Friday, June 22, 2007

Ciao Chicago

I blog early this morning, partly because I had not blogged for a few days and largely because I am not able to sleep due to a cold.

It is already a beautiful morning outside. There are some dark clouds, but the buildings are towering mightily among them.

I am having a conversation with the lights of the city. The antennae lights atop the Sears tower are blinking, keeping the pulse of the city. At the distance, I see the lights shining on the pillars of the Field Museum, standing out in the middle of the skyscrapers. Lights are being turned on in the apartments opposite our window. The city is just waking up, perhaps eager to be done with the Friday and get to the weekend.

Even as I blog the buildings are getting a red tinge from the brilliant morning sun. And now they are bathed with a golden yellow glow. All the man made lights blur into the background.

What a glorious time of the year in Chicago!

I have mixed feelings this morning - soaking in the city, the sadness of moving out of here today and the expectations of what lies ahead.

It was only months back when we moved into the city, having made some very important and risky changes to our lives. We were nervous and excited. The big city took us in, embraced us into its arm and has left us wanting for more. There are so many things to like about this city - the public transport, the architecture, the diversity of people, foods, arts... I am limited by my linguistic abilities, but my mind visualizes a million other things.

I would say it was a fairly successful trip: we experienced the four seasons (including about 40 days of sub zero temps), the risks yielded rewards, and I got the chance to experience the city, first with my wife and and then also with my parents and friends. Most importantly, I was lucky to meet some decent people, who I now call friends. It makes it all the more difficult to move away from them, having spent so little time.

On the other hand, I think about what lies ahead, both in the immediate future, with the road trip and in a month, with the new responsibilities. I know there is growth in store from all these experiences. I look forward to it.

For now, for today, as we drive west, I will be thinking about my goodbye to the windy city.

Moving pangs, continued...

Day 15-17

Why use words, when pictures do a better job.




After waiting around forever for the movie, I found myself out of town the weekend Sivaji was released in Chicago. But I did not have to wait too long to check out the fruits of the joint effort between Rajni and Shankar. To make things better, I succeeded in dragging along Ishani (who had just had a long day at work) and my parents (who had not been to a theater to watch a movie in more than 15 years). We went to the 8 PM show on Tuesday 19 June in some decrepit theater 45 minutes drive away from downtown Chicago.

The local distributors of the movie (I am assuming) displayed yet another example of blatant capitalism by hiking up the ticket rate to $15. The local movies were about $8/ticket and I have never paid more than $10 for an Indian movie. This is not the rate a ticket scalper was quoting because the movie was sold out, this was the "legit" rate. I suppose it is besides the point: if one drives miles to watch the movie on a work day evening, it is not about the money, but about getting high on Rajni's histrionics. And as the governments (and drug dealers) around the world know, smokers (and drug addicts) are easy targets for extorting money; why should the distributors hold back. Anyway, I digress...

I have no intention (or the mental capacities at 3:56 in the morning) of presenting a review of the movie and spoil it for those who have not seen it. All four of us seemed to have enjoyed the movie at different levels. Ishani liked the movie better than the past few Rajni movies (aided by a running commentary/translation from me). My parents were entertained, though they wondered about practicality of the movie's message. Though I am an ardent Rajni fan, I pointed out the futility of looking for practical interpretations of his movies.

As for me, I cringed through couple of the scenes, but enjoyed it all the same. It was less outrageous than Shankar's earlier movie - Anniyan; for a movie with Rajni, that is saying something. Like many other people, I go into the theater after checking in my logical faculties at the door with the pure intent of soaking in the experience. The experience where reserved and silent individuals transforms into avid whistlers (or howlers, based on skill levels) and relive some small part of the childhood.

An online reviewer had written that Rajni movie was like home cooked food; it was not about the taste, it was about the heart. I shall not stretch the comparison to that extent, after all my mom makes some of the best food I've had. But this experience is definitely not about taste, it is about the heart.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Packing...

Day 14:

Nothing more to add for this day. We did not get out of the house.. just more packing.. as more and more of our cozy nest gets transformed into cardboard boxes, leaving the skeleton behind.

Ah! moving. Mike claims it is the real meaning of life.

Monday, June 18, 2007

New York, New York

Day 13 - June 17 2007

We reached NY city early in the morning with no plans whatsoever on what we are going to do in the city. The safest bet was a Hudson River cruise with the view of the NY concrete jungle. Amma was very sleepy during the boat ride, dozing off at the start. She was more alert after the first 15 minutes.

The Statue of Liberty is a sight to behold, particularly as the weather was very cooperative, like the weather the day before.

I was trying hard to get my parents, particularly achan, to smile for the pictures, with limited success. Therefore, I am having a harder time selecting blog-able pictures from the cruise.

