Friday, July 30, 2010

Reached Niagara (at last!)

It was nearing eight in the night when we started from Toronto towards Niagara. No doubt we had had a good time enjoying the sights of the city of Toronto but the process had put considerable strain on our legs and had burnt more carbohydrates than what had been consumed, dipping into the reserves.

It is possible that Sir Henry Pellat did not move around much beyond the limits of his favourite sitting room (in which he is said to have enjoyed many an evening chatting with his architect friend), the dining room, the smoking room and his bedroom during the decade that he lived in his castle, but the visitor is obliged to leg it around dozens of bedrooms and half a dozen halls, dining rooms, library, garden and what not, walking through long corridors and climbing up and down multiple stairs. And, if one is interested in getting all of his/her twenty dollars entry fee worth, one is compelled to trudge along another half a kilometre through the underground tunnel and see the stables, garage, pool and the potting shed putting additional strain on the legs and burning more carbohydrates.

The morning breakfast was a simple bread, butter and jam/ ‘Chatni pudi’ (a life saver, made using grams, peanuts, dry coconut, red chillies, jaggery and many more ingredients ground to a coarse dry powder form, which can accompany any staple food like rice, breads, pancakes and anything you can think off. Needs no refrigeration, remains for months and forms part of emergency rations of any sensible vegetarian south Indian who is not sure of the type of food that he/she may get during travels.) in the hotel room and the afternoon lunch was some sandwiches and pastries which the cafeteria at ‘Casa Loma’ could provide. By the time the six of us had gone through the menu considering every single ingredient, decided the best combination to suit all tastes and placed the order for Mediterranean grill, green salad and fruit rolls, the M Grill was over and we had to re organise ourselves and come up with alternatives before the counter closed. The south Indian tongue had not accepted the bread majority in breakfast and lunch and had sent only enough quantity in to the stomach to keep the legs moving around Toronto. The mind, in its excitement of running around the CN tower and the Bata museum had not taken the stomach into consideration at that time and as a result as we started from Toronto we were more concerned with the Niagara of gastric juices in our stomach than the Niagara formed by the waters of the great lakes.

After the American breakfast and lunch, the vote was in favour of an Indian restaurant (there are plenty of them in Toronto) but there was no time to search for alternatives and ‘Saravana’ was on our way to Niagara. Since we had experienced the place the previous day and knew what to expect and what to avoid, we decided on that for dinner and were happy to leave the hotel with a somewhat better experience. We had to reach the falls before the illumination was switched off at eleven in the night and Vishwa had to put more pressure on the gas than he liked. It was easier to put more pressure on the gas than bear the pressure from the back seat and he did deposit us before the falls well in time to enjoy the sight. The roaring waters changing into blue, green and orange every few seconds from the flood lights focused from the shore was indeed a grand sight and we could leave the place only because we were anticipating more of it the next day.

We reached the hotel ‘Embassy suites’ a little after eleven on the night of Saturday, 12th of June. The lobby of the hotel was bubbling with activity, full of excited people who were there to have a good weekend. The night was just beginning in the casinos and night clubs situated close by and groups of eager youngsters filled the sidewalks and porticos. This was what I saw from the car window on our way to the hotel and I was keen to go around on foot and get a close up of the scene. Even though the rest of the party was not interested, Bhanu was ready to join me but once we checked into the comfortable suite and saw the well made beds, the will to go out into the mild drizzle of the chilly night disappeared. Moreover, she had specifically booked a suite with a view of the falls and was not ready to accept one with a view of the streets however comfortable the beds looked. She went down to take the reception desk to task and we shifted to another suite with a beautiful view of the falls. The last thing I remember of the night was the children heatedly discussing time limits for the use of Jacuzzi and Bhanu mediating. I do not know the results of her mediation. I was asleep minutes after that.

In the portico of 'Embassy suites'

Niagara 'village' as seen from the 11th floor of ES

The 'Falls View' before the early morning mist cleared. By the time the mistcleared, we had cleared out of the 'Suite'.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Home, Sweet Home

I was on my way to Niagara from Toronto when we met here last but now I am back to realities. Going through “reverse jet lag” and carrying out all my activities like this at 2AM in the night, while falling asleep half way through a class two cavity preperation. I will see if I can coax my patients to accept an appointment at 3AM and harass my assistant to be here too.

I plan to reach Niagara and proceed further, once I get my days and nights right, but for the time being the priority is to recollect where do we inject for removing a upper second molar and ensure my supply of bread. I will be back after that.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Toronto contd.

