Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Destination Salem

After San Francisco my next stop was Singapore. I boarded the Singapore airlines flight Sq001 at 00:05 hours to Singapore from SFO. It was a full flight and I ended up sitting at the rear end of the flight. It was the longest flight I have ever been on it took 14hrs and 50 min to reach Hong Kong where it stopped for a hour and a half, which gave enough time for me to grab a “short” café latte. After 3 and a half hours of flying the flight finally landed in Singapore. The Changi Airport is arguably the best airport for transit. It has everything that a passenger in transit would want. I found a nice place to have a welcome shower ($1.60 US) and stowed away my carry on luggage in a locker. I then went on a 2 hour colonial tour of Singapore. I would strongly recommend anyone with more than 6 hours of transit in Singapore to take one of the tours (colonial or cultural). The colonial tour takes you around the colonial Singapore and also has a ferry ride along the Esplanade theatre (whose architect also happens to be an Indian). On the trip I learnt a lot about the history of Singapore (including the foundation of the INA). I also learnt that the first president of Singapore was of Indian origin and the sixth and current president of Singapore is also Indian. I did not find the 8 hour transit tiring at all because of all this and boarded the flight to India in the best of my spirits.
I slept through most of the flight and woke up when the flight was about to land in Chennai. Chennai from the air, especially at night is a sight to see. My aunts were waiting anxiously for me to come out of the airport and were relieved to see me coming out unscathed. I stayed for two days in Chennai and left for my place of birth…


I set out with my two of my aunts and and an uncle to the city of steel and mangoes. It took us 8 hours to reach there as the roads were completely devastated because of the cyclonic rains. We were terribly exhausted when we reached there. It was the night of the 21st and the children from the village had gathered around to practice dancing and singing for my grandmothers 80th birthday celebrations. Celebration was in the air… we were all dancing and singing for the next three days as we celebrated my grandmother’s birthday in grand style. Almost the whole family had gathered around for this wonderful occasion. I had never seen my grandmother happier. After the celebrations things started to calm down a bit and I had my private time with all my aunts, uncles and relatives. I went to Yercaud and had molaga bajji and keera bonda my favorites and played volleyball with my cousins. The best part of my stay in Salem was getting back with my sweet dogs… Geno, Choco and Candy.
Geno is the fawn colored Labrador his son Choco is the chocolate colored dog and Candy is the Dalmatian. I took a lot of pictures of my favorite dogs. Choco was 3 months old when I left him. He is a well trained dog and can do a number of tricks, he won awards in numerous dog shows and Candy recently won the award for the best breed. We have always had dogs at home and life around dogs is always exciting…
I am getting nostalgic now… I will let you all drool over these beautiful dogs while I retreat into my dreamland.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Travelogue: SFO and Narayan Venkat

San Francisco, Singapore, Chennai, Salem, Tokyo...these are the cities I visited from December 10- January 8. I am finally in my small cozy room in Washington DC reflecting at the incredible journey I have been through the last few weeks. Each city I visited was unique and wonderful in its own way. I will try and share my incredible experience with all of you over the next few days.
December 10-14 San Francisco
My journey started at 10:30 AM on the 10th of December when I boarded an ATA flight to SFO via Chicago. I reached SFO at 5:30PM and took an immediate liking to the city. I took a cab to The Handlery where my other two lab mates were waiting for me. After 40 minutes and 40 dollars I was finally there at The Handlery at Union Square. The hotel was decent and the room was just right for three people. I had a quick shower and immediately hit the road where I set sight on a beautiful Christmas tree. It was a huge tree with spectacular lighting in the middle of Union Square right next to a beautiful pillar with a statue of Neptune on top. I sucked in the sight and got back to the hotel and slept peacefully till 4AM. I woke up with a start at 4AM and started going about my morning business till someone shouted at me “GET BACK TO BED ITS ONLY 4AM!” I lay in wait for my roommates to finally wake up which they did after an agonizingly long time at 7AM. I then got ready quickly and went to the Moscone center where the 45th annual cell biology meetings were underway. That was the end of all the sight seeing right there for I never left the Moscone center the next four days. I was dazed looking at the hundreds of posters and dozens of minisymposiums that were presented each day. I presented my poster on the 14th and got to meet a bunch of amazing researchers who had one interesting suggestion after another. I was astounded at the response to my work and felt really relieved that I didn’t bomb at the meetings. The meetings gave me a lot to ponder about and gave me a chance to meet some wonderful people from all parts of the world.
Rendezvous with Narayanan Venkat, Jagan and TJ Swami
On my way back to DC Mr. Narayan Venkat came to meet me at the SFO airport. He came to meet me despite having problems with one of his legs. I was really touched by this gesture and will never forget his magnanimity and kindness. He is a very friendly man and looks exactly like he does in his profile picture. He had trouble recognizing me at the airport because he had no idea about how I looked. There was a sign of shock in his eyes when I waved to him, he sure must have cursed his luck:P. I thoroughly enjoyed his company and he has a good sense of humor. He took met to Jagans place where I had a wonderful shower and then the two of us along with TJ Swami went to the Saravana Bhavan in SFO. We had a wonderful time there talking about our love for life and the love of our lives!Mr. Venkat wanted to take a picture of the three of us but luckily his camera ran out of batteries and saved my identity from being revealed. Mr. Venkat dropped me and TJ back to the airport where we spent an hour yapping away and finally parted to head towards different terminals to catch our respective flights.