Day 125: Valley and Flights 

Valley

A week and a half in the Valley School, and my mind was more rejuvenated than a long time. I had walked in with a conflicted heart and a dark cloud hanging over my head. But I also had an open mind and that brought in such experiences with it, that I was changed.

  • The most important standout from the experience was how interested people were in sharing their life. There was a willingness to open up and let another in, something that is becoming very difficult to find in the modern world. They wanted you to live their life, walk their path and see how life was.
  • The second highlight was the quality of conversation. Not once did anyone ask my why I hadn’t married yet, why I chose a career I didn’t like or who my newest boyfriend was. They knew that they all lived in glasshouses and any judgment sent out would return their way eventually. Instead, they spent their times talking about the life, the universe, meaning to life and things that mattered.
  • They were content in their lives and unmoved by the trivialities that come with modern affiliations. They did not have the newest fancy smart phone and so they did not spend their together-times staring into each other’s phones or wondering why the wifi speed was so poor. Something bigger mattered and they knew.
  • The relationship that the students shared with their teachers was inspirational. They called them uncles and aunts, hugged them around in class, and openly spoke to them about period pains and worries. There was a stark absence of fear for the role of the teacher. And teachers walked with a mindset that they were co-learners too. This made them awfully powerful, with a direct connect to young minds.
  • “Are you trying to kill us, uncle vipul? “, yelled a 6year old, as Vipul opened his laptop in class. Technology was a necessity and nothing more. It did not take up such a dominant part of their lives that they forgot to smell the rain, hear the birds, or be sensitive to each other.
  • A study center discussion that explored the difference between the mind and the brain sent me on an unknown path, one where I had no footing. I still felt comfortable enough to try out the discussions and I was stunned. Mind is what thinks not merely based on facts in front of us, but based on all past experiences, heartbreaks and successes. So, it automatically becomes a source for conflict. If we could think, but without all those added baggage, then imagine how powerful our brain would really be.
  • Another intriguing conversation was with Saqhib, where he shook my foundation about alternative schooling. By calling yourself alternative, you are automatically boxing yourself into a system, simply by trying to opposing to the mainstream. That invariably means there’s very little you can do differently, because you have a level of comparison in the form of another schooling system. What we should truly try is to be different in all forms, not bound by norms.
  • The highlight of the whole time was how ready the whole school, from the principal to every other teacher was, in inviting me to join their team. Very rarely do we see a case where an institute invites you to join in, only to learn from them, and contribute back. No resumes, no portfolios, no past experiences. Just an open mind.

Overall, I came back positive, both mentally and emotionally, ready to take on the next semester head on.

Flights

The flight out to Switzerland, the multipart journey, started off with a rocky start. Met H and HMan at the airport and the fissures were very evident. It is scary to think of how much one would change by simply being in close proximity with another all their life. We seek relationships to comfort us in times of need and despair. But what if those relationships are the reason for the despair?

The trip from Bangalore to Amsterdam to Geneva was hilarious, with the kids trailing around, completely distracted by the glitz and whatnot. It was kind of all too powerful, knowing the ways of traveling, especially international, while the others struggled reading boards and signs. I was constantly conflicted between helping them out and letting them be. I wouldn’t have enjoyed being told every step of the way. I see myself as the teacher that would let someone try for their own before I step in.

And so, I sat around and played the silent observer.

The flight in to Amsterdam brought a strange new companion to chat along. Punjabi was a good person to talk to, knowing when to not push it and when to bring in his views. We had a good talk about road tripping to Ladakh, about the power and the need to go on solo trips, and about Engineers becoming Management consultants. For a Punjabi living in Bangalore, he seemed aware of the differences in cultures and was filled with the desire to try life out.

For all the writing I wanted to do on the plane, it was a rested time, where I managed to get sufficient sleep. It also reinforced my principle that being nice brings it back to you. The airhostess was awfully nice, bringing me refills even when I didn’t ask for it. Punjabi enjoyed the benefits of my niceness too. The warmness felt evident when he invited me over to walk along to our next stop as well.

Pics4mSwiss: When you have a fond heart, hearts smile back at you from the sky. 

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Day 119: The solid crunch of bones cracking shattered me

Semester done and the extra day complete, Scotch and I squeezed ourselves, and a lot of amma’s demands, into the RedBeast and we were off on our way to Coimbatore. The start was much slower than I’d planned, the wee hours of the morning were spent sleeping instead. The detour route through Sarjapur was a pleasant change considering the standard traffic blocks on the usual route.

