Monday, July 27, 2015

A day in San Francisco

- Watched a terrific production of Roald Dahl's Matilda at San Francisco's Orpheum theatre.
- This was in the UN Civic centre - magnificent buildings.
- Drove up and down the streets of the city. People had told me about it, but I really hadn't appreciated exactly how much the gradients were.
- Entrance to the famous crooked Lombard street was denied to us. So it was a case of so close, yet so far. We were at the top, but couldn't see it.
- Hiked the streets. (Note I said hiked, and not walked.)
- Drank hot chocolate at Ghirardelli
- Saw Fisherman's Wharf. Not much time, though
- Spotted the Golden Gate bridge from afar for the second time (first time was from the sky). The top was shrouded in mist.
- Saw two limousines. (heh)
- The ocean looks fabulous from there, especially from some of the high points in the city.
- Walked past an event where an organization was feeding the homeless and what I can only guess were war veterans?
- Saw a whole lot of homeless people on the streets. (apart from those at the event) They were near the streets where we'd booked parking. Though this road was so near the UN centre, these roads were totally different in character. I was jittery.
- Passed a frightening police drama. Two police cars had stopped a man on the other side of the road, and he was shouting and gesticulating wildly. IT looked like he was taunting the police. A bunch of people huddled together on our side of the road were shouting encouragement across the road. The car lights were flashing, and we had to walk past this scene. Fresh from scores of movies and thriller serials, I was nearly sure the police would take out their guns and start shooting. "Hurry, hurry" I kept telling S and Puttachi. S thought I was overreacting. I'm not so sure.
- We turned the corner, and bam - it was an entirely different place, in character.
- San Francisco is unlike any other city I have ever seen. It deserves a more leisurely visit. Several of them. This visit was just incidental - the main reason for this particular visit was to watch Matilda.

A month completed.

- No, homesickness hasn't hit me. Yet.
- I've been driving everywhere with S next to me. I drove on the freeway too. Yay!
- We've been having lots of people over for meals. Making new friends.
- Didn't know a single neighbour until there was a fire alarm in the complex (false alarm). Met my neighbours :)
- Yet to meet the loads of friends and relatives who live in the Bay Area.
- Far too many Indians around. As I said in my FB update recently, "On my morning walk: I hear the strains of MSS' Venkatesha Suprabhata from one house, smell doseys from the second, and hear the hiss of the pressure cooker and smell oggarane from the third. Sometimes I have to blink several times and shake my head vigorously to remind myself where I am."


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Really Short History of Nearly Everything

I'm reading out Bill Bryson's "A Really Short History of Nearly Everything" to Puttachi.

I find the way she thinks fascinating. And the things that she thinks! For instance here are some of the things her brain thought up while we were reading about space.

When I told her that the light of the stars takes centuries to reach us:
"Looking at stars is like looking at history with our own eyes."

When talking about the possibility of aliens existing, given that there are so many galaxies and so many stars in each galaxy:
"Everything that we call imaginary is probably there somewhere; you have imagined it because some part of your head knows it is there. But consciously, we do not know it is there. "

We were reading about Pluto, and the text said, ".. with a NASA mission on its way and planning to arrive nearby in July 2015, Pluto won't be forgotten."
Puttachi said, "But July 2015 is now!"
I quietly opened a browser and showed her pics of Pluto taken by New Horizons, and she whispered, wide-eyed, "We are reading about it and it is happening now?"
And then the excitement overwhelmed her and she fell on the bed and thrashed about like a fish out of water. So much fun.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A too-long summer vacation

Puttachi is enjoying ...ok let me call it experiencing...the longest vacation she'll probably ever have. 2 months of summer vacations in India, followed by 1 month of being at home in India since we had decided to move. And then 2 months of summer vacations here in the US. Add to that 1 month of March where she came back home at 10 30 the entire month. So effectively, by the time she starts school in the end of August, she'll have been at home for 6 months!

This wouldn't have been such a bad thing if things had been running on our regular schedule. My work would have been affected, of course, but apart from that, I can think of many things to do with her, many places to take her to, friends she could meet, etc.

But these few months have been anything but regular. I was busy during the first three of these months winding up the house, clearing, packing, giving away, and couldn't really spend as much time as I wanted to with her. Once we got here, we are busy setting up house. And where in Bangalore she had the luxury of going to meet friends at least, here, she doesn't have that  yet. Besides, since I don't have my license yet, we are effectively  homebound on weekday mornings, until S gets back from work. We do go out for walks close by, but we don't see children around in the morning. So it is just her and me.

