Monday, July 27, 2009

LA Life - A synopsis

All good things in life must come to an end! We have three more days left of our stay in Los Angeles and we are busy packing up and taking care of all the little details that must be tended to. At the same time, we are looking forward to our return to the good times in Bangalore.

Our time in LA has been a lot of fun. We did everything that we were planning and more. The best part of returning here was reconnecting with old friends and family. We met all our family and it was great to see folks that we have not seen in a long time. Ayaana's highlight was to see her new cousin Maliya - who is adorable. It was good to see my cousin Naweed, who has been bravely battling cancer for a couple of years. Aanish linked up with his old friends - most of whom are nearly 6 feet tall and have facial hair. We also had a great time meeting all our old friends and ex-colleagues from companies where we have worked in the past couple of decades.

No travels are complete without food and this one was no different. We came here with armed with a list of restaurants that we wanted to eat at and visited most of them. We did all the "comfort" restaurants (In&Out, Senor Fish, Acapulco - 3 times), the favorites (Yang Chow, La Serenata) and new ones (Hungry Cat). Mexican food topped the list! We have a couple more favorites left to go and a couple more days left!

Shopping was big during our stay. Ayaana got a new iTouch and a Wii-Fit - both of which she was eyeing for quite some time. No shopping is ever complete without a visit to the shopping mecca - Costco! We hit the usual favorites - Target, Best Buy, Macy's, JC Penny. I think everybody is now set with their clothes, shoes, games etc. for some time.

During our short stay here this summer, we managed to catch a couple of good movies out here (I think Aanish managed to see about half a dozen). We also managed to see a Dodgers game and a Chelsea/Inter-Milan foot ball match (once again - a huge treat for Aanish).

Returning back to the house also meant taking care of some routine, but must-do items - renewing Mona's drivers license, taking care of some banking and tax work, getting a new passport for Aanish, cleaning the house and making minor repairs. If you think this part is fun, I suggest you spend 4 hours at a Department of Motor Vehicle office or the Federal Building. Not a very stimulating experience but it does give you a good glimpse into how America works.

Balancing all of this with work was quite a bit of challenge for me. I could feel the strain of working with a team that is in a time zone that is twelve hours different than mine. I have a feeling that there will be lots to catch up when I return this week.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

After a week or two back in Los Angeles, we couldn't help but reflect on our life here. We invariably get asked by everyone we meet about how it feels to be back. I will try to summarize this as best as I can.

We have lived here for twenty years and this is the place where both Mona and I entered adulthood. The place is an integral part of our lives. We have friends and family and a home here. We went to university in LA, met on campus, got married in Marina Del Ray, had children, built our careers, had a dog and created a life. We are proud when the Lakers and the Trojans win championships. We love the diversity here. We have traveled around the country and seen some of the most beautiful and amazing sites in the country. This is all good.

After living in India for over two years, we realize that what we miss the most from our Indian life is the feeling of connectedness. Communities, families and neighborhoods in India are intensely social. In a country of over a billion people, you would expect people everywhere. People are friendly, caring and welcoming. There is less pressure on Aanish and Ayaana to grow up into adults and they can be kids. Children enjoy much more freedom as the systems are not as rigid and constrained by rules as they are here. Another issue that becomes evident is that we are living in a culture of excess here. In India, resources are limited and hence valued much more. Within a week of being in the US, we can see the disproportionate amount of consumption that we have had between the two environments. This is bad.

One thing that has struck us hard is the impact of the bad economy here. The effects of the global meltdown are not as obvious in India as they are here in the US. Almost everybody that we know and have met during our visit has been impacted in some way. Stores that we used to frequent are out of business. Restaurants are no longer packed. There seem to be fewer cars on the road. Even the daily newspaper has shrunk in size and content. It's ugly out here.

So what does all of this mean? Who knows? You've got to enjoy the good, do the best you can to avoid or eliminate the bad and hope that the ugly goes away. Take each day as it comes and enjoy it to the fullest no matter where you are in the world!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Sweet Homecoming

We are back in Los Angeles. Mona, Aanish and Ayaana have been away for nearly two and a half years and it was an exciting homecoming for all of us. Ayaana was giddy with excitement for a few days prior to our arrival and I could sense the excitement in Aanish. We knew we were in Los Angeles when we were greeted by an immigration officer of Indian descent!

It was exciting for all of us to be back together in our home. I have been traveling to LA several times during the past couple of years. I have lived out of a suitcase during these visits and the place never felt like home. Having everybody together, changed all of that. Of course, with Mona's intense focus on getting the house "operational" in a couple of days caused me to work harder than I have ever worked in my life. We spent a couple of days cleaning the place, unpacking, making minor repairs, shopping for groceries and essentials, getting the car fixed etc. But it was all well worth it! We were back in business within 3 days.

It has been a lot of fun reconnecting with family and friends since our arrival. We did not realize how much we missed everybody until we started seeing everybody again. All the children have grown up and it was exciting to catch up with everyone. Most of Aanish's friends are now taller than their respective dads and I believe one of them has started shaving. All the fifteen and sixteen year olds are now talking about college prospects, preparing for their SATs etc.

Food has always played an important role in our family and we came with a list of must-haves. We miss good Mexican food in Bangalore and have already been to several Mexican restaurants. You can't help it but love Armenian food if you live in Glendale and that has been checked off. Aanish and Ayaana are getting their fill of bagels, croissants, muffins, pies etc. We still have a way to go and hopefully we will get to everything on our list in the next few weeks.

We have a packed social calendar ahead of us and are looking forward to seeing all our friends - which has been the highlight of our homecoming.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Hong Kong Journal

Hong Kong is now on my favorite city list. This is our first visit to this Asian capital and it is everything that I had imagined and more. An interesting blend of the modern and the ancient - Hong Kong is truly a rich and engaging experience for anybody. The first sight of Hong Kong are the tall and narrow skyscrapers densely packed together and reaching up to the sky. The other side of Hong Kong is on display as you start walking in the crowded markets with neon-lit signs and street vendors beckoning you with their wares.

The city is a delight for foodies. The best food is found on the streets of Hong Kong in tiny roadside stalls or small cafes. Streets are lined with noodle bars and cafes servings everything from traditional pan-fried noodles to the unconventional pig knuckles. We had a great time feasting on the traditional and not-so-traditional cuisine but staying away from the unconventional. Aanish was ecstatic to find Starbucks at every street corner and Ayaana had to have ice creams and cakes every couple of hours!

The place is also a shopping mecca (if you are into it!). We window-shopped at the high end retail outlets on Nathan Street but really enjoyed the packed markets selling counterfeit burberry bags and Arsenal jerseys. Hong Kong is not a destination for sight seeing and there are limited places of interest to see. We did make our way to Lantau Island to see the giant Buddha statue and took the night tram to Victoria Peak for stunning views of Hong Kong.

We will spend another day in transit during our return to Bangalore and eating good food will be on the top of the list of things to do!