Friday, October 30, 2009

***Balloon Fighting***

While I rummage into my cupboard trying to find a missing scrap of cloth for my latest patchwork bag, I stumble upon a dusty bag. When I open it I find it having some balloons; the balloons so old that some of them were fully stuck to each other and some others were stuck to the polythene bag. Mind you! All of them were unblown balloons looking so limp and frail with no air! Why not get them pumped up?

I start blowing balloons and tying them up. A couple of them burst on my face due to lack of elasticity… or did I blow too much of air into them? ;-)

While the number of fully-pumped balloons increase, my eyes fall on my sisters who are busily doing their tasks… I catch hold of a balloon and aim it on them. Thump! Thump! Thump! A shower of balloons hit them gently and they pick them back and aim at me. Thus starts our balloon fighting… it’s so much fun; more so, because the balloons are very light, so they can not travel long distances… We duck and bend and aim back… a good exercise after a whole day of sitting at the computer!

We recollect our childhood days when we would play outside our house for long hours and return home with more energy and fresh mind. That’s what is lacking with us now. Wish we all could go out for a long vacation and re-live those childhood days. Are you both ready for it, Gangs and Yams? :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


It’s been more than three weeks since my return, but it’s better late than never to recall my impressions of the place...

Day-1: Sunday

  • Realized that Extended-Stay America was much better than Premier-Inn. Missing Vikranth!
  • Telephone calls are expensive… 5GBP gone in one call to Siva and one call to Vikram (Appa’s phone was busy). I must have spoken for hardly 5 minutes.
  • Walking to Sainsbury from hotel was eerie. Almost lost my way and the Alleyway was too dangerous. I could easily get mugged by a bunch of cyclists! Cannot travel to office on foot even though the office was less than half a kilometer away.
  • Eatables are reasonably priced; got close to 8 apples, 10 huge carrots and one enormous loaf of bread for 3GBP. Luckily no extra service charges.
  • Not much to see… No great architecture to watch… no trees blooming… it’s just plain… hasn’t rained yet… But threatening to! The sky may fascinate me!
  • TV dint work initially… no video, no sound… then noticed that it was in AV mode. Fell asleep watching FRIENDS. Dint sleep properly… woke up many times during night to check the time..
  • The bed was too inviting… feather soft pillows and cozy duvet… yet sweated many times in the night… no dreams!

