Category Archives: Travel

Stranger 3 – Divided we fall

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While I was chatting with Tamara, my Brazilian counterpart (Stranger 2), a girl with a thickset body, with long black hair tied in a bun came to us, looking worried and asked us if we had any pain killers. Tamara had one in her bag and was looking for it. Meanwhile, the girl, let’s call her Rupa, started to talk to me. She was clearly from the Indian subcontinent and she started telling me why she was at the airport at 2 in the morning.

Before I start, here’s a little bit of2 history for those who don’t know – India achieved independence in the year 1947 but the country was partitioned and Pakistan was born. In the years that followed, there was a huge exodus where a lot of Muslims moved to Pakistan while many Hindus moved to India. Many people lost their lives and livelihoods in this process, but now time has passed. Although there has been some bitter relations between the two nations, I know I speak for the citizens of both nations when I say that there is no animosity in our hearts for the other. But after extensive media brainwash, I know that doubts have been sown in many people’s hearts when it comes to peace between the two nations.

Anyways, back to the story. Rupa told me that she and her mother had come to the airport to send Rupa’s 90-year old grandmother to Chicago where Rupa’s uncle was going to receive her.  Shortly, Rupa’s mother, Saira, came back asking us if we found the medicine for her mother. That was when I noticed her, lying on a couch – she was a frail, fragile woman with wispy hair- all bones and she looked like she could collapse at the slightest touch. She was not able to sleep on the airport couch because her back was aching pretty badly and thus, needed the medicines. Tamara gave her what she had and in the midst of this, I told Rupa that I was headed to Chicago too. As it turned out, her grandmother was flying to Chicago on the same airline as mine to meet her son. She asked me if I could help her grandmother if she was lost or unaccompanied at O’Hare and I readily agreed. I was ready to do whatever little I could to help her. As soon as I did, the mother and daughter duo immediately started talking to me in Hindi. Since I understood and spoke the language fluently, I was able to hold a conversation with them for quite some time. They were very happy to have someone to talk to and halfway through the conversation they asked me where I was from. “India,” I said.

Rupa replied, “My grandmother is from Gwalior! She moved to Pakistan after the partition.” Now before I could react to that statement, her mother, Saira, interjected, appearing worried – “She just as much an Indian as anyone else. She keeps thinking of her homeland.” This was followed by a barrage of statements all emphasizing the fact that Saira’s mother was a lot more Indian than she was a Pakistani.

I was taken aback – it really looked like Saira was trying to appease the “Indian” in me, under the fear that I would not agree to take care of her mother, just because she was a Pakistani. That was when I had to put my foot down. I made it very clear that her mother’s nationality meant nothing to me. She was a woman who was in need of help and I did not see anything beyond that.

It still saddens me when I see people putting country borders or religion over the greater good. It is a matter of virtue to help without being parochial about race or sex. I don’t blame Saira for justifying the mother’s citizenship. I blame the people who let that feeling creep up in the first place – the media, the corrupt politicians and those wielding the money, arms and power who would benefit from our constant squabbles. The governments of India and Pakistan or the cricket teams and their rivalry do not represent the feelings of the masses. For us, an ailing Indian is the same as an ailing Pakistani and we will rush to their aid if need be. Yet again, this is not a problem localized to India and Pakistan. This is a widespread epidemic between many nations and I believe that it can only be addressed by the masses. ip6.jpg

 

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Stranger 2 – Main Act

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My Brazilian Counterpart (Main Character)

If you remember, we last saw Ms. Senorita storm off to some unknown destination and it left us all baffled (On Stranger 1 – Act 1). Once Ms. Senorita left, the woman sitting to my right (the one who lent her the charger) turned to me and asked – “Whoa! What is up with her?” I noticed that she was wearing an off-white blouse and jeans and was all curled up on the couch, keeping a watchful eye over her luggage which consisted of two suitcases and a bag stacked unevenly on a trolley. “Is she coming back for my charger or not?” I started laughing because one could never tell anything with Ms. Senorita.

Ms. Senorita came and left like a hurricane with mass destruction and an abandoned cell phone charger behind her while we were recovering! That was when I met Tamara – I’d like to think of her as my Brazilian counterpart.

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The topic of Ms. Senorita got us talking. I found that Tamara was also a 20-something girl who has led a far more independent life than I did. I admired and even envied her life! She completed her undergraduate studies in Brazil, where she spent a year in London. After this, she moved to Mexico for a few months and for the last 4 months, she was in the US as a tourist. She took up an English course in Massachusetts and used her undergrad degree to land a job with HP. When she was talking about what she wanted to do with life – travel, discover herself, just live life like it was meant to be – I was impressed. I saw in her, a girl who was dancing to her own tunes and was craving to explore more of the world!

