Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Champion Parents - The East Coast in 15 days

Graduation, sight seeing in Philadelphia, Luray Caverns in Virginia and Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, Washington DC, 1000 Islands, Niagara Falls, Letchworth State Park, Corning Glass Museum, New York City, Baltimore Aquarium, New Jersey... All in just 2 weeks. Whew!!! That was my parents' itinerary from 17th - 31st May. Add to it social visits in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York. 

Be it 6 hour long drives, eating pizza, subs and Mexican food or walking entire days, my parents surprised me by being complete champs. I expected to search for Indian restaurants wherever I went and was prepared to use taxis to commute within cities. But their adaptability and enthusiasm to try new things and see new places was amazing. It was a pleasure to show them around, almost like traveling with people of my age. And as you can see, we covered quite a bit on the east coast in the last couple of weeks.

Here are some pictures from various places...

Philadelphia Duck tour & Giant LCD Screen in the Comcast building - Philadelphia

Lake of Dreams & Saracen's Tent - Luray Caverns, Virginia


Washington Monument - Washington DC

Botanic Garden - Washington DC

Corning Glass Museum - New York

Museum of Natural History, Statue of Liberty, Charging Bull - New York City

I figured the best time to show my parents around is when I'm still unemployed and don't have a job and bosses to worry about. Kudos to them for putting up with my crazy travel schedule! I'm off to California today for two months of my mom's home cooked food. And oh! Wish me luck for my impending job search *snicker*...

See post below: Niagara and 1000 Islands with Arun's family and mine
Coming up: Blog post and pictures for Baltimore Aquarium.

Trip to Niagara Falls and 1000 islands!

Last weekend, Kavitha and I did what a perfect desi would do as one of the first things when parents visit them in this country. Drive to Niagara falls. I can say for sure, that it has become more of a ritual for desis and still remains an unsolved mystery for many firangs.

But I did not want the visit to include just the falls, so sneaked 1000 islands into the itinerary. I was attempting to make the trip as different as I could. (Anybody who has visited Niagara for more than 5 times would understand what I'm talking about!). We set off on a Friday evening, the plan being to reach 1000 islands and rest for the night in a much-hyped completely furnished riverside cottage house.

We had no idea that a)it will not be a cottage house or b)it will not be on the riverside, until we reached the place at 1.30am. We were told by the vacation home company that they would leave the lights on and place the keys on the living room table, if we reach late. The only thing that was lit in the absolute dark campground was a caravan. We looked around and having no option, I stepped into the caravan, opened the door and switched on the lights. I shocked myself at the amazing sight!

The insides of the caravan looked exceedingly well furnished and the key was on the living room table, as told. I invited the other folks to join, only for them to be suprised and excited! Kavitha and I had our moments of laughter, as only we knew what we'd planned for and how it had all ended up! Everyone seemed extremely happy and it was one hell of a night!

Kavitha and I spent the next half hour outside in the cold attempting to take a night shot of the Caravan and also a long-pending picture of star-trails. I was not entirely unhappy with what it finally turned out to be.

Night photograph of the Caravan and the star trails

The next day had equally exciting moments, but on water instead of land. We rented a Pontoon boat and set off into the waters. Yours truly being an experienced boat driver (having rented a Pontoon boat once before, I can't call myself a Captain yet!), started the boat engine and within 10 metres of slow-sailing near the dock, we heard people shouting and waving at us. We looked around, only to find that I had been inadvertently dragging one of the fishing nets by the boat engine.

Who the hell would expect a fishing net there? We had to wait for help. One of the rental company folks arrived in a smaller boat, disentangled the net. We started all over again, this time with no problems. We spent the next 3 hours in the water,enjoying the sights of the numerous islands around. Everytime a big boat or a ship passed us, the waves made our boat rock big time. Everyone tried their hands in the wheel and overall, it was quite an experience in itself!.

We then visited one of the state parks in the area and spent the evening watching the splendid sunset. After a sumptuous dinner at an Italian restaurant and a super-filling ice cream, we headed back to the caravan, where we played a few interesting games of poker and hit the bed, knowing we have a big day at Niagara the next day.