The Greyline hop on - hop off arrived exactly at 9.30AM and we began our Toronto sight seeing. The weather, being chilly and cloudy with a mild drizzle now and then tried to force us to sit inside the bus but we covered ourselves with jackets and caps and persisted with the open upper deck. These buses keep going round and round on their predetermined routes and usually arrive at any given spot every hour. One may get in and out of them any number of times during the day, similar to the Detroit people mover. Convenient.

The cheerful young girl who was on her summer job as our guide pointed out the streets and important land marks as the bus wound it’s way around down town Toronto. She spoke English and I could catch words like park, city hall, hotel, and square by which I could make out what she was saying. I think that the bus moved with in a radius of about a mile because I could recognize quite a few places which I had seen during my morning walk. I liked whatever Toronto we saw, with a number of small but very pleasant parks as lung spaces between the buildings, and compact houses lining the streets with their elevated entrance, small front gardens with garden chairs, tables and decorative railings. After about an hour, the bus headed to Casa Loma a few miles away.

Casa Loma is the castle built by the wealthy Canadian businessman Sir Henry Pellat in 1913. He was born wealthy and he got wealthier by raking in money from wherever it was available. He got carried away by the amount of money he had and hence decided to build a castle which cost him about $ 3.5 millions hundred years back. I believe the architect, E J Lennox, asked for just the leftovers as his fee and built his own mansion opposite the castle using that material.

Whatever it is, I think Sir Henry’s spending did not match his earnings and he lost everything he had with in a span of ten years and the municipality evicted him and attached his castle as he failed to pay his taxes.

Reminds me of Sri Purandara Dasa’s “munna shatakoTi raayarugaLaaLida nelava tannadendenuta shaasanava baresi ……………….. chenniganu asuvaLiye horage haakuvaru.” (You declare the land which has seen millions of owners before you as yours and build big palaces and forts. You will not be retained in it even for a minute after you are dead - this was to say not to get attached to material things and go nuts about what you think you own. I remembered it when I went to register my plot also.)

Sir Henry was out of his proud pocession even before he was dead and the Castle was in its way to become a ruin when the Kiwani’s society of Toronto stepped in, took it on lease, declared it to be a heritage spot and brought it back as near as possible to its former splendor. There are lot of things to see in the castle along with a good view of the down town Toronto from its top floor.

One may spend hours in it if one is interested in these things. I liked the audio facility consisting of a head phone and the hand held recorder on which you can punch the numbers of the items displayed and hear all the details about them. Enough of Casa Loma. We are on a conducted tour and can’t afford to miss the bus.
Managed to get some sandwiches and muffins in the cafeteria and after hurrying a bit, did catch the bus in time and arrived at the Bata shoe museum by 3 PM. The museum traces the evolution of foot wear starting from the one made using bark and vines and goes around the world showing the varieties of shoes and sandals used during different periods and ends up with the ones worn by celebrities like Boris Becker , Elvis Priestley and others.( I hope I have spelt them right).

We hopped on to the bus again at the entrance of the museum and reached the CN towers, the world’s highest till the one in Dubai was built. The foggy weather did not allow us to see in full, either the tower from out side or the view from inside. I was not interested in going up knowing that it would be useless but Bhanu had determined to show us whatever there is to be seen. The express elevator taking people to the top was an experience and we did get some glimpses of the ground below when the clouds cleared a bit and I even got a hazy picture.

Since we had planned to reach the Niagara falls the same night, we hired a cab (which befitting the status of a cab zoomed along flouting all traffic rules) and were happy to arrive in front of the parking lot in one piece. Vishwa dived into the belly of the parking lot and managed to retrieve the van from the seventh level (PaataaLa) and immediately afterwards we were on our way to Niagara.
It is 11PM on 18th July and we are expected to leave by the 6.30 PM flight to Mumbai Via Frankfurt tomorrow. I had planned to finish at least the first trip before I left but I think Niagara will have to wait till I reach Ponda. Bye for now.

Saturday, July 17, 2010


The Metropoliton Hotel was right in the middle of downtown Toronto and was comfortable. We had reached there at eleven in the night and had planned to start our Toronto sightseeing at nine the next morning. I got up as usual at 5.30 AM and managed to get out of the room as quietly as possible. I wanted to explore the immediate neighbourhood of the hotel before the city woke up.The streets were neat and there were only a few people around. There was a separate lane for cyclists and it was being put into good use. I Started walking left from the entrance and reached one of the main roads called the University road where I met this Chinese(?)lady with her dogs out on a morning walk. Every second person in Toronto looked oriental and I heard that there is a large Chinese population. The owner of the Metropoliton hotel is also Chinese.

