15 April 2019

The second one outlived the first one!

In the 26 years that I have been in this country, I have owned two cars. The first one – the car I really loved – was my trusted Honda Civic. It lasted me nearly 11 years. I used it a lot. And abused it a lot more. In the end, most of the electronics had quit on me, the driver side window could not be lowered and in an incline, after coming to a full stop, it would inexplicably start rolling. I would have to furiously pump the brake pedal a few times to get it to stop and then it would start rolling off again. Which was not an issue in Dallas with all the flat lands. But in Atlanta, that was a serious problem.

The new company that I had joined in Atlanta spend more money moving it to Atlanta than the car itself was worth. The best part during the move was looking at the pockmarked diagram the mover had drawn (it had so many hail damages that I never bothered to fix and he was not in a hurry to take any blame) – it was worse than a kid’s face afflicted with chicken pox! Well, Sharmila forced me to give up on that car due to safety reasons. It was a few miles before 160,000 miles and I never got to reach it.

Now, my second car has successfully reached that milestone. This one is 12 years old now and is getting long in the tooth too. The company stopped making this model a few years back. To give you an idea how old it is … it has a CD drive and no USB ports! Which, along with a lot of the on-board electronics, quit working some time back. The tire pressure gives false readings all the time – especially when it gets cold. But the most infuriating part is that the cigarette lighter does not work. In case you were wondering… it is my ability to charge my phone that has gone up in smoke!

All the same, it has done the job of taking me from Point A to Point B for twelve years. Sometimes with panache and sometimes reluctantly. But the driver side window still works and it reached this morning that coveted 160,000 mile mark!!

[No comments on me taking pictures while driving at 20 mph, please 🙂 🙂 ]

12 April 2019

My first friend from Kazakhstan

“Where are you from, Leo?”
There was no way Leo was going to escape my usual question with which I commence my conversations with every Lyft driver after getting into the car.
“Really? You are the first person I know from Kazakhstan. The only thing I know about your country is your capital – Astana”.
“Well, it has a new name now – Nur-Sultan. But how do you know the name of the capital?”

I proceeded to explain to Leo how during Roger’s and my trip to Mongolia, on our way back we got stuck for 13 hours in UlanBator due to a massive sandstorm. The plane to take us to Kyrgyzstan could not reach us till the sandstorm had subsided. One of the gentlemen who also got stuck with us was a mining consultant and he was headed to Astana. He told us about the city.

“When did you last go to your country of origin?”
“Two years back”, Leo replied
“How would you describe your capital?”
“Have you been to Dubai?”
“Yes”, I replied.
“Well think of Dubai at a much smaller scale. And then put it in the middle of Kansas!”
That was a somewhat funny but fairly effective way of creating a picture in my mind.

“So, what do you want to be when you grow up?”, I asked Leo who was in his mid-twenties.
“Photographer”, he said.

During the rest of the trip Leo told me about how passionate he is about photography. We exchanged a lot of notes on Nikon camera bodies and lenses. He has moved on to Sony now. We also talked about the pros and cons of going mirror-less now as opposed to waiting for a few years.

“When did you know you had a passion for photography?”
“When I had a near death experience”.
Well, that was not what I was expecting.
“Tell me more”.

I learnt that during one of his trips in Kazakhstan, he was traveling in one of the local transport vans. It was an old Russian Gazel. I remember seeing a few of them in Mongolia. Leo was sitting in the front and of course, there were no seat belts and all that. They soon met with a head on collision. Two passengers died instantly, one is paralyzed and one is still recovering. Amazingly, Leo walked away with minor injuries.

However, as he described, his first instinct in those few dazed moments after the accident was to take pictures of the vehicle. That was an instinctive reaction and there was no good reason for it. Much later, when he reflected on the accident and the aftermath, he realized that his inner instinct is to capture moments thru the lens of a camera.

Four days later, he flew back to USA and started his journey in photography.

“What if you cannot build a career in photography?”, I challenged him.
“Well, I am going to keep trying. And if nothing works out, there are so many ways to make money. Perhaps I will go back to school and learn about IT”.

“That is the spirit! This is what I tell my daughters too. They need to do what they are passionate about. Everything else will follow from that. I am sure you will be a world class photographer”.

We had reached my hotel. I got down and he showed me pictures of the mangled van and some of the photos he has taken with his cameras. He loves high speed car racing pictures but some of the near-macro stills (bokeh style) were outstanding.

He took a selfie of us and sent it to me. We became Facebook friends and decided to stay in touch!

My Kazakhstan friend count has jumped by 1 (admittedly from 0)
But my inspiration to follow my passion has increased manifold!

20 March 2019

Guess who I ran into?

It was the second day of the conference I was attending in Orlando. I knew I was in a conference since my pedometer was clocking 20,000 steps every day. (Well, either that or New York city).

In any case, I was milling thru the booths in the exhibition floor talking to the companies that had come there when I suddenly heard my name being yelled out from behind. Now, as a background, I joined a new job six months back and this is a completely new industry for me. There is nobody from my past that I can think of that is now in the same industry that I would expect to run into in a conference.

But there was Arthur Altman! Thanks to Facebook, he had recognized me straightaway. Then again, there was not another shaved head Indian in the whole conference either.

Fancy meeting Arthur in Orlando! We got to know each other i2! That was in 1995 in Dallas. We worked together for a few years – even had a common boss for some time and then split in the early 2000s. The last time I saw Arthur was about 15 years back or so.

After that, it has been those annual chats during my birthday calls. And then finally, yesterday I ran into him!!

We caught up over drinks about our old company, some of our old friends from work as well as his family.

Arthur still is – as he always was – bubbling with energy, full of ideas and always quick on the draw. It is like nothing has changed at all. Well, the beard has decidedly grown longer. There is always that 🙂

22 February 2019

Going with the “flow”

Three years back Sharmila and I looked at the option of moving to the NorthWest. Portland and Seattle areas are what we evaluated. We concluded that it was too cloudy, foggy and rainy for us.

Boy, did we dodge a bullet!

If we had moved, we would have missed these three years of cloudier, foggier and rainier weather in Atlanta!

(BTW, as a matter of fact, Atlanta gets nearly twice the amount of rain as Seattle)