Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Boston Tea Party

Damn, have I been busy! All my regular readers (yes, both of you) must have realized I’ve been missing for a while. Hope you didn’t report me missing with the local police. I was drowned in tons of work, and now I get the much-needed break..where I have to travel! Ok, Im supposed to see this as an “opportunity”, cos I’m in StrangeLand, and I get to see another new city!

Where am I? I am in the place where StrangeLand’s freedom struggle took its first steps..Yup, my first ever blog from Boston, MA. Not to mention my first ever visit to this place too. Kinda like Meerut, UP. For the uninitiated (read non-Indians), it’s the place where India’s freedom struggle took its first steps, except that it has 100 times fewer cars.

Why the trip?

Well, I get to meet with the Einsteins of the software industry, more correctly the storage industry, and they know who they are (Hint : Whats the most famous equation Einstein ever developed?). More about them later. But, I was supposed to represent the company I work for and basically get some questions answered. They are Einsteins. Gotto have the answers.

The trip

I’m traveling with another guy from the company, and when we choose seats, he amazingly chooses to get a seat in a different row! Man, I didn’t know I was so nauseating…Nah, I think he did ME a favour instead. I’m not the one who’s judgemental about who sits next to me! 1 short and another loooong flight take me to Boston. On the long flight, Miss stewardess herself sits beside me. I’m on the window seat. But, I keep my charms sealed within, and let the other guy sitting next to her hit on her. “So, which airlines do you work for?” “North American” (Did she make that up?) “And you fly American, haha funny” (I don’t think so) “Yeah, I’m on my trip home. We picked up some soldiers from Eye-Rack” (For those who dunno, that’s how StrangeLandians pronounce Iraq). Long pause, more stupid jokes and one bored stewardess who says “Im just looking forward to catching up on some sleep”. Me, Im catching up on reading. Damn, there’s so much pressure. My company’s spending more than 1.5k dollars for the trip, I better ask the right questions to those Einsteins.

After my long serious reading session, stewardess tries chatting me up with stuff like “Can you see land?” Are we on a ship in the ocean, far away from any semblance of land for months? I’m avoiding my stupid jokes here and acting like the Marlboro guy, who says little and acts smart. I’m solving puzzles from the magazine, pondering over the crossword and wondering why they don’t have diagonals to solve. Finally, when we are waiting to get out at Boston airport, “you must be waiting to get out of here right?” Damn, have I been acting like a jerk? Wow, I’ve made a woman feel like I’ve been avoiding her, that’s a first! No, not really. I take that back. I’m an expert at that. My girl will vouch for me. My stupid remark in response, “Only if I can move my feet, cos I can’t even feel them”. 4 hours of flying can do that to you. You end up with numb feet and you tell stupid jokes.

Worst time to be in Boston. Raining. Freezing cold. I use my brand new jacket for the first time. I was kinda hoping for snow too, but not my luck I guess. I still have tomorrow morning to witness snow for the first time ever.

The Cadillac

Kind Hertz car rental gals give us the Cadillac to drive from Boston to the hotel. Damn.
Such a huge car. Not huge actually, just long. But, with leather cushions and sleek interiors, best car I’ve been in. And it sounds so smooth too. Digital tachometers, speedometers and all other o-meters. I’ve got one word for this car – awesome.

The hotel

Radisson hotel. Having lived with 25 odd channels, of which 18 I never watch, for over 2 months now, the TV here with 70 channels is most welcome! I watch a Spanish channel cos they have blaring music and cheesy flashbacks in the soap operas, that remind me of all the soap crap served up back home. Oh sorry, that’s soap Krap. For all the morons who didn’t get that joke, its cos all the damn soaps have names that begin with ‘K’. Yeah, now you are laughing, HA HA. Well, I was lying. I watched them cos they had beautiful latino girls! Only for 5 minutes ok! The bad part is the bed - so bad, I hardly sleep all night.

