Saturday, June 25, 2005

Travels, travails and fun: 14 June - 9 Aug!

From Atlanta, June 25!

This summer I will visit India after a gap of two years. The excitement is fizzling through my blood, and has lend a new tang to my voice. Mera Gaon, Mera Desh beckons me, as I let numerous filmi songs run through in the background of my excessive anticipation. "Ghar aaja pardesi tera desh bulaye re", "Aa ab laut chalein: Rajkapoor's timeless classic", "Jahan daal daal par sonay ki chiriya", "Yeh desh hai veer jawano ka", "Yeh joe desh hai tera, swadesh hai tera", "Hai preet jahan ki reeet sada" and so on. This blog is going to be like a series of short notes on my trip, and that would happen if and only if my net connection at home works!!

14 June -20 June was a trip that started as a conference, where I talked about my research to a full house in Amherst, MA. Amherst is a small town, (the town of Emily Dickinson), still more British than American. The "valley" was beautiful, like most places in New England are. A friends' birthday celebration was the highlight event till I travelled to New York city with another friend. We finally landed up in Princeton, seven friends from college days, and what followed was an evening of grand fun, where we giggled and grinned to all sorts of PJs and memories and cocktails made sure that the happiness was complete. Next day was dedicated to site seeing in New York city; reunited with another few old friends as we took a cruise on Hudson to hear about the history and architecture of NY city. This was followed by a risque but funny Broadway show "Chicago". Next day we found time to drive around Princeton, do kayaking and canoeing and watching Mr and Mrs Smith. Canoeing was most fun as we three novices rowed hard, but in somewhat zigzag fashion in a stream; thus we spend a lot of time in the bushes and trees on the riverside and everyone else on stream that day must have carried memories of us three stooges making our way through water. By the time we came out of the river, we were totally wet, not because we fell into water, but just due to our over-exciting friends who decided to splash water on us. Watching Mr and Mrs Smith, sitting in wet pants and tired arms was such a relief: the movie is a must watch for couples, as it shows the tiffs and tangles and squabbles quite well!

Back to Atlanta meant return to research and reality. My reality is trapped in unsolved problems, incomplete projects, research committments, and so on. In fact like my canoeing, I have been trying hard to row well, and repeatedly find myself travelling in that zig zag path, repeated crashing into the bushes on the riverside. So till today it has been quite a week of work, and I am yet to decide what I will do when I reach Amsterdam.

Ah! All work and no play makes Vivek a dull boy. So the work has been supplemented by occasional respite provided by cinema. We watched Paheli yesterday, an Amol Palekar movie, recreation of a folklore through beautifully crafted cinema; the movie is like a stream of picture perfect frames. The pace of the movie is slow, the plot is not as profound as reviewers on rediff and claim, the Shahrukh is not as great as reviewers rave, Rani is great, and overall movie is more memorable for its amazing cinematography than anything else.

I fly away tomorrow. My friend and apartment-mate is also flying away. I will stop in Netherlands, and he will go on to India; leaving US for good!! He is happy to be back and I guess isn't this life all about parting, meeting, parting and meeting again?

Lets part till I add more at my next stop:)


July 2, 2005 at Utrecht, The Netherlands!

I have been in Holland for about a week now. The most striking aspect of this country has turned out to be the phenomenonal number of cyclists on roads. The cycles seem pretty ordinary, in fact resemble Hero jet, and dominate the roadways and walkways of both Amsterdam and Utrecht. Cars are almost as rare or as common as elephants on our Delhi roads!

Our flight arrived a bit early, and I heard all the information about Amsterdam on plane in the wrong language. Essentially we need to chose the channel from which we hear the announcement, and I somehow had Dutch on, and kept grinning at the thought that the Dutch were stupid enough to describe their country to foreigners in this way. As it turned out, the studpidity was entirely mine!

Coming out of the Airport, I headed to the train station, and boarded one going to Amsterdam central. I was told that it would arrive there in 15 minutes.... well all I saw after 15 minutes was grass, horses and cows... and soon realized that I was on the wrong train (for irrespective of all the dope stories I hear about Amsterdam, I did not expect the city to be a countryside)!

The hostel was at an amazing place (a great find by our fellow blogger), close to a place called Liedsplien which basically had lots of resturants around this "chowraha" (crossing) and the place was full of roadside performers... including two girls with hoop, who perhaps made more money due to the length of their dresses than due to their antics, a guy who could dribble a football hanging downwards from a lamppost (and called himself Maradona; but Maradona in Holland would have been acceptable, for soft drugs are allowed here); a nude person who was doing something with a rope (that I did not stop or care to watch), all kinds of dancers, street guitarists and so on!

