A Joyful Experience

...from Hooghly to Hyderabad and beyond.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Random Ramblings

I am currently enjoying the winter break at my cousin brother's house. I'll return home next week and start working on my research again. In the meantime, the weather is excellent - warm and sunny and it makes me feel guilty and frustrated to waste these days indoors. We plan to go somewhere tomorrow, but the weather report says tomorrow there will be rain and snow.

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While I have been sitting indoors, I have been working on a long post on New York City that will be published soon. I am working on a Tagore translation too. I edited and uploaded photos and videos from our Christmas trip to Rockefeller Center and the skiing trip to Campgaw Mountain for family members back in India. I did not attempt to learn skiing. In case anyone thinks I chickened out let me say that the official reason is that I did not have waterproof pants and gloves required for skiing and I am sticking to it. I made my first snowman (rather, a "snow-girl") for my three-year old nephew and it is not as easy as it seems. The one that I made was only about a foot high.

I am taking piano lessons from my nephew and hope to be able to play simple tunes soon. On the photography front, I am about to start a photoblog but can't decide on a name. Also, I intend to upgrade my Flickr account to a "pro" account, but have been putting off spending the money. I will probably do both of these things on 1st January.

I will end this post with a good news that I keep forgetting to write about. A couple of months ago, the president of my university chose a photo taken by me for his holiday greeting card (with my permission, of course, and not like what the Todis did). I was acknowledged as the photographer inside and a few copies of the finished card were given to me. At the beginning of this month the president sent the greeting to all faculty members, and although I knew of this beforehand, it felt really good to see a photo taken by me on the professors' desks and pinned along with the Christmas decorations in the library. Here's what it looks like:

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I wish all my readers a very happy new year in advance. See you next year!

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Thursday, December 25, 2008

Season's Greetings

Two years ago, I wrote a post called "Merry Christmas" on this day. After coming to the USA, I learnt that "Merry Christmas" is a politically incorrect form of greeting. Here I have to say "Season's Greetings" or "Happy Holidays" to avoid offending anyone. I must say that if saying "Merry Christmas" offends anyone then they are the most intolerant creatures on this planet.

Anyway, let's not discuss the intolerant. When I wrote a few months ago that I was hoping that my first Christmas in the US would be a white Christmas, everyone around told me that it usually didn't snow before January. Yet, due to the snowstorm on last Friday this Christmas is as close to a white Christmas as one is likely to see in these parts. Our lawn is still covered in snow and although the roads and sidewalks are cleared, snow is still piled high on the sides. Most of the roofs have some snow and the park near our house is completely covered under a white blanket.
I went to see Christmas decoration at the Rockefeller Center on Tuesday. It was very beautiful, but the crowd was also beyond my imagination. Crowds seem surprising these days, ever since I left India. The cold was bitter but the sight of the huge lighted snowflakes, the angels and the Christmas tree with the nine foot crystal star at the top was worth all the trouble. I also visited some stores to buy gifts. Strangely, the queues at the counters did not seem to reflect the economic crisis; if they did, I wonder what the queues are like in other years. The stores didn't look too good though: one garment store was going out of business and they were selling off everything including fixtures, mannequins and furniture at throwaway prices.

Not much to write about now... My cousin brother and sister-in-law arrived from Ithaca today and we all gathered at my other cousin's house in Edison where we will spend the week having fun. Family get-togethers: that's what Christmas has meant for me since my childhood days. I will always miss my immediate family here in the US, but this is the best family get together that we could have.
So although I did not listen to LPs sitting in front of the fireplace, I did have a lovely Christmas. I hope yours were great too!

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Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's a Magical World

A winter storm blew across northeast US this weekend causing over 650 flight cancellations from the three New York City airtports alone on Friday. I was in my college when the snowstorm started and within no time there was several inches of snow. Since I was free in the afternoon I went to see what New York City looked like in a blizzard and saw how messy snow can be, and also faced sleet for the first time. Later I came to my cousin's house in Edison to spend the weekend. As I type this, everything outside the window is white and more snow is piling up. But my blog post is not about the snow. It is about something which I photographed this morning.

When the snow had stopped for some time this morning, I had gone to the garden to take photos of the snow-covered neighbourhood. A small Japanese maple tree in the garden seemed to be very wet and there were droplets of water hanging from the tips of its bare branches. I did not find this unusual since it was raining occasionally. I tried to get some macro shots of these droplets that showed the neighbourhood's inverted image, and then I discovered two things: firstly, the droplets were not as clear as water should be, and secondly, they were not falling down if I touched the branches. They were frozen solid - droplets of ice.

