Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A trip to India (Aug 2010)

Pratibha sometimes gets into a phase of home sickness where all she can talk about is India. Things came to a point this year where she started talking nostalgically about flies and the garbage. So I thought it would be a good time for a wake up call and I offered her a trip to India. Negotiations went on in full swing and I failed miserably in my attempt to restrict their trip to 3 weeks (in which case I could join them too). Instead, she got my cousin and her two kids for company towards India and she took off to for a full 3 months with a promise that she'll come back on her own. In return I'll take care of our move to a bigger apartment and the job of getting it ready before they arrive.

The day after she landed she woke up to a couple of unfamiliar faces next to her. Then, enlightened, she ran to get cream to put on the faces of our mosquito-bitten, puffed up kids. Megha, true to self, refused to climb down from her hip in an unfamiliar environment. By mid-afternoon Pratibha couldn't figure out if her back hurt more from carrying Megha or her head from Sona's constant whining. Sona, you see, is daddy's girl. She hadn't come to terms with the fact that she wasn't going to see me for 3 months. And then, that evening, there was a power cut that scared the living daylights of Sona. By the end of the first week, Pratibha's bubble hadn't just burst, it had exploded spectacularly into a billion pieces. Meanwhile, with the last box moved, I was stretched out in the balcony of our new apartment catching up with some long forgotten books. I had just come back from badminton. Lemonade next to me, songs on the laptop, cool breeze, lazy life. In the back of my mind I was debating whether to catch the late night show of "Inception", a new movie that was out that weekend, or to just hit the sack early. Somehow, from halfway round the globe, Pratibha sensed this. She picked up the phone and called me.

"Nikku, you get on a airplane and come down"
"But Sonu ... we had a deal"
"Deal's off"
"I need to renew my passport"
"Renew it"
"I have no money"
"I'll send it"
"I'm planning a hike to Yosemite"

Suddenly the tables were turned. Sona settled down as soon as she heard I was coming. Megha got used to the new faces around her and started playing. I, meanwhile, was stretched thin. My hikes got cancelled, work in office got hurried as I tried to meet deadlines before I left and to top it all, my application for a passport renewal got delayed in the consulate. After much wheeling and dealing and a last minute trip to San Francisco to get my passport, here I am at the airport waiting for my flight. The fact of the matter is I'm happy. There's nothing logical about feelings. I look forward to holding my babies and my wife. To seeing my parents and my sister after two and a half years. To seeing my brother's kids for the first time. I'm glad she forced me to buy those tickets. Creature comforts are well and good, but they cannot replace a family.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Zion Narrows

A few weeks back Renga asked me my plans for the July 4th long weekend. Pratibha and the kids, being in India, my plans were to sleep, eat, sleep, eat and to catch a few more winks wherever else I could. It was a good plan but he offered me something even better. A road trip to Utah. My vision of a road trip is curling up in the back of a car with loads of healthy snacks like chips and soda and only stirring when it's time to use the restroom. At the end of the trip I'll reluctantly get out to take in what is usually spectacular views, pose for a few pictures, and reclaim my rightful place among the snack boxes. So I jumped at the offer and, that friday, I took off early from work to join Ranga, his wife Vijaya, Ram, Karthik, Raju and Satya in a 7 seater on an eventful trip that took us through three state lines.

The first sign of trouble was when I realised that the car was bone dry. Not even a diet coke or a carrot stick. I knew then that these fellows had no idea of what a road trip should be. So I asked Ranga to fill me in on schedule. "We should reach George Town close to midnight. But we'll have to wake up early tommorrow. If we start at 6 we can reach Zion by 7 and get started with the Narrows by 8. I plan to do atleast 8 miles in the water. That should take the whole day. After that we'll drive to bryce canyon. Assuming we reach there by 10, we should have adequete time to have dinner and sleep. There are some good hikes in Bryce too. We'll ask the information centre and after that we'll settle on a couple. The next day we'll be back in Zion to do the "Angel's Landing" hike. And the back to San Diego" . My jaw dropped, I was feeling giddy and I'm not talking about giddy with joy. This was a hiking trip in road trip clothing. What was I going to do. On the road, however, I soon forgot my worries. The group was especially cheerful and the banter was entertaining. We talked about marriage (where, at 5 years and two kids, I was the grandfather and absolute authority), music (that I knew nothing about), food (that I knew everything about),badminton (oh! the poor fools, they little knew what they were getting into when they brought that up) and so much more. I was particularly proud of my performance when we discussed music. The argument was about which Tamil music director was better, Rehman or Ilayaraja. I picked Rehman and argued his case strongly and convincingly never letting on that I knew as little about Rehman's music as I knew about Ilayaraja's.

We reached Georgetown close to midnight but we had to modify our plans. The Soccer world up quarter finals was in the morning and everyone wanted to catch atleast the first half of one particular game. I dont think I've ever loved Germany and Argentina more than I did then. So, the next morning, at 11, I found myself at the trail head of another hot summer hike wondering what I did wrong in my previous life to end up repeatedly going through this torture. The first mile was like any other hike I had done before. Thin narrow winding path behind, thin narrow winding path ahead. Very beautiful views all around. I plodded on behind the group at my snail pace taking in the views and drinking copious amounts of water. After the first mile, however, things took a dramatic change for the better.

The "Zion Narrows" refers to the slot canyon forge by 'virgin river' in Zion national park. After the first mile, the entire hike is in the water as the river extends to both walls of the canyon. It's a unique experience that even a whiner like me couldnt help but enjoy it. The water is usually upto to the knees, often upto the waist and sometimes chest high. The water was cold. The day was hot. The group was fun. I had a blast. We must have done a total of 6 miles in the water and it must have taken us about 7 hours. There was no Parag or Nachiket or Pavan with me to pick up the pace. All of us were snails. I love snails.