2 July 2010, Astrophysics Institute Guest house, Pune University, 1:45 am.
When I try to write stuff like that I usually procrastinate. I try to think what I did the last month, the last year, the last time I was hit by a car or even what happened in my last life, its reality notwithstanding. I realize that I can’t get a Professors job with such procrastination and intrusion into my own past because in someway that’s become another persons past.

We don’t only die biological deaths we also often undergo spiritual death. In such a scenario its therefore a prudent step to think that you have had a “death”: coming to you from the immense complexity of the world we live in.

So here is a 3 cheers for the qualification I have for becoming a Professor because I am going to write last weeks trials and tribulations, its immediate connectivity to the past week to that and the coming week which anyway I haven’t lived, may be I will be a new person and lose my qualifications in doing that.

Yesterday, I arrived in Pune by a shuttle from Mumbai via the Mumbai-Pune express high way, after the New York like crowd of Mumbai from the Ville Parle area beginning right after the ending of the airport. The Volvo AC did arrive in time if we can excuse a 30 minutes delay given that India does not behave the same way New York or Tokyo would behave, Mumbai notwithstanding because it doesn’t make business sense to lose real tourers of the Indian terrain.

Talking about Indian tourers, a young lady that traveled from Mumbai to Pune by herself, that seemed to me like a lifestyle trip rather than one of urgent commute of a frequent flier like me, boarded the bus. And I did enjoy the busy crowd, enjoyed the cleanliness of a “restroom” right across the high-way. I have a story to share about the proclivity to call such places a rest room and what kind of danger that one may be led to in India, towards where it would belong in this write-up.

The restroom charged me just one INR, was clean to the standard of the international community, don’t ask me to elaborate. And that, to the added bonus of not worrying about the valuables I left in the tour operators office, which is a 3 m X 3m cabin opening right to the pavement besides the highway.

I had for the first time experienced how far Mumbai can extend when the Mumbai highway gradually gave in to the Mumbai-Pune express highway. I did take some pictures but realized my camera is out of battery, what a lack of preparation, but I was definitely not going into the pain of uploading all these pictures to the cyber-space community, hence I desisted from calling myself a sloppy insensitive travel tyrant.

And in the same spirit I enjoyed next 3 hours of drive in the beautifully created express highway. It can only match to the best in the world and never in between I saw an area that would be deserted from city-scape. such a large patch of terrain is all well-developed in the standard of the world which only reminded me of my numerous Road travels in the United States of America. I am being formal here about the name of that country because I am too tired of calling it names or looking for a non-existent jargon.

The shuttle stopped in its designated rest area developed by the same company that runs the bus. so my secret desires for the bus to stop at a few McDonald exits that existed along the path was a shocker. I did not have anything to complaint though. I purchased a Chinese noodles [Trying not to mention the name here, Shinzuan or something !]

Worried by the prospect of next commuting means I was waiting to get to the Inter University Center of Astrophysics and Astronomy. Fortunately enough the shuttle had a choice of stopping at a place quite near to where my destination would be. Right by then a young fella boarded the shuttle and chose to sat near me.

I was sitting at the front and this was in exchange for my sit which was carefully chosen in the 30% from the front, to the right, to the window. My sit of choice was in the back therefore, but two ladies [seemingly a mother-daughter combination, I am not to forget, my Indian eyes] were occupying that.

I politely asked if they can have me sit in their place, I would be kind enough to have them sit in mine. The old lady said they don’t know if they have a reservation against the sit number so I retorted that would be a bit risky for me as someone else whose sit I would be occupying may wanna replace me. So she pulls out her ticket and I saw A,B written on it so I happily moved to A.

My original sit was M. So now this guy that boarded chose to sit in B. After a while we got talking and I found out about him. He was an employee in one of the big names in Indian software industry and said he has been living in Pune for the last 4 years. Later he offered me his mobile number and said I could call him in case of any help I may need since he has been quite somebody here. I found out that in this 4 years of earning he has bought for himself a nice apartment as well as a nice car.

He wanted to know about me and I told him that I am a scientist. He became very glad to have met one. He asked me what exactly I am doing and where I am working etc. So I told him that I am visiting the astrophysics institute by a prior arrangement to learn something about their research activities such as the gravitational wave detection. I explained him later exactly how.