The city is a city of canals, and of course any stay here is incomplete without taking the canal cruise, which I did and though it was quite boring compared to the canal cruises in Chicago. Well, the lady had to speak the same lines in four languages did not help me much:). Anyways, later a visit to Historisch Museum revealed the history of how and when these canals (which happen to be like concentric arcs) were constructed, how the Amsterdam airport happens to be 5 meters below sea level and survives with help of dykes and canals, how Dutch had managed to become the world's biggest superpower before British overwhelmed them everywhere and so on. The canals are quite pretty, and are like lifelines of the city. These also give Amsterdam its peculiar air, which is very romantic in the evening when all the lights fall and make yellow streaks of beautiful reflections on river surface. There are restaurants along the canal that provide ideal setting for romance, people are seen drinking and singing on the canoes or small motorized boats as they stream by in a very charming, enchanting setting. Of course, all this glory occurs only in the summer months. That the evening or sunset occurs at 11 pm is just a coincidence, as the fact that sun returns at 5 am!

Amsterdam without museums is like Agra without pagalkhaana (madhouse)... err I mean without Taj Mahal. I visted every possible museum, except Houseboat museum (it looked to pricey for the area it stood on, and that area was fluid anyways) and the Heineken museum (it had free beer but closed at 6 pm, so was pretty useless!)

Van Gogh Museum, and Rijks Museum deserve a special, separate blog: I was overwhelmed by Van Gogh (once again!!) and other masters... But it seems the Dutch have no sense of beauty left in them. The paintings were displayed in the world possible illumination possible.... in fact it was really tricky to look at many of them... there were open windows and so the buildings outside got reflected oof the pictures... and there were green exit signs that seemed to color every other painting! With such rich and beautiful paintings at display.... the least the museum curators can do is higher someone who knows how to light these places properly. Museums in US are much better in this regard. But the paintings themselves are masterpieces, and I will harp out the most interesting ones in a separate blog!

I visited the Red Light district, where flesh was at display from every window, and the streets were as crowded as in Chandani Chowk in Delhi or railway station at Bandra. I inhaled the holy fumes of what makes Amsterdam as paradise for dope-lovers. I visited Delft, where three hundred years ago potters had learnt to paint porcelian to provide closer at home replacement to Chinese competition, I went to see mini Holland where all major buildings of Holland are remade on scale 1:25 and spread on a park area, I visited the Hague, the capital with all the beautiful palaces and embassies, I also went into the sex museum (and what I saw there can be found by simple google search, using key words sex or porn, so I won't bother u with the details), I went to the flower market, sat in the DAm where they have the old city hall (now called the Royal Palace), visited Begijnholf, where they have a beautiful courtyard with flowers and church enclosed between houses), went to The PArk they say is Amsterdam answer to Central Park of New York... and so on!

I walked and walked and walked through the streets till I knew them so well that I was giving directions to other travellers. I made some great friends, who treated me to drinks and coffees. But best of all, I had my first vacation where I was completely on my own! A strange solitude had gripped me and I enjoyed it to the fullest. In fact my sole guide was the printout from which turned out to be very helpful.

Another museum had deserves special blog is Anne Frank's house, the girl who wrote one of the most telling stories of the effect of Nazi repression. Apart from these, I found one of the finest desi food joints outside India (a place called Swagat) and returned there again and again!!

I came into Netherlands carrying a copy of Don Quixote by Cervantes in my arms, like him I went chasing the windmills.... that place Zaanse Schans, was one of the most beautiful place... rural setting, near another river or canal, with beautiful gardens... and windmills.... ah I fell in love with at place... its like an idyllic setting where I would love to live! River, garden, flowers, ducks, grass and small huts: can it get any better?

Now I am at Utrecht, attending a conference, listening to talks about science, describing what I have succeeded in doing and what I dream of doing, and I feel quite at home here:), back with my blood brothers who live their lifes chasing some answers in labs or on computer screens!

Next update: maybe from India, there is lot more to say about here, butmy hands are tired, u are bored, and I am hungry!:)

to be contd;.....


Utrecht, July 6, 10 am!

I leave the city today, and will fly to India tomorrow. Last few days were spent hobnobbing with the past, present and future great scientists of soft condensed matter physics, and I can share the excitement for science:)! That being said, Utrecht has been a great host city, and shares the characteristic canals and cyclists with Amsterdam.

A couple of days I chanced to eat at a restaurant Passage to India, situated on the canal side, with lots of other restaurants likewise, abounding in a very blissful junta! So we ordered Chicken Makhani and it turned out to be sweet.... and the waitor had the nerve to tell me that Butter Chicken by definition is sweet!! Anyways, yesterday we went to another place, Namaskar and ordered the two dishes that said "hot" and just to be sure, asked for "hot"curries. The guy said its already very hot sir, and the only way we can give you hotter stuff is by handing over chilli... We thought he was just kidding, but soon found out that what they served burnt embers in our mouth. We drank like fish, and spat fire like dragon, and ate with such relish; for it compensated for lack of spice we had suffered for days, and through repeated sighing, puffing, teardrops and sips of beer had a gala dinner.

