Monday, February 28, 2011

A painter is born...

...if you think Ravi Varma or Picasso…well its your own imagination that you have to blame because reality is an adult with a faded jeans and an even faded pullover with some white paint sticking to her curly hair, a paint brush standing on a stool in the middle of the living room wondering which part of the wall she painted last...

The story begins with Ashok and I deciding that we need to move to a bigger apartment (apt from here on). We answered the “budgetla thundu vizhume” Q with a solemn decision to reduce our travels (and ignored the “haha, like that’s ever going to happen” responses from within). Moving has always been a distant concept for me. I have lived in the same place and completed my schooling in the same city. Besides a brief sojourn in Trichy when appa got transferred (and the bank took care of all the moving, house hunting etc.) I have always called the same place my ‘home’. Moving to Munich from a furnished student apartment was also a piece of cake given that I had only 2 suitcases with some books and clothes (and no I did not have a dozen pairs of shoes then!). So this is my first official move and frankly it feels like I ran a double marathon over and over for a week!

The house hunting was unbelievably short and I liked the first apartment I saw and what’s more it was close to work and suited our needs perfectly. Just when I was beginning to think that moving is not all that complicated I got a letter from my house owner saying that I have to leave the apt cleaned and painted. After hours of packing (I couldn’t believe I had 4 cartons of books and no, I didn’t have the heart to throw or give them away) and multiple trips to the new house, we finally emptied the old one….except for some of the furniture. We had made a decision to throw away a futon and a writing table for very good reasons (read they were so beyond their prime that even ebay couldn’t help in selling them), only we didn’t know how. You cannot just throw the furniture into trash but you have to drive them to the Recycling area and even if we manage to get it down 2 floors, we didn’t have a truck to transport them (one needs a special license to rent and drive such trucks). So we called the city to pick them up, only they charge like crazy when you want them to come at a time that’s convenient to you – 50 bucks for every 15 min. So we had to get everything ready and just bite our nails and hope that they didn’t send a couple of slow moving lazy men….

Painting a couple of rooms white sounded quite simple to begin with but the catch is covering all other places that you didn’t want to be white (like wooden floors, electrical outlets) and then using varnish for the rest (door frames, window frames, heaters etc.). After painting came the cleaning….ohhhh… the cleaning…I think its excruciating to scrub a bathroom floor knowing that you will never use that bathroom again ! The worst part was the lunch break in-between when we were too hungry to make do with a coffee and croissant but also too dirty (and smelling of bleach) to go to some place decent. Those were the times I fondly remembered people moving in India….where friends/relatives or neighbours’ take care of the food for those days and painting is left to the house owner (of course at a small price).

Inspite of having a friend help and getting a day-off from work (In Germany, I get a ‘moving day’), we had to work all weekend and I couldn’t remember where I was when the alarm went off this morning! I slowly realised that I was in my new apt and that I have to go to work even if I couldn’t feel my arms and legs and go I did…wearing a cotton kurta at -2 deg C because I was too tired to look for the carton containing my pullovers....

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Encounter with "Spanish Mama"

I wrote half the story in “Lost and Deported”, let me continue with the rest of it.

The resort we stayed in had WiFi but weirdly it never worked within our suite – we tried even the balcony and the gardens but it simply just wouldn’t. there was an internet café 400m from the resort and it was quite pricey. The first day, we had an excuse – looking for directions using google maps (since we hadn’t rented the car with a nav) but from then on we knew which direction to take since our resort was directly located off the highway. This resulted in me not using the internet for almost a week and so far, it has only happened in one place, in India, where I am overwhelmed with good people and great food and can blissfully forget the world wide web. The first couple of days were eerie – no youtube for songs, no online weather forecasts and above all, no gmail or blogspot! I was inordinately pleased with overcoming the internet addiction….but the happiness was short-lived, as soon as I got home and saw more than 50 new emails in my Inbox, I was hooked again (Vanity, definitely my favorite sin!)....

Driving along the coast in Spain was fun – it was neither the erratic Italian driving nor the stiff German driving, it was somewhere comfortably in between. Speed limits in the highways were usually between 85-120 kmph and almost everyone was always driving 15-20 kmph above the speed limits anytime there were no radar speed trailers around. During our entire stay we had driven around without any problems but that changed on the last day on our way to the airport. We had just got on to the highway and mama was behind us. The cop car overtook us and was in front of us for a while and we figured he had his own things to do until the lights started flashing and he took the exit and asked us to follow suit.

We quickly checked to make sure we had the license and put on our most “innocent” expressions. Two cops got out of the car, asked us to get out and started talking rapidly in Spanish. I waited for them to stop and asked “You want to see the license?”. Ashok has an international license from India, so when he handed it to the cops, they assumed we were tourists directly from India and started rapidly talking among themselves (and we did not try to correct them :D).

One of them steps forward and starts pointing to the road and talking in half-English-half-Spanish. I knew we broke some traffic rule but I still didn’t know what. He starts pointing to the road again and this time I notice he is pointing to the lines. It finally dawns on me that we crossed over to the next lane when there was a solid white line in-between (and not the broken or dashed lines) and in all frankness, I never saw it. Instead of telling him that, I chose to say “sorry, we are tourists” with an additional stress on the last word (am glad he didn’t look at my German driving license). After more discussion in Spanish, they let us go but they trailed us for another 20 minutes. To me, it was like taking the driving test all over again…Vivek madhri kayyala 8 pottu kamichurundha enna ayirkum ? uno, dos, tres nu kambi ennirpeno ??