I was cruising at a fairly decent speed, until I was shocked out of the comfort of driving. I was tailing a small truck in the middle lane, when I decided to move over to the right lane and overtake him. Between looking behind at the passing lane and the truck in front of me, I did not see a dog dash over from the left lane at all. I sped into the right lane, and immediately saw the brown colored, black nosed dog run frantically into my lane. The back was clear and I floored the brakes, hoping to miss the little guy and let him pass through. He, however, did not know my intent, and was of course shocked at finding me on his way.

Instinct made him turn back to the center lane instead of running ahead. The truck’s speeding tyres lay behind him, and crushed him as he turned back into that lane. The truck wavered on his way, as the little fellow gave his life under it. As I looked back at the mishap in my rear view mirror, the half-chopped body shivered, the dog raised its head one last time to look at the massacre of blood around it.

I couldn’t drive any further.

I had killed a dog, directly or indirectly, and it pained me. I looked back at Scotch and asked for some forgiveness, and drove along. That is a feeling I will never forget for life.

He died a dog’s death, S, and you were just an agent for what was already destined. It was meant to go and there wasn’t much you could have. May that pupper have fun beyond the rainbow bridge.” Scotch

Day 82: Back home

And we’re back home. I slept through the 3 hour flight and barely noticed the two bawling babies around my seat. I was still dazed and confused when we headed out, but I was awake enough to call a bluff when I had to. The Swiss were heading off to Mysore to join the rest of them, and they almost jumped to take a taxi for 5000 when I pointed them to Ola outstation. Half the price, the taxi driver showed up in under 15 minutes, and YZ was all over again about saving his life and what not. Haha! This was an easy task after all.

I got off near the bus stop and took a 500 to home, and slept till 9 PM. It is always fun to be welcomed home by Scotch, now when she’d broken through Amma’s chains, there was more zest in her jump. Good to be home.

“You sleep, S. I will take care of you. I think that pigeon out there is trying to disturb you. I will shoo it away!” Scotch

Day 80: Diversity, Planes and 2 AMs

A few days with the Swiss students and the differences in our lifestyles and work styles are very obvious. All the visiting students seem to be extremely distracted always, needing a constant prodding to bring them back to the discussion. On the other hand, they all seem to be creatively blessed, while the Indian students typically think about traditional, lecture-like discourses. Despite being from one country, they themselves seem to be happier being alone than with others. On the other hand, the Indians have a herding mindset, where we want herd them and ourselves into groups all the time.

It was hilarious at lunch, where we were planning to show a few different cafeterias on campus to the different Swiss students but before we turned around, they were all gone; off on their own in their own different directions. If anything, this project has brought a few Indians together and that’s a plus, I guess.

Off to New Delhi

Today is the day that TallSwiss, YZ and I fly to New Delhi. From what I’ve heard, there are a few events hosted to celebrate the 70 years of Swiss-Indian friendship, and Radio Namaste has been invited to broadcast these proceedings.

If the trip leading up to Delhi is any sign of all the fun that lies ahead, then I’m in for a fancy two days. ChristU arranged a taxi for the 3 of us and we were off by 1630 for a 2130 flight; no wonder I hate flying. But I’m glad we got a head start considering what was up next. We just got out of the major traffic blocks in the city and were about to hit the highway to the airport when we had a flat. The cabbie was courageous enough into thinking he could park in the right lane, in the center of the entire roadway, and change into a spare. Nopes! I had to almost armtwist him into pulling over to the side and he actually took only 10 minutes to get us up and going again. Very impressive. And the Swiss managed to hold their calm, which was a bonus.

I learnt a new aspect of the Swiss today. If the ticket was being paid for by another, they were ready to use it to the fullest. There was a USD22 upgrade to a better seat, and a better dinner, and we picked it after deliberating for a little under 4 minutes. While I was wondering how much difference it would bring to the flight experience and if the cost was worth it at all, they had already paid for it and were considering dinner location. So, thanks to their agency, we flew premium economy.

And since the dinner was paid for too, we had dinner. On the ground. Since the flight was delayed, the dinner on the plane could be an early breakfast. I always thought Indians were the squeeze-till-you-drop kinds. But apparently it’s a universal human thing.

Hypocrite much?