We did not have any time to meet the politicians in DC, so we decided to make some time while we were in New York. They were only too happy to meet us. George W did not expect us to give him a petition and therefore looked a bit perplexed in this photograph.

Where there are politicians, there are celebrities. Here is Achan with J-Lo, Ishani with Superman and Amma with Madonna. As you can see the celebs try their best to be aloof.
For the uninitiated, these pictures were taken at Madame Tussaud's wax museum in NY.

Time Square, Rockefeller Center, Empire State.. yeah we were typical tourists...

By late afternoon we had enough of NY for the day. We took an early flight home to Chicago.

A Day in DC

Day 12:

Saturday was the day one of our two day trip to the East Coast, to visit the major landmarks of USA, before heading West to California.

The first stop was the US capital, Washington District of Columbia. We took an early morning flight to DC and planned our day around the wonderful DC Metro trains, directly from the Regan National airport. We got off at the Federal Central metro stop.

The US Capitol was the first stop for the day. Most of the places on our list was on one long walk from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. The weather was ideal - it was a glorious, sunny day.

We visited the National Air and Space Museum next. Amma and Achan are standing next to couple of giant missiles. My parents were most impressed with a show in the planetarium about "Cosmic Collisions", and how the moon was formed etc.

The Smithsonian museums are large enough for us to spend a whole day in each of them. Instead of doing that we decided to spend a short time at couple of them.

The next stop was at the National Museum of Natural History. Here we watched a short film about lions in Kalahari - Lions, 3D. Featured to the right are my parents and Ishani in front of an Easter Island rock sculpture.

The Washington Monument was at about the midpoint of our walk. Amma and Ishani are engrossed in a conversation.

Lincoln Memorial at the far end of the walk.

The Washington Monument and its image on the Reflecting Pool viewed from outside the Lincoln Memorial.

Final stop of the walk was the White House.

After visiting all the prerequisite touristy stuff, we took the train up to Bethesda, MD, where I had interned 6 summers back. The escalator in the station was along one as the station is quite some distance below the ground level. Achan was a bit uncomfortable with this ride.

To the right is another view of inside of the DC Metro station.

We ended the day by hitting the beds at the Courtyard Marriot at Crystal City, close to the Regan National airport. We had yet another early morning flight the next day, this time from DC to New York.

Dinner With Friends

Day 11:

Friday night we hosted some friends, Brooks, Margaret and Navneet, for dinner. The image on the left is an attempted stitch of two images. It looks funny as I changed my expression between the two captures.

Here is Brooks in his new kurtha.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Art Institute of Chicago

Day 10:

The first time Ishani tried to get my parents to watch the Harry Potter movie, they slept through it. This afternoon they seemed to be ready to watch the first movie without dozing off. They did and they seemed to like it. Now, I can watch the other three movies with them too, and maybe go to the fifth one before they leave for India!!

After the movie, we decided to take advantage of the free admission into the Art Institute of Chicago on Thursdays. We started our trip with the Thorne Miniature gallery, with exact models of rooms from the past centuries. If I had not indicated these were miniature models, they would look like the real deal. You can probably pick up a reflection of someone on the glass if you noticed carefully.

Amma and achan are standing next to one of the exhibits in the Touch Gallery, designed specifically for the museum goers to touch and feel the sculpture. And if you missed it, achan has done away with his mustache. Here today, gone tomorrow! He figured most locals do not have any vegetation under their noses and decided to temporarily follow suite.

Here is Ishani explaining art to my parents... as if she has a clue :)

Among the other pieces we saw tonight was a sculpture of Hariharan (half Shiva and half Vishnu).

Finally we saw some contemporary art exhibits, which as usual, were way over my head. Its probably an indication of my ignorance of this art expression, but it seemed like one can get away with anything in the name of abstract art.


Day 9 & 10:

We have begun packing for our long move from Chicago to Mountain View. The book case in the left picture was reduced to the slabs of particle boards on the right.

The clothes are in suitcases and we have started putting books into boxes. It is great to have some extra help during this process. Pictured below are amma and achan busy packing the suitcases with clothes.
We are glad the movers will be loading and unloading as we continue to collect worldly possessions, mainly books from each of our degrees.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Buckingham Fountain

Day 8:

We chilled out for a while after saying goodbye to Nishanth and Archana. In the evening we walked over to another stunning park in the center of downtown Chicago - Buckingham fountain.

On our walk back, we stopped for another photo with the lions of the Art Institute of Chicago.

GSB Photo op

Day 8:

Nishanth and Archana were heading back to California today. We stopped by the University of Chicago, Gleacher Center and picked up some GSB memorabilia.

Earlier in the morning, we had started off the day with some yummy puttu, kadala curry and banana.