We spoke for hours. Initially it was all staying in the USA, visa status and all the related conversation that immigrants have!! Then it turned into something more serious and personal. She was just getting out of a toxic relationship and she said this – “I had to get out of the relationship. My boyfriend was leading a stagnant life and was ‘dying inside’. That is not how I want to be. I want to soar and I cannot do that if he wants to be deadweight.” She was sick of being taken for granted and that got us talking a lot about how as women, we tend to easily give up the first priority spot to someone else. Evaluate yourselves and if you feel the need for it- take back control over your lives, ladies! We have a lot to accomplish on our own – without any support from anyone.

Then we got back to talking Philosophy! Like me, she likes to be in control of her life – any kind of uncertainty would shake her off. So, when I told her that I was in a phase where I did not know how my life would turn out in the next three years, she was extremely sympathetic and genuinely concerned. We kept making plans of what we would do in the future, how things would turn out for us and all that. We spoke like we knew each other for ages! We started off as strangers and departed close friends. This experience has been one of a kind for me. So the next time you get a chance to talk to a stranger, take the opportunity. For all you know, you might find your Tamara!

Here’s a letter that she left for me before she went to her flight!

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As you’d have guessed, we became friends on Facebook and now chat regularly. Although, this story had a Happy Ending, I need to still tell you all about what happened to Ms. Senorita. But before that, I will need to segue into a third story – a story which is wretched and tugged at my heartstrings.

Let me give you a brief introduction of what happened – as I was talking to Tamara, a girl with a thickset body, with long black hair tied in a bun came to us, looking worried and asked us if we had any pain killers. We were immediately concerned, because it is not good to fall sick at an airport without anyone to help out. So we started rummaging out backpacks to see if we had anything to offer and that was when she started telling us the reason why she needed the pills.

For more, hang on..Stranger 3 – Divided we fall, will be out soon!

Stranger 1 – Act 1

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As you might already know, I am continuing writing about the story of three people I met at the airport. This is a continuation, so make sure you read the first part before you start this!

Ms. Senorita (Act 1)

A tall woman, with medium length black hair tied in a messy plait, she strode in flats, capri jeans and a red sweater. I noticed her only because she was was walking around, talking very loudly to random people either in English or Spanish.

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It definitely looked like she was searching for something or someone. I was wondering what the problem was and I saw that she was walking towards us. She asked me if I had an Android phone charger – unfortunately, I was using mine and my phone was running out of juice. So she turned to the woman sitting next to me and she complied. I helped her with connecting the charger since it was closer to me and she started thanking me very profusely. There was a very clear boisterous, “bossy” tone in her voice. Like she was used to getting people to do things her way. I hope I am not painting a negative picture of her here- that is not my intention. I answered a lot of questions that she shot at me:

“Where are you going?”,

“Where are you coming from?”,

“College Station? What kind of a place is that?!”

I tried asking her meekly where she was going and I find out that she is not sure! I mean, she lived in Houston and she wanted to go to Ohio but she hadn’t bought a ticket. And she continued talking but throughout the time I was wondering – “Why would a person who was from Houston choose to spend a night at the airport AND not have a ticket booked to some place?”

My thought process reached a sudden halt when I realized that she was waiting for me to answer a question she had asked. Like an idiot, I replied “Yes!” (Always say “No!” if you don’t know what the question is!)

Anyways, before I knew it, I was lying on a massage chair that she offered, nay forced me into while she went to change her clothes. Throughout the time I was on the chair, I was wondering if I actually wanted the pounding on my back! I realized that I was not a big fan of massage chairs. So long story short, after about 40 more minutes of interrogation about me and what I do, she took her phone and went without letting me or the person who lent her the charger know if she will be back. Where did she go? Where is she planning to fly to? Will she return?

Stay tuned for Stranger 1 – Act 2 which should be out after a couple of other stories!

 

Strangers at the Airport – Intro

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Strangers at the Airport – Intro

When I started writing this blog, I was surprised at how long it ran. I realized that there was no point in me writing the entire story in one blog, since a reader’s interest would definitely wane by the time they got halfway through – heck I was tired of all the typing and I don’t blame you all! So let’s start with the introduction!

