eagle

Thursday, 19 January 2006

Of bricks, old and new.

Back from a one day trip to Asansol! Yesterday, for the first time in at least three years, I went to visit my old home in Hill View Park :). (Okay, to dispel any confusion, usually whenever I go to Asansol it's to visit relatives who stay at the other end of the city, and I never manage to visit my old neighbourhood.)

The place has changed!! A lot!!! For a little while I was totally confused, there were so many tall new buildings all around, I could barely find our old apartment building. Sad fact I came to realize, our terrace was no longer the vantage point it used to be. You can probably not even see the horizon anymore, the distant fields, the single railway track with the goods trains chug-chugging along, Panchet hill, behind which the sun used to set everyday, the chimney's and flares of IISCo like tiny black candlesticks... Couldn't go check it out myself, didn't recognise any of the names on the row of letterboxes, none of my earlier neighbours seem to have stuck around.

Driving down the all too well known S B Gorai Road, passing by shops and stores, some old (a few of them even older than me maybe) but mostly new, saw my mum's old school, the Kalibari, lots of new highrises and all the old ruts and potholes :-<. Went knocking on a few doors, doorsteps I've had a good hand in wearing out over some ten years. None of my friends were around, out of town working, doing their MBA's or PhD's. I was surprised how many of their parents remembered me breaking something or other at their houses though /:).

To round off my trip I went visiting my old schools. Too bad it was after class hours at both schools, but I dont think I'd have recognised too many people anyway. Not many of my teachers are around any more. But the classrooms, the old burnt brick buildings, the huge playgrounds, they are very much around. And given that they've been around for over a century now, they'll probably be around for some more time.
Current Mood: happy . . . ish
Listening to: Damien Rice - The blower's daughter

Monday, 16 January 2006

Let's party!!

Unfortunately, when it's with lots of people, most of whom you don't know, it can be distinctly less than fun :(. What makes it worse is, everyone seems to know you. I absolutely hate it when a complete stranger (until someone explains it's your mum's friend's someone's someone) comes up and says 'I've heard so much about you!!' And that's it. Till eventually you are left wondering what exactly is it that they've heard about you!

Partying all night with a bunch of ex-classmates, most of whom I hadn't met in years!! Now that was fun! It surprised me though, how in certain ways we seemed to have not changed at all in the intervening 4 - 5 years! Of course some things change... thankfully, not everything :).

Feeling: tranquil
Listening to: Dido - White flag
Quote of the day: Darkness is: Death's ignorance, and the Devil's time >:)!!

Sunday, 15 January 2006

Today's realizations:

  • I hate Indian classical vocal :(. Don't get me wrong! I absolutely love classical instrumental! But vocal, I cannot stand (my third visit to a concert within the week has proved this beyond all reasonable doubt).
  • Despite cribbing endlessly about my jobless state at home, with barely a week to go to crew change, I find that I'd actually hate to leave.
  • I need to shed weight. Pronto! For the first time in my life I couldn't fit into a pair of trousers that weren't too short for me :((.
  • I should never drive a car (in real life that is) right after I've been playing NFS Underground 2 for a good 3 hours at a stretch. It actually says a fair bit about my parents' confidence in my driving that a few truncated exclamations an a few more raised eyebrows were all I had to deal with for the performance I put up :D.
  • In case I get my Myanmar visa within the week, this will be the last Sunday I'm not working my ass off on till March :-<.
  • (edit) And somebody's flicked my Pirates of the Caribbean CDs X-(!!!!
Current Mood: reflective
Listening to: Porcupine Tree - Russia on ice

Saturday, 14 January 2006

. . .

Was scrolling through some old college snaps, when one of them popped up and sent a cold chill down my spine. A little girl, so full of life. She is no more.

Life is fragile. Be sure to cherish it before it's too late.

Feeling: low
Listening to: Pearl Jam - Elderly woman behind the counter in a small town

Wednesday, 11 January 2006


I was a little scared for a bit there, looking for The Manticore's Secret in Oxford Books, Park Street and not finding it! Thankfully it wasn't sold out, I got one of the two remaining copies \:D/!!

That was the high point of the day. Errors and omissions, misunderstandings and pure stupidity... these and more, conspired to make the better part of my day a little preview into purgatory. But there's nothing like catching up with a very old friend to help unwind tightly strung nerves :). No nosey girlfriend (no offense meant, and not to generalise please), no 'issues' to avoid 'cos of that other chap lurking at the edge of the conversation, no awkward silences, for once you can talk about everything.