Niagara falls, for some reason has become desis' paradise. 9 out of 10 people I saw were desis. I could have counted the stars in the sky a little more easily. The place was absolutely crowded for Memorial Day weekend. For the much-acclaimed 'Maid of the Mist' ferry, we had to wait a whopping 1 hour in the queue at a scorching 90 degrees. Completely drained, we entertained ourselves by playing interesting self-invented games such as 'Spot the tambrahm in the line' and "Count the H4's in the line", etc. The parents, of course, were impressed by the grandeur of the falls and the excitement of the boat ride!

We spent the rest of the day roaming around the falls area and dining at one of the 'worse than spit-worthy' Indian restuarants. Late evening was good, as the weather became nicer and there was fireworks to celebrate Memorial Day!

Memorial day Fireworks, Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls- overlook

The parents and us

Overall, it was three days well spent and left us with the satisfaction of surprising our parents with the coziness of a caravan, adrnelin rush in the rough waters and the wonderful sight of the gushing waters of Niagara Falls!

Ciao, till the next trip travel update!

Monday, May 18, 2009


I had one of the best feelings of my life as I stepped into the stands of Franklin Field stadium this afternoon. With trumpets and drumrolls playing, Kavitha marched into the field. Along with her were about 800 of the smartest men and women. It is not a feat everybody in this world gets to achieve.

After having fought through some rigorous admission process to get into the school, after having swam through 2 tough years of unforgettable academia and after having gained a multitude of experiences that one might not get anywhere else in the world, Kavitha must have been exhilarated on receiving the Wharton MBA degree today.

The half a day ceremony was indeed a grand finale. The 4 hour long ceremony did not seem long enough to the graduates nor the relatives/friends. The chilly winds did not seem to bother the enthusiastic guests, who were waiting for their happy moments with cameras in hands and anxiety in their eyes.  Of course the pride of having their loved one walk through the podium to collect the degree from one of the top prestigious institutions must be inexplicable.

It was quite an experience for me too. Considering me and our friendship, I hardly take any moment to express much to Kavitha. But I gotta tell in this post that I honestly felt very proud of her today.

Yes, Kavitha is officially an MBA now! Congrats to her for a well deserved effort and good luck for a great future! 

P.S: No matter whether she is a student or an MBA grad or a boring workaholic (who knows?!), our travel stories will continue for sure!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Finger Lakes - Mission Waterfalls!

Spring season, New camera, Free weekend, Conducive weather, Right company: the best possible thing one could do on earth is to drive to upstate New york and take pictures of waterfalls. We did exactly that.

After brooding over the loss of my previous camera for exactly 27 hours, I ordered my new camera. I got it shipped mid of last week and immediately jotted down plans to visit Finger lakes region of New York state. Kavitha did all the planning and this time, one of my very good friends and a photo enthusiast, Amar joined us from Boston. This weekend trip was one hell of a mix of adventure, excitement, angst and also a few 'near-death' experiences.

Our first destination being Filmore Glen State Park, we started with heightened enthusiasm. Surprisingly and more shockingly, some of their trails were still closed for Winter (surprising because their websites said nothing about it and shocking because it's gonna be summer very soon). We took pictures of the only waterfalls that was accessible (by crossing the 'DO NOT CROSS' fencewires). The waterfalls was good, but the downside was some women who were sun-bathing on the rocks. We had to make sure they were not in the frame (not that they seemed to care, but we somehow did not want to include bikini-clad women in nature photography. Maybe some other time!).

Our next destination was Carpenter falls, which involved an 'Open to all, mildly difficult and extremely hazardous' hiking trail to reach the falls (so said the welcome sign board). After parking our car on the roadside parking area, we set off on the hike which in the beginning seemed very easy. In a few minutes, we saw the falls but the place was not favourable to set our tripods nor the view was too good. So, after a short contemplation, we decided to climb down what looked like a steep slide, with rolling stones and slippery rocks.

Kavitha had sneakers which had the smoothest of the soles (I found it hard to believe it must had sole buttons once upon a time. There were absolutely no signs!). Nevertheless, she decided to stay atop letting myself and Amar climb down.

With bags and tripod, I should say it was not easiest of the hikes. We strategically invented routes, took assistance from tree roots, twigs, rocks, even firm mud and finally reached the stream. The view was good. But not too good. We knew we had to cross the stream to get a better view. So we did. The water was almost at freezing temperature and we somehow managed to use the dead logs and rocks to cross the stream. The view was much better.