The Einsteins

Well, the Einsteins don’t answer my questions. They are actually stumped. “Hmm, we never though of that”. So, we flew all this way for nothing? I guess we got some extra context into what they are doing, and our eyes opened to the fact that big companies pretend they are Einsteins, when they really aren’t. The stuff they’ve built in a year, could be easily built in a couple of months by the guys in my company. And in the end, it doesn’t even work that well. I don’t remember much from the trip to the Einsteins cos a breeze carrying ice instead of air hit me before I entered their haven, and I got my senses back only only a few hours ago, which of course you wont believe, cos you have this very blog to prove that I never got my senses back. Damn, its cold! Im surpised I don’t have ice-cream flowing in my viens.

What next?

Well, discover all the channels that StrangeLand strangely presents – Court TV (?), Food TV, Weather channel, Game show network, comedy central, home shopping network, travel tv, Bravo (!), Sci-Fi Tv, My TV, MTV. Ok, we have MTV too. Gotto wake up real early and catch a flight. And return the Cadillac, boohoo. It would have been a perfect b’day gift. Yeah, so you forgot to wish me, huh?

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Random Judgements

Yeah, Im in that mood right now. To pass random judgements. Its good I aint the Supreme Court judge. But, if you guys see what the media is obsessed with (among so many other not so relevant issues) here in StrangeLand is the caliber of their new Supreme Court judge. I think I am no worse than her if what they say is true! Well, thats a sample of how random my judgements can be today, so sample everything I say here with a mound of salt.

Here Goes...

The White House?

Ever wonder why they call the Presidential residence for StrangeLand White House? Well, I just did. And I have the answer! Because it was only meant for white people....In over 200 years of democracy, not a single black president. Well, the guys who wrote the constitution of this place intended it to be so apparently. For that matter, they never even had a woman president. Maybe they could have been more appropriate if they'd named it WhiteMan House.

Iraqi Insurgency

For the umpteenth time, StrangeLand should stop showing the insurgents in Iraq in bad light all the time. Damn, they have no idea how it feels to have somebody march into your country, strip your freedom away and force something on them in the name of democracy. Neither do I for that matter, but I can only imagine how it must feel, and what I could have done about it were I put in such a situation. It is only a natural outcome of being in the place where the Iraqi nationalists find themselves. What is wrong of course is that there are foreign guys making the most of this whole chaotic situation (namely Al-Qaeda and their friends) and getting involved to meet their ultimate objective - the personal war against StrangeLandians. Of course, they dont know better, cos they always do turn up everywhere StrangeLandians go anyway.

It is sad to see a nation with an unparalleled history (the Mesopotamia of ancient days) where culture and science and religion has been nurtured over thousands of years, just like HomeLand, having to face times like these. I agree they were suffering under the reign of a dictator. But, what StrangeLand seems to be ready to offer them is a constitution written by people "hand-picked" for the job (wonder who gets to decide) and most likely a democracy with an elected leader, yes, but one who is going to rule like a Putin or a Hosni Mubarak; more like an elected dictator.

Funniest Radio Ad

Yeah this is definitely the funniest commercial I've heard on radio. It goes like this.
"Can I borrow 99 cents?"
"Why do you need 99 cents?"
"Well, I was going to get my car fixed."
"For 99 cents?"
"No, thats a couple hundred bucks. I was planning to go the gas station to put some gas in my car."
"Gas for 99 cents?"
"No, thats about 15 dollars. I was thinking I could then go to Wendys and get myself a cheese burger for 99 cents"
"So, you have 215 dollars for your car, but you don't have the 99 cents for your cheeseburger?"
"Ok, can I borrow 215 dollars 99 cents?"
"Ummm .. what about the 99 cents part?"