I did not intend losing my way for which I was already famous and making others search for me instead of going on sight seeing and so I traced my path back, confirmed that I was capable of reaching the hotel and started on the right of the entrance. Since the roads were empty I had the liberty to move at will and if necessary stand in the middle and take pictures of the streets and the tramcars about which I had only heard and never seen.

I could also select spots from which I could get a reasonably good view of the buildings and places and got a picture of the old city hall(municipality).

There was an early bird which tried to touch this worm saying that he has just been discharged from a medical center and is in need of money for the fare to reach his home. I wanted to tell him that it was a trick being used in Bangalore forty years back but just walked away as I was not sure if my comments would be taken sportively.

I returned to the room, woke up the remaining of the party and managed to get everyone ready to leave by 9AM. We left the hotel at 9.15 and after searching all the roads around the hotel for the Greyline bus stop, located it right in front of the hotel.

Friday, July 16, 2010

First trip out of Canton

We planned to leave by 4 pm on 11th June to Toronto, Canada and to our credit, did manage to leave by 4.30 PM. I had removed all the shopping bags, sandwich wrappers, paper cups, used tissues and empty bottles from the MPV and had made space for the passengers and luggage. It was our first tour after arriving here and since we believed that we can easily manage with bread, vegetables, fruits and juice which would be available in plenty everywhere, and since we had to cross the Canada border, did not carry any food stuff. We reached the Windsor bridge an hour later and passed through the international border getting another stamp on our passports.

The roads and the landscape on the Canadian side were even better and we reached the city of London enjoying the drive on the smooth road, having an eyeful of the green fields that stretched on both sides with the beautiful but lonely farm houses dotting them.

While we were excited by the prospect of seeing and being in places which we had only heard and never imagined that we would be visiting one day, Bhanu and Vishwa, for whom neither Toronto nor Nayagara were new, were excited by the prospect of having dinner in “Saravana” the Chennai based Indian restaurant in Toronto and were lovingly eating the words “Pongal, Avial and Masala dosa” as appetizers. Bhanu repeatedly called the hotel to confirm their business hours and also found that they had shifted to Mississauga, about twenty five kilometers before Toronto and we arrived in front of the hotel at 9 PM, much before their closing time of 10 PM.

As far as I was concerned “Saravana” was disappointing, one of the items (I do not remember what it was) even being stale. Even after bringing it to the notice of the hotel management there was not even a word of apology and I wondered at their indifference and the hunger for Indian food amongst the Indian community living there, which might have made them so.

We checked into the Metropoliton Hotel in Toronto at 11 PM , where the night appeared to be just beginning but I was too sleepy to go around and see things.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ren Cen and Detroit Down town.

By the second week of June the schools closed for summer vacation and other activities of children, like soccer, swimming, maths and music also ended. We could go out of Canton MI. We were to visit Toronto in Canada and the Nayagara falls the first week end. Since we had to enter Canada, we needed a Canadian Visa. The Canadian consulate is in down town Detroit MI in Ren Cen, short for the Renaissance Center building, which also houses the head quarters of General Motors where Bhanu had a meeting on Wednesday afternoon. It made things convenient.

We planned to go over there in the morning, get our Visa, have lunch and occupy ourselves seeing Detroit down town, river front and Ren Cen while Bhanu attended her meeting. We got our Visa, ate our lunch, sent Bhanu to the meeting assuring her that we would not get lost in the city and went to the river front. The back of the Ren Cen building opens on to the Detroit river with its clear blue water, and it is the city of Windsor in Canada on the opposite bank.

A walk along the river was delightful. We spent some time there and walked to the front of the building. I could see the Detroit ‘People Mover’ train roaring above us but could not locate the station. We decided to take a ride after Bhanu finished her meeting.

We went walking along the road (we had been warned not to venture into the inner roads of Down town) and saw an entrance with the sign “Brick town Station”. It was a small building, actually an entrance leading to the stairs which takes us to the platform and as expected there was not a soul anywhere around. The board said that you get an entry token costing a Dollar each from the vending machine at the entrance and insert it in the slot provided in front of the automatic gate. Once you enter the station you may get in and get off at any of the thirteen stations, any number of times, using any of the trains that run at a frequency of approximately ten mimutes, making round trips. One full round by the people mover takes about thirty minutes. It was easy. We could have a bird’s eye view of the city by the time Bhanu finished her meeting.

I got two tokens from the machine, inserted one in the slot and waited for the gate to open like the doors of the Alladin’s cave. Nothing happened. I said “open sesame.” Nothing. I tried to push it open but it did not budge. I thought of applying extra force or hitting it the Indian way but was afraid that it may activate an alarm or some such thing. I looked around thinking of the next move. I had forgotten that my wife was by my side.

