Thursday, September 29, 2011

Then & Now - Food take out

It just feels like yesterday when I went to a takeout eating joint for the first time in US and the person on the other side and I were absolutely bemused by the questions flowing from both sides.

Server: What would you like to have Sir?
Me: Hmmm, what do you have in Vegetarian?

Server: We have number 6, 8 and 10 in vegetarian and if you want I can make number 9 vegetarian too.
Me: Hmmm, let me think for a second (for about 20 seconds I tried to figure out what does she mean by numbers. Then I found the numbers next to each menu item hanging on the wall behind the server). I looked behind and there was a huge line so I let the person behind me take my place. Excuse me, go ahead, I think I might need to think (server looking at me and smiling. I don't know if she was smiling because she is supposed to on job with customers or she was smiling on my ignorance and being "Non American").

...I let 2 more people move ahead in the queue...

Server: So, decided?
Me: Yes, I think so. I will go with number 6. What's the dressing with number 6?

Server: It would be Italian Vinaigrette.
Me: (Thinking what the hell it is) Could you replace that with mayonnaise and mustard and light cheese?

Server: Sure. Would you like any extra toppings?
Me: Hmm, what's spicy?

Server: We have Jalapeno and Giardiniera
Me: (I know what Jalapeno is but what was this new thing that I couldn't even speak clearly). Which one is the 2nd one?

Server: Smiling at me and pointing her finger to the last bucket filled with some sort of mixture that looked hot.
Me: I'll have that (still can't say the name)

Server: Will it be a combo?
Me: What's a combo?

Server: You get a packet of chips and small drink.
Me: I'll be fine with just the sandwich.

Cashier: It would be four fifty.
Me: I handed over the card

Cashier: Credit or Debit?
Me: Credit.

Cashier: Thanks and Have a nice day.
Me: I sat down and started to eat my sandwich when I found that despite the fact that I asked her to add light cheese, the sandwich had lot of it.

Over the years, I learned that with Americans you have to be very clear and use the words they usually understand. Like instead of saying "light cheese", you should rather say "easy cheese or easy on cheese", instead of saying "water without ice" you should say "water no ice".

Present Day...

I walk in the restaurant/take out place, the server sees me and I walk straight to the cashier. I make the payment and I am done in just a couple of minutes. Over these 4 years, they have known me so well that I don’t have to even tell them what I need for my meal. They know that this guy is a vegetarian and orders the same thing whenever he comes. Even if I am back in queue, at times I can just walk to the cashier and pay for my meal.

I fear what will happen if these numbers someday get changed with others. I would walk in and the server will make number 6 and I will pay at the cashier but when I will sit down and unpack my meal, number 6 would turn out to be Tuna sandwich and I will be screwed J But can’t blame anyone, can I?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Trip to Wonderland

Last to last Saturday I was out shopping and preparing for my trip to "Ghar" (home) when I realized that the same day an year ago I was with one of my colleagues and his pregnant wife and were getting ready to head out for the Hospital for her delivery, and then I recalled that it was one of my best friend’s birthday as well back in homeland. So without any further delay, I took out my phone and dialed some numbers and connected to my friend in India and wished him Happy Birthday. In return I got some nice hollers as I was late in wishing him but as usual I was ready with my excuse. "Dude, it's still 18th here so for me it is still your B'Day :)" and we both laughed. It is really nice to have friends like him around when you just forget every pain in this world and feel satisfied.

I was so busy in talking with my friend that I didn't even realize that I parked my car in a strip mall (don't take me wrong, it is just a synonym people use here for local malls/shopping complexes and not a nude mall :) ) and was walking towards one of my favorite shops, . I must tell you if you still have that little kid inside you, this shop is a wonderland for you but a nightmare for your pocket. I may have grown old but am still a little kid in my heart and every time I am in this store, walking in the wheels aisle, my mouth is drooling, eyes circling and heart pumping to grab every single of those little and big wheelers and take them home. But the truth is that I am really a grown up person now and not a good candidate for these toys. But that little baby inside me kicks me so bad that I just can't resist and when I watch little kids sitting on the floor of these aisles and taking out every car, truck, scooter, bike, boat, airplane, etc. I just stand there and watch them playing. It's actually fun to watch these little kids and their parents following them ensuring that they don't break anything or tear apart the packing of any toy in excitement. I look back in my childhood and I can't recall if we had so many options with toys or varieties or lineups of characters and themes. Our days were pretty straight and simple with cars, balls, bats, bikes, scooters, etc. but nothing compared to today's toys like Disney Cars, Toy Story characters, Transformers gadgetry robo-trucks, etc. No wonder, why I get involved and lost in these stores.

