As the noughties come to a close, its time to look back. In my case, its also ten years since I left home for College and beyond.
As a small town kid from Vaniyambadi, who set out to explore the world, I had a chip on my shoulders. I had topped my town in both 10th and 12th standard board exams. And having literally lived at the Perumal temple, lot of people knew me. Or atleast I knew many!
But in late 1999, I went to live in Chennai, having made a serious mistake. I chose Engineering and Computer Science! After 6 years in the academia and 4 years in the industry, Computer Science bores me no end. I could have earned a doctorate in Indian History and been a Professor somewhere. But that story, which may still materialize is for another day.
Chennai initially alarmed me. I was living with my grand parents and the city as such was devoid of life and impersonal. Actually, it was just me. I remember doing nothing worthwhile in my undergrad years. And another bad decision followed. I accepted a campus offer to work as a coolie. Sometime during that coolieship, in 2004, I was sent to Maharashtra and my life changed.
In Ahmednagar, my client factory worked 6 days a week and the seventh day, there was power shutdown thru the town! For 3 months, every Satuday, I travelled the span of Central Maharashtra including Ajantha and Ellora. From that trip on, until now, I have mostly lived between trips. At any point in time, I always had a trip in the horizon. Thats a good feeling.
Having discovered my disinterest in CS, I still went for a Masters from Arizona. The travel appealed to me. I was too finicky with food and hated Chipotle becos of unflavored rice. I also started a blog. My English was much, much worse than what it is now. My academic life in Tucson was awful but at that point, I didn't even care. Among the various trips Colorado stands out. That I reckon was also the last trip when I sported a moustache.
Los Angeles changed me in so many ways. Food to begin with. We checked out every affordable restraunt in Beverly Hills and today I can eat anything Vegetarian on the planet and savor it. Some afternoons, I have walked about a mile for Chipotle! (But spare me the awful Kannadiga Sambar please.)
And I wonder if there is any Star Bucks in West LA that I haven't been to. My coffee has remained firmly black for 4 years now. A South Indian who rediscovered Coffee in a faraway land! And While I was content with finishing the IMDB list and the odd Amelie or two in Arizona, I went full throttle on world movies.
And the trips kept on improving. One nice evening, in a sweet little town called Gardiner in Montana, just north of Yellowstone, I tasted wine for the first time! Today, in parties and happy hours, people just count me for wine. And I have tasted lots of other foul liquids too. From these years, I hate to pick one trip as stand out, but I'll cherish Alaska forever.
Before returning to India, I wanted to travel for a month in southern Europe. But in the end, chose not to travel alone for fear of boredom. And not visiting Machu Picchu is another regret.
Anyway, the vast swathes of India beckoned. Until 1999, I had traveled outside Tamilnadu, exactly five times. 3 of them to Thirupathi! In the last 20 months, I have explored a lot more of India without having touched a single Hindi speaking state!
For the decade, that exposed me to so much diversity, of places, people, cuisines, coffee, movies, wine and unforgetable experiences, a big Thank You! It was awesome.
How fitting that I'll culminate the noughties in the quiet surroundings of a place that'll take me 2400 years back into the past!