Wednesday, July 25, 2007

All in a day's work

I am going to India! What does that entail in the light of the good difference in price in India and the Americas for electronic goods? Yes, shopping time. Then came the damping truth - Canada is quite expensive when compared to the US for electronic stuff. My list included a laptop and 2 cameras for my father and my sister. And the cost difference between USA and Canada did warrant a trip to Seattle, the closest US city to Vancouver, Canada - just 2.5 hours if you disregard the wait at the border. Plus my friends in Microsoft made the deal even sweeter for the laptop with a 12% discount for Microsoft employee purchases of Dell laptops. So the decision was made - I would get it all through Dell through Microsoft. The problem with Dell laptops is that they are built on demand - you specify a configuration and they build it and ship it. The problem being the length of time from when you confirm your configuration to when it gets delivered - this can be excerberated if you decide to go with a Dell laptop about 3 weeks before your trip to India. So I had to pay $70 extra just to get it delivered 5 days before the usual delivery date after shipping - even then I had been pushing it because as per schedule it was supposed to get delivered in Seattle the day that my flight left to India from Vancouver. But the Dell people factor in test failures in their shipping estimate - and so the laptop got delivered a week before the day of scheduled delivery - my friend keeps reminding me the $70 I could have saved - he converts it into Indian rupees to just make me feel worse. Well anyway 10 days before my flight to India, the laptops and the cameras where in the hands of my two generous friends who ordered them for me.

So I booked a round trip ticket - Vancouver-Seattle-Vancouver - departing at 6AM from Vancouver and 7:30PM from Seattle the same day.

The day before the bus trip - I realize - one of my many late realizations - that there are no buses from the university to the boarding point of the bus at 6AM. So I had two options - cycle 10.4 km at around 4:30AM to get to one of the closer boarding points - or take the last bus from the university - at 2:40AM to Downtown and sleep on the street till 6AM. I took option two - firstly because I really didn't know where I could put the cycle at the other boarding point (also I had threats from my roomie, whose the cycle is) and secondly because I was worried the bus wouldn't stop at one of the boarding points or not see me or something. So I slept around 2 hours, bathed shaved, had the earliest breakfast I have ever had (in fact I don't think it qualifies as a break FAST) - at around 2:00AM and took the bus. The boarding point was in front of a Holiday Inn hotel - and I got there at 3AM. So I went in and asked about where the bus would be picking people up from, at the reception of the hotel and was fortunate enough to find a Punjabi called Rick doing the 11PM to 7AM night reception shift. He said I was welcome to use the lounge - and so I caught some shut eye. 6AM on the bus and 10:30AM I am in Seattle. I had been to Seattle just once before - and that was on my motorcycle - which I would have almost died for to have then.

The power of the Internet - First there is maps.google.com - I knew exactly where the shuttle would drop me off in Downtown Seattle and I also knew exactly where I should go from there to catch a bus to Microsoft, Redmond. The bus schedules I pulled off from the Seattle bus service website which I googled for.

I met up with friend number one at her home where I picked up the laptop. She kind of makes the 'power of the Internet' awesomeness moot as she told me where I could catch the bus from and even walked me part way to the bus stop. Then I was in Microsoft. Yes it is thrilling to be at the place which makes the software that is used by all those billions of people. What was surprising was the number of Indian people you could see on the roads on the campus. Every 5 minutes or so, when I looked at the road, I could see a salwar kameez. I am not kidding! I met up with my second friend there and he treated me to lunch and then gave me the 2 cameras. I religiously ripped off the packaging (Canada customs preparation - the story being - both the cameras and the laptop are/were for some time definitely greater than 5 hours mine - more details being I bought the Canon A560 because it was cheaper but then found that the Image Stabilization feature of the Canon A570IS was to die for and hence bought that recently. For the laptop, I had thoughts of even putting up a picture of myself as the wallpaper - but that was taking it to ridiculous extents.) On the way back, at the US-Canada border, I was asked if I had bought anything from the US and I said NO vehemently with the slight consolation that I hadn't bought the stuff, my friends had :-D.

And I was back in Vancouver around midnight feeling quite content - a good days work :-D

Monday, July 16, 2007

Sanyaasi

I was going on the bus today to downtown Vancouver. On the bus I was sitting on the right side next to the window and I was watching people waiting to get on at the next stop when I saw this woman. She had her hair cut short. I somehow like women with their hair short and so I took notice. But that wasn't all that had piqued my interest. She seemed to have this aura around her that I just found irresistible to ignore. She wasn't that pretty, had a weathered look but this aura made me smile just looking at her. I had had the same feeling when I had once looked into the face of a Tibetan monk dressed in the traditional red robe. They look so at peace and somehow very pleasant. You can feel it when you look into their faces. They have wide open faces which when I see makes me smile on impulse and given a chance, I would trust them with my life. That might sound adolescent but its the gut feeling that I get - an urge to trust completely. Of course all Tibetan monks needn't be saints, but most of them have this saintliness in their faces that is hard to describe. The same with this woman. The weathered un-aging face and the at-peace-with-the-world look about her.
So she is carrying this huge sleeping bag kind of thing and a backpack and then I notice that she is barefoot. She asks the driver if the bus goes where ever she wanted to go and then comes in without paying anything. I guess the driver kind of got the same feeling that I got. The same feeling of goodness and the sudden urge to let them take care of you or something. It is very weird. So she comes in and even though I am sitting in a corner, she looks at me and I can't help smiling. So she smiles back and then sits nearby. Then she goes back to the driver, pays her fare and starts talking to him. Something about how she had gone to Burma and how cold it is there. She asks something to the woman sitting next to her and in return, the woman asks her where she wants to go. She points in a direction and says that-a-way. My skeptical side comes to fore and tells me that she is just homeless. She looks totally free but with none of the aimlessness/lifelessness of the truly homeless. She was full of life.
I had sudden insane thoughts of just letting it all go and joining her wherever she was going. I had a gut feeling again that she would take me along with her. Forget about my degree, forget about making some money; just travel freely with just a good sturdy sleeping bag and feed on the good-naturedness of people on the way. I guess for that, you have to totally give up desire. The desire to see your parents, the desire to have children, the desire to own that spanky motorcyle, the desire for anything worldly or non-worldly and to live in the moment all the time. And be happy without the fulfillment or the expectation of the fulfillment of desire. Like a sanyaasi or a saint.