For me, Puttachi's summer vacations usually mean that I have to cut down on writing, and I have to increase my tolerance to Puttachi's non stop chattering, and build up the patience to answer her incessant questions. But this time, due to all these other diversions, I've been short on both tolerance and patience. And naturally the too-long holiday has been hard on Puttachi too, and though she is good at keeping herself engaged and occupied, she is missing the company of children and is probably bored. That has translated to a lot of whining and groaning and not-listening-to-me and testing her limits and my patience, and a whole lot of laziness and do-I-really-have-to-do-it-why-do-I-have-to-do-it?

In short, I'm counting down to the start of school! In case you are interested, just under 40 days to go.

Some more observations and experiences

*I didn't mention that we watched the Fourth of July fireworks, sitting next to a lake with thousands of other people. I loved looking at how people treat it as a picnic. They had arrived with picnic mats and foldable chairs and baskets of food and drink, and they had such a good time. We had to wait till 9 15 or 9 30 pm for it to become dark enough for the fireworks to be seen properly. And they were spectacular.

*I saw my first hummingbird that same day. It was surreal. I was sitting alone outside a friend's house, waiting for her to get back. I was looking out at her garden, and all of a sudden, there was a buzz-buzz and I looked around for a bee or something, and then I see this bird. And it suddenly clicks into place. Hummingbirds hover, I'd read that a million times, but I'd not realized that they actually hover and move about like insects, you know. Now it seems like such an obvious thing, but honestly, my mind hadn't made that connection at all. It was fascinating, but I had nobody to share my excitement with at that moment!

Can you spot the hummingbird?

*Went to the beach on my niece's birthday. The water was cold. And there were no shells on the beach at all. And the Pacific was a beautiful blue. This was one of those times I thought of myself as a small girl, marvelling about the vastness of the Pacific ocean and wondering if I'd ever see it. And here I was, with my feet in its waters.

*Visited the library. Such a lovely feeling, to be given the freedom to take more books than you can read! The rows and rows upon books all waiting, winking at me, saying, "Me! Me! Take me!" and Puttachi's delight that she doesn't need to choose between two books, and that she can take them both if she wanted! I wish India had public libraries.

*The cars at night on the highway - reminded me of an unending line of luminous red ants hurrying one after another, eager to get to their nests.

*When people talked about "The roads in the US are good" I always thought they meant the actual quality of the roads (perhaps they meant that too) but now I think I know what they mean. The roads, the lanes, the network of roads, the freeways, and the entries and exits from the freeways, the smooth movement of the vehicles, everything in place ensuring that vehicles don't block each others' movement. I know it is probably funny but what I like best is the little island in the middle of the road where a vehicle can stop and wait to turn into a side road, without hindering the movement of any other vehicle.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Week 2 - impressions

*The houses. I love looking at houses. And their gardens and their trees. There are some areas which I've come to recognize are full of lovely houses. And I always look out for them.

*The hills around this place. (Yet to do some research on them.) They are so bare, but strangely beautiful. Some have this yellow grass waving in the breeze, and they look striking against the bright blue sky.

*The trees are now acquaintances. I recognize them, but don't know their names yet. I think they'll start shedding their leaves by the time I get to know them, and then I'll have to wait until next spring to re-recognize them.

*I saw my first Redwood trees. They were babies I guess, and I did wonder if I would recognize them if I saw them. But no mistaking them. They soar to the sky so beautifully. I look forward to seeing the grand old Redwoods soon.

*Such a wonderful place in which to window-shop. If Shopping is the Great American Pastime, then window-shopping is mine. The malls! Their size! The number of shops! The things inside those shops! There is something for every need you can think of, and many things that you cannot think of! And the number of people milling about!

*Cleared my DMV written test, and got my driving permit. So now I can drive with a license-holder sitting next to me. Translates to S. Gulp. In India, I got help with driving practice from my Father-in-law, who sat on the passenger seat and gave me tips and confidence in equal measure, and I took off in no time.  Here, I don't have a choice. It has to be S sitting next to me and I think everybody knows how that will go.
Have to get used to the car first. The automatic car. And  I'm used to stick-shift cars, and I didn't expect how hard it is going to be to adjust to the supposedly easier kind of car. The first time I drove, I didn't know what to do with my left leg, used as it was to operating the clutch. I even tried operating the brake with it until I realized what I was doing. Besides I keep turning on the windshield wipers every time I have to signal a turn.

*Our house is completely furnished now. Every night after dinner saw S and me assembling furniture. I like to that think we partnered well. I reading out the instructions and pointing out the nuts and the screws and where to fit them, and S doing the drilling and fixing.
Oh and by the way, today is our tenth wedding anniversary.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Puttachi and time-travel

Thanks to the Septimus Heap book series and Interstellar, Puttachi has become extremely fascinate about time travel and the paradoxes that go with it. For instance, the grandfather paradox.

It is obvious that it is going on and on and on in her head, because frequently she comes up with a question that stumps me.

Here are two instances:

In the Septimus Heap series, at some point (tiny spoiler alert) the young Septimus meets his older self. The older Septimus gives the younger Septimus a piece of information. Clear so far?

