My journal – part of a mail.

Nearly missed the plane. My flight was at 8 in the evening and at 5 pm I suddenly remembered that I had forgotten about my survival kit. Thats right. Maggi, Top Ramen and MTR. It was pouring heavily and there was no way I could go out. My roomie somehow managed to get an auto, and we stopped half way through to buy stuff. I was so jittered out that I think I bought enough stuff to last me for three US trips.

Anyway, we reached on time, and I managed to get Renju to spend a lot of money on coffee at the airport:-) By this time, I was terrified about this whole trip – terrified about travelling alone, staying alone, and I was actually taking contingency measures as to what to do, if the plane was hijacked to Kabul.(right! sometimes I can be paranoid:)). The big thing was of course, and it still is, that I wanted to exeedingly well on the project. So I am still a little bit scared about that.

Renju, when you said bye to me, I felt that I was being deserted. i know it is weird, because technically I was deserting you:). But you know what was surprising? As soon as I entered the Security Check lounge, my survival instincts took over. It was amazing the way I took control of myself and without any obvious effort. I have always acted the helpless delicate darling who coudnt move a nail, and here I was lugging all my luggage, charming one of the airport guys to explain the procedures to me, and finally boarding the plane:). Mika, I remembered your instructions, and kept the counting the number of things I was carrying with me. You might be surprised; I am actually turning out to be quite responsible:)touchwood. Lakshmi, can you believe that?

And guess what? I had an IBMer sitting next to me in the Indian Airlines flight. He sits on the second floor and recognized me (as one of the pretty ones, I am sure!:)) As soon as he realised that it was my first trip outside, all his protective instincts took over:) and as soon as I realized that there was someone out there with me, the helpless, pavam innocent surfaced in me:) But seriously, he was a big help. Even with my new found confidence, it was nice to have someone out there with me, and he accompanied me till Paris.

At Bombay airport, I found that there was a mess up with my tickets, and I was suprised that I did not panic. The Delta guys booked me for a different flight and that was that! I remember feeling surprised at how calmly I was taking things. The only thing that irritated me was that I had to lug my cabin luggage along with my Thinkpad to the rest rooms!

The IC flight was okay; good food, bearable service, not so young air hostesses, and turbulence that made me want to clutch the IBMer’s hand! No, I didnt do that. The Delta flight from Bombay to Paris was really good. And man, the flight attendants looked awesome. Forget the men, I was ogling at the girls. Renju, I did remember your advice about seducing the stewards, but I have decided to wait for the return trip; in case I meet any nice men during my stay here.

At Paris airport I had to say bye to my buddy. It was a casual bye; no fond exchanges, no tears, though he did give me his business card:) Paris airport somehow did not come up to my expectations. I dont know but my impression about Paris was that of a very romantic ciry, and I had somehow expected the airport to reflect that, with an aura of its own. I was disappointed. It was crowded, and just like any other airport. In fact I thought it was quite poorly designed compared to other airports. And sheesh! The loos in India are so much better. I had to wait in a queue for 20 minutes to use the rest room and it was realllllllllly dirty.

Hmm, flight from Paris to Atlanta? Was quite uneventful. I got a window seat, and my co-passenger was a nice elderly gentleman called Milo Franklin. (By the way, on this trip, I had decided to make a lot of friends, so I was generally grinning at anybody and everybody!) He was a sweet guy who asked me a few questions and then settled down to drinking his beer. Both of us watched a movie called Hoosiers and we were soon cheering the basket ball team together.

We landed at Hartsfield Jackson airport, and the weather here was really cloudy. As we flew through the clouds, it was absolutely breath-taking. Once upon a time I used to be scared to even look out of an airplane window, and here I was gawking at the clouds. As we were getting closer to the ground, I was surprised to see the amount of greenery in Atlanta. I had an impression of a big city with huge sky scrapers, but seems like I was mistaken. As we inched closer to immigration, I was quite scared and muttering my prayers. I had heard so many horror stories and was rehearsing on what to say.

And this is the best part of the story.

Saishree stood in the queue along with a host of others. There were a lot of vistors but very few Indians. One of the immigrations guys saw her at the end of one of the queues and took pity on her He sent her off to another queue which seemed to move fast. She said a timid Hi to the Immigration officer at the counter and gave him a charming smile I think( in retrospect, it would have been more like a grimace). He was quite friendly and was quite casual as he asked her for all my documents. He then asked her if she knew anything about american film stars and she was stumped. At that particular time, the only star she could think was Mel Gibson and he was Australian, so she smiled and said “not much”. He was like “Do you Halle Berry”. Saishree was like “Yeah”, not knowing where this was going. He asks Saishree to keep her index finger on the finger printing machine and then says “You look like her”. Eddy, do you hear that????? See, the number of times I have proposed to you, and the opportunity that you have missed. :-d. And then he asks Saishree “So are you going to have a party here?” Saishree with a sweet smile: “I hope so”. Immigration officer: “So do you have friends in town who could show you around?” Saishree with an uncertain look:”Not really”. Immigration officer stamping the form:”I could take you around if you like it. Atlanta is a great place. Would you like that?” Beat that!!!:-d and here I thought that immigration officers were ogres.

I guess thats about it for one mail:). And in case you guys are wondering, I am not without work. I have been sitting and writing at the hotel every night. The day is full of new experiences, new people and new excitements. Rajesh, you were right. Since this is new place, I can start without anybody having pre-conceived notions about me. I have been talking to a lot more people, smiling a lot more:), being much more friendly, and it feels good. I have met so many different people, people with different backgrounds, all of whom have welcomed me with wide smiles and open hearts. The Cuban driver from my hotel, the Indian girl working in Perimeter mall, Trish the receptionist at the hotel who told me about her fifteen year old son and his issues, Milo my co-passenger on the Delta flight. The day ends and I find myself smiling as a I fall asleep. I guess as I stay longer and settle into a routine, I will probably find quite a few annoying things, but right now I am grinning at the computer, a lot of energy in my footsteps, a lot more confidence in my gait, and a lot more optimism in my heart:)

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