I decided  to take a closer look and fetched the 50 mm lens of my SLR since the weather was pretty dry now. When a normal camera lens is inverted, it acts as a macro lens, and so I used my digital camera to shoot these tiny icicles through the inverted SLR lens. The drops had trapped air bubbles within, and the combined effect of the vintage Pentax lens and the Carl-Zeiss lens on my Sony produced results that were beyond my wildest dreams. I'm sharing the photos below: click on them to get an enlarged view.

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Shooting at -4 degrees Celsius is not easy, especially when you are balanced precariously on the hardened snow holding a lens in one hand and a camera in the other. Anyone who has ever taken out a metal ice tray from the freezer and held it for some time will know what my hands were feeling like: it's that exact same feeling. Moreover, the light was so low that most of my shots got blurred. The camera batteries died after every few shots and had to be warmed again. However, looking at these shots in the laptop later was worth all the trouble.

I'll end the post with what Calvin said to Hobbes in the last Calvin and  Hobbes strip on such a snow covered day. "It's a magical world, Hobbes, ol' buddy… Let's go exploring!" he said. The same can be said about macro photography of the natural world. It's really a magical world, and I wish I had the time and money to go exploring it properly.


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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

White Blog Post

On Tuesday (16th December) I had an examination in the evening and it was snowing lightly when I walked to the examination hall from my lab at six. Over the last couple of weeks or so, I have become accustomed to light snow flurries and this one didn't feel much different. When I came out of the hall at 9:00 pm, however, I stopped dead in my tracks. The world was covered in several inches of white snow. Everything I saw was white. Students were throwing snow balls at each other.

I took out my camera and took soome pictures. Later when I walked back from the station to my house in the snow I called home and shared my excitement with my parents and sister. Everything looked much brighter than other nights because of the high reflectivity of the snow covered ground. I even went to the park early on Wednesday morning to take photos.

I do not have too many words to describe my feelings. This is primarily because seeing and feeling snow for the first time is such a different experience that it is very difficult to describe. It is also difficult for me to write because I was forced to stay indoors and study most of this time as I had another examination on Wednesday. Maybe some other day I can write about what playing with snow feels like, or how to build a snowman. For now, I will only share some photos of my surroundings and let my camera do the talking.


My university campus















Some chairs and tables in my university













My neighbours' house, photographed from my window at night.



















Branch Brook Park, early morning of the 17th.
















The melting of the snow can look very beautiful too!















The Newark Light Rail station at Branch Brook Park.












More photos are available here and also these in a larger size, so if you liked these and wish to see more, you can pay a visit.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some Computers in My Life

This Thursday I received the shipment containing my new Dell laptop. So this is the first blog post that I am typing out on a computer bought with my own money. But before I say what my new computer is like, let me put down some thoughts and memories that came flooding back to my mind as I started my new computer for the first time.

Incident #1 (June 1996): Me and my sister found it difficult to pass the time as we waited for the arrival of our first home computer at our house in Allahabad. My father’s company had decided to install a desktop computer at our house for his official work. It was an 80486 machine with a 66MHz processor, 20 MB RAM, 420 MB hard disk, a primitive CD-ROM drive and a sound card and speakers. Nobody in my father’s office had seen a multimedia machine before. I distinctly remember one of his colleagues saying, “20 MB RAM? That’s a waste! What will you do with that much of RAM?” Before you laugh, remember, the best desktops of the day had just 8MB of RAM, at least in India. But that Compaq Presario CDS 720 was probably my favourite computer. I can never forget the hours of fun that I had browsing Encarta, listening to music, drawing on paintbrush, coding in QBASIC and Turbo C++ and playing those old games on MS DOS and Windows 3.1. Movies on DVD? The Internet? Who had heard of those things then?

Incident #2 (November 2003): I was in my third year at IIIT Calcutta and had decided to buy a new computer as the old second-hand Pentium that I was using for programming wasn’t sufficient anymore. My father was paying for it, and I did a lot of market research before finalizing a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 machine with a 40 GB hard disk. All of my friends’ PCs had 128 MB of RAM now. Some of our older lab PCs still had 64MB. But I thought, “I have seen the benchmark grow from 20MB to 128 MB. I’ll plan in advance and get 256 MB of RAM.” And that was that, until I added another 256 MB to that computer to speed it up last year and replaced the 40 GB disk with an 80 GB one. The OS? The one and only Windows XP was the most obvious choice for such a high-end PC, since Windows 98 was obsolete, and Windows 2000 was the “poor man’s XP” anyway.