I told that I am visiting a place here and a place there and for the first time India is having its big experiments in Particle Physics and I am going to take up responsibilities in this experiment. He wanted to know what kind of research I do and it turned out that he was quite capable in understanding what exactly I was doing. I explained him all the technical detail of my previous experiment.

He understood it more clearly when I explained him about the Large Hadron Collider machine in Geneva. He wanted to know the details about neutrinos, what they are and why we want to measure them. So in the half an hour chat we had, I gave him a totally succinct description about what its all about.

He got off at Wakhad and I waited for my bus to reach Aundh. I kept on reminding the care-taker of the shuttle to inform me at Aundh and that I have stuff in the storage in the shuttle. I just wanted to make sure in my mind not to lose my stuff because as soon as I get off, the bus starts moving. Happens yaar.

I got off at Aundh. The friend I met in the bus told me it would be better to take an auto-rickshaw instead of a cab, as the distance is not quite far. He informed me though, that the auto might charge me 2 or 3 times more than usual, because its late.

It was midnight, the folks got hold of me no sooner than I pressed my foot in the ground. They were asking for Rs 150 for the auto. I started from Rs 120 and we settled at Rs 140. We reached the campus of Pune University in 20/25 minutes. The guards that were standing there were closing the gate and said so.

I said “I am a scientist, [OK]” [he probably thought I am a young hook] and he was quick enough to allow me to go in. The young chap that was sitting besides me to help the driver of the Auto wanted to know “What a scientist is” so I said something that I quite don’t remember, you know, like a kinky laugh or something. So they wanted to know what salary I draw etc. I said the salary is not high but we get to live in kinky apartments.

[read swashbuckling or something. well if that doesn’t make sense read a reasonably well maintained housing which is not in the reach of the average guy].

So we cruised through the dark campus of Pune University, without any respect for the wavy speed-breakers. I was a little worried about the laptops I was carrying in my bag, but it was alright.

Fortunately enough when I reached the Aundh stop the auto-driver guy recognized the place called AyuKa [IUCAA]. Astrophysics Institute was a shocker. [My jargons don’t always work so I usually keep 3/4 words handy] Now our job was to locate the guest house. We pulled in-front of a place yelling Guest House.

It was pouring a little by now and not very well lit inside the campus. I asked them to wait for me outside [with all my stuff in the auto] and walked inside, a minutes walk from the entrance of the guest house. I didn’t see anybody at the reception and made a few strolls inside. Somebody came down the stairs and was helpful in resolving the situation.

He thought the receptionist should be here by now although didn’t doubt about the efficacy of the system of the guest house. [poorly managed is the word he used, pretty nice chap, in trying to find a way out] The guard that was there was pretty dumb-witted as it was clear.

Anyway after a while another chap came in and said he is from the Nagpur University, this is probably not the place we are looking for, that is, this is not AyuKa guest house. So he advised me to get my stuff and somehow I can be arranged to stay put till the morning. But now that I was sure this is not the place I left the place and asked the auto-wala to hang on till we find the right place.

I asked him to drive a little slow so we can read carefully. The place indeed said “SET guest house” The next place in que for a check was the Vice Chancellor’s lodge. We pulled in there. The guard in-front said that that’s not the place we are looking for. So we kept on through a street which was closed by a barricade. We passed through that place and continued.

It was anyway looking like a very deserted place and quite dark. The iron gate that was closing the few houses there was closed and we saw a guy leaving in his bicycle. We yelled at him, he responded but didn’t return. We yelled again. The guard that was manning the area came towards us and gave us the direction to the IUCAA guest house.

So the driver/auto-wala pulled his auto again, but had a problem in starting the auto. The chap that was sitting helped him and we were on our way again. We stopped right in front of the IUCAA institute. The guard manning there came and said this is the place. I went inside the place and found from the well-maintained guest-house that I have a reservation. A chap sitting there accompanied me back to the auto and carried my heavy stuff back to the guest house. I was relieved to carry only the lighter ones.