“I told you not to consider yourself smart and try things on your own. You think you know every thing. Lost one dollar didn’t you? Lets go back and wait for Bhanu.”

It was a sensible suggestion and that’s what we did. We took a short round of the nearby streets and were at the entrance of Ren Cen by the time Bhanu emerged. She took us to the “Time square Station” which is in one of the Ren Cen towers. (We got up and down so many elevators and escalators, I could not make out at what level we were. Just like Frankfurt airport). She got the tokens and I warned her that the gates simply swallowed the coins and never opened. She waited in front of the gate till the monitor screen attached to it said “insert token”, inserted the token and pushed the gate open when it read “Enter” and got in. I had not looked at the monitor at all and had put the token in before the door had noticed my presence and had lost my dollar.

The people mover gave a panoramic view of the city and the river. It was beautiful. I wanted to make two more rounds and recover the cost of my lost dollar but was asked not to be a bigger idiot and lose time too.

We came out of the station, bought a cup of hot chocolate, medium size, from “Caribou” the coffee shop ( which was about half a litre) and asked the attendant to divide it into three. She appeared to be in very good moods.

“I will make it into two and give you another half at no extra cost. Enjoy and have a nice evening.”

It would have been a very nice evening but for the traffic jam on our way back. But then what is an American experience with out a traffic jam?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I came out of Dick Scott’s bike shop and stood by the side of Michigan Avenue watching the continuous flow of cars and trucks. I liked the way they moved straight ahead maintaining their speed and their lanes. I liked the trucks better than the cars. All the Hondas, Toyotas and BMWs look alike and so are the GMC, Chrysler and Ford. My son may kill me for making this statement but that’s what I feel. The trucks look different from what we are used to seeing. They are powerful, colourful, shining, huge and they move fast. So, I took some pictures of the trucks.

I began my homeward journey and with in about a hundred meters saw a road to my right going perpendicular to the Michigan Avenue and the sign board at the junction read, “Lilly road”. This Lilly road was a familiar name. I had seen it many times while moving around in the car. Since it was running perpendicular to Michigan avenue I knew that it would intersect Sheldon road which was parallel to MA, probably with in a short distance. And if I reach Sheldon I am as good as home. So, instead of going along the MA in the sun inhaling carbon Monoxide, I could move along Lilly and Sheldon where traffic is very low and the sides are wooded. They would be shaded and pleasant.

I took a right turn and went along Lilly. It was really pleasant. After pedalling about a kilometer, I was surprised that I had not touched Sheldon but I was sure of reaching it shortly. I pedalled along. Another half a kilometer, I still did not reach Sheldon and I was getting doubts. May be the parallel roads diverged a little at some point. I went ahead. You know how it is when you know that you can’t go wrong. I had some difficulty in pedalling the bike but I saw the traffic lights at a distance and was happy to have reached Sheldon at last. I reached the intersection and looked up. The sign read “Palmer” road. At the same time I felt the front wheel wobble and looked down. The front tyre was flat.

It did not take long for realization. I had missed and did not have any idea where Sheldon Road was. (I had heard Vishwa complain that they close lanes and roads or divert traffic some times with out notice. Did they remove Sheldon and put Palmer in its place?) I was quite far from the house and may be was heading in the wrong direction and since the bicycle was punctured I either had to push it or carry it on my head all the way back. And all my geometry, memory and sense of direction were waiting to be put in to the trash bin.

I did not like what I realized. I had covered nearly ten kilometers by then and was tired. There was no chance of getting the puncture fixed. But first I had to know where I was. There was a strip mall at the junction with half a dozen shops and a few cars parked there. I kept the bike by the road side and crossed over. I met a gentleman walking from a shop to his car. I asked him if he could tell me which way was Sheldon road?

“Oh, I am new to this place but I think if you go about a mile down this road, you should be reaching Sheldon.”

He pointed in the direction in which Sheldon could positively not be. He was new to the place anyway. I went into one of the shops and asked the shop owner. “Sheldon?” he pointed in the same direction. I did not believe them. By then it occurred to me that since Bhanu was working from home, she would be able to take time off to come and collect me if only I could contact her. I asked the shop fellow if I there was a public phone around.

“Oh, not any where around here.” He turned to one of his customers and made it clear that I was wasting his time.

I came out and stood for a minute thinking what my next move should be. There seemed to be no other option other than pushing the bike in the direction shown by these two guys, whose sense of direction I was doubting. Their directions ‘might have been’ wrong but mine had been ‘proved to be’ wrong and they were a majority. If I could reach Sheldon at least I would be on the track again and may reach home at least by dinner time. I started to cross the road to get the bike and noticed that the first gentleman whom I had asked for directions was beckoning me. I went to him. He pointed to the bunch of catalogues and pictures of motor bikes in my hand.