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lost and Deported

I lost a bag, was refused entry into a country, was cut off from internet and the cherry on top, was pulled over by cops! Sounds like a fun week, right? In truth, it actually was!!

Let me enunciate each part of that sentence.

I lost a bag at the Munich airport. I usually carry a backpack as my carry-on and one of my girl(y) friends suggested that I carry a small hand-bag (gender woes…grrr!) for my passport, cash and cosmetics. I did, only I forgot to pick it up after the security check. Since I had a whole line of my items coming out the x-ray (from belt to shoes to laptop), I conveniently forgot the seldom used hand-bag. Fortunately, I had my passport and cash in the backpack (God bless the force of habit). Unfortunately I realized I left the bag only when I got into the shower at the hotel in Spain and realized I had no shower gel or shampoo.

Happy ending: On my way back, I picked up the bag from the “lost and found” at the Munich airport
with a twist: I had to pay 5 bucks to get it back since they had “stored” it for me. They actually have a list that says how much you pay for retrieving your item from the lost and found !

I was refused entry into Gibraltar. We were staying along the Spanish coast and Gibraltar was just over an hour’s drive from the resort. Since the checkpoint gets fairly crowded, we got up early (which is a herculean task for me esp. during a vacation) and got there before 9am.

Officer: Do you have a visa to enter Gibraltar ?
We smugly flashed our schengan visas
Officer (with an “I am not impressed” look): Gibraltar is not a schengan country
Us: Blank stares…..
Officer: You have to go back to Spain (and then he points to the U-turn)
Us: Blank stares turn into disappointed looks
Me: Does being in Europe for long and having a PR count?
Officer: No
Ashok turns the car around, reaches the U-turn and a sudden wave of genius hits me and I force him to make an illegal turn to get back to the port of entry.
Officer (now impatient and annoyed) walks towards us.
I had remembered that Gibraltar is a British territory and both Ashok and I have UK visitor visas. With a triumphant look, I flash those visas.

Officer: I would have let you in if you had a British PR but a British visitor visa does not count
Me: Are you sure?
Officer (exasperated): Madam, I am the head of immigration, I think I know!

Unfortunate ending: For the first time in my life, I was denied entry into a country (thankfully no “denied” stamp in the passport)
with a twist: we still saw the rock of Gibraltar
and a resolution: to go back with a visa and am keeping my fingers crossed about meeting the same officer (cat one time, elephant also one time).

To be continued…..

PS: I know the heading is exaggerated and misleading., I really should stop visiting rediff and times of India pages !

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chandramukhi in German

...das kann doch nicht wahr sein !! mudiyala pa...mudiyala !

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

SS in Germany

A friend of mine in Germany works for an American company that simply loves abbreviations. They recently had a re-organisation and the result was a number of teams like Sales Engineering (SE), Marketing support (MS) etc. The only problem is that my friend was in the sales support team located in Germany and he/they got stuck guessed right....SS !!

Being known as SS in Germany is probably not a good idea.....remember our dear old Adolf ? You can imagine people's expressions when they get an email saying ''SS will take care of it''...! I am tempted to say ROFL but will that be borderline racism ?

Friday, February 4, 2011

At crossroads...

There is this mattress ad that says that one-third of life is spent in bed. And I think the remaining is spent in decision making - when we decide to get up, what to eat, what to wear, when to leave for work, what things are to be done today and when we finally get to back to the comfortable one-third part of life !

The day-to-day decisions are indeed easy since they fall into a routine and we can often deal with the consequences easily - a sigh when the favorite blouse doesn't fit anymore, a shrug when there is no time to eat, honking when there is traffic, an irritated look when we switch lines and the line we just left starts moving ahead....but what happens when we know we have to make a decision that may alter our lives forever?

Big decisions are never easy; not knowing whether we can live with the burden of the consequences makes them even more intimidating. A simple example - if we had to choose between a high paying job in a god forsaken city and a low paying job in a happening one, which job should one take? Is the social life worth the money one would lose? If I take the high paying job, can I deal with the fact that there will be nothing to do in the evenings and over the weekends? A more complicated example would be if the high paying job did not promise any challenges that would give one job satisfaction. Does one choose money or improving one’s career? In some cases, the priorities help determine the decision – a big family dependent on my salary would make me choose the high paying job, come what may and will serve as a motivation to help me deal with the pitfalls of the decision ! But what if the priorities themselves are unclear?

I am now in a place where I have to make multiple big decisions both in my personal life and work. There are no right or wrong decisions, all of them have their pros and cons. I cannot ask for anyone’s help (except of course Ashok) and I cannot count on the future turning out exactly as I hope. I am afraid that down the road, I may resent the decisions I make now and even if make my peace with the consequences, I am worried that I would hurt my near and dear ones.

Kadavule, give me clarity of thought, give me courage and resolve for clarity of action and above all, give me strength to stick to my decisions and anything else they may bring!

I googled for Manadhil urudhi vendum lyrics and found it in a blog… Sowmya…..maybe this is a sign.. :)

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