Funniest guy in my company

Yeah, Im gonna pass a judgement on this too. This guy goes by the name of jd, but I think he should be JK (cos those are his initials). This is our conversation about me helping him out with some of his bugs :

JK : "Ive got a series of bugs which I think you could deal with better. Can you look at them and let me know what we should be doing?"
Me: "Yeah, I think I can do that cos Ive seen those before. Ill let you know what we should do to handle, if there's something to do at all"
JK: "You freaking rule my world! If we have a third child, we'll name him Satwik" (Just to make it clear with all the dirty minds out there - when he says 'we', he means him and his wife)
Me: "No, that would be wrong. Every 3rd child in the world is Chinese, not Indian. I think its every 4th child in the world thats Indian."
JK: "So, I have to have 2 kids in order to name one after you? Would you just accept my heartfelt thanks and a hearty handshake in place of that?"

There's this other occasion when one other guy (MB, aged 30) from the workplace invites me to his house. He says - "Hey Sawik (they miss the 't' usually), you are welcome to come and hang out with me and my old lady for the football game". JK goes "Oh MB still lives with his mom, in case you didn't know". MB : "I was about to say, dont mention to my wife that I called her that..damn you JD".

One time, JK wanted to skip coming to office, and this is what his email said - "My wife has to visit the doctor and I am supposed to play the role of a doting husband who accompanies her to the doc, for an appointment late in the afternoon, ignoring the fact that its gonna be freaking hot."

If somewhere down the line, you felt I am funnier than this guy, write a blog on me!

Gals, Databases and AI

3 things I never really understood, and I think Im not cut out to understand them either. I atleast have the claim to fame of getting through papers on the latter two. But, them gals, damn they are so uncanny and they so hide behind a facade all the time, greatest actors ever, greatest manipulators ever too. All you guys out there are going "we know what you're talking about", and all the gals are going "What the ....". Why are gals so hard to understand? Why have databases become such a big deal that people do million dollar research on them? When AI is all theory, and nothing really seems to work, what's all the hype about, why are we still dreaming and pumping money into trying to imitate the human mind?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Pedernales Doesnt Fall! - Part 2

Continuing...A voice that sounds like Gollum in the Lord of the Rings tells me - 'We had told you. Dont follow the deer!'. Gollum warns the ring-bearer Frodo Baggins not to follow the lights in the marshes, and I complain cos he never warned me before I ventured. All around me I see the same scenes, everywhere looks the same. 5 minutes of dense woods, and a minute of clearing with sunlight and only cactii to tackle. I ponder trailing back. Nope. no good. I will only get more lost. I pull out some more thorns from my jeans and my hair. I stop to hear a rumble! A car is it?? I run forward to a clearing only to realise its a passing small plane. I wonder if they are looking for me? Darn, no one even knows Im here. I didnt tell anybody I was going to Pedernales Falls. I was worried about getting lost on the highway. That feels so much better than being lost in the woods! (Take a look at the photograph alongside to see what I just emerged from at a clearing)

As I march on aimlessly (but in my head Im still moving left), I pull out the map the nice lady had handed to me with the entrance pass. Its only a road map, how can they map the woods? But, it is reassuring to realise that the huge park area I am supposedly in is bounded on the left by the road and on 2 sides by the river, which seems to be meandering away making the area bloat on the top and on the right. 'I just have to make it either to the road or to the river. If I reach the river, I walk upstream to make it the falls and to the road.' I feel better now. I take stock of what I have. I have only sipped a few drops of the Lizard drink and gobbled up a sandwich, so Im left with only one. Damn, I should have had a compass. Atleast I could know which way to go. I dont even have a watch on me to tell the time. After around 20 more minutes of suppressing panic and dismissing thoughts of getting lost, I reach another clearing and hear another faint rumble. I look skywards. Nothing. Damn, could this be a car? The rumble continues for a long time. There is a speed limit of 25mph on these roads. So, if that is a car, Im gonna hear the rumble for some time. And to my delight, I do! I can hear it in the distance. I make a mental note of the direction and hurry on.