“Are you interested in bikes?”

I narrated the story and how I happened to be at the junction of Palmer and Lilly, with a flat tyre.

“I am on a biking tour of Michigan right now. I ride a Harley Davidson. I have stopped in Canton for two days. Is yours a pedaling bike?”


“Put it in my van. I will drop you home”

Such sweet words! But I could not accept his offer just like that.

“Oh, I don’t want to bother you. If only I can find a phone I will call home and my sister would pick me up.”

He brushed aside my words. “Its OK. I will reach you home. Get your bike”

In my eagerness to get the bike and get into his van before he changed his mind, I dashed across the road with out bothering about the “Walk” signal and was almost ran over by a car. The driver, a lady, screeched to a halt and I jumped to the other side just snatching a glimpse of her face which loudly said “Stupid Idiot” with out bringing out any words. I pushed the bike to Mr. Good samaritan’s van and was wondering how am I going to put it in. He came over, took it from me, went to the back and easily fixed it to the cycle rack which was at the back. He asked me to get in, and we started.

Just at that moment a doubt crept in to my mind about his motives. Was he really a gentleman trying to help me? I had heard people here got bashed up just for the sake of few dollars. I did not look like I had any dollars on me but I had also heard that sometimes one got bashed up if no money was found on the person too. My heart started thumping and I brought up enough courage to ask him his name and profession.

“Oh, I am John and I am an officer of the Wayne county Sherrif. I belong to the rescue and relief section and am a diver. I am on my vacation going around the lakes in Michigan on my bike.” He took out his police badge and proffered it.

As I have mentioned earlier I have an awe for the US cop and it just doubled. He enquired about my country and my profession and we talked about this and that happily for twenty minutes it took to reach our place. He was extremely cordial and courteous. He stopped in front of the house, removed the bike, put it down by the side of the road and enquired.

“Are you OK sir? Make sure you have all your things with you. Those bike pictures and your camera? That’s fine. Have a good day.”

I asked him to pose for me and he obliged.

He also allowed me to take a picture of his badge. I was very much exited. My sense of direction and self esteem were in the trash bin but I had had a pleasant encounter with an un known American citizen. I kept repeating this story to all those who talked to me on the phone and only stopped after hearing half a dozen “You told me about it already”.

Now, back to a little bit of geometry to tell you how i got lost. At the junction of Geddes, Sheldon and Michigan Avenue, there is a sort of traffic island and you go around it. it makes you feel (rather fools fools like me) that you are taking a left turn from Geddes to MI, but MI is actually parallel to Geddes and perpendicular to Sheldon. Not the other way as i had beleived.

I may be making a mountain out of molehill and this could have been easily contained in – “I had gone on my bike for some work and missed my way. My bike got punctured. I was trying to get correct directions to my house when an off duty police officer helped me and dropped me home”. I always get carried away while narrating things. Because of this tendency I am still in the first fifteen days of my arrival here. I have stayed nearly six weeks and am scheduled to return in four days. I will try to be short and to the point in future. I hope I can reach at least half way before I leave. Thanks for your patience. Bye.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Good Samaritan

Our house is located on Geddes road. If you walk a kilometer to the left, you will reach Beck road. Another kilometer and you will find Denton road. Yet another kilometer takes you to Ridge road. Beck, Denton and Ridge are perpendicular to Geddes and are parallel to each other. You take a right turn at Denton and go for two kilometers, and you will reach Dhruva’s school.

Now, let us go half a kilometer to the right from the house. We have come to Canton Center road. Another kilometer is Sheldon road and then running very close to Sheldon and almost parallel to it is the Michigan Avenue, the state highway which runs through the state of Michigan north to south. Canton center, Sheldon and Michigan Avenue are again perpendicular to Geddes and parallel to each other. Take a left on Canton Center and go for a mile, and you will touch a large area containing the hospital, library, municipal offices and Heritage park. I know the place now. You are seeing me in Heritage park.

I am good in geometry, I can retain a good mental picture of locations and I easily remember roads and places that I pass through. If you have a geometrical bent of mind too and are as good as me in remembering these things, come along further. If you care to continue with me but can not get these parallel and perpendicular things, please take time off to go to your son’s/daughter’s geometry book and come back. If you neither care for geometry nor for my story ( which I fear is not going to be short), please go back to the TV, Book, Garden or kitchen or where ever you were before.