Incident #3 (Mid-2006): I was working in Hyderabad in an IT company and as a vendor to Microsoft. They were about to release this new OS called Windows Longhorn, which had been renamed to Vista. Some of my friends were actually designing Vista components and doing beta testing. They said this new OS was so heavy that its minimum requirement was 512 MB of RAM. It didn’t run properly on 512 MB though, and the best of their computers with 1 GB of RAM were the ones which handled Vista efficiently. That was the first time I heard of 1 GB RAM on desktops. Later in 2007 our own office desktops were upgraded to 1 GB RAM machines. 160 GB hard drives were becoming common. Intel’s Dual Core processors were considered state-of-the-art.

The present (December 2008): My new Dell laptop has an Intel Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz processor, 3 GB of RAM, a 320 GB hard disk and runs Windows Vista. I am a little sad because I felt 4 GB RAM was becoming a little too costly for me and went for 3 GB instead. I am also concerned about my hard disk space; I have seen how quickly my 80 GB disk filled up. 320 GB is just four times that amount. How long can it last? Terabyte external hard disks are available here; maybe I will get one sometime later. And to think that the computers in my school that were responsible for creating the love of computer science that I have today had 640 KB of RAM and no hard disk!

I suddenly feel I have been around for too long.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

"Take it or Leave it"


Here is the latest news from the Indian IT industry.

Stir after Wipro asks techies to join BPO

TIMES NEWS NETWORK

Kolkata: They were aware of the slowdown, but none thought it would sting so soon. Assured employment as project engineers by Wipro in 2007, these budding engineers didn’t know their careers would go into free fall.
Hundreds of students from different engineering colleges staged a dharna in front of the Wipro SEZ area in Sector V on Saturday morning after the company asked them to join its BPO shop at half the salary they had been offered initially. At the dharna, the students were waving copies of the company’s revised letter, which they got a few days ago.
“As project engineers, we are supposed to get Rs2.75-3.25 lakh a year, while as a BPO employee, this has been reduced to Rs1.2-1.6 lakh annually. We will be demoted to a BPO staffer. We’re aware of the meltdown, but are not willing to compromise on job profile,” said Gourab Saha, from JIS Engineering College, Kalyani.
According to students, the company had given them offer letters to join as project engineers after campus interviews in 2007. They were promised jobs in February 2009 after they passed out of college.
In a letter to the selected candidates on November 25, Wipro management invited them to join the BPO division in Kolkata. “You would be aware of the current economic environment across all industries including the IT sector. IT analysts and experts claim this scenario is likely to prevail for a while. We have looked at various options to absorb you without much delay,” the letter says. The nature of job is that of a “technical helpdesk engineer” instead of “project engineer” as promised earlier.
After getting the letter, confused students rushed to the Wipro office on Thursday to meet HR officials. The meeting was futile. Company officials allegedly took a take-it-or-leave -it stand and said they were not going to consider the cases of those unwilling to join the BPO.
Students then staged the dharna in front of Wipro office on Saturday expecting the Wipro management to take a flexible stand. Many among the agitators were ready to work for a reduced salary, but not in the BPO division. “We told HR that we are ready to accept a reduced pay structure. But the company should give us the designation offered initially,” pleaded Saikat Chakravorty, a student from Institute of Technology and Marine Engineering.
The agitators are ready to wait another six months. They pleaded with the company not to cancel their appointments if they did not join the BPO. “At present, it is mandatory to join the BPO, otherwise they will strike off our names. During Saturday’s meeting, we told them we were willing to wait a few months to join as engineers,” said Sayantan Mukherjee, a student from Bengal Institute of Technology, who went to talk to Sonal Bharadwaj, regional HR head of Wipro. “Bharadwaj gave us a patient hearing but didn’t promise anything. We’ve been asked to get in touch with HR by December 2,” said Sayantan.
Wipro Technologies vice-president Pradeep Bahirwani said: “Due to current business scenario we estimate delays in joining dates of some batches of recruits. We are providing them an option of a role in our BPO division. The objective is to let engineering graduates commence work without delay.”