Hanging on in the metro in rush hour. Not like the infamous Mumbai local, but close. Snippets of conversations. Pigeons are congregating at Maidan with the ulterior motive of taking over the administration of Kolkata... Tax restructuring... What King Kong was most likely to go for if he landed in Diamond Harbour... 'Why didn't you ask me out earlier?!! Now I have to go get bored watching 15, Park Avenue with Maa!"... And some minds wrapped within their own thoughts. Some with their eyes closed. A little bit of rest while the city rages in it's familiar madness above the ground.

"Last and terminal station DumDum. Passengers are requested to vacate the compartments of the train."

Feeling: tired
Listening to: Coldplay - Square One

Monday, 9 January 2006

An ordinary end to an ordinary day.

I hate sunsets on land. Okay, that's not true. Let's just say I like them less on land than I did at sea. They are so predictable! Everyday, for the last god knows how many days, the sun been setting at the same angle to my desk, between the same coconut tree and the white building next to it. And it always, always disappears in that bank of smoke that's perpetually lurking over the horizon.

At least on the ship when you go out on deck you have to look around a bit to figure out where the sun is in the first place :D. And there's no irritating smog to pull a haze over the good part, the bit when the bottom dips into the unending sheet of water and appears to melt into a million sparkling puddles of liquid gold.

Me: What's with the 'you' mate?
Me: Huh? What 'you'? What are you talking about?
Me: /:)
Me: Aaah! That 'you'. I dunno, you tell me.
Me: There we go again.
Me: Aww c'mon! What am I supposed to say? "I tell me"?!!
Me: :|
Me: :D
Me: :)
Me: :))
Me: =))
Me: >:)
I know, I'm bored:(.

Current Mood: slightly crazy
Listening to: Alanis Morissette - Hand in my pocket

Friday, 6 January 2006

Pure Morning.

It's like one of those days when the very start just makes the day perfect. Shit happens, but you tell yourself, c'mon, give it a break, given that kind of a beginning, you should forgive the rest of the day for any dirt it might shovel onto you.And then there are those days when the end makes up for all the crap you've had to take from the time you woke up. I've had two of these in a row now!! Last night Vinod got a job. Not just that, he made it to my company too! Now if only he makes it to my segment! (Yes, I know, give me an inch and I'll be looking for a yard :P.)

And today I finally managed to see The Terminal, on TV! It's such a nice movie!! I know that doesn't sound like too much of a compliment... Let me try to elaborate (I can almost hear the 'uh-oh's :D). Some things, you can't be too effusive about. 'Cos that just doesn't feel right. But at the same time, it fills you with such a sense of well-being, that for a little bit you become impervious to the honking on the street outside, and the baby screaming from the apartment next door, and the cold air coming through the window you forgot to shut, and the boredom that slowly sinks it's numbing feelers into you mind until it freezes over. Okay, now I'm just getting too dramatic.

Had a fairly busy day actually. What with printing, filling, scanning visa forms and making resumes and fishing out old certificates from whatever deep dark corners I'd hidden them in, I had the great satisfaction of telling everyone bothering to listen: no, I am not sitting at my comp doing time-pass all day, I am working!!! >:)

Right, so now before the aforementioned feeling of well-being deserts me, I shall go sleep early for a change!

Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Old faithful

It's served me unfailingly for the last two and a half years. It has put up with the torturous task of being my trusty alarm, my infallible reminder storage, my tp mate in boring lectures. My battered, scratched, dented old Nokia 3315. :-<.
Its unfortunate habit of conking off and leaving me hanging in mid conversation finally led to it's eventual retirement yesterday.

The thing I'll miss the most is my painstakingly created signature screensaver! Drawn pixel by pixel before one midsemester exam, (I was reduced to a pathetically hopeless state, trying to make sense out of the interminable series of equations going by the name of Electro Magnetic Theory I :( ) it was a thing of some pride for me. Not to mention a testimony to the depths of pointless activity a frustrated man can sink to :P.

Monday, 2 January 2006

Looking good!!

This new year is definitely looking good! I still have no news of having to leave home till the end of the month! And I am finally settling into the 'routine' of an almost unlimited amount of free time. Yes, I've stepped on the path to the removal of boredom! The first step was playing TT! The same TT that came to our rescue in the first year of college, when it was the only pass-time available to freshies in hostel :D!! (Everything else being the domain of seniors.)

So Happy New Year everyone! And may you all find the lighter and brighter side of every situation, and the silver lining of every dark cloud that looms over your head this coming year! >:D<
A bright start!!