Non Resident Alien

This is a chronicle of my tragi-comic life as a foreigner in the United States. My official status when I started school in 2004, was that of a Non-Resident-Alien and that's where the title of the blog is from. My status has changed to Resident Alien since then. My personal experiences are a unique roller coaster mundane everyday experiences for locals, but unique from the eyes of a foreigner. I started this blog to share some of my experiences beginning my third year living in this country.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Life in Slow motion

Illness always puts things in perspective. I remember several years back a friend was sick for a couple of days and went into an introspective mode then and took him a while to get out of it and when he got out of it everything had changed about him even though he claimed nothing was different. Those of us, who knew him, knew he was a changed man. His perspective on everything from his career to relationships changed as a conequence of those two days. Last year being bed ridden for a month changed me. My parents had to do everything for me and I loved the attention of course, but it also gave me a chance to reflect on my life choices and where they had taken me. It came at a time I was questioning my ability to continue with my research and helped reaffirm my commitment to my course of study.
I am down with viral fever now and spent the day in bed yesterday. It’s not a life threatening illness, just a small bump, but I am back into the introspective mode. Life’s in slow motion today, not only due to the antibiotics, but also due to my mental state. I am walking slower, talking softer, and taking it all slow. I miss my family and friends and wonder what I am doing so far away from them. These are however consequences of choices I made several years ago. For now, I am convalescing, light headed in a physical sense but heavy with thinking about my choices that have lead me to where I am now. Some ignorance is indeed bliss. However, I do not regret any of my life choices.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Hancock (Spoiler Warning)

OK! So! I went to see this movie not knowing anything about it. Within the first three minutes I realized that it was a movie about a super hero. So far so good. I love men in spandex. The first half of the movie was marvellous. There was some comedy, lots of action and the promise of more to come. Just as I was getting warmed up to the idea of Hancock and a super hero gal as well the movie was over. My popcorn tub was not even half way through, and Cici and I were even sharing a small tub. What a great disappointment! We were stunned at the abrupt ending. I thought there would be a story behind the Eagle emblem, a story of past adventures, in short more story. All that being said, Will Smith was superb as the super hero with an attitude. Jason Bateman of course was good. I see this as a wonderful opposite to the rock and roll loving, super casual Mark Loring in Juno. The visual effects were good, but the lack of a story was the biggest let-down. Leave the kids at home, the language is bad and yeah! its not worth the money you pay at the movies. Wait for the DVD release it will be more value for money and you would not have missed anything by waiting, just saved yourself some huge disappointment and a lot of wasted popcorn


When it rains...

it pours. Its been a hard downpour all morning and I had to wade through ankle deep water to get to work this morning. I do love the rain, but when rain water mixes with the drains and I have to walk through it its not a pleasant idea. Ideally, the way to spend a rainy day is curled up in a laz-boy next to a nice window facing the garden or/lawn with my favourite book (these days its Potter mania) with an endless supply of hot tea (Indian style) infused with ginger or tea spices and hot pakoras or samosas (Indian deep fried snacks). I did consider doing the least which was to curl up in bed with Potter, but then the rest of the amenities are not available in a dorm room and I need to finish work before I leave in a week. So, this first rainy day since my two months being here, I am at work wishing I was enjoying the rains.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Bomb Blasts in India

Yesterday there were about eight serial bomb blasts in Bangalore the IT City of India, where I have tons of friends and relatives. By God's grace they are all safe. This evening there were similar serial blasts in Ahmedabad, the city I am living in right now. I was out with friends this afternoon, but we all came back to campus by 6:00pm. The institute campus is safe for now. There was a time when my biggest fear living anywhere was of being harrassed by eve-teasers and road-side Romeos. India today seems like a much scarier place to live in. Last August, there were twin blasts and several casualties in my city Hyderabad two hours before my departure to the US after my summer break. There are so many bombs going off and so many people dying that there seems to be no place safe and we all seem to have just started accepting this as a normal way of life rather than as out of the ordinary. Here is a three year blast chronology. Plainly shocking!! For now, all I can do is pray for the families of all those who have lost their lives and for those that are injured. Please join us in your prayers. 

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Friday, July 25, 2008

The Dark Knight (Spoiler Warning)

I looooooooove Christian Bale! Then again, who cannot love the buffed up adorable creature of the night and playboy by day! However, Heath Ledger stole the show as the joker in The Dark Knight. He was so thoroughly the psychotic character. The casting was superb. Aaron Eckhart delivered a superb performance which would have shined if Heath had not been the joker. I only missed Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes. Cillian Murphy and Morgan Freeman did not have heavier roles in this movie, but the cast was simply brilliant. Every single person delivered wonderfully. What I liked best about the movie was that there was not one dull moment and I was constantly at the edge of my seat waiting for what would happen next. My personal favourite of all scenes was the action sequence orchestrated in the Hong Kong building. The clever planning behind it and the final airplane rescue added that additional flair and to the idea that Batman has no boundaries.
My second favourite was the cinematography especially in the scenes with Batman in the Bat-motorbike. I kept wondering how Batman would move with his Bat-Mobile destroyed and then there came this wonderful surprise. This new Batman series is so much better than the old Batman series with Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. Ledger makes Nicholson look like a buffoon in contrast, but then again for 1989, Nicholson was good I suppose. 
The show stealer for me was Heath Ledger followed by Aaron Eckhart and Christian Bale in the same order. Yeah! I love Chris Bale but I have to give credit where it is due, and in this movie Batman was not the biggest star. Go to the movies and help with the record setting performance of this movie. It is worth every penny you pay and some. Enjoy the visuals and the soundtrack. I am going back for seconds and more later. 