Almost three years ago when I had started this blog, I wrote this post on a problem of the Indian IT industry. I'm sure not many people read my blog at the time. Then after all these years, I came across this news report. The events reported are a direct result of the problem I wrote about, and I feel compelled to write something more about it. When I left the IT industry to come back to academics, I had decided I would refrain from writing cribbing posts exposing the bad side of the Industry. However, I think it is my duty to warn the engineering students of our country planning to go into a company like Wipro, Infosys, TCS or Satyam: most of them do not know what they are getting into. I do, because I have been there. I will just share some of the things that I saw during my three years in the IT industry.


  • The freepool: This is a group of people who have no work to do at the moment. Most engineering students who hear about it ask me delightedly, "Do they pay you in full in the freepool? If they do, then why, it's the most wonderful job in the world!" Let me tell everyone that it is not. I know of people who spent one full year in the freepool after being recruited. This is bad due to several reasons.
  1. Firstly, after about the first month of enjoyment, the frustration that sets in is enough to cause psychiatric problems. Just imagine: you have to come and sit at a desk in your office for 9.5 hours every day and you have nothing to do other than reading junk mails, forwarding more junk mails and browsing websites. Even most of the popular websites are blocked in these companies. People either just go crazy and remain stressed and irritated all the time or try to develop hobbies like blogging and digital photography. Sometimes they come in, record their attendance and then go out and watch a movie and come back (believe me, I have done it more than once), but how many movies can you watch? What's worse, in some companies you have to come in night shifts to do this sitting-at-your-desk thing as they do not have enough cubicles/computers during the day. To put it mildly, it is hell.
  2. Secondly, people forget everything they learnt in college during this time. Even writing simple programs seems difficult after a few months. On paper, the companies do arrange trainings for these people. Now what does a training look like? A person blabbering about some topic while 15 people connect remotely to his slideshow via the network and listen to him via VOIP. Sometimes the network connection breaks for someone: nobody cares. Sometimes the voice isn't clear enough. Nobody cares. I once asked for a face to face training and my manager (I could write volumes about this particular manager and the nonsense that he speaks, but this post is about more serious issues) responded, "In this current competitive environment, the focus has shifted to increased productivity, and we cannot afford to have a face to face training. You need to augment your learning curve by our e-learning courses." Fine, you think. Why not stop cribbing and try to make the most of these trainings? I thought the same way. So after some sessions on Siebel Analytics, I asked the management for the software so that I may practise hands on what I learnt. Only then it became evident that I cannot have the software as it was licensed for project use. It is the same with any licensed software. So we are supposed to learn the theory via phone and do the practical mentally. Yet we cannot say we don't know that software when we are asked to work on it suddenly after six months. "You have been trained, haven't you?" the managers ask.
  3. Finally, let's say an economic crisis hits after the one year you spent in the freepool and they start laying off people. You are going to be among the first targets because the company does not even know your capabilities. Soon, you will be on the streets looking for a job, but you have already forgotten many of the things you learnt in college. Finally you get a call for an interview. One of the inevitable questions is, "What are the projects that you have worked on for the last one year in your previous company?" I will not bother about the details of what the reaction might be if you say you were in the freepool. I will just state one unwritten rule followed in the industry, "If someone is on the freepool, that means they are incompetent." This same rule is followed even in the same company that kept you in the freepool for no fault of yours. No prizes for guessing whether you'll get the job.
