US Diaries – Part 1

Every evening on the roof top of my hostel in Delhi, I used to see the shining airplanes going off into the thin air and wondered when I would get a chance to fly in one of these with my own capability. While that dream was fulfilled the moment I joined Microsoft, I started wondering to fly to United States in the best of airlines to feel how is it like to be in the most powerful country in the world..You can say that my dreams always get upgraded.

Being at Microsoft has its own benefits

I owned an important piece of project in Microsoft. There was a talk going on to fasten the velocity of work we were doing. Given the complexity of the project, its architecture was written in many layers few of which was coded by team at Redmond. Due to time zone difference and the critical timing, we had to act on it quickly to enhance quality of product. They decided to send me over to interact with people, understand different layers and their communication.

A sudden plan

I hardly remember traveling somewhere in such a big rush. It was 4 O’ clock in the evening when I was checking flight tickets and changing date in the calendar on the online portal to finalize which day to travel. 6 O’ clock, my friends found a flight that was to take off the next morning to Seattle and I spent next hour mentally preparing myself to fly so unprepared. It was just hard to believe that I would be traveling to US, one of my dream destinations without any preparation. My parents were asking me every other day if I bought winter apparels. I usually prefer to plan everything in advance and this time, without have a flight ticket in hand, I didn’t want. With support from my friends at Microsoft, I finally decided to give it a chance. There are few things in world for which you need not to be prepared. After all, traveling somewhere without much thinking has its own share of fun. And this was not somewhere. This was what I dreamed of long enough.

It all started with a joke. I was worried I was not getting any ticket in good airlines next week. I was tired, exhausted not a clue on what to do. “There is a flight next day at 4 in the morning. You can catch that.”

“Holy cow! This would be too early. How on earth would I be able to catch that?”

I knew they were serious when my manager said. “Actually, I think you can go.”

“But I haven’t done any shopping”, my forehead was shining with worry lines.

“It’s alright. What are the things you need? You can borrow them from me.”
My friends helped to prepare an itinerary. I literally got only 2 hours to dine and pack my bags. I usually never take more than 30 minutes to pack, but since this was my first trip to US, I didn’t want to take any chances.

It’s Emirates, baby

The moment I stepped into the flight, I got the answer why it has been coined as the best airlines in the world. The service, the infra and the experience was just amazing. It is very unlikely that you would be left unhappy after an Emirates travel. It was a 22 hours long journey with a 3 hours layover in Dubai. Being a movie buff and their huge collection of movies, I didn’t find it difficult to spend time.

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Hello from Redmond!

The flight was just on time. You might find it funny but the first thing I missed at Seattle airport was no taxi driver asking me where would I want to go. I didn’t have US Sim Card and it was freezing cold to stay for long in the open weather. There are two Marriott hotels in Redmond and I missed to mention which one I wanted to go to the local taxi. Even with a 50% chance of landing at the correct hotel didn’t work for me. Redmond is kinda a developed village. It’s hard to find anyone on the road. It was near difficult to ask someone for navigation. Luckily, the second Marriott was just a few blocks away.

Few of the pictures of the hotel:

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I learned that labor is costly in US. The gorgeous lady at the business center handed me over a map which had directions to follow my room. It’s very unlike in India that you would have to carry luggage to your room on your own in a decent hotel.

My first status update from Facebook on the arrival night.

It’s been only 11:00 PM here and I am done with sleep. It’s quite chilly outside and the roads are empty. A grave silence is there in the winds. Next couple of nights, I am gonna spend as a night crawler. I wonder if the new government would encourage vigilante. All of a sudden, I feel like I have all the time in the world and I have very less to do.
If I was not able to respond to your chats due to my busy schedule, Let’s catch up now

Being a hobby photographer, I found everything very interesting and screaming at me to be clicked.

The view outside my hotel room. As you can see, cars are parked in the open air. In the morning, the car windows are covered with a thick layer of ice.

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Just by the first look, I can say that discipline and patience flow in veins here. I never saw anyone rushing, everyone (well almost) greets you with a wide smile, cute children laughing on pavements and the most important thing – punctuality. People prefer to be on time. They dine by 8, sleep by 11 and wake up at 6.

Good morning Redmond

It is said that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You don’t realize it until you skip dinner and have a heavy breakfast in Indian style dinner. Good morning Redmond!