Monday, July 21, 2008

Delhi trip and Old buddies

I was in Delhi last week to attend seminars and talk to academics and policy makers. I also managed to find a couple of hours during my tight schedule to meet with my old college mates. It was such fun as we reminisced about old times and caught up with each others' lives and tried to believe the changes in our lives. We are all now grown up and pursuing careers. It was hard not to laugh at how confused and naive we used to be back in college. Nija and I were also hostel mates and so we had a special hostel bond in addition to the class bond. For some reason I keep thinking Tinu is a year ahead of us, and the two of them had a good time teasing me about my memory. I am still pretty convinced that Tinu was our senior. Well! I bought my new camera just before I met them and here are the memories!!

It is always nice to meet people who have known you when you were a gawky teenager without the graces of age (not that I think I am much different from before except about 40 pounds heavier) So! Now I know I have gained a lot of weight especially in the last few weeks in India. Sigh!

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I finally succumbed

After days without a camera, I finally succumbed to temptation and bought myself a new camera. It has fewer features than my old camera, is twice as expensive as a similar model if I had bought it in the US, but the basic laws of economics I really haven't paid a lot cause I ended up buying it, which implies that I valued owning the camera more than the price I paid for it. So! Here is what I bought! Its a Sony Cybershot. The advantages are that it is smaller than my previous camera and will fit into my pocket, so I am more likely to have it on me all the time, and hence more likely to take more pictures. It came with a 1GB card, so I can take a lot of pictures. It has macro mode, video facility and rechargeable batteries. What I have lost is my 10x optical zoom, 4GB capacity, regular view finder in addition to the LCD screen, and 180 rotating flip out screen.  The best part is that I now have a camera to take pictures with yei!!!


Thursday, July 10, 2008

The fragility of life

This morning we heard that one of our students' wife had taken critically ill during preparation for a routine medical procedure. She was declared dead and apparently for close to 45 minutes nothing was done to resuscitate her. It took another 45 minutes to move her to a bigger hospital with facilities to handle such emergencies. The result is that she is comatose, on life support in the ICU for over 24 hours now and no sign of progress. They were a fine happy family at 6:30pm and at 7:15pm she was declared dead. They have two little kids about 3 and 6 years old. My heart goes out to the whole family. Makes all of us take a step back and introspect on the purpose of our lives and what we do with it everyday. 
Indeed last year as well, I went through a similar introspective phase when I had to go through surgery myself. The neurosurgeon seemed really cool, but I was really tense. My biggest fear was not death (although that would have brought a lot of grief to my parents), but that something would go wrong with the procedure and I would either be paralyzed or brain damaged for life which would have been horrible for my parents. I am glad the anesthetist talked me through it and calmed me. 
Nothing is permanent in this life. the best we can do is to live everyday to its fullest and let our loved ones know we love them, cause you never know when all of it will be taken away from us. All of us here are praying for the students' family. His friends have really rallied around and are keeping vigil at the hospital in turns. She is still in the ICU and critical. Please pray with us for her and her family. 

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

RIP my dear dear Camera!

This morning I found out that my camera is busted. I think something is wrong with the lens, I do not know what. I can see only blurred black through the viewfinder (and no the lens cap is not on). I am very disappointed at this development cause I was planning a photoshoot day on campus and outside for next weekend and now I can't take any. My dear camera has served me loyally for four years now. In the very first week I owned it, a waiter dropped sugar syrup on it and since then the flash developed a mind of its own. We dropped it from a twenty feet high ride in Disney Land (Dec 2005) and that did not break its spirit. Since then I have been extra careful with it to not drop it or abuse it in any way. But I guess its age and early abuse caught up with it finally. I had planned to buy an SLR before my India trip this year, but it was too expensive and now I will spend the rest of my trip with no pictures and that is very sad. RIP my dear Powershot. You have served me well and I am sorry I unintentionally abused you. You will remain in my heart, my memories and in the pictures you took forever. 

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International Group and The Chocolate Factory

This morning my American friends invited me to brunch at The Chocolate Factory. They had become sick of toast and eggs for breakfast everyday and wanted some American Food for brunch today. The chocolate factory was promising because they had stuff such as crepes, pancakes and waffles in their menu. So, nine of us trooped into this cozy little place not too far from campus. The group was very international, Frederico and his wife Maria from Mexico, Alexandra and Morgan from France, John from Kenya (who studies in Geneva), and Cici (from Hawaii), Diana (from Virginia Beach) and Gary (I forgot to ask him) from the US. We had a blast ordering all kinds of fancy chocolatey drinks and food, which was served in fancy mugs and fancy plates with sauce garnished as if it was on Top Chef. My camera is busted (boo hoo), so I could not take it with me, but Cici took some good pictures and I will post them later. They even served one of our coffee drinks with a chocolate syrup smiley on top which we all thought was cute. I enjoyed the food and the conversations around the table. Of course as the single Indian in the group, my expertise on India was in demand and I had to show off, which I think I did quite successfully. :D To burn at least a few of the million calories we had consumed in less than two hours, I suggested we walk back to campus which we did. Good lazy start for a lazier sunday! 

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

Happy Birthday America

Here are the two wonderful cakes baked by Indian bakers for our Georgetown friends. I could not join the party due to reasons, but Cecilia took this wonderful picture. There was music, watermelon and this awesome cake all of which I missed. Count at the number of states the Indian bakers have given America!! I am not sure if Amerika is intentionally spelled wrong. Cecilia (the sweet thing) has saved me a piece of the cake which I will get to have sometime today!!

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Friday, July 04, 2008

Happy Fourth of July America

Over two and a quarter centuries old, Happy Independence day America. This is the fourth year in a row that I am missing Fire works on this Federal holiday. This year at least there is small consolation in that I am meeting up with a few students from Georgetown University (who are here on exchange) to celebrate the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. We hope to light some fireworks as well in the spirit of the holiday.