  • Unplanned recruitment: The same companies that are asking recruits to join some inferior post at half salaries now or deferring their joining date were recruiting like crazy a year ago. Without naming any company or person, I would like to quote what an HR manager of one company told the people going for recruitment at the engineering colleges. "Our current strength is 1200 and we want to touch 4000 by March 2008," she said, "Recruit as many as you can, even if they can't answer much at the interviews." Everyone working there knew that there was no work for those many people, and none was likely to come. Everyone, except the HR people (most of the HR people are incompetent by definition). If anything, the economy was becoming worse. And now, after that figure has been reached, they finally realize that they bit off more than they can chew. What Wipro did can be seen in the news story above. The other companies are doing similar things too. Yet, a year ago, they were offering never-heard-of starting salaries to engineers out of college. Actually the salary offered to campus recruits in my company was higher than the salary that I and my batchmates were getting after working for three years. You didn't need to be an MBA to predict that this wasn't sustainable. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that these policies were framed by MBAs. After the Wall Street meltdown, everyone knows what they are capable of.
  • Inferior quality of work: Believe me: 90% of the work done at any major Indian IT services company is, to put it in American slang, Micky Mouse. That means they are insultingly simple tasks which can be performed by a bunch of high school kids. Thinking is actively discouraged. Creativity is sneered at. Challenging problems are avoided. Every project, every resource (which means the employees) and every action is evaluated on one criteria: the profit of the company. Which is perfectly fair, as long as they don't use brilliant students as pawns. Do the engineers of our country really want to work in these sweatshops where sometimes people have to work 24x7 just because the company wants to save money by keeping a resource in India and paying him an Indian salary but making him work at onsite timings? Many people join the IT industry for the onsite opportunity dream. Be careful, with the increase in the number of resources, going to onsite is a matter of chance now, and the chances are getting slimmer every day.
  • Unnecessary expenditure: They don't have money for face to face trainings. They do not have money to give pay hikes to the existing employees. Yet, the amount of money and time they spend on unplanned and unnecessary activity is awe-inspiring. Let's take a real life example that I saw: suppose there are ten people in your project and there are no vacant seats nearby to take more. You know twenty more are coming within a month out of which five are due to arrive in a week. What will you do? If I were the manager, I would move to a room where all 30 can be seated. Not the real managers. They will move the whole team to a place where there is just enough place for 15 people. After a month, they will again move to a place where all thirty can be accommodated which is actually the initial location of the team with another team moved away. The amount of bureaucratic hassle for implementing these two changes would be monumental. Tens of emails would go back and forth, the IT department would be bowed down with machine movement requests and at least one workday would be lost for each movement. But, as I said earlier, thinking is prohibited there; innovative solutions frowned upon. The company is so short of money that when one of my teammates lost the support mobile phone, he was told to buy one for the company by our manager (I wonder who pocketed the insurance money). Yet just look at the money they waste on unplanned activity!
  • Lies: Maybe that's the industry norm. Maybe the managers lie in every company, in every sector. Yet it never failed to surprise me how our manager could lie with a straight face about upcoming projects, requirements, budget constraints and other nonsense. He even had figures ready. Again, maybe profit matters most. But when one shoves a campus recruit into a dead technology project after keeping him in the freepool for six months saying "This is the hottest thing in the market. This is the best thing to happen to your career," maybe its time we looked at our ethical values and redefined good business practices. I can go on and on, but let me just say that right from the person who comes for the pre-placement talk in the college, to the person who takes your exit interview the day you leave the job, and everyone that you meet in between, are glib liars. There are a few honest exceptions, but they are few and far between.
These companies impose bonds on the recruits so that they cannot leave within a year without paying hefty amounts. Usually the students are too happy to get the job and they oblige. Now the companies are on backfoot. That is evident from the kind of offer that Wipro Technologies has given to the campus recruits. With due respect to the BPO employees, I feel no engineering graduate should opt for the BPO job offer at half the salary. Remeber, once you go in, you go into the BPO. Do not believe anyone who says you'll get into the technologies wing once times are better. Such a thing does not happen. I feel the time has come for the companies to give their pound of flesh. These students should collectively sue the company, in this case Wipro Technologies and surely they can get a better deal than what they are being offered now.