Now Puttachi's question is: "The young Septimus got this information from the older Septimus. How did the older Septimus get that information? Did he learn it from elsewhere? No! Not necessary! Because when he was young, he had already got that information - from his older self! So at what point did this information enter this circle?"

Another instance:

She: I'll grow up and make a time machine. I wonder if I'll succeed.
Me: Let's find out if you'll succeed. If you make a time machine in the future, make the first stop on July 7th, 2015, at 6 pm, that is five seconds from now, to this room. Now wait - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 - Go! No, you didn't appear. So that means you didn't succeed.
(And I laugh madly at my own joke)
Puttachi is not amused.
She (in a strict and solemn voice): Amma, two things. I didn't appear now, yes. That could mean many many things. One of the things it means is that I didn't succeed. But what if I think, "Oh anyway I didn't succeed so what is the point in trying"? And so if I don't even TRY to build a time machine because I think I didn't succeed, then ANYWAY I won't succeed.

If she knew the term self-fulfilling prophecy, I'm guessing she would've used it. I sure didn't laugh after that.


Monday, July 06, 2015

Rain in Brainwave magazine

Puttachi's arms make an appearance in Brainwave's July Rain issue.

I have two pieces in this issue - one is a comic on the Water Cycle, and in the other, I take the help of Puttachi's arms (Talk about "lending me a hand!") and teach you how to make a Rainstick.


Thursday, July 02, 2015

First impressions

I am sitting on the lone stool in our new apartment. Though the kitchen is in working condition, the closets have clothes in them, and the mattresses are in place, we don't have anything by way of furniture yet. Our home still doesn't smell homely, and so I have thrown open the windows wide, hoping that some air circulation will throw out the old air and we can fill it up with our smells.

When does a house start smelling like home? When you come in from outside, and you don't notice any smell. That's when.

In the next room, Puttachi is lying on the bed and looking up at the too-bright-too-early sky, thinking I don't know what. It is the first time she has slept on her own in a different room, all through the night. I call out to her from time to time to come on, brush your teeth, your friend is going to Facetime in a while, and she says hmm, coming. She's enjoying her extended summer vacation, continued from India.

I'd promised myself that I would do a post on  First Impressions. But I fell sick with diarrhea a couple of days after landing, and I knew that by the time I recovered, First impressions would already have become Second impressions. So I dutifully noted down points on my phone, to type out when I am ready.

It is hard to do a First Impressions post on a place that you feel you already know, thanks to dozens of books and movies and sitcoms. And of course first-hand reports from scores of people, most importantly my sister and parents. A year ago, someone had asked me if I'd ever been to the US, and I had to stop for a second to think before I answered "No".

Anyway, I'll try.

--The cars on the highways. Those endless wide multi-laned highways, with car after car after car just zooming behind each other, as if with a single-minded determination. Just one truck here or there. A lone bike once in a way. But apart from that, the cars, cars, cars.
--Switches that turn on in the opposite direction, mmddyyyy against ddmmyyyy, driving on the wrong side of the road...
--The weather is so Bangaloreish right now, that I'm feeling right at home. It is slightly hotter too at some times of the day.
--Amused and annoyed at how I have to carry something warm with me to wear immediately as I enter a shopping place.
--The sunlight. As bright as 8 am at 5 am. As sunny as 4 pm at 7 pm. Puttachi refusing to eat dinner because it is "not dark yet".
--I hadn't really appreciated the number of things that will need getting used to, for example the taste of water. And speaking of water, the last time I drunk water right from a tap was in my childhood.
--The trees. Lovely, green, some flowering. But all of them strangers. Waiting to be friends. I know I have a young maple growing outside my window. But I don't know what kind of maple it is. Yesterday I saw a rain tree while driving by. It even had those little pink fan-like flowers. I was as happy to see it as if I'd met an old friend.
--When people kept telling me, "Oh California is full of Indians" I don't think I'd been able to fathom exactly to what extent that statement is true. Now I know.
--Yet a great mix of nationalities, especially as seen at the government offices.
--The gigantic scale of the shopping places, which we're having to visit regularly and often due to the necessity of setting up home. The immense variety of choices is mindboggling
--When people told me that nothing will change thanks to all the online connectivity at all, they hadn't told me that there would be near-silence all day out here, and a flood of emails, whatsapp messages and FB notifications when I woke up in the morning. Conclusion: As of now, I have way more friends based in India than I do here.
--In the 6 days here, the second best thing about this place is my mid-morning snack. You can see why.

--The best thing is of course, my little niece whom I met for the first time hours after I landed.

As I get ready to finish this post, Puttachi has been up for a while, brushed and cleaned, and is now chatting non-stop with her friend back in Bangalore.

And that is how our life here has begun.
- -