Adieu for now...



Jugular Vein said...

You know my dear friend! You can write anything. You might say anything.But I know you. I am closer than jugular vein inside of you. I can see, hear and sense what you are going to do next. How? He is the one who gives me vision and ability to hear and see things which no one can see about you, but me.

I know what is lacking in you. I know what hurt you. I also know who hurt you.

Revenge is not the answer. Ignorance is not the raw material you should be using to advance your interests in what ever form.

If this fight is about proving or making me realise, who is right and who is wrong, it is futile exercise my friend.

I am not in competition with you in what ever you are doing. But I know what you are doing is wrong..wrong.. wrong..utter wrong.

You cannot prove anything by doing what ever you are doing in what we are seeing since past week.

Nor am I going to beg you to change anything wht ever you are doing.

No I will never do that.

You know why? Because I believe in much closer friend to me than myself. I will pray to him. He the Lord of this Universe has much bigger power than you.

Even if you combine all the evil elements on this earth and unleash them on innocents, my Lord will protect those whom he wants to. I will pray to him to protect the innocents.

Your job is to destroy. My job is to preserve. Lord is all preserver. If Lord wishes to help me, he will.If Lord wishes to give respite to evil, briefly he will.

I know, I should have trusted in my friend of the friends, Lord of this Universe long ago. Intead I merely took a meek humanbeing like you to be a friend and was duped.

But for Lord's will, my eyes wouldnot have been able to see what I can see today.

I am not going to stop you from doing what ever you are doing.

But I am warning you, your accounts are being written and in Life after Death, Lord is going to tell you,"Did not so and so warn you?" "Yet you did what you are not supposed to do?"..

Yes this letter is my duty to my Lord and not any form of favour towards you, nor fear of you.

If you get arrogant further after reading this, come and kill me and show your wrath on me.

There is no dearth of Cain and Abels in this World.

Yet I am not afraid of warning you, that You my friend is accountable to every breath you take and every move you make.

Therefore if you are helping in using every remaining breath of your life to advance destruction, you are accountable. If you are helping in using in every remaining breath of your life to preserve Good in Nature, you are accountable and you are taken note of.

You donot need noble prize. If you are noble, your noble prize is in your Life after Death.

You decide what you want to do.

By hating me and trying to waste your energies and time to prove a point to me, is a futile exercise my friend.

I know it hurts me to limited extent. But I have learnt how to deal with hurt.My trust finally rests wiht my Lord of this Unvierse.

Lord of this Universe is my friend and as long as I am alive, I will try to obey those principles.

You may try to show this in any corrupt form. But he gave me will,intelligence and understanding to diferentiate between corrupted and truthful, polluted from natural, impure and pure.

Imagine one meeK humanbeing can lie and offer false solace habitually can look like an angel. Imagine the million times powerful force than that only this time it is not false but true and real only to be experienced by those who believe in him-the Friend of friends and Lord of all the Worlds.

That is the power of my Great friend-Lord of the Universe.

You are just a dot in the whole universe.

Let us see of how many such dots can coombine with million black dots and forms a black hole or if he uses himself to turn white spot and become part of that Grande Lumiere.

Chocie is yours. Accountability is yours.

Vivek said...

From DSS:

Competition by Mota (not verified)

The city is a city of canals...
By Rajesh on Fri, 2005-08-12 14:06

I remember watching a documentary that showed the city of Amsterdam in the reflected images off of those canals. It must be a neat experience to watch it for real.

I thought Chicago had a decent crowd of cyclists, for the short period I lived there.

Nice write up, Vivek.
» reply | email this comment

happy to be back!
By Vivek on Fri, 2005-08-12 09:58

thanks for the welcome people…. I missed DSS a lot more than expected:)!!
sm & bilbo: pics r there, will try to post some!
thanks to chay the hostel location was great:) (Hey chay, y the tears? in fact I covered every place u mentioned… hai na?)
imp:) I walked to DAM square more than once a day…. besides people, pigeons attracted my attention Smiling… its so different from US where such city centers are very hard to find!
Will follow up with more soon!Smiling
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the tears are coz i miss
By chay on Fri, 2005-08-12 22:29

the tears are coz i miss dam!! I want to go back….and i want to walk to dam square every single evning and feed the pigeons and listen to musicians from street cafes and i want to go back to that little pond in front of Rijks museum and ride a tandem in vondelpark….oh i better shut it!! Smiling your blog is making me want to write my own dam-memoirs…

did u try vlaamse fries and the gelatos?? ooooh man, simply the best!! well like i said…i’d better just shut it!! Smiling
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welcome back, Vivek nice
By El enigma on Thu, 2005-08-11 22:23

welcome back, Vivek Smiling nice travelogue …waiting to hear more from ur Indian escapades!!

