Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Year, New Place

Yes, I have arrived in Atlanta and classes have started. I did want to write while I travelled and in my first week, but then my laptop got screwed up and I couldn't type entire posts from my mobile.
In any case, Atlanta is a beautiful city- lot of trees, though right now most of it is barren. But I can already see how it will look in spring. On a related note, this is the first time I am actually visualising seasons. We learn a lot about seasons in primary school, and "autumn" and "spring" are words we hear in 2nd or 3rd grade. But we never see them in India. Chennai had only summer throughout the year- harsh, bearable, mild and finally-some-showers were probably the only seasons I knew there. Kerala had the reverse- only rains throughout - you could just name the seasons as Summer rains, Monsoon rains, Winter rains, some-sun-in-between. I am not sure if it is still the same though. Bangalore was a little better. Summer and winter were clearly demarcated- Summer was definitely warmer and winter definitely colder. But again, I never saw barren trees in Bangalore. So, yes, right now I don't see any green for the most part here, even though this city has too many trees. And it is cold (it was -4 the day I got my college ID! )

There are a lot of other things I observed. Tiny things. Not-so-tiny things. Unrelated to each other.
  • This place is soooo silent. The pin-drop silence that teachers talk about in primary school and never achieve. Initially, it was a little irritating. Now I am getting used to it.
  • I never get used to vehicles driving on the right. I have to keep recalculating this consciously. More importantly, I always turn on a light switch when I want to turn another off. The on-off reversal is even harder to get used to.
  • Nobody writes cursive. (I mean, except Indians and some other international students). It is very funny to see adults, big professors write individual letters, simply because my mind is conditioned to thinking individual letters imply you are in kindergarten.
  • The receptionists here smile in a way that looks natural (Even if it is really plastic). Unlike our Bangalorean McD and Pizza Hut waiters who try to smile and say "Hi, how may I help you?" but end up appearing just what they are- artificially trained people expected to smile at you. I wonder what is missing.
  • Chili means 'beef'. (In some particular places. But it could mean chilli of course). It is among the funniest things I ever knew (thanks Pranesh and Kowshik, for telling me!) . But anyway, point is every other dish has some meat in it (As we are all told!) And you have to be reallly careful, if you want to remain veg. I can now see why most people start eating non-veg once they come here- it does require a lot of self-control if you are tempted to eat. But if you want to stay veg, you can. It is not as impossible as many converts claim. Of course, in my case, the temptation doesn't even exist, so I'm safe. Just that it gets tiresome to keep telling people- 'Sorry, I'm veg'. 
  • On a related note, there is way too much alcohol around here. Way. Too. Much. Again, not something to worry about (unlike the way the 'chosen lot' who went to the US about 10 years ago used to scare everyone else.) In fact, I am sure Bangalore had a lot too, just not on a comparative scale. And there were fewer dishes with actual alcohol in them (unlike here, when people say rum-soaked they mean it!) Just that if you are someone who is tempted, and who is not good at resisting temptation, it is hard to avoid here. And it is tiresome for me to keep telling people "Orange juice please". But wait a minute, did I say way too much? Strike that out. What am I saying? Not so much that they have a state-sponsored TASMAC here yet...
  • Most professors like interactive classes. In 5 of 6 classes I attended, teachers emphasized and re-emphasized the importance of class participation. (And they try their best to make the class interesting.) Contrast it to the teachers in undergrad who believe that a student must silently take notes and listen and ask only relevant and quite obvious questions, that too without interrupting the lecture, and stay awake like a robot however badly or uninterestingly the teacher may be teaching. In fact, 3 of the six teachers themselves mentioned "I do not know everything. I might be wrong." or "I might learn something from you". Again, contrast it to the teachers who pretend they know everything and who resent doubts. (Yeah, I am over touchy about that topic. Maybe I will write a separate post on it.) Always wanted to. Anyway, the attitudes of teachers here-- I'm loving it!!
  • On a related note, people really don't bother what you do in class - text, fb, sleep, walk out, ANYthing. Again, contrast it to teachers who used to shut the door of the class and take pleasure in punishing students for talking in class. Which, in turn, gave way for the "Kadhal Konden" Dhanush style scenes where the student answers the teacher's question leading to a thoroughly embarrassing situation for the teacher. In any case, point is the studies is completely driven by the student's own interest. Which is as it should be.
There are probably a lot more, I will try to add them as and when I remember..

And yes, I know you have probably heard most of these before. Even I had. But when you experience it, it is very VERY different. Anyway, I am reading this interesting book called "Don't shoot the dog". It is part of my coursework (Yippee!). And there are some interesting parts in it which I wanted to post about.. Let's see if I manage to do so soon...

P.S:- 1. All my Atlanta posts will be tagged "Gone with the wind". I hope it is obvious why.
2. Nobody told me "pudhu varsham, pudhu ooru, pramadam" or "naye saal, naya shahar" yet! So I am telling it myself in the title! :P 


  1. i passed up the alcohol , but fell for the non-veg part of the deal..

    iniya pongal nazhvaalthukkal :)

    pardon my tamil

  2. @ratha: Ya as I said, I can see why. There are too few veg options here.. And it is nalvaazhthukkal :D Same to you! :)


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