Saturday, August 13, 2005

First few days in Rolla

At the Seniors' place

Coming to Rolla early in the morning or late in the evening ( depending on the convenience of the usage) at 1 AM is meant to be tiresome for any traveller. A new place with a new set of faces is not going to add any joy to an already questions-filled person like me. My mind was trying to get adjusted to the scene. There were three seniors in the comforts of a two bedroom apartment. The best part about them was they made me feel really at ease. I chatted with them for a few minutes with no appetite for a dinner. I was offered my place to lay down for the night. I went to bed with a lot of questions obviously in no mood to ask anybody about anything. Nothing teaches man more than travel. The comfort of the place is not determined by the facilities available in the place, but by how best one can get acclimatised to the living conditions of the place. The availability of the comfort is not as important as being in the comfort zone and the comfort zone is reached only after a matter of time.

After a fairly disturbed sleep, I got up in the morning at around 8:30 PM. There are small things in these places that adds to the dilemma of simple people like me. The way you turn the bathroom knob to lock the door may be a trivial issue for the people living here, but it is as important for a newcomer. How do I use a shower? may evoke a laughable response from anybody else, but then it is as serious to me!! But seniors that they are, they too have lived these issues in the initial phase, and so they were really helpful to me to help me with the right usage. Luckily the concept of tissues were not alien to me!! That might have been another shock to me else. This whole idea of taking bath in a bath tub has always had me in a deep sense of mystery. What is the pleasure of having a small bathtub of not very large dimensions with a bath shower a few feet above, and then to complement that, a shower curtain by the side to prevent the outflow of water to the other side(which again is not very comforting)!! Beats me like hell!! I couldn't understand why people shun water here. There is a difference when you don't have water ( Madras people should know) and obviously can't use it to having water ( Europeans and Americans) and not using it. After the initial hiccups, and then bundling out my old clothes to my cabin baggage, adorning myself with a fresh pair of clothes, I set into the kitchen. Thank God, I was not expecting a south Indian breakfast. I gulped my share of corn-flakes with milk. Corn-flakes and bread, along with a host of other bakery products are big time business here. This is where a company like Kellogs has got it all wrong in India. Who would want to leave a plate of Masala Dosai or Idly-vada to get into the habit of eating a variety (As you go to the mart, you find a variety of packs. I don't know why!! All taste the same ) of corn flakes.

The morning rituals completed and now all set to go to the univesity. I had to finish up the general formalities to register myself as the student of this wonderful university. I had the opportunity to meet a couple of professors submitting my resume and explaining my interests and area of work that I would like to push myself into. A lukewarm response on the first morning didn't cheer me up at all. I was worried as to what would happen to me in the coming days. Living in US without a job or an assistantship position is no joke what with the number of people getting enrolled in my department. It was afternoon by the time my stomach began to churn. I went back to the apartment and had a sumptuous gulp of bananas and water-melons. There was nothing else there!! I began to wonder for how long this is going to go on. Another round of roaming, checking mails and reading some books, got me to the apartment at 7 PM. There was still so much daylight. It was like 4 PM India time. I sat back to watch an episode of the evergreen serial Friends. One of the seniors made an entry at 8PM. I got the taste of Pasta, that he cooked. Still no trace of rice. This procedure repeated the next day, except that I got to have the taste of rice and dal, and the very presence of rice was highly comforting.

Booking an apartment
In the meanwhile, I had to search for an apartment. There were three more of my friends to come from India. I couldn't obviously wait for them since the apartments were getting booked everyday. I went to the nearby real estate dealer and booked an apartment close to the university. All this running around had to be done in swelting heat. The temperatures were easily touching 40 degrees. My shirt was like as if I had played a fifty over cricket match in India. I had to fill up separate forms to enable the gas and electricity. The initial deposit had to be made for electricity, and the very thought of walking so far had me sweating. I wanted to touch the comfort zone quickly!!

My apartment
Luckily my roommates arrived shortly and I was able to move out of the seniors' place to the permanent residence. It was just a floor below. Atleast now I could unpack my baggage and arrange my clothes and other things. There was a sense of belonging in the new place. All of us are non-smokers, tee-totallers, vegetarians, religious and more importantly like-minded. The first day of cooking it was and we made saadam (Rice) and sambar. It was too good. We gulped it in glee. The next day it was sadam and rasam, and today it was ven Pongal. We were making good headway with our cooking skills. We decided that we would cook properly atleast till classes start.

Shopping at Walmart
Walmart is the biggest chain of super mart in the United States. Almost anything to everything is available. It is around 3-4 kms from the apartment. Three of us ( One guy had slept) went walking to the place and picked all the necessary things to make the initial start. We had a lot of items to buy and stuffed all the plastic covers as much as possible. Luckily the plastic covers are not charged here. With all the items we purchased, we came out and hired a taxi. By the time we reached home, it was close to midnight. By the way, Walmart is open 24 hours.

Movies and cricket at Rolla
It is a practice here in Rolla to screen Hindi movies twice a week - Fridays and Saturdays. Last night it was DUS (it is different that the movie is terrible) and today it is Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya (Me going just for Katrina!!). This is taken care by the Indian Association of the university. We also play cricket in the evenings at a small concrete plot near the Schuman Lake. The setting is just too good to play cricket. It looks like a scene lifted from one of those ever-lively Enid Blyton books.

All in all, a very pleasant time in Rolla till now. Though it is a different matter that I miss Bangalore, Rolla is not a bad place at all.


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