One of the reasons my elder nephew is so crazy about wheel toys is me :). I can't recall a single trip to ToysRUs or any other baby store when I walked out empty hand. There was always a toy, car, truck, ball, sporting or some educational game. I think I am living my childhood through my nephews and buying them all these cute little toys and things and these things makes me feel happy and satisfied and honestly speaking, I enjoy buying for them and playing with them. I become a kid myself. It’s funny how we keep moving in circles the whole life and live every phase of it again but through our offspring.

For a change, this time when I walked out of the store, I had nothing for my little ones but I still had something for an year old baby, my colleague’s baby turned 1 this year and it was time for me to shop again for the little ones. Just few more months and I will be back in this store but this time I will be for my younger nephew who will turn 1 in December and would be perfect to be spoiled.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Bidirectional aging

Sometimes I wonder what growing old means. Is it growing in age or in personality, taste or mentality, thoughts or actions. It is tough to say because all the above applies.

Apparently, in last 2 years of my life, I have seen myself growing old in front of mirror, watching my hair get gray, eyes dark and sunk and slowness in overall me. Surprisingly one fact that came out of me is that as I am getting old I feel like aging not only forward but backward too, as if every year added to life adds 5-6 years prior to my birth. My thinking is getting over matured, body ofcourse old, taste for things like music and lifestyle is stepping backward, I'm starting to get consumed by 60s and 70s which is way before my birth.

I wonder If I'm an old soul locked up in a new body who is finding it's way out or the so called Karma Chakra is bouncing back and forth oscillating my age meter in a bizzare way.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Moon shot

I was getting bored as usual at home and couldn't sleep so thought to go out for a quick drive and just as I drove out of my drive, I saw one of the most magnificent views ever. It was almost full moon, covered with a thin layer of cloud like silk and the chill in the air was like icing on the cake. I wish I had a better camera, a DSLR perhaps and I were a better photographer.

Anyways, I drove back immediately, parked my car, ran upstairs and got my tiny-miny point and shoot Canon camera and without any further delay clicked some pretty decent pictures. I must admit that standing outside wearing shorts and half t-shirt in 45° Fahrenheit (7° Celsius, unusually cold at this time of the month) is no fun but I can't miss this opportunity, can I? Couple of residents peeking out of their windows and trying to figure out who the hell is this guy and what is he doing so late in night, is he spying, trespassing or a thief? Trust me, I was as frightened as they might have been, but what I had to do, I had to do. Every time someone walked behind me, I turned back to see if that person was looking at me in suspicion or what. Thankfully, none of them objected me from what I was doing and simply walked away.

So here are some of the shots from a scintillating night.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Fusion Karishma

It's been very long since I have experimented with my cooking and cooked something new and interesting. I thought to go out and have dinner at some nice place but didn't find any interesting restaurant around. So I ended up cooking this Fusion meal. As such the dish itself is not a fusion but all the things that made it a meal, made it Fusion and since it turned out fun, I called it Fusion Karishma. Thought to share this with you all if you want to try your hands on.

Tip - Bok choy is slightly spicy in taste, kind of mustard leaves so keep that in mind while cooking to have an idea as to how the dish would taste like.

2 fresh Bok Choys
1 or 2 garlic cloves
1 inch thin slice of fresh ginger
1/2 cup Soy sauce
1/2 tablespoon salt
Pinch of red chilli powder
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
1 Indian egg plant (thin and long) (optional)

Wash and rinse Bok choys under cold tap water. Cut the bok choys in 2 parts separating leaves and white root. Cut the leaves in small pieces and root in small pieces and slices. Mince or fine chop garlic and ginger. If you want to add egg plant, cut that into small ring size pieces.

Add oil to a deep base pan and warm it for couple of minutes. Now add the minced garlic and ginger to the oil and cook till it turns light brown. Make sure it doesn't get burnt (dark brown). Add Bok choy roots to the pan as soon as garlic and ginger starts getting brown/golden. Mix bok choy roots well with oil and cook for about 4-6 minutes. Bok choy roots are hard so it takes around 4-5 minutes to get soften and brown. Once bok choy roots starts getting crisp and brown add sliced egg plant and cook for another 2 minutes. Now add the cut leaves to the pan and mix them well for about 1 minute. Add the pinch of red chilli powder and just a little more than a pinch of salt. Mix it well and cook for another minute. Now add Soy sauce and water to the pan and mix it well. Remember if Soy sauce contains more sodium, add less salt. Cook for another 3-5 minutes. Keep stirring every minute so that the bok choy roots gets mixed well with Soy sauce and gets the flavor.

Ginger garlic Bok Choy is now ready to be served with steamed rice.

I guess it would taste best with white rice.

