Monday, September 28, 2009

That bottle of Coke

Here I am in the restaurant... one hand on the lid, as I share the drink with a friend. As the liquid travels up the straw and into my tastes as sweet as ever.

My kitchen at home has this glass cupboard..amongst all the chinaware there is this little miniature glass bottle of coca-cola. As kids we always have this fascination for all these sodas. A special treat if we behave well, a fitting dessert in the restaurant with parents, an amazingly sweet and tingly drink which you always enjoyed when you went to the movies or at the fair, with the burp that came at the end being particularly something to look forward to. That oh so bad glass of milk in the morning was so horrible and plain by comparison wasnt it? Back then it was drinking out of a straw...whenever we went on train rides to the neighboring city of Pune, hearing that familiar voice of the vendor selling soda in glass bottles was the best part of the journey. I dont know what it was...I truly dont. I just loved it. To this day my cousins still tell an old story about how once I persuaded my mother to buy 5 bottles of pepsi in 30 mins on the train...the good old days never can be forgotten...

When coke re-launched itself in India in the mid-nineties, it must have been the best thing in the world for me, because I reaaaaaly wanted a bottle and even then god knows why, Coke wasnt available freely. Cue one whole night when my dad drove and drove to find me that one bottle of Coke which he finally did in a dusty old shop. Me and my the time we were one and happy.

Those were indeed the happy days. Running down during lunch break (or the long recess as the school called it) after some really boring classes where the focus was more on reading my book or playing silent games with my bench partner; my stomach usually was growling. 1o rupees in hand and a big appetite were the catalysts due to which 5 mins later I had pushed my way through a gang of giggly schoolgirls at the canteen and had in my hands a delicious wrapped vada pav ( called by some the great Indian burger- although its more like a stuffed potato-pea pattie with bread and spicy garlic sauce) and a glass of coke. Satisfied with my herculean efforts I scanned the expanse of the dirt field to find some friends running around and walked slowly over to them taking care to see that my coke didnt spill, and although the rising dust from the thousands of feet trampling over it probably added a layer of extra spice on the drink, I was still the happiest boy in the world as I joined up with my pals. Most of them had the same combo in their hands...we were birds of a feather after all. Einstein's theory of relativity proved it self time and again however as these moments of ecstacy lasted for too short a time and as soon as I had first sipped my drink and eaten my ' burger' the food was gone and the recess was over. Time for class again. hmm...usually the sports class...which meant doing yoga in the gym.....the professor could never figure out why he heard so many small burps in that span of 30 mins when we performed our exercises. When it wasnt sports class, at least it was geography, which meant another sleep inducing professor, but at least at the time the caffeine kept us awake..and so did the lingering taste of the garlic sauce. Oh yes..we had some good times there. ( I think later on the professors did realize the reason behind the burps and so had aerated beverages banned in the school canteen..grrr... life was never the same..but at least by that time I was old enough to hang out outside school, so I could get my coke after school at least) - I mean Coca-cola.

Graduating from school after my 10th grade, I discovered that all of my friends were in the same junior college as mine. Suddenly I was exposed to the 'hip' college culture. No longer in school, seemingly unlimited opportunities seemed to present themselves before me. But the bottle of coke remained with me. I dont want to give off the impression that I was a poor academic student, I simply did all my work outside class. Sathaye college was another experience altogether. Suddenly boys started noticing a lot of other things in life...girls in normal clothes sans the school uniform, the concept of bunking classes, the football team, hanging out in the canteen singing songs, yes that was the life.

The average day started with everyone coming to college as normal. Mostly everyone in normal attire, but upon close notice someone would have noticed that 5-6 of us wore soccer cleats, or else carried them around in a bag. Not officially in college to play soccer, the cleats were brought in secret. But then who looked down at shoes anyway? One or 2 classes later, everyone met downstairs for a chat. It was only a matter of time though, and in about 5 mins someone expressed a desire for football, and then it was contagious. We were off, to the adjacent pitch or what we called a pitch. It actually used to be a site for an apartment complex, which had been razed down, but the floor never completely levelled. The foundations of the building still showed with bricks popping out of the ground at points. Some kids realized this was an opportune place to practice some ..ahem! productive activities and laid down cement and gravel on it till it was fairly smooth and then added the cherry on the cake, 2 small goalposts. We were more than happy. 2 of my best friends - Prasad and Aniket stayed beside it and thus their homes were useful to store our footballs. And so the games went on - from as early as 3 pm till it got dark and sometimes even after that. Finally when the ball couldn't absolutely be seen anymore, when the jeans had been all muddied and the ankles had been bruised up, the gang finally drifted out of the ground and onto the little convenience store right next to it, all sweaty and tired, but still unsatisfied. The only thing left now, was that bottle of drink, not alcohol mind you! but amazing, bubbly Coca-cola! To feel that cold glass bottle against the brow, the wet water condense from the bottle onto your gravelly hands and then on to your face as you wipe away the sweat...then finally take a deep sip of that soda - This was life . The rust on the bottle edge sometimes made it probably poisonous to the human body, but who the hell cared? This was the time when we needed the soda, 2-3 bottles worth! There we were..sitting on the little ledge of the courtyard of the store, watching the last rays of the sun extinguish behind the apartment buildings of the suburb of Vile Parle, then the slow yet sure rise in the volume of the televisions in all the apartments as the women sat down to watch their daily hindi/marathi/gujarthi about the game...without one care in the world! Tomorrow would be another day in college, and probably another game with it as well ! hehe.......Coke was amazingly sweet then.