"Take it or leave it," they say. It's time we made the management of these IT companies face the same choices regarding their jobs and salaries.

(Any comments talking about any specific company by name, or phishing about the company that I worked for will be deleted. If you know me personally, you know the name of the company. Keep quiet. If you don't know me personally, well, I'm not going to name my ex-employers.)

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Monday, December 01, 2008

Moments in Manhattan

Life goes on.

However upset I claim to be about the happenings in Mumbai, I had my preplanned enjoyment schedule for the Thanksgiving weekend and I could not let that go awry just because (as the Maharashtra Deputy CM put it) some small things had happened in big places. So on Saturday morning, I was on my way to downtown Manhattan to meet Anyesha-di and Shubhamoy-da, the blogger couple from Maryland. I had been looking forward to meeting them ever since I started blogging and reading blogs, and particularly since I came to this country. So when Anyesha-di had told me last week that they were visiting New York over the weekend with her sister Abhigya, I had instantly decided to meet up. In fact they are the first people whom I came to know through their blogs and then met in real life.

No matter how many times I visit the World Trade Center site, the look of that vacant block of sky saddens me every time. On Saturday, when I came out from the subway at WTC, I felt the same familiar feeling, and instantly, my mind also wandered to south Mumbai. South Mumbai has a vague similarity to lower Manhattan geographically, and also in importance. A narrow piece of land surrounded by water on three sides with lots of offices and tourist attractions. And as I crossed the road and looked up at the large building in front of me, I found myself looking at the Millennium Hilton Hotel. I have walked by this hotel dozens of times, yet when I looked at it today I thought of the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai. I quickly brushed off the thought, however, and went and met my new friends. Together, we walked down the Broadway to Wall Street, took the bull by its horns and other parts of its anatomy, and then walked to Battery Park to catch the Staten Island Ferry. The day was moderately cold, but we still went and stood on the rear deck to enjoy the view of Lady Liberty and the Manhattan skyline. The seagulls left Manhattan with us and flew behind us, fishing in the troubled waters in our wake. The pigeons were lazier and they decided to make the trip from Manhattan to Staten Island sitting on the deck.

We got a fairly close look at the Statue of Liberty, and I saw the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for the first time. As we moved into deeper waters, we saw ships anchored in the sea. I was enjoying myself immensely taking photos of seagulls and other things when suddenly I remembered that a Pakistani ship that was anchored offshore from Mumbai like this served as the mother ship for the terrorists. It will be an exaggeration if I say I stopped enjoying myself after that, but that thought kept coming back to my mind again and again.

As soon as we landed at Staten Island, we ran out into the waiting area and ran back onto the returning ferry to make the trip back to Manhattan. Good sense prevailed this time though, and I stayed indoors, peering through the glass windows and discussing James Bond with Abhigya. Once in Manhattan, we walked along the South Street Seaport right up to the Brooklyn Bridge and City Hall Park. There, after trying to play with the squirrels for some time, we boarded the subway and went straight to the Grand Central Station.

I had passed in front of Grand Central on 42nd Street and Park Avenue several times, but I had never gone inside. As we came up into the main station from the subway level, I was struck speechless with the jaw-dropping architectural beauty of the station. There were ornate sculptures on the walls and the ceilings, there were antique wall clocks in every direction and even simple objects like letter boxes were fit to be displayed in a museum. There was a huge food court where Shubhamoy-da hosted a fine Chinese lunch. The four of us wrestled for space on a tiny wobbly table probably meant for one and then ate some of the food, wasted some more, and dropped the rest on our clothes before letting go.

We resumed our tour of the station after lunch. The central hall of the Grand Central is simply amazing. It has this sky-high ceiling with the signs of the zodiac painted on it with real lights in place of the stars. Then there are huge windows on all sides and large staircases, and a beautiful clock atop the information booth in the middle. This is the same clock that had got stuck on Melman the giraffe’s head in the movie Madagascar. Anyway, none of us were in danger of such a predicament as we were more down-to-earth. We also visited the shopping area with the lovely hanging lights and saw a large Christmas tree which was covered with flat screen TVs displaying kaleidoscopic patterns from top to bottom. Apart from the slightly disturbing parallel that my mind kept drawing between the Grand Central Station and the Mumbai CST station, my first trip inside this station was very enjoyable.

It was getting dark outside by this time, and we came out and walked down the 42nd Street to Bryant Park. I was surprised to see Bryant Park full of temporary shops selling all kinds of fancy stuff. One shop had “SABON” written in bold letters. Whatever language that was, we knew it meant soap. Abhigya discovered that a man was distributing free samples of “sabon” outside this shop and came to inform us. As a result, I and Anyesha-di got free soap samples. The man ran out of soap just as Abhigya went to claim her share. Then we watched people trying to skate on the ice-skating rink nearby. Then we watched the maintenance guys shoo the skaters out of the rink. Then we watched them come out on a special vehicle and smoothen the ice. Then we realized that we were watching too much of useless things and proceeded to walk towards Times Square.

Times Square was our final destination for travelling together. At Times Square, I said goodbye to Shubhamoy-da, Anyesha-di and Abhigya and headed for the Penn Station while they went the other way. I had to return home in Edison. They had more sight-seeing to do.

The day, although it seemed to pass very quickly, was a truly memorable one for me. Firstly, I had spent most of the previous day listening to the news from Mumbai and getting more and more frustrated. Saturday was a welcome break from that depressing schedule. Secondly, I had a chance to travel to and photograph several places in New York that I had not seen yet. And finally, for some reason, I usually find myself short of like-minded people. On this Saturday I made three friends whose tastes and opinions I found to be very similar to mine. This was the biggest gift for me.

And so, although the day seemed like one fleeting moment, it was actually a really joyful experience for me.

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