Don’t let the title of the blog throw you off. I did not plot to kill anyone with another person like they did on the movie (so hang up on those 911 calls, please!). I mentioned in my previous post that I was traveling for over 72 hours out of which I was stuck at Houston Airport for one night. It was here that I met 3 sets of people from different backgrounds and somehow, in that one night, we developed a unique kind of a relationship that people do once they get talking when they’re in such stranded situations.

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I want to start off with the chronological events. This turned out to be quite a fun night, despite all the millions of crazy thoughts that were running through my head. I have changed everyone’s names to obviously protect their privacy!

This is how it began..I was looking for a couch in a cozy nook so that I could get those 40 winks before braving the biting Chicago winds. I found just what I was looking for, a faux leather couch with a coffee table to its right and a cell-phone charging center to its left. To the other side of this coffee table, I saw that someone was sitting on a matching faux leather couch. I did not pay much attention to the other person and went upon making myself comfortable in my spot.

And then she entered!

 Stay tuned for Stranger 1 – Act 1!

Things to do in Vegas during the day!

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Things to do in Vegas during the day!

It has been two weeks since I got back from my 8-day long vacation in Las Vegas and this has been a wonderful experience. As opposed to what is popularly shown in movies, Vegas has a lot more to offer than just casinos and strip clubs.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not one of those people who hate gambling. I played and lost more than my fair share in Las Vegas (I will be back seeking revenge some day soon) but there is so much more to the place than just what is advertised on billboards. Yes, there are gorgeous women who instantly made me hate everything about myself, but in addition to all the glitz and glamour, there is a quaint beauty to the city and its surroundings.

So, here is a list of places I recommend APART from the usual places to visit in Vegas!

1. Red Rock Canyon

Located about 24 miles away from the Las Vegas strip, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area showcases beautiful and ever changing landscape. If you take the 13-mile scenic drive, you are guaranteed to be enthralled by the different colors strewn across mountains and hills. If you are a hike enthusiast, then you are in for a treat. There are a lot of hikes and trails of different difficulty levels. Also, make sure you take a look at the visitor’s center.  I wanted to spend the entire day there – you have the opportunity to learn so much about the flora and fauna and general conditions at Red Rock.

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2. Death Valley

Death Valley is a must-see if you are in Vegas. Although, it is farther away from the city, about a 4 hour drive, it is well worth its time. We thought of visiting all the scenic spots in Death Valley in a day, but that was quite an ambitious thing to hope for. You need to camp for at least 3 days if you wish to soak in all of Death Valley. But if you have only one day to spend in Death Valley, then I would probably do the following:

a. Dante’s View – This is a viewpoint that showcases the haunted beauty of Death Valley.

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b. Zabriskie Point – It is yet another viewpoint located to the east of Death Valley. You can see how the lava, ash and rivers have moulded the landscape into a beautiful array of colors.

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c. Sailing Stones – Although I did not go here myself due to lack of time and good transport (it is be advisable to travel to this place by Jeep or a vehicle with hard tires), I would always pick this as my first choice of place to visit in Death Valley. These rocks seem to have traveled from one place to another over time and the reason behind this phenomenon was a mystery up until now where scientists think the rocks move because of a thin layer of ice formed underneath the rocks.

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d. Badwater Basin – There are so many reasons to visit the Badwater Basin. It is the lowest point in North America, you can see salt deposits all around you and is full of eerie stories of hikers who died due to dehydration in this arid and extremely hot area.

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If you do have some time left after visiting these places, you can also visit Artist’s palette, Devil’s golf course and Golden Canyon. There are many hike trails here as well.

3. Hoover Dam

A 50-minute drive from the strip, Hoover Dam caught my attention as an engineering marvel. The ideal time to visit the dam would be around sunset, also called the golden hour. You also are on the border of Nevada and Arizona so you keep shifting between different time zones!

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4. Mount Charleston

What surprises me a lot about Mount Charleston is that despite being relatively close to the city, it had an altogether different weather pattern. There was snow only in about a 2 to 3 mile radius from the mountain. Once you cross that, you are back to Vegas and it’s cold yet sunny weather. This is a popular skiing destination and is great for spending time with family.

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5. Lake Mead 

Although I was pressed for time and did not get a chance to see a lot of Lake Mead, I was very impressed by what I saw here. There is a lot of aquatic life to see around the harbor and if you are as lucky as we were, you will also see a coyote!! Yes, we saw a coyote which circled our car at least 10 times, staring at us with its inquisitive golden eyes.

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Make sure you don’t miss out on these! Gambling is fun and all, but this is one hell of an experience too. You see nature at its best and that can never be a disappointment.