Day-2: Monday

  • First Day in STAR
  • ---- Forgot my watch. Reached office by 8:10AM
  • ---- Forgot to cut my nails. Yuck!
  • ---- Realized Shift+3 does not give a #. So, could not log into my own Sierra Mail-ID. The keyboard itself is so different :(
  • ---- Got my laptop! :)
  • ---- Everyone ends their conversation with ‘Cheers!’
  • ---- Found a new friend Adam here. We go out everyday to Sainsbury Super Market during lunch time just for a stroll. That’s the only time that I get to talk with someone unofficially.
  • Got a cheering-up mail from Jayne inviting me to her place and tempting me with an invitation to Autumn Festival in Bishop’s Castle. I would also have a chance to get acquainted with a French student who is staying with them.
  • As the cab I had asked for left after waiting for me for more than an hour, I was forced to take the Sainsbury route back to hotel! Very scary! Almost ran half the distance! :(
Day-3: Tuesday
  • Thought of going to office on foot, but eventually took a cab. Cab fellow was very friendly; he explained me the route so that I could walk back to the hotel in the evening
  • House-keeping is real good in the hotel… The person who tidied up the bed for me, had even positioned the pillows in the way I liked them to be! :)
  • Weather was very pleasant. I was in a mood to take pics. Took my cam out and shot a couple of pics of the hotel and the surrounding places. I saw a green apple tree in full bloom.
  • Tried making some coffee with the coffee maker in the room.
  • Found out about internet cards: one hour costs 3GBP. Such a shame!
Day-4: Wednesday
  • Walked to office! :)
  • The vehicles on the road are too fast and I had to cross a hude junction where around 5 to 6 roads converged! Phew!
  • Office work is cool! Weather also is chill!
  • Jayne said she would pick me up from my hotel on Friday evening by around 6PM.
  • Felt very homesick… no one to talk to… no phone.. no net connection! Dint even feel like opening the laptop!
  • Indulged in watching TV all through the evening and till late night. The same two episodes of FRIENDS are broadcast in three different channels during different timings and I watched the same two episodes thrice… imagine how bored to death I must have been!
Day-5: Thursday
  • With the week almost coming to an end, I was eagerly waiting for my return date and also to meet Jayne.
  • By evening I got to know that the assignment will not get extended by another week… had to make the most of the one weekend in England! :)
  • After going back to hotel, I packed up most of my things… put my hand luggage case into the bigger check-in baggage, as there were any things to fill the cases.
  • Slept in anticipation of meeting Jayne and her family! :)
Day-6: Friday
  • The last day to UK office… filled with sweet pleasant memories of Rhett and Adam and their warm friendly attitude to a stranger like me.
  • Adam even took me into the Gloucester town when he went for bank work. We got some coffee back from a shop there… I takes butter cookies… they are very soft and sweet and yummy! :)
  • Ate too much and to the extent that I started feeling sick!
  • Rushed back home (nice way to call a hotel room)… packed all the remaining stuff and watched TV while waiting for Jayne.
  • Met Jayne and the first words from her were: “I must ask you if you are Arathi, before I end up hugging someone else!” :) Such a warm and lovely person…. Who could make me feel at ease in the alien country. Judith was also along with her…
  • Checked out of the hotel and into her car. A long ride to her home through countryside! Loved it! :)
  • Her home is amazing… an old grandfather clock… A wooden staircase leading to bedrooms that had a glass on the roof to get in the moonlight… Living room with a fireplace… lots of books… lots of toys… homely kitchen… the best of all, her two children, Jamie and Tommy… I love the way Jamie speaks and Tommy is all gol-gol like a laddu. I love to carry him around… Tony is a comparatively reserved person… but I loved his calm and soothing manner of speaking…
  • I slept in Jamie’s room.. I remember Jayne’s words before I went to bed… She hugged me and said, “You are in safe hands… Sleep peacefully… And give us a shout in case you need anything…” :)
  • Slept like a log!
Day-7: Saturday
  • Woke up very late (10:00AM)! Felt awkward to get down so late… L Yet everyone made me feel homely.
  • Had milk and bread for breakfast. Had bread with homemade honey. The honey was white in color. Why? In tony’s own words: “'The colour of the honey depends on what pollens the bees take in. This honey seems to be developed from the nectar of oilseed and hence it is crystalline in nature. It hardens fast!” They even sent a bottle of the honey to Amma-Appa.
  • Helped a little in cooking and then dressed up like a farmer… :) wore knee-high boots where the pyjama was stuffed inside the hose of the boots… I forget what such footwear is called! We traveled in a land-rover! :)
  • Then I was out chasing calves in the farm…! I was supposed to chase them, but when a cow started running towards us, I became very frightened! Why did the pregnant cow come near us? In Howard’s words: “She thinks that the calf is hers and because we are taking away the calf, she’s running towards us!”
  • The cows were black and white and so were the calves. I even went to the place where they milk the cows. All the cows stand in a ling with their backs facing a tunnel. We stand in the tunnel (that is at a lower level than the ones the cows are standing. So we may be covered by their shit if we are unlucky!) and connect the cows udder to some tubes that collect milk and store them. The machine is programmed to create a vacuum initially to suck the udder so that milk start flowing into the tubes. Once the milk start flowing, the suction stops and the tubes keep collecting milk. If there is no milk for from the tube for more than a minute or so, then automatically the tubes get released from the udder. Depending upon the quantity of milk the cows give, the fodder is calculated and placed in the trough in front of the cow.
  • How do the calves get fed? The place, where the calves were kept, was a cute little place. As soon as we entered all the calves started mooing. The male calves are kept separate from the female calves. Each calf is given a bucket of milk and the calves learn to lap up the milk from the bucket. How do we teach them to drink? We place a bucket of milk in front of the calf… we put two fingers into the bucket of milk and then move the fingers towards the calf’s mouth… and repeat it over and over again till the calf bends on its own and starts lapping up milk from the bucket. Jayne and Appa were too much interested in making me do this exercise; however I cleverly escaped it! :) Why is it so difficult to teach the calf? Good question! Unlike human beings, calves are born with teeth… hence, there is always a fear that they bite our fingers off while we train them! :)
  • Took a shower in a bathroom overlooking a bunch of sunflower plants in full bloom! Loved it! :)
  • We went to the Bishop’s castle fair with Jayne and kids… Loved the long walk from the place where we parked the car to the fair! The path was covered with lots of greenery and we passed a lot of beautiful houses :) A lot of antique steam engines and steam road rollers were whistling a welcome for me! Saw a caravan and an organ :)
  • Witnessed a performance by an old man who had all the musical instruments strapped to his body and he sang while playing all of them…. Everything in perfect melody!
  • In the evening, saw a lantern procession that was lead by the Scottish bagpiper with its melodious music.
  • Tony brought all of us some cool drinks…Sat down on the pavement while sipping lemonade… :)
  • Wondered if time could stand still for me! :)
Day-8: Sunday
  • Packup time! Tony and Jayne presented (wedding gift) me with an Alligator; not the real one! J It’s a vegetable chopper. That should help me impress my mother-in-law! (In case she’s not already impressed!) :)
  • I wish I could spend some more days with them in the calm and peaceful atmosphere of the countryside! :(
  • Tony and Jayne packed up so many gifts for my family; I felt a little sad that I could not get many more gifts for them! Next time I can send something to UK, I am sure to send a box of Tamarind for Jayne!
  • Started after breakfast for a long journey to the airport… Jayne accompanied me… We traveled through long winding roads and had glimpses of chapel towers and castles that we on the way! What an amazing landscape! Wish I could capture all that in my small little camera!
  • She came with me into the airport… we checked-in my luggage and then sat at the coffee shop munching sandwiches and chatting about this and that! Gave a long farewell hug to her! We meet so many people; but some of them touch our hearts… Jayne is one of them! Sometimes I feel: Why do we need to part ways with our closed ones? I guess the answer would be: “… so that we can meet them again!” :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009


