Saturday, December 31, 2011

Adios 2011

One of the most eventful years in my life comes to an end, and I'd like to share a famous quote here: “Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning, but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us.

Looking forward to what's in store for the new year!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Things NOT to do while in the USA

  • Not get your driver's license in India and depend on friends/colleagues for commuting and weekend trips.
  • Carry a driver's license which is in a non-English language or which looks more like an application form than like the license itself.
  • Not get ECNR (Emigration Check Not Required) stamp on the passport and put doubts in minds of the immigration officers whether you passed the 10th grade or not.
  • Get yourself screwed at the Customs counter and almost get deported.
  • Get caught for over-speeding.
  • Sleep in the back seat of the car.
  • Sleep in the front seat of the car.
  • Make random long-drive plans late in the night and get caught for jumping the signal.
  • Get your car towed away and stand helplessly on the road at midnight.
  • Take a trip back home in the towing truck.
  • Try to get out of the car before the cop reaches your car.
  • Try to bribe the cop.
  • Argue with the cop.
  • Get out of your car to see what was happening when the cops block the road in front of you.
  • Spend a couple of hours in burning audio CDs for the long drive, when data CDs too work in the car stereo system.
  • Think that you look old enough not to carry any age proof while purchasing alcohol.
  • Not keep the door open for the people following you and let it close on their face.
  • Not understand the question "For Here or To Go?"
  • Not tip the waiters or tip them less than 10% of the bill amount.
  • Go on a shopping spree since it's so easy to order things online.
  • Blog about the things you did in the US.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The day I decided to jump from the plane

I was (well, not anymore!) acrophobic - scared of great heights. In childhood, I could not even look down from a 3-storied building. To obviate this phobia, skydiving had been on my to-do list for a long time. Most of us fantasize about flying like a bird. Skydiving is the closest a human being can get to flying. Since skydiving is not available in India yet,  I decided to check this item off my list during my first visit to the US. Monterey Bay was the nearest skydiving destination from the place I was staying while in California. 

I decided to finish it once and for all on one of the weekends. I convinced three of my friends to accompany me. They hadn't gathered enough courage for the skydive yet and hence they had decided to visit Monterey Bay Aquarium instead, during the time I'd be doing my skydive. I won't boast of my convincing power, but by the time of registration, they were all in for the kill ;-) We did all the registration formalities and signed on a number of documents declaring that we ourselves would be responsible for our own demise. We were given a few instructions by our jumpmasters and were given harnesses and goggles to wear. 

The next step was to board the plane. It was a small aircraft with 12 of us in it, including 4 of us, 4 jumpmasters and 4 cameramen. We enjoyed the bird's eye view of Monterey from the top and the plane came to a standstill at the height of 18,000ft. That's it. It was time. It was time to inhibit all the fears. It was time to fly like a free bird. It was time for the jump. I could hear my heart throbbing. I dragged my feet towards the exit door. I looked down from the door and my heart nearly came out of my mouth. I was ready to pay any price, if someone could get me out of that situation.

The jumpmaster shouted "Jump" and before I could fathom anything, I was falling down from the height of 18,000ft at the speed of more than 120 mph. I shouted, I cried, I shrilled! I was flying like a free bird! A strong wind was blowing and I could feel my skin fluttering like a lifeless piece of cloth against the strong wind. Those were the most interesting and thrilling seconds that I have ever experienced. After a few seconds, I came to my senses and could see my cameraman filming my free fall. I did some air maneuvers into the camera. It was a beautiful view from thousands of feet above. The Sun kissing the sea on one side, mesmerizing land holding tiny people on the other. A random thought crossed my mind that I should have learnt swimming in case we end up landing in the sea. 

After about 90 seconds of free-fall, the jumpmaster checked his altimeter and gave a "5-5" signal to the cameraman. The parachute opened, I felt a little jerk and the next thing I know...we were floating in the air like an eagle. My jumpmaster, a nice chap, taught me a couple of lessons in parachuting. He pulled a cord and the parachute went round and round and round. What an aesthetic experience it was! We flew our parachute to the drop zone and to my surprise, we landed very smoothly on the ground. I was so ecstatic, as if I saw the land after a million years. While a cab was taking us from the landing back to the waiting lounge, we hardly spoke anything. So much had happened in the last few minutes that we needed some time to soak in all the beautiful memories. Bliss!

My 2-cents:

  • Skydiving is a must-do activity and everyone must try it at least once in their lifetime. I can guarantee you that it will be an unforgettable experience for you too!
  • Do wear a cap to shield your ears against the strong wind. During the free fall, the wind was so feisty that I was sure it had ruptured my eardrums.
  • Don't hesitate to shell out a few extra bucks for the video shooting. It's totally worth the price. They do a nice job of compiling the video and you also get to choose the songs to be embedded in the video. Remember, you can do your first skydive only once.
  • Wear a collarless t-shirt for the skydive. They anyways instruct you to tuck in the collar, if there's one. The wind is so wild out there that it wouldn't mind digging a hole in your skin with the collar of the shirt.
  • Please check over the phone before going there, whether skydiving is available on that day. They sometimes cancel the dives if the weather is rough.
  • Contrary to my belief that it would be very cold out there at that much altitude, it was pretty sunny and warm up there. Thankfully, they had instructed us against wearing a jacket on that day.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that fit in properly. One of friends' shoe nearly came off and most of his dive time was wasted protecting the shoe from falling down. Again, don't waste time protecting the shoe if it comes off. The price you pay for the dive is much more than the price of your shoe.
  • Don't make a fool out of yourself in front of the camera. The video will remain with you for the rest of your life or perhaps even after that.