The auto-wala asked me to pay him Rs 200. I said “What do you think we earn? You think Rs 200 is a joke? I wanted to pay you only Rs 120 because its late, your charge is only Rs 60. Now that we had to make a little effort you want Rs200. Didn’t you say you knew IUCAA??” He grinned a little saying something like “empty empty” [his way of saying “khali pili ka”].

I knew I did the right payment. The guest room is a pretty well maintained place and finally I was relieved at the end of the trip.

Now think of the answer I am getting at “what did I do the last week?” You think I am losing my qualification for the Professorship? I am not finished yet.

So here is what I did before I flew to Mumbai from Bhubaneswar, a 2 hrs air-journey, from where I took a 4.5 hrs shuttle trip and another hour auto-trip. I took a cab to reach Bhubaneswar from my home. And I had arrived my home just a couple days ago, back from Bhubaneswar, by a 2 hrs drive. My brothers gave me that ride as a welcome I often demand from my family. I flew from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar via Hyderabad, which this time was a 4 hrs air-journey given that it makes a stop at Hyderabad but you don’t need to change the plane.

[The plane makes a loop. It flies from Delhi, goes to Mumbai, goes to Hyderabad, goes to Bhubaneswar and then goes back to Delhi]

Its not easy going back in time, is it? I had arrived in Mumbai only 4 days ago, via Hyderabad from Bhubaneswar where I had reached by driving myself. In Mumbai where I again lived in the guest house because I had arrangements to learn about a possible position with the Texas University, College Station and Tata Institute, Mumbai. This was a pleasant stay.

As purposeful as it was, it was a good memory as well. I learned about the research activity of the whole group that I was possibly going to work with. From graduate students to Scientists to Engineers who have built important components of the experiment and people I know from the last decade, I met them all. I executed the official purpose with several rounds of discussion. This was a place I was visiting for the 3rd time so I didn’t really have a problem getting acquainted. Apart from the busy schedule I had I did throw myself to the guest room which had all the favorite TV shows I hoped to see. I did have nice meals in the cafeteria and canteens.

My friends visited me after a span of 10 years and even 15 years who are leading well established professional life. I made important friends who made my stay very pleasant, took me around Mumbai. I had a wonderful drinking and eat outs experience, in restaurants around the city, Suruchi, Shalimar [Try the Lolly-pop chicken fries] and Gokul. [I did smoke a bit] Apart from that I purchased beer from Antiquity in Malbar Hills to drink the night before my trip.

What did I do before that?

Also I promised you another story at the beginning of this blog.

Why you should not use the word rest-room in Indian airports:

well when I was flying from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar the last week, via hyderabad, at the Mumbai airport upon my arrival, after a 1.5 hrs commute from where I was staying in Tata Institute, I arrived at the airline counters. I was looking for rest-rooms.

So I asked one of the crew/staff/folks who move around so you can ask them for information, “where is the rest room??”. He said for that you have to go upstairs. Have your luggage checked in. I said can’t I take in the luggage to the rest-room?? He said “No you are not allowed”. So I said, “OK, I have very small cabin bags and not much heavy luggage, what if someone is carrying heavy luggage, he has to go the rest-room only after checking everything in?”

Clearly thinking what a bizarre situation [or compelling?] that would be, if you know what I mean, if you know what I mean by a rest-room and why we need one. So I tried to preach him “Bad, Very bad, Very very bad” added to emphasize. He just didn’t know what to say and left.

I took left to take the stairs and see the ladies toilets [rest-rooms] where you can clearly take your luggage. Why then, is a gaint’s toilet up the stairs. So I reached upstairs and there is this very well-maintained clean place looking like a restaurant or something. So I asked another crew where are the rest room? She pointed me inside this beautiful place. I grew more suspicious and went in.

I again asked where are the restrooms, well go in and take left. I did what I was looking to do. And came back and enjoyed the very well maintained restaurant-lounge. After a while I realized this was the Jet-Airways Lounge and then I knew why the original crew told me why I should first check-in my bags before I go to the rest-room.

God, do you have a story like this? I arrived my intended destination because my mind worked in time.

One thought

  1. Sanjay said…

    Like the restroom story
    July 2, 2010 9:18 AM

    Think spot of M. Dash said…

    I think this is a very long blog and see it follows a restroom story. But the events happen in a sequence that makes it fun…
    July 24, 2010 11:50 AM


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