Im so excited now that I plunge through the bushes and the thorns. Its like Im a kid in a remote village who's never seen a car, but only heard about it. Another car swishes by. Im so sure Ive traced my route back to the road now. More low-hanging branches and cactii to tackle. But, somehow God has increased the traffic on the road for me! Its like a lighthouse in the sea now, ever visible. After about 10 minutes of maneouvring, I catch a glimpse of the road! Awesome! A glimpse of the Road!It feels so good to be back on the beaten path. Now, Im not looking into the woods again. I will walk along this road like a horse, who sees only straight ahead with those things covering its eyes.

The falls

I finally make it to the falls! This is what I was here for in the first place. I just took a brief sabbatical on the way. The clear blue water is a sight to behold. WhattaviewThe rocks lining the water are pristine themselves, carved by the fury of the river. The RocksAlluvial soil, somewhat yellowish in colour, lines the river. What is disappointing is that there isnt actually a waterfall. Its a trickle a couple of feet high! Thats it. I wonder why they call it the Pedernales Falls. I know the river is called Pedernales. Or is it some famous Mexican guy who comes and falls here? That doesnt make sense. Maybe a mexican going by the name Pedernales once came and fell here. So, they should be calling it Pedernales Fell. But then, the Mexicans aren't really good at English, so I should give them a break. This is really Pedernales Falls. I take my comment back. Falls?

Another exploring session, where I dont venture anywhere where there aint people. I watch a bunch of kids going behind the rocks into the woods. I aint going there pal. Another miss, when I fail to shoot a tortoise that came out of the water for a short time. He (or maybe she, I dunno) makes me wait for another 10 minutes giving me hope that I will get another chance. But, I finally lose patience. Catch a vulture from pretty close though. I havent missed out on all the animals after all. To be frank, there arent many. I have mentioned all the animals I have seen on this blog! Yeah, not to forget the fish in the water, but that goes without saying. Like the dragonflies and the bees and all them wierd insects in the woods.

As I walk back toward the parking lot, I try to locate the point where I ventured out, away from the road. But, its so damn difficult! It all looks the same. Finally, after an exhausting walk with the terrain frequently climbing upwards, and where I have guzzled all of my Lizard stuff, I make it to the car, which is so damn hot! I had put it in the shade, but the shade apparently decided to move. I drive out again, slowly, cos they dont allow fast cars in the park. Once Im on the road again, I hit the radio back on and push the gas pedal. Its good to be back driving! And my rock station is faithful, and plays my favourite stuff again - Audioslave, Weezer, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, The Killers, Fuel, Foo Fighters. The freeway drive is refreshing. Feels so good to be back in the concrete jungle, on the concrete roads, making my way past the slower cars, on a path I know leads home (hotel in this case) for sure.

Ouch, whats that? Damn, these thorns have gone through my sneakers. There are more on my feet everywhere. I wish I had my mom or my girlfriend or my sisters here to hand me a tweezer. Where do I get one now?

Pedernales Doesnt Fall! - Part 1

Ever since I have landed in StrangeLand, I havent really enjoyed my weekends and my time off work, especially cos Ive been put up in a hotel and havent had an opportunity to make friends. On top of that, all the guys at my client's workplace are married. No, that doesnt imply I am gay please! Just that they'd rather spend time with their wives, and not hang out with me. The only weekend I thoroughly enjoyed was the labour day weekend when I went to New Jersey and had a lot of fun with my little sisters watching Niagara falls (that thing does fall, around 150k gallons of water a second in all!) and New York city.

Well, this weekend I decided to do something I enjoy, hanging out with nature and hear the birds chirping, wind whistling through the trees and of course some glimpse of wildlife (the variety that doesnt like the taste of me). So, I did my research on google, picked up a Texas state park and used google maps to pick a route that I could remember easily. The park's called Pedernales Falls State Park and visitors have given it an awesome rating.