Carpenter Falls

There we were, in one of the most untamed lands, setting our tripods, clicking away pictures to glory. Myself and Amar liked it very much. Rain Gods, not so much. In a few minutes, it started drizzling.

We instantly knew we were not in the right place to fight rain and started packing. By the time we crossed the stream, it started raining big time. We still had the steep slope to climb. With not much of flowing water in the slopes, I managed to reach the top using the support of tree branches, roots and rocks. With the enthusiasm of reaching the top, I started running towards the parking area, when I realised Amar was not with me. I looked back, only to find him struggling to climb up the slippery mud trail with two hands and two legs.

Amar was using his tripod as a holding stick, smartly locking it on a tree root preventing him to slide down further. I held a tree stem tight with one hand and lend my other hands slowly. It was one movie-climax moment when our hands touched (would have been better with slow-motion and background music!) and I helped him to lift himself slowly, yet steadily.

The rain was pouring by then. We walked to the car drenching wet, to find Kavitha listening to music in the cozy confines of the Prius. In sign-language, she told me that I looked like a wet goat. Awesome. The rain stopped in about 20 mins. We strolled around, dried ourselves and continued the drive.

Next day was not as adventurous, but more beautiful nevertheless. We drove to Letchworth state park, which in my opinion had some of the largest waterfalls I have everseen (only next to Niagara). We did a mild hike along the river stream, took satisfying pictures and spent about 3 hours there.

Letchworth State Park - Inspiration Point

Letchworth Lower Falls

Letchworth Small falls

Our next stop was Taughannock falls and we reached on time before dusk. Amar felt (and insisted that we agree) that it's the most beautiful waterfall in the whole world. After taking pictures of the falls from one of the vista points, we hiked a mile down to see the falls upclose. I had to agree with Amar at that point - it was a fantastic waterfall.

Taughannock Falls, as seen from Vista point

An hour and a few pictures later, we left the place, stopped for coffee at a gas station and drove away on our respective ways.

I just could not forget the jubilance of being in that 'high-five moment' with Amar after we ompleted the hike at Carpenter falls!

Wide Angle picture taken by Amar

There is indeed nothing better in this world than traveling!

P.S: More photos at

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Philadelphia- a lasting bond forged

Philadelphia has been home for the past 2 years. It has cradled my dreams and despair. It has seen my joy and my tears. It bears the roots of my lifelong friendships. Now as I spend my last couple of weeks here, it warrants some reminiscence for sure.

I can walk center city with my eyes closed. I know the obscure little streets, the tiny cafes, every half decent restaurant, even the names of buildings I've never stepped into. I know the faces of all the drivers of the Route 21 bus. They wink and tease me that I've been playing hooky from school if I don't show up for a few days. I feel a fuzzy familiarity even with the R6 train I ride every time I visit Arun.

It seems like it was just yesterday that I did the Rocky run up the stairs of Philadelphia Museum of Art. Only yesterday did I explore the quaint little shops of South Street. And gazed dreamily at the beautifully lit boats at Penn's Landing. And got lost looking for Sabrina's- a great restaurant in Philly's Italian Market. And legged it for hours, fascinated by the museums and other historical landmarks. Only yesterday...

For sure I will miss Philadelphia, the rather old and yawning city where I started my life in the US. But being a Wharton student is like living in a whole different world snuck away in its archaic veins. Where else can I do the famous Walnut Walk of Wharton- a nightlong pub crawl with 800 incredibly smart people wearing lingerie below the waist and business attire above the waist, without being taken for a lunatic? Will there ever be another Little Pete's and its delicious omelets at 3am after yet another wild Wharton party, with half my class waiting in line to get in? Can I even dream of 40 of my friends cramped together to celebrate my birthday at Rum Bar again? Oh how I will miss Walnut Bridge Cafe, my trusted caffeine haven before my dreadful 9am classes?! And the adorable couple that runs the cafe? Goodbye Schuylkill waterfront, goodbye Rittenhouse Square, goodbye MBA cafe, goodbye Huntsman Hall-my home away from home...