P.S.: After reading this blog, if someone decides to experience skydiving, then the blog has served its purpose.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Welcome to the roads of United States of America (Part 2)

It's all happening here, baby...San Francisco...11:30pm...signal turns yellow as we are crossing it...cop follows our car...almost points a gun at we jumped the signal...we argue...cop claims invalid driving licence...we argue...vehicle towed away...we are left stranded on the road shivering in the cold...see you in the court!

(Taken from:

Monday, June 06, 2011

Welcome to the roads of United States of America

4 people driving from Los Angeles to Redwood City...US Route 101...90mph...police vehicle follows and stops their car...manage to escape without a fine, but with a warning...1am...65mph...a car zooms least cop vehicle zooms past and starts chasing the speeding car...another cop vehicle zooms past...3..4..5..6..7 cop vehicles one after another...4 people still driving at 65mph wondering what's going on...smoke...was there a shoot out?...police vehicles block the way right in front of 4 people's car...leaving a long trail of vehicles behind them...cops take position with guns and rifles...some of the cops start marching towards the side of the highway into the woods...probably a criminal/terrorist running away from police...vehicles are allowed to pass by from a side lane while the operation still continues...4 people still wondering what had exactly happened...was the criminal caught?...feels like a sequence taken right out of a Hollywood movie...welcome to the roads of United States of America!

(Taken from:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Things you might not know about China (Part-2)

This is a continued version of the original post Things you might not know about China.
  • Two-wheelers and three wheelers are banned in big cities like Shenzhen to restrict pollution. Only electric motorbikes are allowed in Shenzhen.
  • Unlike those in India, most of the restaurants in China don't give tissues for free. They charge you for those, if you wish to use some. This is the reason most of the Chinese people carry a bunch of tissue papers with them whenever they go to restaurants.
  • They don't give any mouth fresheners like saunf in restaurants in China.
  • You need not give tips at the restaurants in China.
  • Unlike in India, they don't serve drinking water at the restaurants in China.
  • Chinese women like to wear mini (sometimes micro/nano/pico) skirts even in freezing winters. This is one equation I'm yet to resolve.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Things you might not know about China

I happened to visit Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Macau for a business trip. It was a really amazing and memorable trip. Got to know so many new things, met so many new people and made so many new friends. I'd like to share some of my observations about China here:
  • Contrary to my belief, Chinese people are very friendly. I'd rate Chinese people among the highest so far on the friendliness meter.
  • Chinese people have a very amicable attitude towards tourists. They are really helpful and protective of tourists. They don't quote astronomical prices when you go for shopping, they don't pick-pocket you and taxi drivers charge the same amount to the tourists as to the localites. Indians need to learn a thing or two in this space from their Chinese counterparts.
  • The controversial one-child policy was introduced in China in 1978 to control the population growth. More than one child would entail more taxes, more fines and fewer benefits for the parents. However, there are some exceptions wherein the government allows for more than one child to a family. For example, if both the husband and wife are the only children of their respective parents, then they can have two children.
  • Chinese people have lunch and dinner very early compared to us Indians. Their normal lunch time is 11:30am and dinner time is 6:30pm.
  • Since Chinese names are difficult for foreigners to remember and pronounce, people working in international companies are given an option to choose an English name. That is the reason they have two different names, one English and one Chinese.
  • All Chinese citizens must attend school for at least nine years. Government provides the education for the economically backward citizens. They start going to school at the age of six or seven (compared to four or five in India). Master's degree (at least in Engineering) is of three years, compared to two years in India. Hence, most of the Chinese employees are older than their Indian counterparts by a year or two.
  • Hong Kong and Macau, which were British and Portuguese territories respectively, although a part of People's Republic of China (PRC) today, are given a special status of special administrative regions (SARs). They have separate visas and their own laws for all issues except in matters of foreign policy and defence.
  • Shenzhen, where our office is located, is one of the most successful Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in China. So, lotsa multinational companies have their offices in Shenzhen. It's also home to many of the electronic goods.
  • One of the big problems that China is facing today is the ageing population, a consequence of the one-child policy. By 2050, half the population will be 50 or older. (India's 65% population is below the age of 35, which is an asset to India)
  • PinYin is an official system to transcribe Chinese characters. It is used to enter Chinese characters into computers. So, there's a standardized mapping between a Chinese character and the corresponding English characters.
  • Many Chinese people do not consider Taiwan a separate country. They also do not support the independence of Tibet.
  • Corruption is prevalent and rampant in China too.
  • 3 Idiots and Slumdog Millionaire are the most popular Hindi movies in China.
  • Chinese people are really fascinated by the dancing and singing skills of their Indian counterparts. In China, they don't have a culture of dancing at marriages/parties (Can you believe it?).
  • QQ is the most popular social networking site in China. Facebook is banned in the Mainland China. Baidu is the most popular search engine. Google, although not banned, is censored.
Disclaimer: The content is exclusively the personal opinion of the author based on his own observations. The author does not warrant the correctness or veracity of any content subject to this disclaimer.

(Some more observations can be found here: Things you might not know about China (Part-2))