I wake up early (something I cant do when I need to get to work), make 2 cheese sandwiches (my own secret recipe, tastes awesome!) and put a bottle of Lizard Lightning in the bag. Thats a drink for those who dont know, and its neither got Lizards nor is it meant for them. A simple orange and mango blend with ginseng (yeah the stuff that keeps you rocking alert). Something wierd tells me I should prefer a pair of jeans as opposed to shorts. I thank myself twice later that day for listening to that something.

Forward Journey

As I walk out of the hotel at 9 am I realise its pretty cold..good choice those jeans! I was pretty tense about making the road trip although it was only 41 miles. Somehow the thought of getting lost in a StrangeLand without a mobile phone at hand is something that doesnt appeal to me. But, thats really dumb, cos in HomeLand I head out on trails with a mobile phone on me, which practically becomes a worthless timekeeping device with no network coverage, and somehow that never made me tense. Well, here's a reason. I was alone this time!

My car has an awesome audio system with the bass turned up high which makes the car literally shake. The radio station (101x) dishes out some of my favourites - Metallica, Hoobastank, Stone Temple Pilots, Gorillaz, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and I relax and enjoy the scenic drive. Im so damn relaxed I miss the right turn onto 3232 which was supposed to take me to the park. I was expecting a big road. Instead it was a single lane ranch road lined with a dead raccoon and another unidentifiable animal battered by some speeding car. I decide to slow down. The park was a serene and calm place, the calm broken occasionally by passing cars.

At the entrance, the nice lady selling tickets tells me - "Im sure you are hear to do some hiking today, huh?" "Naah, Im just hear to see the place, heard so much about it. Plus I dont hike alone." How wrong I was gonna be! I park my car at the parking lot, and decide to walk the 2 and half miles to the falls. I didnt wanna drive to the falls cos this was the day I do something healthy! After all, it only comes once a month or so. As I trundle along, some nice park rangers drive by, waving their hands and, Im sure wondering why I am walking on the road.


It was kinda boring walking on the road. Both the sides of the road were lined with dense woods, and I could hear the sounds of birds and insects and rustling in the bushes. There was no one else walking on the road too. Somehow, I might have looked like a moron, as everyone who drove by, made sure to give me a wierd second glance. Im now getting bored with this walk, its not exciting at all. Up ahead, I see the road bending to the right, sharply. I tell myself - 'Dude, this is the chance. Lets get into the woods and walk on straight and meet the road at the end of the bend. You've been looking into the woods and holding back too long.'

As soon as Im in, I hear something move around in the bushes ahead. Woah! A deer with horns and all just hopped by! I hurry to fish out my camera and by the time I can focus and prepare to shoot, 5 more have blazed the same trail. C'mon, one more, from somewhere. Nope. No deers to shoot for you today. Im determined to get my photograph, so I follow the deer. After a few minutes, I realise its pointless, cos they are too fast, and my jeans are slowing me down. So, I stop and look at them damn jeans. They're full of thorns! Damn, Im surrounded by cactii and almost all the trees, shrubs, bushes have pointed ends. I thank myself again for choosing the jeans over the shorts. Another glance and I see dead trees and white remains of old trees. Immediately, my mind goes back to the 'Blair Witch Project'. The scene around me, the dense woods, dead trees, rocks, hardly any sunlight making it down to the ground and the bumpy terrain, reminds me of the scary sights in that movie. Of course, its daytime here and Im a loooong way away from sunset.

I decide Im enjoying this and keep going inwards, my geographic sense telling me I must be walking parallel to the road. Ducking under thorny branches, moving around thickets, avoiding huge cactii fields I keep trundling along. After about half an hour, I remember that I had set out to meet the road ahead. And damn, I havent even heard a car rumble by for more than 15 minutes. Where am I? I quickly dismiss the thought that I may be lost. 'The road has always been to your left dude. You just have to walk left and you will meet it somewhere'. What if the road has ended and Ive ventured a bit too far ahead? Now, Im only walking leftwards. Or so I think cos everytime I avoid passing through low hanging thorny branches or a pocket of cactii, I am actually changing course. And Ive been doing this all along without realising.