The great luck from the flat tyre continued and our flight was delayed by an hour and a half. That gave us enough time to get YZ drunk and have him talk about JC. Between us, he spoke about what a dead-weight the HOD was during the Indian visit to Switzerland last year. He told us about how he would pick two meals for himself every single time because they were already paid for. You all already know of my read on the HOD considering his poor leadership vision. So, none of this was surprising at all.

But what did surprise me was hearing about all of this from YZ. Between him and TallSwiss, they had already proved how petty they were. We had jumped to an upgrade, purely because someone else was paying for it. We had decided to eat two dinners, purely because someone else was paying for it. And we had talked about stealing everything from the hotel room if the hotel was not good enough. Anyway, we’ll wait and watch!

2 AM check-ins

The 3-seater all to myself was a bonus on the plane. So, premium economy it is. But we eventually got into the hotel at 2 in the morning, and the check-in process was a million years long. I think the 20 minutes seemed that long more because of YZ and his tantrums. They had to fill one extra paper in because they were from outside. So, yeah!

Settled in to my room and I thought of all the times in the past when it was me and my room. There was that one month in Richmond, VA, when I was settling in to my second stint in the US, and learning to be free all over again. And then there were those 2 weeks in Minneapolis that started off with a wonderful hair spa and massage. Nice. And the week in Milwaukee for the Scrum master certification, with all that female power-play amidst grown men, was one to be remembered.

And then this one adds to the list.

“Aaah! Traveling is pain, sis! I just got back from a camping trip and I can’t stop panting and puffing. I can only imagine how bad your panting and puffing must be.” Goose.

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Day 79: Stand-still

Traffic in bangalore has been progressively worsening and today was rock bottom. One of these giant trees near the university fell down, smack in the middle of the road. A temporary shanty was destroyed, as was the bus stop right by it. And that meant hour-long traffic snarls.

The previous day had been a mess too. But I thankfully had a premonition about it the minute I reached Agara, my half-way point. A quick detour and I saved myself some traffic blocks and reached on time. The Danseuse had been stuck at Agara till college time and had to eventually take one of the rape buses. Today, she drove with me, and the tree issue happened.

10 to 9 and we were still about a 20mins walk from the uni, almost an hour and a half into our journey. Some strange premonition again told me that things wouldn’t get any better in the next few minutes. I swerved into a lane nearby, and parked the car at someone’s door front. The gentleman was thankfully nice and allowed me to park at a more safer spot, despite it being on top of a garbage bin. Danseuse and I ran to college through A-town and were in class on time. Traffic issues do bring this entire city to a stand-still and is such a pity.

People and their chatty ideas

Anyway, we got an overview of the project needs and realized that we had to create a jingle for the radio show that we would be hosting. A half-assed effort ensued because TallSwiss and I were double-timing between this and the work for New Delhi. It seemed like the other two would work when we were around and the minute we went to the other project, there would be nothing happening at all. Very unfortunate. If only people took pride in the work they did!

The reality sunk in when we listened to the others’ jingles and they were all pretty cool and ours was only a little Meh! Sometimes, the most chatty ones have the most stupid ideas and the whole team’s ideas are derailed. Chatty and the lazy ones.

Chatty and lazy? What about the most hungry ones? We always get punished, but we get the most interesting ideas when we are hungry” Scotch

Day 71: Morning hike

Dad, mum, Scotch and I went on a post-breakfast morning hike, up the Anuvavi hills. There’s a little temple mid way up the top that I remember going to as a kid as well. Remember my confusion with growing up and everything else looking smaller. It happened here too. I remember it to be much higher, steeper and more strenuous than what it actually was this time. 

What do you mean it was not that bad? I had to keep climbing and I thought it will end with every ten steps. But it went on and on. Think I counted a million steps up,  S” Scotch 

Day 69: The great Indian madness

The great Indian madness called the roads. Driving home to visit the parents in Coimbatore, and the 6-hour drive has been fun. It’s almost symbolic of our manic lives – a random pedestrian walks across your path, carefree and wanton; a cow parks itself squat in the middle of the highway, oblivious to the high speed travel; an annoying family honks their way past you from behind, unaware that multiple lanes exist for a reason. And through it all, you’re stuck in your little metal bubble, behind the steering wheel, with the false illusion that your control is the reason you’re still alive.

Fish fry… Strange incense… Hot poodle poop… Man not showered in three days… Biriyani, Oooh where was that biriyani. Turn around, S” Scotch