Fusion Karishma:
To add the twist, I added fresh watermelon with a sprinkle of salt and crushed black pepper as a side to the dish

and served myself a cool Margarita.
Added 200 ml Sprite to 1 shot of Tequila and 2 shots of Margarita with 4 ice cubes and mixed it well.

Happy cooking

Destination Home

Until last night, that feeling of going back home was hiding somewhere deep inside and the curiosity and anxiety of meeting friends and family was kind of lost, but finally, the moment is closing in and I am starting to gear up for my upcoming trip to Home. I am still not on toes and way far away from that goose bump feeling but I’m sure it’s not too far now.

Last night I finally decided to start the process of my journey and prepared my list of “To Do things”. The first and foremost was to make travel reservations which luckily I made quite in advance by booking my to and fro tickets in the month of May. Second down the list which is by far the most important is to get set for the process of Immigration and Visa stamping. I must say, I never understood the process that USCIS has laid down for Immigrants. You apply for your work Visa, US government does all sorts of background checks and what not and then makes a decision of approving or rejection. The fun part comes now. You are in US and have been there for last 4 years and your work permit is renewed by the US government after all that investigation and background process and finally sends you the approval. But that is not enough. The government doesn’t renew your Visa stamp on the passport within the country. You must fly out of the country and get it stamped on your passport to be able to come back. You are still half way to the fun part. When you fly out to some country or say your home country and go to the US Embassy, they still hold rights to deny the stamping and that too without giving you any reason. This is absurd. US government has done all background checking and investigation and then came to the decision of approving your stay then why the heck Embassy in your or other country denies stamping. It stinks and hurt to the bottom of your butt when you are denied. Is it one of those nasty tricks by which US government attempts to make money or is one of those torturing techniques used to dishearten and demoralize innocent people, it is tough to conclude but two words for the whole thing is “it sucks”. Well anyways, no matter how much I crib and mock, the truth is I have to go through that pain striking experience this time. I was supposed to go through this last year at the same time but probably the US government had some different plans and so they took their own time processing my renewal process and forced me to cancel my reservations and travel plan. So last night, I spent an hour to fill up my Visa application form and trust me, I felt like back in school and college. Such a huge form and you have to fill in every single small minute detail like when you entered US, how long you stayed each time, which date you left, where you worked, who was your employer, who is your employer, etc. etc. etc. OMG was what came out my mouth at the end of the form. I still haven’t submitted it but would do so soon. The third most important task is to get my Visa appointment date and what a pain it is. I have to check 5 times a day to see if the dates I want are opened or not. If I miss a single day I am doomed and I might have to look for some other city which I kind of don’t want to but if that is what I would have to do, I will do it. Hopefully, I don’t miss on my date and get the job done smoothly.

This morning when I woke up, I realized that I don’t have much to do over the long weekend so why not to get going with the shopping and guess what, my credit cards started jumping out of my wallet. To start with, I headed to the nearest factory outlet and got myself a pair of jeans that would be worn for the next 365 days in and out of office and practically everywhere. I’m lucky to have such a cool office where I don’t have to be in formals every day. I used to dress up for quite some time when I joined but if the president of the company comes in jeans and shirt, why do you want to dress up right? Everyone knows me, I am a polar bear, I mean not literally, but yes, I love cold and I guess lucky to be living in Chicago where it snows for 4 months and winters last for good 5 months. 32 degree F (0 degree C) or below, doesn’t matter. Light clothes and maybe just a jacket or a sweater would do perfectly fine for me. I remember one instance from 2 years ago when my HR stopped me in the morning and said, AJ give me your home phone number. I need to call your mom and tell her that you are not wearing proper clothes to protect you from snow and cold and I laughed at her and said, go ahead and call my mother. She will not be surprised. So I bought couple of t-shirts for darn cheap price because Delhi weather in November, I guess would be perfect for short sleeves t-shirts or maybe a light sweat shirt. On the way back home, I realized what should I pick up for my friends and their better halves so stopped by a nice shop and did some cool shopping for the ladies. Still to do for the guys but what, I am confused. If I ask them, I know what’s gonna come my way, iPhone, Bose home theater system, gadgets or something similar and if I really get these things, I think, I am going bankrupt this year J just kidding. But I guess for guys, I would go out on hunting next or next to next week. There’s so much more to do and now I feel like hardly any time left although, I still have practically 2 months but the countdown has now begun.

One most important thing to be done is to legally make someone my beneficiary here which would be someone from my family of course for the worst case scenario if my visa stamping gets denied and I am not allowed to come back. If that happens then I will have to get my assets (I am saying assets as if I own a whole lot of money here) disposed of, lease to be closed, bank accounts to be closed and many more things for which I would need someone here who could do all this legally without any issues. Never thought, going back to home would be such a project.