Dude you are lost!

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Dont suck up please!

All of us have seen the guy at the workplace (or in school) who sucks up to the boss (or the teacher) all the time in the hope hes always on the first page of the boss' good books. The eternal 'yeah'-man, who agrees with everything the boss proposes and abides by everything the boss asks him to do.
This is not actually about those people, although for the record, I hate them like crazy and usually let them know too. Cos people like me, who like to keep our noses and tongues in places where there is fresh air (as opposed to the boss' a**), realise sooner or later that being in the good books does matter when it comes to getting good grades on an assignment or getting that all-important pay hike, but its something we'd rather not do.

Ok, then whats this about? I am gonna scale this up a few notches, cos this is about my HomeLand sucking up to the Big Boss that is StrangeLand. In fact, HomeLand has been sucking it up for a long time now, and I dont understand why. We arent that gullible that we need to rely on others for our survival, we have never been. Its not like the Big Boss can stand up anytime and wave its magic wand and ensure we die of hunger or choke to death. Then, why do we always go down on our knees at one snap of a finger even when it comes to issues we firmly believe in? Is it a big gameplan our leaders have been playing forever? Something thats superficial so the Big Boss thinks we abide by the rules while we still ensure our own good? I think only time can tell, but it is really humiliating too see your own nation sometimes act like a hungry weasel on the world stage, one who's living off crumbs thrown off other's plates...when its all just an act.

A case in point is the recent nuclear issue between StrangeLand and Iran (yes, not UN and Iran, cos I firmly believe that the 'N' in the UN doesnt have any relevance - it could as easily be replaced with an 'S', the General Assembly has no powers and among the veto powers, StrangeLand being the strongest, runs the rule). HomeLand has always had great ties with Iran, and even the cultures are in a way bound to each other. When it came to us needing backing on the Kashmir issue in the UN in 1994, Iran was backing us with all its gusto. Why then, did HomeLand take a backward step, pull back its arm from around Iran's shoulders when it needed it the most, with IAEA sanctions apparently in the wait? All for some peanuts that go by the name of civilian nuclear technology relationship with StrangeLand? God knows we are independent when it comes to nuclear know-how. We have hardly needed any help developing our nuclear deterrent and we produce most of our nuclear energy through the use of pure indegenious technology. Still, the government has placed a big price on this latest deal and showed the world that we are ready to suck up for the little pat on the back, which we would get from StrangeLand.

This is not something new at all. This land was flourishing during the rule of the Mughal empire with most of the country under one rule, when the Europeans came knocking on the door as traders. Damn good trade I tell you, what a deal they got. They were welcomed with open arms and all they did was bite us where it hurts most. They asked for trade relations, we nodded. They asked to set up a trading company locally, we nodded again. When they were embedded in the economy, they took over politically too. And we still didnt mind, as we have always been a bunch of peace-loving people, and expect to get in return what we give, a true manifestation of karma. What happened later is history, and we still havent stopped acting in that way. I strongly recommend this read as it captures the economic history of the world in a capsule and lets you know why an economy is where it is today.

Prime Minister Nehru was the first Prime Minister of the country, and in a way, he set the trend for things to come (Those interested can get some of the blunders listed here). No doubt he was a good leader, but some of the things he did were totally uncalled for. Like pulling back his troops during the war with Pakistan when India could have resolved the Kashmir conflict then and there by allowing troops into Pak territory, at the behest of the UN which had no understanding of the issue whatsoever. Nehru, the architect of the Hindi-Chini bhai bhai festivity, had gone out of his way to propitiate communist China, accepting even the Chinese annexation of Tibet in a 1954 agreement without settling the Indo-Tibetan border. This famously led to the ignorance of troop build-up on the huge Indo-China border and the smack-on-the-face defeat of 1962 .

