I had heard a lot about Chennai (mostly bad things!), but never been there before. As I reached there, I realized how true they were. If Bangalore is the 'hot and happening' city in India, Chennai was just 'hot'! Chennai looked a cool 10 years behind Bangalore - the railway station, the flyovers, the autos, the buses - everything looked so 1990ish. I checked into one of the better looking hotels in Wall Tax Road. But, the hotel room did not have any towels. "No towelz. Khatam vogaya saar. Paisa do. Main tumko laatha", was the reply I got from the receptionist. Even the lift there had a major bug. It would go from ground floor to fifth floor properly, but while coming down, I had to walk down to fourth floor and take the lift from there to ground floor!

By afternoon, I took an auto and reached the visa consulate. As I was walking towards the consulate office, a policeman near the gate asked me, "Do you have mobile or any electronic devices?"
"You cannot carry them inside. Is there anyone accompanying you?"
"No!". The visa consulate in Delhi had a locker facility inside.
As I was wondering what to do, the policeman told me, "Saar, come with me. You can keep your mobile in the tea shop. Its 100 rupees for locker charges".
Tea shop? Locker? What the hell does that mean?
I had no option but to follow him. I gave my mobile to the tea shop owner, who just wrapped it in an old tamil newspaper and kept inside. He collected 100 rupees from me and gave a token, on which was written "AR" in bad handwriting. 100 rupees per mobile is a good business, so there is no reason for him to cheat, I thought. Just hoping to get my mobile back, I entered the consulate office.

Afer the initial document verification, I proceeded to the fingerprint collection counter.
A young lady was sitting behind the closed glass window.
"Hi there. Good afternoon. How are you?". She seemed so happy in her work.
"Hello ma'm. I am fine"
"Please put your left index finger, right up there on the machine"
I did exactly as she told me.
"Aha, thats great. Perfect" She seemed impressed, as if I deserved a Nobel prize for giving the fingerprint perfectly. "Repeat the same with your right index finger. Thats good. All the best for your interview. Thenk you."
I smiled, and proceeded to the interview queue.
"Hi there. Good afternoon. Ho...", she was talking to the next person in the queue. The monotonous job did not seem to kill her enthusiasm or she must be a great actress!

The consulate supervisor arrived and started talking to the tense candidates. He was a tall man with a brown french beard.
"Let me give you a few tips before the interview. First of all, relax! Take a deep breath, do some yoga. Breathe in, Breathe out. Cool. When you reach the interviewer, say Hi and smile", showing all his 32 teeth! He was funny!
"Speak slowly and clearly. If I have an accent, so do you. Dont make the interviewer ask the same questions 4-5 times. If they ask you 'How many children do you have?', 'Yes' is not the answer. 'Computer Engineer' is not the answer. '28 years' is not the answer! Answer to the point and dont tell Mahaabaratta. If you are lying to us about anything, we may not find out and you may get your visa. But, if we find you, you will not be allowed to enter United States anytime. Is that clear?"
Everyone nodded.
"Say yes"
"Yes". People seemed to have relaxed a bit by now.

A fat guy in the next queue was having a long interview for his student visa.
The person standing in front of me was tense about his L1 visa.
An old couple behind me were visiting the consulate for the first time. The old man smiled sheepishly and asked me, "How many rounds of interview do we have?"
"This is the only interview you have. All you had till now was initial document verification and fingerprint collection"
"Ok ok, thank you. I am going for vacation to meet my daughter", he said in a typical tamil accent.
The Infy guy in the last row was fully formal, flashing his Infy badge. (Have you noticed, Infoscians never forget to wear their badges, even to restaurants and trips ;))

I finished my interview and came out. To my surprise, my mobile was safe inside that old tamil newspaper in the tea shop. I boarded the train to Bangalore that night, hoping that I would get a 10-year visa, so that I can avoid going to Chennai for another 10 years!

I have not done too much R & D, but this should help. Get "Nudi" from http://www.bangaloreit.com/NudiWebSetup/Nudi/Nudi4.0setup.zip and install it in your machine. Just installing nudi fonts(and not the entire software) might work, but I recommend installing the software itself, as 8 MB disk space is not huge and you can learn typing in kannada as well. Believe me, typing in Kannada is not as difficult as it initially seems!

Visit http://krishnamurthyu.blogspot.com for help if you are planning to open a blog in Kannada.

There are a few things that are not working fine.
1) In the "Previous Posts" section on the right, the names of the posts are not coming up.
2) I tried to comment on a post in Kannada, but some junk characters are coming up.

If you notice any other issues or get a solution to any, please tell me.

I've started blogging in kannada. Check out my kannada blog at http://vsmaya.blogspot.com/
Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Fear Factor

Last tuesday, I was travelling from Bangalore to Mysore by my car. It was a cool evening and the Mysore-Bangalore highway was great. Was I all alone? Not exactly! I remembered what I had told my friend a few days back - "Diamonds are a woman's best friend and for a man, its his iPod" :) Prem Joshua was playing sitar as only he could. Not many things in the world can be as blissful as music! In less than an hour I was almost near Maddur.

Suddenly, some weird song was being played from my ipod (which was almost scary!). I just stopped my car to the extreme left of the empty road, to change the song. On the other side of the road were a few dhabas. The song being played was "Spirit", by a group called "Atman", from the album "Buddha Bar 2". I just scrolled through a few songs and selected the song "Shiva Moon". I kept the ipod on the seat next to me, placed my left hand on the gear and turned my head to the right. Just two feet away from me was standing someone wearing white kurta pyjama. Even before my brain could receive the signals to decipher what I had seen, my spinal cord had given instructions and in no time, I was in the third gear. I somehow never turned back, my legs were still trembling and I was taking deep breaths to bring my rhythm back. I could see a few people now, my breathing was coming back to normalcy and I started analyzing as to what had actually happened.

I had parked my car in front of the dhaba, so it could have been some waiter who wanted to invite me to the dhaba. No! I have never seen any guy wearing kurta pyjama in any dhaba. I could not even see his face, as there was no light on the left side of the road. Above all, he did not seem to be "in motion". In the few milliseconds I saw that entity, there was no momentum - he was standing still. What else? He could have been some pimp who thought I was some potential customer. But, who would stand in such a lonely place waiting for a potential customer. And, he did not even call me as I sped off. I dont think that anyone with such a low business acumen can exist! Was he some thief trying to loot a poor software engineer? I dont know, he did not seem to have the urgency to accomplish his task. Or was he just some person crossing the road? Cant be! If he was crossing the road, he would be going in front of the car or behind the car. He would not be in the direction of the driver's seat! Or did he just stop by, curious to see the ipod? May be, but I had barely stopped for 20 seconds, so how could anyone appear next to me out of nowhere so fast? I can definitely say that its not an illusion, because I had seen it at an arms length and it could not have been my imagination! As many of you might be speculating by now, was it a ghost? I dont actually believe in ghosts and even if they exist, it does not make any sense for them to just appear in front of a person. After overburdening my left part of the brain for a couple of hours, I accepted the fact that I would never know what I had actually seen. No theory seemed correct, no logic made any sense - all I could conclude was the only real thing was the chill that went through my spine!

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