Joining Vidyalankar School of Information Technology after 2 years of tramping about meant finally being seperated from my buddies. We had been together right form school through junior college and it felt horrible to be away from them...gone would be the days of bunking classes to play soccer just 2 blocks away, now I had to travel by the local trains to go to another part of the city for my education....The coke source shifted from the little store to the vendors on Andheri suburb station, from the cafe at Sathaye college to the canteen at Vidyalankar and more importantly...Classic restaurant. The first bottle of Coke was had on the first day of orientation when a couple of us...all freshmen..decided to explore and get to know each other in the canteen. It was the start of something new, and something to look forward to. Somehow, Vidyalankar felt right...the small classroom felt right...the whole atmosphere felt right. Days went by...table tennis on the teacher's desk, interspersed with classes, and lots of fun. We came to know each other pretty fast, and had frequent trips out together as a group...Classic restaurant and 5 Gardens was our favorite hangout zone. A beautiful expansive place from the British era, with footpaths as wide as the roads, and huge trees shading every inch of them, the name of the place derived from 5 huge gardens lying around each other where the Parsi community lived. Old mansions added to this charm, while the famous campuses of VJTI college, UDCT campus and Khalsa college finished what was an amazingly old styled place to be. Lunch however, was always at Classic restaurant. Simple, spicy and cheap Mumbai food. Masala Pav, Pav Bhaji, Dosas and Idlis and of course, the evergreen Coca-colas. The trip back home on the train was again punctuated with small burps along the way.........

Classic soon gave way to Gulshan..and some new people as well. The 2nd year in Vidyalankar was well on its way,and plenty of life changing experiences along with it as well. A relationship, a break up and in turn new ever lasting bonds of friendship formed as well. Gaurang 'Gabo', Priyanka 'Prish', Farhad 'Froggy', Rahul 'Mambo', Chintan 'CJ', Alina 'Loowis' Arnab ( I never liked the nickname 'Arry'!) Ashwathy and Mayetreyee. The Cokes were gulped down along with plates upon plates of Kheema (spiced mince meat dripping with oil..yummmmmmmmmmmm) and Bread. In fact we had cokes everywhere in the city- the beach, our houses, and all the corners of Mumbai. The summer of 2008 was so much fun. I wrote about them in another blog of mine before so I wont go too much into THAT, hehe although I would certainly like to. Again, one of the best times of my life with best friends. We all shared a coke pitcher with 8 straws.

Here I am in the restaurant... one hand on the lid, as I share the drink with a friend. As the liquid travels up the straw and into my tastes as sweet as ever. I look down at the bottle, and notice a strange thing that I never noticed before. These days. the label says : Coke Classic.
It so truly is. filled with classic and sweet memories.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Long time no see

Hey all,
I just wanted to leave a quick post here right now. Its 12 25 am and Im supposed to be studying for yet another test tomorrow for IST Corp. Computer and Network Security, but am delirious and instead listening to some classical Indian music and using my desk as a percussion instrument and waking up my roomies. Truly looking forward to a nice relaxing weekend when I can finally write a long post on something I have been thinking about but havent had the mental or physical energy to write about. The past few weeks have been truly crazy and senior year has made its mark at last!! 2 jobs, 15 credits, an internship and a research + homework .... grrrr!!!
Nayways (wait what!? - I meant 'Anyways') I do think I take insane amounts of time in between posts and so am gonna make conscious efforts and post regularly, even if they might be shorter. I still want to take time out to write fully on what I wanna say, but those long ones look to be relegated to my weekend times now sadly. For now, its the middle of the week, Im living on Snapple and Tylenol at midnight, and craving for infinite uses of the snooze button on my alarm in the morning!
See you at the end of the week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Fourth Week at State College

I'm now into my fourth week at state college and loving it! I've brought my car up and have her in the long term parking (the cheapest on campus) so that I can drive home whenever I want. Labor day weekend was Paul's moving into Penn, last weekend was Kelly Clarkson at the York Fair, this weekend is Jeff Dunham also at the York Fair! (can you tell I love the York Fair?)
I'm currently trying to get some reading done and then I'll study for my Western Heritage II U quiz tomorrow. But I decided to come give an update since I've sort of neglected to do so recently.