Even when it comes to trade and commerce, we have been given a raw deal all the time, but we suck it up. Big MNCs from StrangeLand wanna set up establishments here..go ahead. They wanna export electronics and consumer products to a nation with one of the biggest markets in the world carpet, green signal. Ok, now we wanna send in our agricultural goods to StrangeLand in return...doesnt meet standards, too much pesticide, the "you are dumping stuff in our market and killing our local farmer" comments, heavy tariff duties, holding up perishables for inspection too long in ports to ensure they rot and are sent back. How about textiles, they will be at competitive prices...StrangeLand allows that but immediately triggers a media campaign showing that Indian imported textiles are inflammable! Dude that was cotton we sent you! And your mannequin is burning like it was doused in gasoline! No change in our response though, we still give Coke and Pepsi massive exposure to our markets, inspite of laboratory tests proving the presence of insecticides in them.

Nevertheless, the globalization process ensures that jobs and manufacturing and trade still flows into HomeLand. We are a prosperous country, with a growth rate only superceded by neighbours China. I have seen so many talk shows and speeches and lectures here in StrangeLand where they are talking about HomeLand and China as a superpower in the coming years, not respectfully, but with a touch of disdain. Like its something they cant prevent. Yet, our leaders fail to see this? An independent nation that stands on its own two feet still behaves like it needs the support of the whole world.. the eternal good boy of the world. StrangeLand never needs support, be it to march into a country with troops or decide the fate of economies of the smaller countries. They wield their power almost like dictators and its time for them to be overthrown. They have warmed their a**es enough on top of the world while everyone else burns.

I want to see my nation stand up for what it truly is and what it believes in. Dont just state that you deserve a place in the Security Council, thats like filling up an application form. Demand it and ensure the world finally realises what this country is all about. We arent a bunch of pushovers. Behold everyone, our time hath come!

Sunday, October 02, 2005

The American Cookie : Something HomeLand Can Do With

Yeah, I know, my posts have been meandering yes, but ultimately, always within a quarter mile radius of the closest fuel station - StrangeLand bashing - that keeps me going. I can go on like this and never run out of gas, cos well, after all, Im in the nation that burns the most per capita gas anywhere. Plus, the fact Im living here for the time being and the way things are here, the gas station is always within a quarter mile radius, giving me more fodder to fire my cannons. But for once, I wanna tell you something I do like about this country! Yeah, you can call this a weekend break from the bashing for StrangeLand.

Number 1... Chocolate Cookies! They are everywhere. I absolutely have a brain-dead craving for the chocolate chip cookies. Something about those cookies, I have no idea what, makes them hundred times better than the cookies I get back in HomeLand. Maybe its the fact that the chips are just the right size and the ratio of chip to cookie is perfect, but thats going too far. My office is stacked with Famous Amos cookies and boy I cant stop having them. Im not a great food critic, so dont expect me to zap off a few foodie metaphors here to show you how enjoyable they are!

In case you are scared Im gonna list more cookies here (or you were desperatingly hoping I do that and put you to sleep, you insomniac!), well fear not. The American cookie is something I always liked about StrangeLand, and I used it to represent the good stuff about this land, just like they used that absolute nonsense metaphor "The American Pie" for something equally enjoyable I guess.

Number 2... Land of opportunities. Boy, if someone wants to make it big here, she just needs to work hard, believe in herself and convince the ones with the moolah to pump it into her ideas (Political correctness demands making no gender assumptions, but if you choose she over a he, you are always safe. Of course I slipped in a 'Boy' instead of a 'Girl' to begin with, heeheehaahaa). Well, isnt that true everywhere you moron, you wanna ask? Its the reknowned "Work Hard, Believe in Yourself and Trick Morons to pay for what you believe in" funda, never fails. (Never heard of it? Well now you have!) The only difference is that the morons with the money are all here, and they are desperate to multiply their investments if you have a real good idea with you that assures good returns. (Well, who can blame them, when you can sell salt substitutes with less Sodium in them here! What, the NaCl has half an atom of Na now? Before you think Im a moron, lemme assure you they use some compound without Na to say that Na is almost N/A in this substitute.) Back in HomeLand, apart from multiplying the number of newborns, the morons arent really handing their money on a platter. Of course, there is more money going round here, than back home, too, which helps. But, I think Im willing to fight that stubborn disbelieving attitude and make the morons back home turn around sometime and dish it out to me.