Having finished with our topography and geometry,we will now come to the story.
My son, who is crazy about motor bikes and cars befitting his age,(I think they come after cricket and foot ball but I do not know whether they come before, after or along with girls. I seem to have missed this stage in my youth or my senile brain has conveniently forgotten all about it) located this Dick Scott’s Bike shop on Michigan Avenue in Canton MI (on the web)and sent me a mail asking me to go over there if I can. He asked me to see the revered bikes for him, take pictures, put a garland of flowers around the handle, light an incense stick if permitted (with out activating fire alarm), prostrate before them (I believe that’s what he did when he came across a Rolls Royce Phantom on a Chennai road) and then consider every penny spent on the trip, well spent.

I estimated Dick Scott’s bike shop to be about five kilometers from our house and since the bicycle was back from repairs and operative, thought of making it on my own, with out bothering Bhanu or Vishwa. My legs do protest mildly when exerted but I thought ten kilometers on the bicycle (up and down) should not worry them much. So, I started after breakfast, around ten one morning and reached Michigan Avenue. Having learnt to ride the bicycle in Bangalore, where every other vehicle is trained to attack you, it was not difficult to handle the Michigan Avenue vehicles which were only interested in going ahead ( though very fast ), and I rode on towards Dick Scott’s bike shop. I reached it in about twenty minutes and went in. The salesman or manager or whoever it was behind the table, got up and came forward.

“Hi, how are you doing this morning?”
“Fine,( but tired) thank you. Can I have a look at your bikes?”
“Go ahead. You interested in bikes?” (Incredulity painted thick across his face)
“No, my son is.”
“Oh. Its your son (relief).Interested in bikes is he? Whats he doing?”
“Engineer” (I promoted him)
“Engineer, good, wheres he?”
“We can ship to India. OK, go ahead”

So, I went ahead and looked at the bikes. They were as tall as if not taller than me and my legs needed to grow by about a foot, hands by about four feet each and my pocket, hundreds of feet before I could even dream of straddling them and holding the handles.

“Can I take pictures?”
“Oh, you want pictures? Sure, go ahead”

I took pictures and since the chromium parts gave a glare that my Cameras could not handle, enquired if he had any photographs or Catalogues. He gave me some catalogues and photographs of his “Indian” (that’s the brand name) bikes and I turned to leave. He handed me his card.

“There you are. Ask your son to contact me. Have a good day”
“Thank you. You too.”

Where ever you go, shops, air ports, library, offices or any where, the dialogue starts with “Hi, how are you feeling today” - “Fine thank you” and ends with "There you are, have a good day” - “Thank you. You too.”

I came out and turned towards home.

See, actually this is where the story that I wanted to narrate starts. But as I have mentioned before I get carried away with lots of unwanted stuff and it turns out to be too long. I lose my goal. If I could head towards the goal straight away, I should have been better off in my life. Any way, please bear with me and remember whatever has been told for whatever it is worth. I will proceed in no time.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Ann Arbour

It was 5th of june2010 that I accompanied Bhanu to drop her daughter at the Tapan school at Ann Arbour. My memory is not that sharp. The photographs tell me.

The green city, with the temperature at 21 degrees centigrade (no, I did not carry a thermometer. It was the same digital sign again) and the slanting morning son was very pleasant and I aimlessly roamed around for an hour and a half enjoying the surroundings.

The city has an undulating landscape and the picture post card houses were inviting to come in and live, though I doubt if the residents harboured similar feelings.

It was a pleasure to walk along the street with woods on both sides.I envied the dentist who had his clinic in such a lovely place but felt that it was not very wise being next to a funeral and cremation services professional. Gives wrong signals to an already frightened customer!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Garage sale and Partridge Creek Mall

I had heard about garage sales and was keen to see some. During the week end, I saw plenty of signs of Garage sales around and quite a number of them were close to our house. In some places it was the ‘sub division’ garage sale, meaning many houses in the locality would arrange sales on the same day. It was convenient for us. This is the only time that I noticed people walking around in the area. The garage doors were open, the cars were put on the streets and items for sale were arranged on tables, cots, chairs and stands. The owners sat on a chair in front of the garage enjoying the sun, with the ubiquitous large glass of beverage by their side. For me, It looked similar to fishing where you put the line in water and sit back for hours enjoying the process. If at all you happen to catch a fish, fine. Here you spread the stuff you intend selling and sit comfortably enjoying the sun. If you can get rid of some unwanted stuff and get a few dollars, fine.

In most cases the items for sale were clothing, dolls, books and game videos but there were a few with used machinery, kitchen ware, tents, shoes etc etc. There were cameras with out chargers and chargers with out mobile phones and stuff like that but quite a few brand new stuff. I saw a lady sitting in front of her garage with what looked like junk spread on both her sides. Out of curiosity I looked through everything that was on sale. I finished with the spread on one side and started with the other. She said “Oh, they are not on sale. I just bought them”. May be that was it. You sold unwanted junk and bought some other junk to replace it. And you spent a day enjoying doing it!