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!JetLag

I was under impression that I won’t be getting sleep at usual time because of all the jet lag stories I heard. To my surprise, jet lag did magic to my schedule which I couldn’t follow even after trying for 10 years and many apps claiming to help you do so. I slept at 10, wake up at 6 and rushed to office by 8. It was just an amazing feeling. It was refreshing. I was way more productive. I never knew a good schedule can do miracles in your day to day life.

To be continued…

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Copyright © 2017, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

12 things I learned in 2016

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Life is about trying out new things. How else are you supposed to know what are you good at. You get to live only once. Make sure it’s worth it. At the end of every year, I try to jot down the things I learned, all good and bad ones. While I find few of them worth cherishing, others are equally valuable to teach us lessons of life. 2016 was a wonderful year. Words would fall short to pen it. For the past few years, I had been wondering what my life is meant to be, what are the things out there which will render me with greatest pleasure, what is the secret ingredient of being happy. It was the year when I finally found the core where my happiness lies. While last year was fully devoted to my physical transformation, this year my focus was mainly on building my skills, to become a better version of myself. People often ask me about the trigger point of all these crazy stuffs that I do. Few people even asked me why do I not value money. All I can say is that they haven’t gone through the dark phase of life which I did. I have witnessed that anything can happen in the blink of an eye. We humans are mortals, made of flesh and blood. All it took me was an event to realize the value of life. Waking up each morning and finding yourself in best health is a blessing. 2016 was a year of diving into the artistic world – Poetry, Photography and Piano. Perhaps, someday I will compile another experience about these 3 P’s of my life.

So what was that event that changed me for good? My life was greatly influenced by the movie Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (You won’t get a second life). I literally wanted to live it big while trying out all the crazy adventures, exploring the world and having hands on new things. As of now I have tried Bungee jumping, Sky diving, Scuba diving, Para sailing, Sea walking, Flying fox, 18 kms River rafting. In one of the adventures, I met an accident which took from me precious 72 days of my life. It left me devastated and broke. I had no clue on what to do. You can earn lost money but not the lost moments. They are priceless. I could give anything to get back the old life. What kept me alive, more important than oxygen and blood was hope. I realized what Pandora’s box is all about.

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All this time, I couldn’t stop myself asking same questions over and over again. Did I live my life the way I wanted to? Or was it influenced by how others wanted me to? What if there is no tomorrow? The answers of these questions steered my thoughts about how my life should be in a complete different direction. While I am done with adventures, I realized that there are other domains worth exploring. Toughest phase of life teaches you lessons nothing else can.

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Following are 12 lessons I learned in 2016:

1. Live life as if there is no tomorrow. And if you get a chance to witness tomorrow, do it all over again

2. If you love something, make it a habit: Do it regularly, be it playing piano or photography. It will help you improve your skills and to become a better time manager

3. Don’t procrastinate things that don’t take much time doing: Ever forgot to pay electricity or credit card bills on time and regretted doing it instantly you got the bills? If a piece of work requires less than 5 minutes of your attention, do it immediately instead of postponing it. These small tasks usually pile up and then takes more of your time than it should.

4. Had a breakup? Build up your skills: I won’t lecture much on this topic. Love is the sweetest fruit. But sometimes it doesn’t go according to your wish. If you suffered a broken heart, keeping yourself busy helps a lot. Try to learn something new.

5. Find happiness in whatever you do: Science has proven that you learn something quickly if you enjoy it. Happiness plays a very key role in your success. Look at successful people around you. They are far better than others because they love what they do. Don’t do anything just because everyone else is doing. Do it because your passion drives you

6. Meet new people, they have lots to tell you. Examples are better than precepts. People experience life differently. Sometimes talking to them is no less than watching a fiction.

7. Hope is a good thing. Don’t underestimate it

8. Choose friends wisely. Not everyone you consider friend will understand you when you will be undergoing hardest phase of your life. I learned this the hard way

9. When you feel left out, a lone wolf, write your heart out. Believe me, this is how I started writing and it is fun

10. Your parents love you. They will support you when noone else will. You should always try to find time for them no matter how busy your life is. As a matter of fact, I have noticed that people are not that busy. It’s all about managing time and priorities.

11. Wake up an hour early to feel the power of time. Have you ever woke up early and found yourself binding up a lot of smaller tasks? Were you not amazed by finding out how much your day changed? You plan your day in advance and observe the difference between an adhoc and well managed day. Remember, you don’t need an assistant for that.