Number 3...Awesome sports cars! Whatever you do, you cant get the variety of sports cars they have in StrangeLand back in HomeLand. I absolutely went berserk when I saw the big Hummer on the roads here! Yeah, they are gas guzzlers and not environment friendly, but they are military design jeeps dude! Never seen something as astounding in my life. For now, check out their website - HUMMER!

Number 4...Open Society. Yeah, Ive been the one whos been concerned about this society being far too open. I still stand by that. However, when I compare that to the one we have back in HomeLand, I realise that all one needs to do is find a middle ground between the two. One where parents still have a say about how their kids are brought up and in what environment, and they can make sure they inculcate the right attitude and values in them. This is the part that the culture in HomeLand does have.

The part it can do without is where the society plays a big role in deciding how parents bring their kids up, what rules they enforce on their kids. If a guy is seen hanging out with a girl, the girl is labelled with a 'bad character' tag (which is as good as saying that the milk carton in the fridge is past its expiry date, and its as easy to say that too). And in a nation where marriages are mostly arranged with the mutual consent of mainly the parents first and then, the actual marrying couple, it is of prime importance for a girl to maintain a squeaky clean image (like me! although I dont need one, cos im a guy!) so that she isnt rejected just because too many people have been talking about having seen her hanging out with guys too often. Yuck! Makes me sick this ridiculous concept. The guys she hangs out with, on the other hand, are totally innocent, as they say in my land (doodh ka dhula - One cleaned with milk, supposed to be enchanting in the old days, but I would die of the stench of milk if you did that to me). They can move around doing what pleases them, and then solely based on their income they earn or the money their ancestors hand down, go ahead and demand the woman of their choice - one with good nature, culinary skills, one who can walk with charm, sing with pride (they sometimes do make wud-be brides walk and sing, ok, as a pre-nuptial test) and of course, one who is utterly beautiful so that he can take her to parties and be the envy of friends. Its still not balanced this world, when it comes to equality for men and women. Sad to see really.

A woman still is the one to make most sacrifices, be it with her career or with the guy she loves. Parents still make sure that the girl marries where they want her to be, oblivious to the fact that she may wanna marry someone else. A girl and a guy together means only one thing - they are never friends (platonic relationship? Whats that?), never brother and sister. A guy is always more adventurous, and brash. He wouldnt give a damn about what others think, about his parents opinions when it comes to marrying someone he loves, about moving around with anyone he likes to hang out with. It is supposedly a lot easier for a girl to tear apart the "Welcome" doormat outside her house (more correctly, her parents house), than it is for a guy, cos hes always forgiven, sometimes even overlooked. Thank God I was born a male! But its not all that rosy (I need a manly flower for this metaphor, cauliflowery?). I cant move around hand-in-hand with my girl without evoking unapproving glares. I cant sit and chat with a female friend openly very often cos people would assume Im her boyfriend. Heck, I cant even treat a girl like a sister, something Ive always yearned for. If one of my dearest aunts, someone whos cared for me from the day I was born, wants to treat me like a son, she cant. Everywhere, the society steps in to show whos the boss. You are either in or you're out. And if you wanna stay in, you play by their rules.

Yeah, I have finally brought out something I seriously hate about HomeLand. Better too open as it is here, than oppressively closed as back home. I wish I could do something about it, but I can only make my own stand, express my opinions, and stand by what I believe is right. In the meanwhile, the people who form this society will carry on spreading their menace, no amount of education seems to change their closed mindset. In Bon Jovi's words - Keep The Faith, cos (in my words) there is a turn up ahead somewhere and everything is gonna be just right, like the chocolate chip cookie from Famous Amos!