If you're going up to State College at any point and decide to ride the campus buses (white loop, blue loop, red link, green link: all free) then please do this for me and your fellow riders: when you board the bus, please sit in any available seat as you make your way toward the back of the bus, do not stop midway. Continue on until you can no longer go father backwards, here's why: what most people do not seem to realize is that there are almost always about 10 people behind you also trying to board the bus which means that they must all be behind the yellow line at the front. If you stop before getting to the back, they have to stop also and usually that winds up being before the yellow line. This results in them either having to get off the bus or not even being able to get on, they then must wait for the next bus that comes by, if they're really really lucky, it'll be there within 10 minutes.
so please, for the sake of everyone's sanity, continue moving toward the back of the bus
(you'd think that this would be logical in a college campus, but apparently not everyone has gotten the memo)
thank you so very much

Monday, September 14, 2009


I have just returned from an excellent day in Happy Valley watching Penn State pull a lack luster win over Syracuse. The weekend started out by having six Syracuse alumni come and stay at our home. The alumni consisted of die hard fans who knew that they were coming to see a loss, none the less they came anyways. We know two of them very well as my wife's cousin was the link to the group.

Heather's cousin was the homecoming queen for Syracuse in 2007 and her fiance was one of the football team's managers while he was an undergrad. Several months ago they took us up on our invite to spend the weekend at our house for the game. As time got closer, more and more of their friends asked to come along on their trip. Since we had the space and extra tickets, we gladly invited all six of them to our home and experience football at Penn State. The couples arrived friday evening around 9:00pm and after some brief introductions, we ended up in the cigar room drinking whiskey and smoking cigars. This was an excellent time for us to get to know one another and discuss the next days events.

I explained to them that we would be leaving around 5:30am for the noon kick off. Since they were die hard Syracuse fans, they understood the importance of getting to a game early enough to beat the traffic and put in a full shift of tailgating. One of the guys was curious as to how the fans treat the opposing fans. He said that he had heard stories of how crazy the fans at Penn State can get. I informed him that most of our fans are good ambassadors to our university and like any big college program, there were always a few undesirables who tarnish the reputation of the entire fan base. I ensured them that they were to receive a warm welcome on Saturday as they were not posing any threat for an upset. I informed the Syracuse fans that this is not necessarily the case for the big games as I have witnessed PSU fans get pretty ugly towards opposing team fans. I told him that this is a very unfortunate occurrence because I believe that Penn State stands above other universities on so many levels, I wished that all of the fans would acknowledge that and do the same. As the night wore on, we continued the discussion of the game and lost track of time. I realized that it was 1:15am and we were getting up at 4:30am.

Well, as you can imagine, I did not factor in for all of the extra women in my house. Because there were so many women getting ready in the morning, we did not leave until after 6:00am. Once we were on the road, we had smooth sailing until we hit game traffic 12 miles outside Beaver Stadium. We sat in traffic for almost an hour until we started moving again. Once we got to the stadium and parked, we got our stuff together and made our way to our tailgating spot. Once there, our Syracuse guests were relieved to meet other Syracuse alumni. They all agreed that Beaver Stadium was the most impressive stadium that they had ever seen. I thought this was an impressive comment considering some of these guys traveled all around with the Syracuse football team and saw many other stadiums. After a while, it was time to go into the stadium and see the game.

The game was probably one of the more boring games that I had seen in person to date. If it were not for my guests, I would have broken my rule and left early to beat the traffic. Once the game was over, we met up at the vehicles and drank some more beer before we went home. I was thanked by all of our Syracuse guests for giving them a tour of the area and being an ambassador to my university. I responded with my courtesies and we got in our vehicles and trekked home to York. We spent the rest of the evening watching college football and recounting the days events. Alas, Sunday morning arrived and my guests had to leave. I thanked them for coming down to PA and visiting with us. They thanked my wife and I for such a terrific weekend and being host to them. I responded by telling them that when you are a Penn Stater, it is a privilege to let everyone know that we are the best alumni in the world.