12. Every year go somewhere you have never been before. Every month take a day off from social networks

Each one of us have different ways of narrating story because we live differently, perceive differently and react differently. If you love reading my way of telling the story, you might like other experiences I penned here – My life experiences.

Here is a list of 12 things I learned in 2015

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Copyright © 2016, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.

Stranger. Friend. Lover. Acquaintance. – Part 1

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A thousand memories rolled down like a motion picture in his eyes when he heard her name after all those years.
“Just an acquaintance”, he whispered with a hard smile as his eyes were strong enough to hold the tears.
He always found challenging to express his feelings for her. How life could have changed if he would have dared once, had spoken those feelings ballooned inside the heart, he was wondering. He knew, somewhere she too had a soft corner for him.
Someone has rightly said, When in love, express it, keeping it to yourself doesn’t help either.
All those memories started playing like a flash motion. He was time travelling in the memory chains.
How can he forget the very first, all of a sudden, small chit chat with her. He still remembers that evening in the library, that she had turned from boring monotonous into a beautiful memory that he still cherishes.
“Hey! I am Ritika”, she said in a joyous tone and moved her hand in an amicable gesture. I am not sure if we know each other, but we are in the same section.
Well it was sort of most unexpected event one could have ever imagined. His eyes grew wide in surprise and he felt like someone has poured bucket filled ice inside his stomach.
Did she catch him looking at her from the corner of book? It was true that he visited library in evening hours just to see her, to see her smile. Her smile that always seemed to hypnotise him. There was such an enchantment she had in her sapphire blue eyes. He could feel his tongue magically glued with some invisible string.
“Hey! I am Ritika”, she chirped again. This time she was smiling. He guessed she had figured out he was not expecting her, at least not at this point of time, when there were people around, sitting in couples, reading, teaching and whispering so called romantic talks.

Somewhere on another thread in his mind was executing few poetic lines…
He kept looking at her and time flew by,
He wondered why he couldn’t take his eyes off her face,
Like the moon and its moonlight,
He kept looking at her with awe,
But never imagined he would get to see her so closely.

“Oh Hi!”, he replied briskly.
“I am Siddhartha”, he was very quick and nervous. “You can call me Sid”, he further added.
“If you don’t mind, can you please help me with few questions? Exams are near and there is so much to read and I haven’t got many friends”, she was somehow able to bind all these words in a deep single breathe. He didn’t need to be very observant to say she had prepared this in prior. She indeed knew well how to break the ice.
“Yeah! Sure”, he still couldn’t believe all this was happening in reality.
She pulled a chair and sit beside him opening the book. His senses were lulled by her ravishing perfume as she pushed herself closer to point to the problems she was finding difficulty into.
“What will he do when he is not able to solve the problem? No, it won’t be good to loose impression in the first encounter itself. She had confidence in him and what will happen if he breaks it. Won’t she think he is just a show off?”, his head was spinning with many questions. Fear seemed to wrap him under her arms.
“But he hardly faced problem in maths before. After all it was his favorite subject and he could spent hours solving equations and all as if it were his girlfriend”, another voice was overpowering the cold fear.
The problems turned out to be a cake walk. There were few instances when he felt she already knew the solution. “Is she testing his intelligence?”, He spoke to himself.
He didn’t have to think much. It was already 6 in the evening and she needed to rush for the hostel. She broke his reverie by snapping her fingers.
“It was nice to meet you Siddy. Hope to see you soon”, she said in sugar coated voice and hurried herself outside the library room before he could say anything. “And thanks”, a distant voice broke the grave silence.
That evening was different. He could feel it. And he realized it when his roomie asked, “Why are you smiling on your own?”
“Just remembered an old joke on pudding”, he replied trying to hide what had just happened.

Few moments no matter how long, give you the best smile, the best happiness.   He spent whole night awake listening to “Only you” in loop.
Looking from a window above, it’s like a story of love
Can you hear me
Came back only yesterday
I’m moving further away
Want you near me

All I need is you to stay
All I need you for another day
And all I ever knew
Only you

To be continued…
Signing off for now. Hope you enjoyed reading this. Next part coming soon. Stay tuned!
-AB

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Copyright © 2016, Aashish Barnwal,  All rights reserved.