My wife got a new bag for one dollar and I purchased a new pair of working gloves for another. The couple in the garage happily posed for us and this couple returned home happy with the bargains.

At the beginning of the new week, Bhanu and my wife had finished all the stores twice over and the garages of other people too. That was when one of Bhanu’s friends mentioned about this fabulous new open air mall at Partridge creek which was about forty five minutes drive. She seemed thrilled with the idea of an “open air” shopping mall and the thrill engulfed all of us. We had to go there.

Every city has its own shopping street or market, where there are shops selling all kinds of things. Some body thought of putting many of them under one roof along with hotels, bakeries etc etc to attract people and called it a shopping mall. Now it is back to the old market but we call it an open air mall!

Well, this mall was not like an ordinary market. It had a central place where there were water fountains in which children were enjoying themselves, and a stage near by where there was a live band and a singer. Chairs and benches were placed around the area and people sat there listening to the orchestra, chatting, eating, drinking, and watching their children play in the fountain. There were the usual shops of clothes, footwear, bags and toys and the usual McDonalds, Sub Way, KFC ,Taco bell and Baskin Robins. The only unusual thing I noticed was this Bakery for Dogs, which contained stuff like ‘pup cakes’ and ‘Dog hots’ apart from a variety of dog toys, beds,shampoos,comb sets and accessories.

The great kannada poet Pampa, while describing the city of Banavaasi in Karnataka and it’s people, wrote the verse “chaagada, bhogada, akkarada, geyada ………. ……… ………. mari dumbiyaagi, meN, Kogileyaagi puTTuvudu nandanadoL banavaasi deshadoL” meaning that “ it is such a great place, having such cultured people, one has to be born there one day, if not as a human, at least as a bird or a bee.”

Now, in case you have such a wish to be born in the US, pray to be born here as a DOG and if not, at least as a human. Have a look at this advertisement in the news paper. It offers "trained pet friendly staff who will sleep on the beds cuddling your dog!"

While I was looking around the dog bakery, others had found more interesting things and had moved along. I had to search for them if I had intentions of returning home and so went searching for them. I located the party in Taco bell where Dharini and Dhruva were enjoying 'Chalupa', sort of a thick chapaati made out of tortillos, eaten with baked beans and vegetables folded in it. It neither looked nor smelled good and I declined the offer to share it with them while the lady in the next table (who actually should not be eating anything for the next ten years,) enjoyed her choice along with a gallon of beverage and her daughter seemed quite happy with the bottle of water.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

It is more than a week since we landed in Canton MI, and I have a fair idea of the topography of the city and the places that we have visited. During mornings I occupy myself testing the strength of my legs surprising the motorists at crossings and the evenings are spent window shopping. At this juncture, It is only window shopping because we do not know what to buy, can’t find what we want (in case we think of something and try to locate it), do not know where to look for it, feel everything very expensive (our mind automatically converts dollars in to rupees), and actually don’t need anything. Still, we visited Meijers, Kroger, Kohl’s and Lowe’s and also Bed and bath, Target, JCPenney , Ikea and many more. All are chain stores. One is a departmental store, one is clothing, one is hardware and so on but I can not remember which is which. Every store is two foot ball field size, sells some of everything else and all of them sell cards, chocolates, Jewellery , house hold items and gifts. Soft drinks, ice cream, pizza and Burger of course are every where. Most of these sell prescription medicines and off the shelf drugs and three fourths of the pharmacies are filled with clothes, gifts, cards and chocolates. It will take time for me to disentangle these stores, find what their main commodities are, find my way around and get what I want, which in fact is nothing!

While Bhanu and my wife lose themselves amongst rows and rows of bags, foot wear and clothing and sundry items, I spend time observing the American shopping pattern. As I see here, this is how you shop. You have your dinner and start shopping. Park your car in front of the store, walk through the automatic doors, grab a shopping cart which is half the size of your car, go to the soft drink or ice cream stall conveniently located inside the store, buy a gallon of soft drink, coffee or milk shake or/and an ice cream cone (preferably multi coloured) equally large and tall, place it in the holder provided for the purpose on the cart and leisurely start moving around the store. You take a cart even if you intend buying only a pin. The logic being, on your way to the pin, if you find things which you can not resist buying (you will find lot of things which you do not need but can not resist) you will need the cart. You can’t hold all of them in the hand leaving space for the pin, you need something to carry your cola/ice cream and you can’t walk back half a mile for the cart if you feel the necessity half way through. So you move around dumping things in to the cart, partly consume the cola, milk shake or ice cream, pay for the stuff that you did not need, forget the pin, come out, empty the cart into the boot, shift the soft drink/ice cream container to the holder next to the steering wheel, and drive off. If you do need the pin, you can always come back tomorrow.