We both are late. We stand in the long winding queue at the ticket counter. Luckily for us, we got seats in the bus. We both drag our heavy luggage into the bus and try to find a better seat to sit. The bus has 3-seaters on right and 2-seaters on the left. There are no vacant rows in the 2-seaters. Hence, we take our seats in a 3-seater row. He sits at the window and I place my heavy bag to the seat next to him. I squeeze into the aisle seat. While we are wondering whether we will reach our destination in time, a middle-aged person (from now on, we will call him MAP, short for Middle-Aged Person) interrupts us.

“Could I sit here please?” he asks, pointing to the seat that is occupied by my fully-stuffed black bag. I look around the bus to see if there are any vacant seats available so as to be able to shoo away this guy. But no, there ain’t any! I get up to lift the bag and place it onto the passage between the seats. This MAP sits beside me. The conductor shouts as the baggage is obstructing the passage. While I struggle to lift the bag to place it on my lap, the MAP comes to my rescue by placing it on his lap. I smile back a ‘thanks’ to him.

My friend and I exchange looks. He whispers into my ear, “May be he’s interested in you!” “No way!” I shout back frowning. My friend takes out two buns that he bought at the bus station and we both start munching. He even offers one to the MAP. We observe the MAP appraising us.

“Where are you traveling to?” MAP asks me.



“Got to catch a train at 8”

“No problem. The bus stop is not that far to the station”

A thought occurs to me. As my friend and I do not know the city, if I continue to chat with this MAP for some more time; we are bound to extract more information from him. MAP and I chat along, while my friend gives me those teasing looks.

“Do you think w will reach in time?” I ask.

“Of course!”

“What is the best way to go to railway station?”

“No problem. You will find plenty of autos,” he replies and pointing to the luggage is says, “There is more luggage, so it is better to take an auto.”

While I was gathering all these details, even my friend starts talking with MAP. “How do we go to airport from the bus station?” he enquires. Now the MAP looks a little confused. However, he responds, “The airport is out of the city… around 20kms or so. You can go by auto.”

When the bus reaches Coimbatore, we got down. The MAP helps us carry our luggage and comes all the way till the auto-stand to see us off.

“So, where have you decided to go?” he asks. And looking at our confused looks, he adds, “railway station? Or Airport?”

“Both,” I reply, “He will drop me at the railway station and go to the airport.”

The reply seems to have shocked him.

He looks stunned and that is when realization dawns on us. All the while, he must have thought that we both were eloping! More so, because of us being at marriageable age, but not married yet, having so much baggage for traveling, eating cream-buns in buses and asking for others for directions! We both clutch our tummies laughing and it was now the turn of the auto driver to give confused looks at us! J