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welcome back, vivek ...
By ssm on Thu, 2005-08-11 17:29

.. and glad to see a nice trave(b)log following in your wake Smiling
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nice one
By bottled imp on Thu, 2005-08-11 16:43

vivek that was a nice blog on amsterdam/netherlands. you covered just about everything, considering that you spent ten days there.

looking forward to reading more of your experiences there.

did u like staying in that leidseplein area? eight months that i lived in amsterdam, i must have been gone there only a couple of times. i like the dam square better.

here is the first blog that i ever wrote and it was on Amsterdam
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Whoa Vivek!! For the past
By chay on Thu, 2005-08-11 15:49

Whoa Vivek!! For the past 40 days I have been concerned about whether your stay at Ams was good or not…u just told me some arbit thing about the stay and never answered my Q…whack for that!! So it did turn out to be nice….its ok Viv…u can say it was me that suggested the hostel… Smiling I wont mind the publicity one bit!! Sticking out tongue

I was too excited to even read the blog…I saw the mention of cyclists and started crying…Looks like u covered everything….did u see the bike that 8 people ride…I forget the name, but u would have seen in in Vondelpark….

I better stop gushing!! I have a reputation for that as well!! Laughing out loud

So so so happy to have u back vivs. Hug
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By Fizo on Thu, 2005-08-11 14:54

welcome blog..!
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By ananthp on Thu, 2005-08-11 14:07

for an excellent read! Loved it…waiting for next part…
also thanks for reminding me Amsterdam again ! Such a lovely place Smiling
One thing I will remember abt that place is the “Meeting Place” in main train station ! Nice concept !
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whoa again
By Silent Melody on Thu, 2005-08-11 12:06

Rani or no Rani, it seems u had a great time. Thanks for sharing it. And it will be great if u could post some pictures.
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By bilbobaggins on Thu, 2005-08-11 11:25

vivek saar, that was an ASSAM blog. loved every bit of it. and if you had illustrous company you might not have taken in so many sights and then written abt it. so your loss was our gain Sticking out tongue. how I wish you had also taken pics and posted them . Am hoping you do have the pics and will post them later.
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Vivek said...

from sulekha:

chayalife comments:
on Aug 11 2005 12:40PM delete this comment block this user
Viv...I am welcoming u back for the third time blog, dss and now here...but i dont mind. like i said earlier...missed our chai and tete-a-tetes sorely!! :-)

So...aiming high....u are the one?? :-))) vivs had described how u guys met and i thought that must have been so cool...I think a blog is in order here guys....what say!! [I am not sure if AH is frau or mann]

Dee...Isn't Schipol the stopover u frequent?? Go da...some day go with wifey and see the place. Ok...i am stopping that now!! You are I know u dont miss can u miss me?? I mean with so many muahing people here and all!! ;-)))))) many winks.
Btw...u are balding enuff as it is. please quit tearing your hair was me that suggested the place at Liedsplein...why??

Lmh to Dee and hugs and hi5s to Vivs

das_wunschdenken comments:
on Aug 11 2005 11:37AM delete this comment block this user
Welcome back bud:) I was missing one of my ardent readers very badly. Your encouragement throughout the 'College Musings' series was wonderful:)

Seems like you had a great time...and AH did the honours eh? Ok I am going to pack my bags to Netherlands now, AH lets meet there, bye for now;)))))

Too bad that you didnt mention anything about Schiphol airport in this post;))) slainte mhath

Frau AH,
I was wondering which fellow blogger might have suggested that hotel in which VS stayed, and luckily you had to break the suspense or else I might've been tearing my hair out;)))))

aiming_high comments:
on Aug 11 2005 8:17AM delete this comment block this user
sure, will look forward to ur next post.
but don't forget to write s'thing *really nice* abt me...

Vivek Sharma comments:
on Aug 11 2005 7:39AM delete this comment block this user
:) wows aiming high!!

I still can't believe it, our meeting and ur figuring from my name that I am a fellow blogger.....I guess I will describe how we met in the Netherlands in my next blog!!:)

aiming_high comments:
on Aug 11 2005 6:55AM delete this comment block this user
Hey Vivek,

Welcome back to Sulekha...
Can see that u've had a really fantastic holiday...

Anyway, I actually am one of those who made ur stay worthwhile, interesting and happening in Utrecht and I have gladly recieved your salutations!!!

catch u later.

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Mohamed Ali said...

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Mohamed Ali said...

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