After a few days of observation and assimilations, I had enough of shopping and tried to find other things to keep myself occupied.

My wife and Bhanu however continued their piligrimage to the stores. I observed them closely and found two things hitherto unknown to me.

My wife has an extra pair of legs concealed some where in her body which she uses while shopping. Her normal legs can’t walk more than fifteen minutes in a park and they will almost fall off if you exert them more. Then you take her shopping and she quietly releases these shopping legs and puts them on. These legs can go on and on and on for hours, walking miles and miles in a shopping mall or a store and they always remain strong and keep asking for more. But the legs are not interchangeable.

Now coming to Bhanu, she has a different time frame than we normal humans. If you have a little interest in our ‘Puranas’, have read or heard about the difference in time frame of humans, ‘Brahma’ and ‘Naaraayana’, you will have known about the ‘Kalpas,’ ‘Manvantaras,’ and ‘Yugas’. Some millions or billions of human years make one ‘Yuga’ and some millions or billions of yugas make a manvantara, millions of which go on to make a kalpa etc etc. Millions of these Kalpas actually make Brahma’s half day and millions of Brahma’s years is the time taken for Naaraayana to blink his eyes once or half. I am not very sure of the figures and do not intend troubling your brains unnecessarily. What I mean to say is that these entities Brahma and Naaraayana have a time frame which differs a lot from us humans and so does Bhanu. Her day has about thirty six hours and she can always manage an extra ten to twelve hours of shopping in spite of the office work from office, office work from home, domestic chores and personal needs which themselves need more than twenty four.

I tried to find some useful work and looked around in the garage and back yard. I found that the pool which had just been uncovered after the winter, needed cleaning and have started working on it. I have learnt to operate the filter, back wash, vacuum, and the under water cleaner. I hope to make it fit for swimming in another week. It is a time consuming work.

I cleared enough material in the garage to allow me to lift my head and found a bicycle hanging up side down from the roof. I have taken it out prematurely from its ‘hung till dead’ punishment and have given it for repairs. It is estimated to cost fifty dollars. One of Bhanu’s friends bought an almost new bicycle in a garage sale for thirty five dollars.

On my rounds I have noticed some signs of garage sales during the coming weekend. I will see them and come back.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canton Cup and Randazzo's.

I did not have to search a lot to find my note pad.

It was alternating between being cloudy and sunny the last two days, more cloudy than sunny and a bit chilly. Also, it was drizzling now and then. This morning was bright, sunny and warm and I went out for a walk after breakfast. I wanted to make the best use of good weather and was not sure how long it would last. In Michigan they say “If you don’t like the weather in Michigan, wait for ten minutes!”
When I returned, I saw an unknown car in the driveway. As I entered the house, I saw a middle aged lady vacuuming the floor. It was the cleaning lady. I believe she comes once a week and tidies up the house. Thanks to her, all the clutter around the computer table had disappeared and my note book was right there in front of the monitor. It showed that I had come out of my jet lagged stupor for some time during the evening of 29th May and had gone to see the Canton cup soccer tournament, in which Dharini’s team participated.

This yearly tournament is organized by the Canton Soccer Club, and it gives an opportunity for boys and girls of all age groups to play. I heard that more than five hundred teams take part and the citizens of Canton working as volunteers make all arrangements for smooth running of the tournament. They hire the available fields in different parts of the city, mark out the grounds and parking spaces, erect tents for stalls and offices, arrange mobile toilets and trash collection and regulate traffic. The parents of the team members are the spectators and they come carrying folding chairs and umbrella shades. There is a festive atmosphere and everybody has a good time eating, drinking, chatting with friends and cheering their teams. It was our first exposure to the American ways and the courtesy they show each other and the disciplined way in which they conduct themselves was very impressive.

The next day I accompanied Vishwa to Joe Randazzo’s a vegetable and fruit chain store. I had heard about the variety that is available but when seen at close quarters, the quantity and variety is astounding. I lost myself amongst the rows and rows of fresh vegetables and fruits, wanted to buy almost everything, automatically converted the prices in to rupees and came back with out touching anything. Vishwa had filled his cart to the brim by then and we returned home. Later I found that half the stuff that looked very tasty was not to my liking and avocados, peaches and nectarine were not as tasty as I had assumed while reading about them in books and magazines.