I just reached San Francisco after a long and uneventful flight. Checked into a slightly run down hostel in the centre of the city. I'm here to attend a workshop at MSRI, Berkeley and will move into the campus housing on sunday. Since I need to prepare a bit for it and didn't want to be jetlagged and sleepy at the beginning I decided to get here a bit early. Getting to the hostel from the airport wasn't hard except lugging my gigantic backpack through the subway. It's lighter than it was when I left Boston 2 months ago but still not easy to fit into the subway coaches. It took me roughly 24 hours from the time I left for the airport to checking in to the hostel. Everytime I've flown from the US to India it always takes the same amount of time. It doesn't matter which direction you fly in or how connections you have to make. Almost like taking buses from Delhi University. No matter where you lived it always took (at least) one hour. Till the metro came about.
Speaking of the metro, I managed to finally go on the Delhi Metro two days before I left. Going from Connaught Place to Delhi University used to be a major hike (at least one hour!) but now on the metro it takes ten minutes! I was stunned by the metro and never thought something so modern, clean and efficient could be built right in the centre of Delhi.
I ended up going on the metro with two old friends from college, Karan and Latika, who I met after more than 7 years. The three of us lived reasonably close to each other when we joined college and used to take the same bus initially till Karan and I moved into the college residence halls and shared a room in our first year. The three of us also went on some hiking trips together and somehow lost touch after college. Going with the two of them on the metro to the university felt a bit surreal since commuting on the buses wasn't easy and we used to try hitching rides often. Feel envious of students now who can use the metro to get around.
Around the same time that I left Boston with nothing but a backpack, Karan was doing the same thing in Bangalore. He packed up everything in a backpack and gave away the rest of his stuff and set off. He ended up somewhere near the northeast and ran out of money. Sold his cellphone to get some money to go hiking. After that he showed up at his parents house in Delhi. When he saw my blog - homeless, jobless, broke and single - he knew exactly what I meant. Quite a coincidence that my roomate from 11 years ago was going through exactly the same stage. Between college and now, he's had an interesting life. He graduated from a prestigious business school and started working with Citibank. Got bored and tired and chucked it to go off to Switzerland to do some farming and worked with people with special needs. Then an NGO in rural south india which dealt with water conservation. After that he learnt reiki and tried teaching that but it didn't work out. Latika studied art history and criss-crossed the globe working on a massive project to document Indian art and sculpture. She's been to almost every major art gallery/museum over a lengthy period researching art. Both of them are living with their parents in Delhi, not much money in hand, no idea of what job to do and no signs of getting married. But no airs about saving the world, no disdain for people who aren't in the same boat, no standing up for pseudo principles or angst against the rest of the world. Meeting them both was reassuring.